There are two sides to Ralph Archbold. On the one side, he’s a businessman, a movie buff and a proud father and grandfather. On the other, he’s one of the most celebrated figures in United States history.
For the past 32 years, Ralph has assumed the role of Benjamin Franklin for countless engagements throughout the city and the country.
Yet being Ben Franklin was not always a profitable venture for the determined Archbold.
“The first year I did this, I spent $15,000 to earn $7,000,” Archbold said. “The first three or four years, I was losing money, because all the money went into marketing and promotions and brochures. I had to build a business.”
Luckily for Archbold, the gamble worked and for the past three decades his dead-on portrayal of Franklin has been featured in countless magazines, advertisements and televisions shows. His appeal knows no boundaries.
“I’ve been on the Daily Show several times, and I’ve been written up in Rolling Stone magazine,” Archbold said.
Perhaps what is most fascinating about Archbold is his ability to switch from his alter ego Franklin and back at the drop of a hat. When he wasn’t reminiscing about what it was like to be Franklin for so many years, Ralph Archbold was Benjamin Franklin, right down to the posture.
“I was the oldest member of the Second Continental Congress,” Archbold said, switching to his Franklin persona. “I was on a committee to draft the declaration of why we deserved to seek our independence. I saw many, many changes made to that declaration. Mr. Jefferson, who wrote it, was a little upset about some of that, but we talked about it, and he realized that the changes were necessary, if for no other reason, than to make each one of us a part of that document.”
Archbold’s portrayal of Franklin won him the Council of Peers Award for Excellence. The CPAE is the highest honor bestowed upon individuals of the speaking profession by the National Speakers Association.
At the end of the day, Archbold and Franklin see eye to eye on one very important idea.
“My advice for young people is to become involved,” the Franklin character said. “You only remain a nation free and a nation independent if people care about that freedom and work toward that freedom.”
Archbold shared similar sentiments with Franklin.
“Find something you like to do, and figure out a way to make a living at it,” Archbold said.
Franklin coined some impressive proverbs in his lifetime to help others share in his success.
“You listen, you read, you share,” the Franklin character said. “The intent was to share the wisdom of the ages with my generation.”
Marta Rusek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.