Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sir Hans Sloane, 2 June 1725

To Sir Hans Sloane3

ALS: British Museum

June 2, 1725


Having lately been in the Nothern Parts of America, I have brought from thence a Purse made of the Stone Asbestus,4 a Piece of the Stone, and a Piece of Wood, the Pithy Part of which is of the same Nature, and call’d by the Inhabitants, Salamander Cotton. As you are noted to be a Lover of Curiosities, I have inform’d you of these; and if you have any Inclination to purchase them, or see ’em, let me know your Pleasure by a Line directed for me at the Golden Fan in Little Britain, and I will wait upon you with them. I am, Sir Your most humble Servant

Benjamin Franklin

P.S. I expect to be out of Town in 2 or 3 Days, and therefore beg an immediate Answer.5

Addressed: For Sir Hans Sloane, in Kingstreet. Bloomsbury

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Sir Hans Sloane, Bart. (1660–1753), secretary of the Royal Society, 1693–1712, succeeded Newton as its president, 1727; physician to Queen Anne and to George I; president of the Royal College of Physicians, 1719–35; founder of the Chelsea Physic Garden. His books, manuscripts, and natural history specimens, bequeathed to the nation, formed a part of the original collection of the British Museum. G. R. de Beer, Sir Hans Sloane and the British Museum (London, 1953).

4This purse, now in the British Museum (Natural History), was made of roughly plaited tremolite-asbestos, of primitive form, with loops at the top through which an asbestos thread was run. Jessie M. Sweet, “Benjamin Franklin’s Purse,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, IX (1952), 308–9. A picture of it appears in I. Bernard Cohen, Franklin and Newton (Phila., 1956), facing p. 248.

5Nearly fifty years later BF recorded this incident otherwise. Sloane, he wrote in his autobiography, heard of the purse, called on him, took him home to see “all his Curiosities, and persuaded me to let him add that [the purse] to the Number, for which he paid me handsomely.”

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