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“Uncle Ben” is the promotional doll given away in the 1970s by the First Franklin Life Insurance Company. It was made by the Chase Bag Company.

One of the most popular ‘Founding Fathers’

The 1970s was the era of “soft sell.” The Chase Bag Company made cloth promotional dolls for many companies. The First Franklin Life Insurance Company was one. Benjamin Franklin is the namesake of the Franklin Life Insurance Company and in the 1970s they offered an advertising doll to the public. The advertising stated the dolls were free. “The only thing we ask in return is a few minutes of your time to tell you the Franklin story,” is what they said.

I suspect they passed out a lot of doll, however there doesn’t seem to be a record of how many were given away. Their “Uncle Ben” dolls are 12-inches tall and made of cotton.  They have lithographed features and clothing. The white hair is below the ears at the sides and the top of the head is bald. Uncle Ben wears wire rim spectacles that rest on the line drawn nose. He always has a smile. The doll is dressed in a vintage style; a yellow vest, red knee pants, a long black coat, black buckle shoes, and white stockings.   

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) has worn many hats. He was an early American statesman, inventor, scientist and editor of newspapers and author of several books.  The $100 dollar bill exhibits Benjamin Franklin’s image and companies have been named after the great man.

A second Benjamin Franklin doll, a promotion for Franklin Savings and Loan, in the 1970s , is featured in “Advertising Dolls” by Joleen Robinson and Kay Sellers, © 1980, published by Collector Books.   This doll is 15-inches tall. The lithographed clothing resembles the Franklin Life Insurance doll attire with a few exceptions.

Another Benjamin Franklin collectible is the 9-inch bank made of vinyl, in the image of Benjamin Franklin. It was featured in “Zany Characters of the Ad World,” © 1995, Collector Books. The date of the collectible was a mystery to me when I wrote the book and it still is.

The Benjamin Franklin bank has molded and painted features except for the spectacles that are wire and removable.  He has a smile on his face. It appears he has overcome his horror of fire. The character holds an Almanac under his left arm, symbolic of Franklin’s writing accomplishment, namely “Poor Richards Almanack.” (Yes, it was spelled with a k). The almanac is famous for Benjamin Franklin’s wit, such as “A penny saved is a penny earned.”

In 2004 there were the Bobble head Benjamin Franklin made by Raytheon. They are 7-inches tall. The quote on the box, “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” The Bobble Head collectibles were retailed.  

Searching on the Internet I find that the asking price for the Benjamin Franklin dolls vary from $15 to $20.  And the asking price for the Benjamin Franklin Banks vary from $20 to $30.  The Bobble heads average $20.