A Penny Saved

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June 05, 2010

A Penny Saved

This June I went down to Philadelphia to scout locations for a new screenplay set in the city, but also in the Pennsylvania Countryside. There is a lot to talk about on that trip, let’s start with this:

At Benjamin Franklin’s grave in historic Philadelphia’s Christ Church Burial Ground (not too far from downtown Philadelphia and just a few blocks north of Independence Hall) thousands of people visit this famous grave site every year. Out of those thousands, almost every single person that passes by pulls a penny out of their pocket and flips it in a manner that allows it to land on the tombstone. I asked a woman why she and all the other visitors were throwing pennies onto Ben Franklin’s grave, she said it was to honor a quote of his: “a penny saved is a penny earned”. I was taken aback and thought about it for the rest of my visit. As I was headed back to New York I came to the conclusion that Ben Franklin probably wouldn’t approve of the public throwing pennies at his grave. Of course there’s no way to prove whether he would like it or not, but if he was as honorable and smart as my elementary text book says, there’s no way he’d approve an action like that. It’s utterly disrespectful and completely unwarranted. Not only that, it goes against the quote itself – you’re supposed to save your pennies. There’s no saving here, just dumping.

Catch my drift?

Resting flowers – great. Placing note cards and sealed envelopes – fantastic. Dumping money onto a grave: the only people you’re giving it to is the owner of the graveyard, not Ben Franklin (he’s dead, what’s he going to use it for anyway?) and considering the graveyard charges an entry fee, I don’t possibly see how they need to profit off the death of one of America’s founding citizens. In a later interview I conducted over the telephone, a local informed me that the graveyard owners pull in between 20-35 thousand dollars annually as a result of this practice. I’m positive this isn’t what he was thinking when he said that quote – and I’m pretty sure he’s rolling over in his grave at this severe level of disrespect. Considering Ben Franklin is buried there, I’m sure the graveyard qualifies for federal help in its maintenance – which the tax payers would be more than glad to back.

It’s less disrespectful and appropriate.

If only an authority could intervene and prohibit the graveyard from collecting these coins – perhaps the public would then take a hint and stop doing it. Take this as you will. This is a personal opinion and I don’t expect it to be understood by everyone.

-E