PHILADELPHIA – Benjamin Franklin and Betsy Ross celebrated the eve of the Fourth of July not with fireworks but with wedding vows.
Ralph Archbold and Linda Wilde, who portray the historical figures, tied the knot Thursday evening in a public ceremony in front of Independence Hall, where the real Franklin helped draft the nation's founding documents.
The bride and groom, as well as the entire wedding party, were in costume for the event.
"Ralph and Linda, the entire city could not be happier for you," said Mayor Michael Nutter, who performed the brief ceremony.
After exchanging vows, Archbold and Wilde were given a standing ovation by the crowd of several thousand as the Philly Pops played the wedding march.
The couple boarded a horse-drawn coach for the trip to a private reception at the historic City Tavern, where Franklin dined along with such notables as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
The 66-year-old Archbold, who has portrayed Franklin since 1973, and Wilde, 50, met Sept. 1 after she hired him for a friend's wedding toast. The couple discovered a mutual love of history and education, and they announced their engagement this spring.
Patty Duffy, 37, said she came to watch the ceremony because she remembers seeing Archbold playing Franklin when she was a little girl.
"My grandmother used to bring me down here all the time. I had to come and see him get married," said Duffy, who was accompanied by her boyfriend, Marty, and four children.
Betsy Ross, a Philadelphia seamstress, is credited in many history books with stitching the first American flag. But historians cite a lack of proof, and some believe that the flag may actually have been designed by Francis Hopkinson, a member of the Continental Congress from New Jersey.
A real wedding between the historical figures would have been quite a May-December affair, given the 45-year age difference (Franklin was born on Jan. 17, 1706 — coincidentally, also Archbold's birthday — while Ross was born on New Year's Day 1752). Both lived to the age of 84.