Benjamin Franklin Invented a Glass Harp

Here you can hear a man play the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies on the armonica - which looks a lot like a man massaging a stack of plastic cups

Benjamin Franklin Glass Harp
Image: William Zeitler

Benjamin Franklin invented a lot of things—bifocals, electricity, lightning rods, stoves, swimming fins, the odometer and a flexible urinary catheter. Also, the glass harp (or, if you prefer, glass armonica).

Franklin wanted to improve upon the classic trick of running your finger around the rim of a glass to make a note. So he took 37 glass bowls and arranged them together, connected to a water trough. In his original version, each rim had a specific color based on the note it could play. The invention debuted in 1762, played by musician Marianne Davies.

Here you can hear a man play the "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies" on the armonica. It looks a lot like a man massaging a stack of plastic cups but sounds like a really creepy version of the famous song. Just in time for the holidays!

More from Smithsonian.com:

Ben Franklin: Patriot, Foodie
When Ben Franklin Met the Battlefield