During the 17 years he served as colonial agent for Pennsylvania in London, Benjamin Franklin developed a strong attachment to the family of his landlady at 36 Craven Street, Margaret Stevenson. Margaret's daughter, Mary (usually called Polly) became a particular intimate, so much so that Franklin connived to marry her off to his son, William. Although nothing came of these efforts, Franklin's intentions did little to impair the friendship with the Stevensons, and Franklin's domestic circle at Craven Street eventually grew to include his grandson William Temple Franklin and Sarah Franklin, daughter of an English cousin.
In 1770, Polly married the distinguished surgeon and anatomist William Hewson in what was to be a tragically short pairing. Hewson died in 1774 after contracting septicaemia from a cut he received while dissecting a cadaver in his basement, leaving Polly to care for their daughter and two sons to raise, one of whom was Franklin's godson. Recognizing the difficulty of her situation, Franklin stepped in to assist his old friend, further strengthening their bond. After Franklin left England on the even of the Revolution, he and Polly continued in regular correspondence, and after the Revolution ended, Polly arranged to renew their friendship face to face, visiting Franklin at Passy in 1785. In the following year, she followed him when he returned to Philadelphia, and was at Franklin's beside when he died in 1790. In his will, Franklin recognized Polly with a silver tankard he had "marked for her use during her life," acknowledging her daughter Eliza as well, and leaving books to her sons William and Thomas.
From the guide to the James S. and Frances M. Bradford Collection, 1749-1898, (American Philosophical Society)