Benjamin Franklin? George S. Patton? G. E. Marchand? Gertrude Nelson Andrews? Nicholas Murray Butler? George Lawton? Peter McWilliams? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Living fully during each day of one’s allotted time in this world is an admirable goal, yet few achieve this objective. Here are two versions of a humorous and melancholy comment often credited to U.S. political leader Benjamin Franklin:
(1) Many men die at age 25, but aren’t buried until they’re 75.
(2) Some people die at 25 and are not buried until 75.
I am skeptical of this attribution because I have been unable to find a solid citation. Would you please help?
Quote Investigator: QI has found no substantive support for the ascription to Benjamin Franklin. Searching Franklin’s oeuvre at franklinpapers.org yields nothing germane.
The phrasing is highly variable, and the two numbers specified fluctuate; hence, this family of sayings is quite difficult to trace. The earliest match located by QI appeared in April 1925 within a St. Louis, Missouri newspaper report about popular orator G. E. Marchand who told a large audience that personality was the key to success. Marchand employed a version of the saying based on the years 25 and 60: 1
“Most men and women die intellectually at 25, but are not buried until 60,” he said. “Many have big brains but little jobs because they are walking about in their shroud.”
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1925 April 2, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, 1500 Persons Hear Marchand in First of Lecture Series, Quote Page 7, Column 2, St. Louis, Missouri. (Newspapers_com) ↩