You are here

Visit Independence National Historical Park to Listen To Ben Franklin's Musical Invention


Among Ben Franklin's many inventions was the Glass Armonica. Portrait of Franklin via NPS; photo of Glass Armonica by Vince Flango via Wikipedia.

We've all heard the story of Ben Franklin and the key suspended from a kite. But are you familiar with the the one about Mr. Franklin's musical invention?

You see, back in the early 1760 while in England Mr. Franklin invented his own instrument called the Glass Armonica after seeing wine glasses being "played" in England. Anyone who has wet the rim of a glass -- preferably a wine glass -- and run their finger around the lip knows that that will produce a tone.

Well, Mr. Franklin went beyond wine glasses by using water-filled bowls that were mounted on a spindle that was turned with a foot treadle. By coloring the rims of the bowls different colors to signify different notes, spinning them, and running a wet finger across the rims, the Glass Armonica was played.

You can listen to the resulting music by visiting Independence National Historical Park through the end of August. There will be daily performances at noon and 2:30 p.m. offered in Franklin Court, which was the location of Mr. Franklin's home while he served in the Continental Congress.

If you can't make it to Philadelphia, here are links to three podcasts the park produced to feature the Glass Armonica.





wild stuff. The man was clever, of that there is no doubt.

Obviously, Franklin's glass armonica was not made of water filled dishes. If the whole thing is on its side, the water would run out. Wetting his finger in another dish of water was the key.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide