Death mask of Thomas Paine

Contributed by Thetford Museum

Death mask of Thomas Paine, writer and revolutionary. © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service

Paine spoke out against injustice wherever he saw it. In his day people could be hanged for stealing a packet of tea.Thomas Paine is one of Norfolk's most famous and internationally influential sons. Born at Thetford in 1737, he was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual and revolutionary. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America and participated in the American Revolution. Later, he greatly influenced the French Revolution. His book, 'The Rights of Man' (1791), was a guide to ideas of enlightenment and stimulated people worldwide. He died age 72 in New York on 8 June 1809.

Despite Paine's fame, his face was not well known but it has been preserved for posterity in his death mask, made by Paine's friend John Wesley Jarvis. Some ten years after Paine's death and burial, William Cobbett arranged for his bones to be dug up for a hero's burial in England. But the hoped-for re-interment never happened and, perhaps fitting for a 'Citizen of the World', his mortal remains have no final resting place.

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Thomas Paine died on 8 June 1809


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