Ben Franklin's Glass Harmonica?
By James Grahame
Sean at Alesis was nice enough to pass along this interesting Craigslist ad:
"This is an ornate, artistic, beautifully made instrument with many names. Glass Harmonica, Case of Musical Glasses, etc., probably made in the mid-19th century in Europe. Also called by some as a Glasspiel, Verrillon and Verrophone. By history, with no documentation was at one time the property of Benjamin Franklin."
I tend to take everything on Craigslist with a grain of salt, especially since Ben Franklin died in 1790, a half century before this "instrument" was supposedly made. Still, it is a truly neat instrument idea. Bonus marks to the first person who creates a MIDI version!
[Update: Interesting comments on this post - thanks. You can tell that I'm definitely not an Armonica expert. The tray of glasses in the pics doesn't look much like Franklin's spindle-based Armonica at all, although it probably does resemble the trays of "singing glasses" that were quite popular at the time. It's possible he bought a set while travelling in Europe.]