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Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790



  • Existence: 1706 (date of birth) - 1790 (date of death) - 1790


Publisher, patriot, and polymath Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston in 1706. Although he is best known as an author and statesman in Colonial America and the Early Republic, Franklin was also known as an inventor. Although he lacked formal training as a scientist, Franklin enjoyed tinkering, making improvements to existing devices, and creating new technologies. Several of his inventions involved glass: bifocals, lamp globes, and the glass harmonica (or glass armonica).

In the mid-18th century, musicians began playing glasses of water as musical instruments. Rubbing their fingers around the rims of assembled glasses of water, these musicians produced tunable tones and played songs. Benjamin Franklin's glass harmonica, invented in 1761, was a treadle-operated device that consisted of 37 bowls on a turning spindle. The player moistened his or her fingers and touched the rims of the spinning bowls to produce tones. Up to ten tones could be produced simultaneously on Franklin's glass harmonica.

In an oft-repeated quotation from an unknown source, Franklin is said to have claimed, "Of all my inventions, the glass armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction." Franklin died in Philadelphia in 1790.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Virginia Dadswell Sturm Collection on the Glass Harmonica

Identifier: MS-0148
Scope and Contents

This collection consists of documents surrounding Virginia Dadswell Sturm's research about, ownership of, and performances on an early 19th century glass harmonica. Materials are divided into four series:

(1) Correspondence and Research Materials, 1924-1976

(2) Photographic Materials and Printing Plates, Undated

(3) Sheet Music, Circa 1940-1950

(4) Personal Materials, 1944-1977

Dates: 1926-1977