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Finding Benjamin Franklin: A Resource Guide

Franklin's Life and Autobiography Online

Please see this guide's more general Digital Collections section for additional Library of Congress digitized resources related to Benjamin Franklin. Those most specific to his life and memoir are listed here.

Library of Congress Website

Online Resources

Interpretive sections of the Library's website specific to Franklin's life and Autobiography include:

Digital Collections

A number of items related to Franklin's Autobiography or life story are fully digitized on the Library of Congress website.

Historical Sites:

Manuscript Sources:

In addition to the William Short copy of Franklin's outline for his memoir, the Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827 includes additional items that speak to Jefferson's interest in Franklin's life story and accomplishments.

The James Madison Papers, 1723-1836 includes a satirical verse about Benjamin Franklin by Jonathon Odell, "Inscription on a curious chamber stove..." Originally written in 1776, this poem circulated in manuscript on both sides of the Atlantic into the nineteenth century.

The Benjamin Franklin Papers include a wealth of resources related to Franklin's life. Specific to his memoir, many of the papers Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin, gathered to publish the memoir are also included in the Franklin Papers.

Correspondence to and from Benjamin Franklin is found in the George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799 and The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress. Franklin letters are also published in Letters of Delegates to Congress.


The Library's Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) includes many portraits of Franklin, created during his lifetime and afterwards. Search on Benjamin Franklin portrait to find them. Selected examples include (in chronological order):

These same images can also be found by searching the Library's website.


Databases available at the Library of Congress and at many research libraries include both primary and secondary works, and increasingly fully-searchable full text as well as citations. Since Franklin's Autobiography has been frequently reprinted, and is also a topic of ongoing scholarship, these resources provide an important opening to a broad variety of resources.

Please Note: The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Especially useful databases for identifying scholarly articles on Franklin's life and his Autobiography include:

Other Institutions Online

Library Company of Philadelphia

The Library Company of Philadelphia External hosts an online exhibit "Benjamin Franklin, Writer and Printer" External includes two sections specific to the Autobiography:

Autobiography Versions

The full text of Franklin's Autobiography is available online at a variety of websites as text only, or as page images, in some combination.  Due to the work's complex translation and publication history, versions may vary in wording. Sources include:

Franklin Tercentenary

University of Delaware