Rare Benjamin Franklin Letter Unveiled and Displayed For First Time at Raab

Ahead of Apple TV’s debut of Franklin, Raab puts a rare Benjamin Franklin document, from Paris, 1777, on view


The Raab Collection announced today that it would put on display for the first time a rare letter signed by Benjamin Franklin in 1777, when he was on a diplomatic mission to France to secure clandestine supplies and troops for the American cause. The document will be on view in our Philadelphia office for one week as part of an exhibit on Franklin and the American Revolution.* On April 11, following the exhibition, the document will go on sale, valued at $120,000.

Franklin letter on display

Written from Paris on December 3, 1777, Franklin certified in this document that Emmanuel-Pierre de la Plaigne could negotiate with the French on behalf of the fledgling United States. The following day, news of the victory at Saratoga eased the way for desperately needed French support. 

This letter, for over a decade in a private Midwest collection, was previously in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania before they deaccessioned it. 

Documents on display at Raab

The exhibit at Raab heralds the arrival of Apple TV’s global premiere of Franklin, a historical drama series starring and executive produced by Michael Douglas, on April 12.   

Based on Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff’s book, “A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America,” Franklin explores the founding father’s eight-year mission to France, where he ultimately engineered the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the peace treaty with England in 1783.The show’s episodes will air through May 17.

Courtesy of Apple TV+

This important historical document, which goes on sale next week, offers a direct link to Franklin’s vital mission to France. It was also Franklin’s own copy, carried back to Philadelphia by him when he returned to the United States.

In 1946, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania purchased this letter, but in an unusual twist, the institution gifted it to a donor in 1972 as a token of generosity. The story of its journey back into the marketplace is told here in our “Behind a Discovery” post. 

*Please email or call to make a viewing appointment.

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