Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 810

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 810


This is the grave of Richard Bache and Sarah Franklin Bache.

Born in 1737 in Settle, Yorkshire, Bache moved to New York in 1760 to join his older brother who had come over in 1751 and was running a dry goods shore and insurance operation. Bache did very well, moved to Philadelphia, rose in society there, and organized the first fox-hunting club in the colonies in 1766. The next year, he married Sarah Franklin, the daughter of Benjamin Franklin. She was Franklin’s only daughter, at least through his marriage anyway. She went by Sally from the time she was a child. She didn’t have a great relationship with her father as a child. He was busy with politics and his scientific experiments. He was older for the time, nearly 40, and just wasn’t interested in fatherhood. He was fairly indifferent to her education, as was common even among Enlightenment figures, toward girls. She received the typical education of rich girls, which was some basics and some French and then a lot of home skills, but certainly not what a boy would get.

Bache immediately had serious debt problems after his marriage, as his partner in London has screwed him over the next year. But that was hardly uncommon, even among the elite classes of the mid to late-18th century. In fact, Franklin’s son William was concerned enough that he wrote across the pond to Benjamin that the couple was not financially solvent at all and that they’d have to live off papa. Franklin wasn’t too concerned though and supported the match to a limited extent, though he had never met Bache.

Bache was a good administrator though, plus he was close to his father-in-law. So during the American Revolution, he was on a committee to make recommendations to Congress about the Army, which that disastrous institution basically ignored. It’s actually amazing that the colonists defeated the British given its political leaders were more concerned with their own little state fiefdoms than in winning the war. Sally meanwhile was a major supporter of the Revolution and was highly active in relief efforts, raised money for the Continental Army, and led a group called Ladies Association of Philadelphia that sewed 2,200 shirts for the soldiers who weren’t even getting proper clothing from either their state governments or Congress. When her father returned from Europe in 1775, she also served as the hostess for his official gatherings, as her mother had died the previous year. Then, when Franklin returned to Europe, he practically stole their own oldest son to educate over there, over his daughter’s objections. Really, they never had a good relationship. Franklin just didn’t respect women enough for him to bother with taking them seriously, very much including his own family.

Franklin also worked to get his son-in-law the position of Postmaster General, which he himself had briefly agreed to do after the Declaration of Independence. Technically, we can debate whether he is the nation’s first Postmaster General in the sense that he predates the Constitution, but hey, whatever. He was in that position from 1776-82. He also was part of the conservative faction in Pennsylvania that overthrew the radical revolutionary constitution created by the state legislature in the first class-based battle in American history, I suppose. They were pretty well off by this time, largely because of Franklin’s wealth. When he died in 1790, they got the inheritance and did well. They traveled in Europe and lived the life of elites of the early nation.

They lived their last years in a farm house outside of Philadelphia. Sally died in 1808 of cancer. She was 65. Bache died in 1811, at the age of 73.

Richard and Sally Bache are buried in Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Forgive the bad photo–like with Benajmin Franklin, who the Baches are buried next to, the cemetery was closed but since they are on the edge of it, I was able to stick my camera through the grates and snap an image of some sort. Usually, the bad photos are because I am an incompetent, but in this case, there was actually an excuse!

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM reader contributions. Thanks! If you would like this series to visit other Postmaster Generals, and I mean, really that is true peak graving, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Ebenezer Hazard, who took over for Bache, is in Philadelphia and Samuel Osgood, who was the first PG under the new government, is in Manhattan. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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