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In the self help book 'Pushing to the front' by Orison Swett Marden, under chapter 30 (Self Help) it is said:

Franklin was but a poor printer's boy, whose highest luxury at one time was only a penny roll, eaten in the streets of Philadelphia.

Does it mean something like "he bought a cheap sandwich or candy from a corner of the street"?

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    maybe or a bread roll that cost (then) one penny. Commented Nov 14, 2020 at 17:23
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    I'll note that, in the 50s in the US, Tootsie Roll candies were often sold by the piece, and, as I recall, the smallest ones could be purchased for $0.01 (one penny). I don't doubt that some people called these "penny rolls". (But I do recall reading in Franklin's writings that he, as a child, would buy two "penny rolls" of bread and put one under each arm as he walked the streets.)
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 21:39

2 Answers 2

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A penny roll is a bread roll (small round loaf of bread) that cost one penny (1¢)

The intention of the paragraph is to emphasise how poor Franklin was.

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I assume this passage is about Benjamin Franklin. In his time, you could buy bread for a single penny. In fact, it may be talking about this part from the Works of the Late Doctor Benjamin Franklin (1793):

I desired him to let me have three penny-worth of bread of some kind or other. He gave me three large rolls.

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  • (In fact, that anecdote is how in his native Boston they had something called a "threepenny loaf", and, not knowing that the prices were lower in Philadelphia, he bought almost more bread than he could carry!)
    – hobbs
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 4:23

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