Playing with Benjamin Franklin's Instrument

Franklin & his instrument
Benjamin Franklin died on this day in 1790.  In his honor, I thought I would share a few of the more titillating tidbits about his life.  Most people know that Franklin was one of the leading figures in early American history.  Franklin's contributions as a statesman and politician have been well documented.  A true Renaissance man, Benjamin Franklin was also a prolific author, skilled scientist, prolific publisher, and ingenious inventor.  Did you know he invented a revolutionary, fuel-saving stove and bifocal glasses?

My regular readers are probably thinking, "Why are you telling me about furnaces and ocular devices?  I didn't come to this page to be bored with scientific jargon and trivia, I came here to be titillated.  Titillate me!"

*Sighing*  Please be patient, my gentle reader.  I shall, as always, titillate whilst I educate.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin also invented a musical instrument he called the glass armonica?  The instrument was comprised of a series of glass bowls attached to an iron spindle secured inside a long wooden case. The musician would spin the bowls and then run his/her fingers over them to create a range of sounds.

Franklin's instrument created a sensation in America and Europe.  Everyone wanted to get their hands on it (told you this would post would become more titillating, ye of little faith).  Even Marie Antoinette fiddled with Franklin's instrument (Mon dieu!)! 

Parts of Franklin's Glass Armonica
She was still an ill-educated, crooked-toothed, naive princess in Austria when presented with Franklin's large, somewhat cumbersome instrument.  Did our petite princess protest?  Non!  She boldly put her hands on Franklin's armonica, running her fingers over the ridges, until she coaxed beautiful music from it.  That's right!  Marie Antoinette was a proficient player of Franklin's instrument. (Come now, wasn't that tidbit a bit titillating?)

In fact, Franklin's instrument was so popular that many famous people played with it. Both Ludwig von Beethoven and Wolfgang Mozart wrote music specifically for Franklin's armonica.


  1. That was fun. I enjoyed the Armonica, and did try to play it. I see that you provided a list of songs and instructions so I will try again sometime. I don't know how you were able to set this up but I loved it...Thanks a lot...You should teach us how to set up great blogs.

    1. Thank you for your comments. You are such a kind, faithful reader. I would never presume to tell others how to set up a blog ~ though I am more than willing to answer questions from readers. My aim here is to share my passion for 18th Century French History, but thank you for having such faith in me.


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