The nation’s first postmaster general will be the subject of a new two-part documentary directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns.
“Benjamin Franklin” will explore the life and work of one of the most consequential figures in American history — an inventor, writer, publisher, diplomat and signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
“Benjamin Franklin was a fascinating and complicated individual who helped shaped our contemporary world,” Burns said in a news release. “If we see him for more than his long list of accomplishments, we recognize an imperfect man challenging himself and his contemporaries as he tries to understand and improve the world around him.”
Franklin’s 84 years spanned nearly the entirety of the 18th century.
In addition to his role in postal history, he launched America’s first public library, helped organize a volunteer fire company and helped found an academy that eventually became the University of Pennsylvania.
His annual publication, “Poor Richard’s Almanack,” set a model for future humorists such as Mark Twain and contained maxims that are still part of our shared lexicon.
“Benjamin Franklin,” which most PBS stations will air April 4-5, will incorporate interviews with leading historians, including Franklin biographer Walter Isaacson.
Mandy Patinkin will provide the voice of Franklin throughout the film. Other voice-over actors include Liam Neeson, Paul Giamatti, Josh Lucas and Carolyn McCormick.
“Every American learns about Benjamin Franklin in grade school but often it ends there,” David Schmidt, the film’s producer, said in the release. “He is too interesting, too complicated and too important a figure not to revisit.”
In addition to airing on PBS stations, “Benjamin Franklin” will stream on PBS.org and the PBS Video app.