Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 130

people more willing
to submit to a tax for that purpose.

After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, and brought it into
the Assembly. It was just before I went to England, in 1757, and did
not pass till I was gone,[90] and then with an alteration in the mode
of assessment, which I thought not for the better, but with an
additional provision for lighting as well as paving the streets, which
was a great improvement. It was by a private person, the late Mr. John
Clifton, his giving a sample of the utility of lamps, by placing one
at his door, that the people were first impress'd with the idea of
enlighting all the city. The honour of this public benefit has also
been ascrib'd to me, but it belongs truly to that gentleman. I did but
follow his example, and have only some merit to claim respecting the
form of our lamps, as differing from the globe lamps we were at first
supply'd with from London. Those we found inconvenient in these
respects: they admitted no air below; the smoke, therefore, did not
readily go out above, but circulated in the globe, lodg'd on its
inside, and soon obstructed the light they were intended to afford;
giving, besides, the daily trouble of wiping them clean; and an
accidental stroke on one of them would demolish it, and render it
totally useless. I therefore suggested the composing them of four flat
panes, with a long funnel above to draw up the smoke, and crevices
admitting air below, to facilitate the ascent of the smoke; by this
means they were kept clean, and did not grow dark in a few hours, as
the London lamps do, but continu'd bright till morning, and an
accidental stroke would generally break but a single pane, easily
repair'd.

I have sometimes wonder'd that the Londoners did not, from the effect
holes in the bottom of the globe lamps us'd at Vauxhall[91] have in
keeping them clean, learn to have such holes in their street lamps.
But, these holes being made for another purpose, viz., to communicate
flame more suddenly to the wick by a little flax hanging down thro'
them, the other use, of letting in air, seems not to have been thought
of; and therefore, after the lamps have been lit a few hours, the
streets of London are very poorly illuminated.

[90] See votes.

[91] Vauxhall Gardens, once a popular and fashionable
London resort, situated on the Thames above Lambeth. The

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