Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Michael Hillegas, 17 March 1770

To Michael Hillegas5

Printed in The American Museum, or, Universal Magazine, VII (1790), 224–5.

London, March 17, 1770.

Dear sir,

I received your favour of November 25, and have made enquiries, as you desired, concerning the copper covering of houses. It has been used here in a few instances only: and the practice does not seem to gain ground. The copper is about the thickness of a common playing card: and though a dearer metal than lead, I am told that as less weight serves, on account of its being so much thinner, and as slighter wood-work in the roof is sufficient to support it, the roof is not dearer on the whole than one covered with lead. It is said, that hail and rain make a disagreeable drumming noise on copper: but this, I suppose, is rather fancy: for the plates being fastened to the rafters, must in a great measure deaden such sound. The first cost, whatever it is, will be all: as a copper covering must last for ages: and when the house decays, the plates will still have intrinsic worth.6 In Russia, I am informed, many houses are covered with plates of iron tinned, such as our tin pots and other wares are made of, laid on over the edges of one another, like tiles; and which, it is said, last very long; the tin preserving the iron from much decay by rusting. In France and the Low Countries, I have seen many spouts or pipes for conveying the water down from the roofs of houses, made of the same kind of tin plates soldered together: and they seem to stand very well. With sincere regard, I am, your’s, &c.

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5See above, XVI, 8 n.

6BF pursued the question of copper roofing; see his letter to Samuel Rhoads below, June 26.

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