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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

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!

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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