Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jean-Baptiste Le Roy, [26 October 1783?]

From Jean-Baptiste Le Roy

ALS: American Philosophical Society

ce Dimanche matin [October 26?, 1783]3

Permettez vous Mon Illustre Docteur que Je vous rappelle la promesse que vous avez bien voulu faire au Jeune M. Argant d’une lettre pour Londres4 et dont J’ai eu l’honneur de vous parler avant-hier il part demain à dix heures du matin je compte le voir ce Soir et Je Serois bien Glorieux de pouvoir lui porter cette lettre que vous lui avez promise. J’ai lhonneur de vous Souhaiter bien le bon Jour. Si vous avez le tems de l’ecrire je l’enverrai chercher avant une heure.

Le Roy

M. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Le Roy had spoken with Ami Argand the day before writing his previous letter, most likely dated Oct. 21 (above). If this date is accurate, then Argand was still in Paris on Oct. 20. In his letter of Dec. 2, Edward Nairne reported that Argand had delivered a book and prints that BF had intended for Joseph Banks. These were very likely the pamphlet and prints enclosed in BFs letter to Banks of Oct. 8. Banks acknowledged receipt of that letter on Nov. 7. The only two Sundays between Oct. 20 and Nov. 7 were Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, of which we choose the earlier date.

4Where Argand hoped to find the materials and skilled artisans for the manufacture of an improved oil lamp of his design, and to obtain a patent: John J. Wolfe, Brandy, Balloons, & Lamps: Ami Argand, 1750–1803 (Carbondale and Edwardsville, Ill., 1999), pp. 8, 23–5. No letter of introduction for Argand from BF has been found. Nairne would have been a suitable addressee because of both his expertise as an instrument maker and his connections in the British scientific community.

It appears that Argand’s lamp was similar in principle to one that BF had worked on intermittently for more than a decade. In a letter written in 1801, Johann Sebastian Clais remembered that in 1772 he had brought home from England a lamp designed by BF and manufactured by their mutual friend Matthew Boulton. When Clais visited BF in Paris in 1781, BF showed him “an addition” to this lamp. Clais claimed to have given his prototype of BFs lamp to Argand in 1782 and said that Argand later added a glass chimney. Argand’s associates in London, Samuel More and glassmaker William Parker, remarked on the similarity between Argand’s conception and a lamp that Boulton had produced earlier: XXXV, lxii; Wolfe, Brandy, Balloons, & Lamps, pp. 12–20, 81. According to TJs description in 1784, Argand’s lamp produced a much brighter light than a candle because it formed “the wick into a hollow cylinder so that there is a passage for the air through the hollow. The idea had occurred to Dr. Franklin a year or two before: but he tried his experiment with a rush, which not succeeding he did not prosecute it. The fact was that the rush formed too small a cylinder”: Jefferson Papers, VII, 518.

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