Why do Philadelphians throw pennies onto Benjamin Franklin’s grave?

Why Do Philadelphians Throw Pennies Onto Benjamin Franklin’s Grave?

Photo courtesy of Bumble Dee via Shutterstock

By Kalena Thomhave

February 28, 2024

Tossing a penny onto Franklin’s grave is a long-standing Philadelphia tradition. But why?

If you’ve ever visited Benjamin Franklin’s grave at Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood, you’ll usually find the marble slab atop the grave covered in pennies. More than 300 years after Franklin’s birth, throwing a penny onto his grave is a way for modern Philly to connect to him.

The Founding Father, inventor, and writer is known for many achievements throughout his life, including helping to draft the Declaration of Independence, contributing to the discovery of electricity, and authoring the popular, annual almanac “Poor Richard’s Almanack.” And naturally, Philadelphia is proud to claim its most famous son, with the name “Franklin” adorning city streets and bridges as well as the names of societies and institutes that Franklin himself helped establish.

But why pennies? After all, Franklin’s face isn’t on the one-cent coin — it’s on the $100 bill, yet no one is tossing those at Christ Church Burial Ground!

Why do Philadelphians throw pennies onto Benjamin Franklin’s grave?
Penny toss at gravesite courtesy of R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia.

“A penny saved is a penny earned”

The popular adage “a penny saved is a penny earned” is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin — in fact, it’s probably his most famous quotation. He didn’t, as it so often goes, actually say that, though. Franklin did pen something similar when urging thrift in “Poor Richard’s Almanack”:

“A penny saved is twopence clear.”

Either way, we can easily connect Franklin to pennies, and the importance of saving them.

Irony aside, Philadelphians throw away pennies in homage to Franklin and his famous quote (or misquote).

The weight of all those pennies

All those pennies don’t actually go to waste. More than 100,000 people visit Franklin’s grave each year — and the pennies they toss add up. Christ Church collects around $4,000 to $5,000 each year from pennies alone.

This money, along with a GoFundMe campaign and other donations, helped the church’s preservation fund restore the Franklin grave when a large crack appeared down the middle. The church attributed the crack to moisture from a poorly done renovation in the 1950s as well as the pressure of tens of thousands of pennies tossed and scraped on the marble over the years. The grave was fixed in 2017. But don’t worry, you don’t need to stop throwing pennies in the name of historic preservation.

“[Franklin] was a man of the people, and tossing pennies is a way for [people] to leave something in remembrance,” the church’s burial ground manager told Philadelphia Magazine in 2016.

Visiting Franklin’s grave

Ben Franklin is buried with his wife, Deborah, in Christ Church Burial Ground, located just a few blocks from Christ Church and not far from Independence Hall. While the burial ground is the final resting place of a number of early Americans — including four other signers of the Declaration of Independence — the Franklin grave is the most visited of the 1,400 grave markers (and more than 4,000 graves).

You can view the Franklin grave from the sidewalk at the corner of 5th Street and Arch Street — a wrought iron fence was built to allow visitors to see the gravesite even when the burial ground is closed. And even if your aim is poor, you can likely land a penny from behind the fence.

If you want to visit the Franklins’ grave — and others — up close, you can pay a small fee for a self-guided or guided tour of the burial ground when it’s open.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.Why do Philadelphians throw pennies onto Benjamin Franklin’s grave?Why do Philadelphians throw pennies onto Benjamin Franklin’s grave?




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