Benjamin Franklin Papers
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From Benjamin Franklin to Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, 22 January 1773: extract

To Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg

Translated extract: printed in Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, ed., Œuvres de M. Franklin … (2 vols., Paris, 1773), II, 118.

Londres, 22 Janvier 1773.

J’ai imaginé depuis quelques tems une nouvelle forme de chauffoir, ou espece de cheminée d’une construction différente, qui donne plus de chaleur, en consumant moins de bois; mais il lui manque quelques-uns des principaux avantages de ma premiere machine, et elle a quelques inconvéniens que l’autre n’a pas;7 d’ailleurs elle exige trop d’attention dans ses opérations pour etre gouvernée par des domestiques ordinaires, c’est pourquoi je ne puis en recommander l’usage, quoique je m’en serve pour moi-même. Ce n’est proprement qu’une curiosité, ou une expérience philosophique; la fumée s’y change toute insensiblement en flamme, au lieu de salir la cheminée; cette flamme descend, et sert à échauffer les plaques et la chambre; et en même-tems elle empêche les charbons qui avoient commencé à prendre feu, de se consumer. Je compte vous en envoyer dans quelque tems d’ici la figure, avec la description.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7His first “machine” was the Pennsylvania fireplace that he perfected in 1744: above, II, 419–46.

8This is BF’s first mention of an old interest, and one that remained with him for years to come. The possibility of a smoke-consuming stove had intrigued him since 1766; see above, XIII, 197. A Frenchman whose name he forgot, writing at the close of the previous century, had first suggested the idea to him; and by 1771 he had a prototype stove that served him for three winters in London and one in America. In 1785, while at sea returning from France, he finally wrote the description of it that he promises in this letter, and in the following year the description was published. Smyth, Writings, IX, 443–62; APS Trans., II (1786), 57–74. What he says here about the disadvantages of the stove doubtless accounts for his long delay in putting it before the public. He did send Dubourg an engraving of it, in confidence, with his letter below of June 29. The engraving is reproduced there; for further details see the list of illustrations. The stove did not appear in the Œuvres except in this extract. But Dubourg’s curiosity was aroused—and remained unsatisfied. He twice asked for a description, in his letters below of Nov. 25 and Dec. 29, and never received one.

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