Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Joseph Banks, 28 November 1783

From Joseph Banks

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Soho Square Novr. 28 1783

Dear Sir

I am in truth much indebted to you for the favor you have done me in transmitting the Copy of the Procès verbal on Mr Montgolfiers experiment,5 which I have this moment receivd. The Experiment becomes now interesting in no small degree. I laught when Ballons of scarce more importance than Soap bubbles occupied the attention of France but when men Can with Safety pass & do pass more than 5 miles in the first Experiment I begin to fancy that I espy the hand of the master in the Education of the infant of Knowledge who so speedily attains such a degree of maturity & do not scruple to guess that My old Friend who usd to assist me when I was Younger has had some share in the success of this Enterprise.

On Tuesday last a miserable Taffeta Ballon was let loose here under the direction of a Mr. Zambeccari an Italian Nobleman6 as I hear it was 10 feet in diameter & filld with inflammable air made from the filings of Iron & Vitriolic acid the silk was oild the seams coverd with Tar & the outside Gilt it had been shewn for several days floating about in a public room at a shilling for the sight & half a Crown for the Admission when it should be let loose.

The day was fine to Excess the wind a gentle breeze from the North at a few minutes after one it set out & before night fell at Grafham a small village near Pelworth in Sussex having ran over about 48 miles of Countrey the Countreyman who first saw it observd it in its descent it appeard at first small & increasing fast surprizd him so much that he ran away he returnd however & found it burst by the expansion of the Containd fluid.

I wish I had somewhat more interesting to tell you of but I am this moment risen from the dinner which I annualy give to the auditors of the treasurers accounts. I would not delay my thanks to you and I trust you will make some allowance for the Effects of the festivity of the day which has I fear Crampd my Accuracy but I can assure You has not diminishd the real gratitude with which I declare myself Your Obligd & Faithfull Servant

Jos: Banks

Addressed: Dr. Franklin / Passy / near / Paris / France

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Enclosed in his letter of Nov. 21 [i.e., 22–25].

6After exhibiting their balloon at the Lyceum in the Strand, Francesco Zambeccari and Michael Biaggini (for whom see Banks to BF, Nov. 7) staged their experiment on the Artillery Ground at Moorfields on Nov. 25 before a vast crowd. It was the first public demonstration of a balloon ascension in England: Gent. Mag., LIII (1783), 977; J. E. Hodgson, The History of Aeronautics in Great Britain … (London, 1924), p. 102.

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