J. Matthew Buchanan discovered an interesting anecdote about Mr Franklin: that he had very little use for exclusive patents! Check out this passage from Franklin’s autobiography (grafted from Matthew’s post):
In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron-furnace, found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled “An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly explained; their Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms demonstrated; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them answered and obviated,” etc. This pamphlet had a good effect. Gov’r. Thomas was so pleas’d with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years; but I declin’d it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.” (emphasis added)
As Matt sumarizes:
I bet if Ben were around today, he’d be an open source programmer, inventing all sorts of new software and sharing them with everyone.
One thought on “Ben Franklin, the original open saucey badass”
First time I’ve come across this, and I’m going to have to find a use for it somehow in some promo literature. I have no idea if the design of this stove went on into mass production, though I’m sure some people would have been pleased if it had… At the time, before the manufacture of soapstone stoves, heating a room with a tin stove was a nightmare, as it radiated too much heat when close by but nothing when a few feet away. You had two choices, burned or freezing!
I think it was Mark Twain who waxed lyrical about soapstone stoves, which he’d experienced in northern Germany. Could be wrong about that, but I’m sure he called the old metal stoves a “wood-eating monster” at some time. He certainly said: “Be always careful not to take too much from an experience. A cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will never again sit upon a hot stove lid. Nor upon a cold stove lid.”