Nick Chordas: All About The Benjamin

Roundup: Talking About History

You have to hand it to Benjamin Franklin: How many 300-year-olds can say they helped found the United States and inspired a Diddy song?

B. Frank was an O.G. (Original Genius) long before his mug appeared on the $100 bill.

Every grade-school graduate knows that Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence, published Poor Richard's Almanack and flew a kite during a lightning storm.

But who knew that Franklin invented the armonica? Furthermore, what the heck is an armonica?

Here are some of the lesser-known aspects of Franklin's life:
Because you asked, the armonica is a glass musical instrument played with a wet finger -- the way one "plays" the rim of a wineglass.

Armonicas aren't around much anymore, because late-18th- and early-19th-century music fans thought Franklin's creation caused insanity and even death. Some blamed the armonica for the demise of Beethoven and Mozart, who both wrote compositions for it.

Illogically speaking, then, Franklin snuffed out two of the world's greatest musical talents. Nice going, genius.
Besides the armonica, many of Franklin's other creations are still around -- including bifocals, the lightning rod and political cartoons.

He is also credited with dreaming up the thing your grandma uses to grab out-of-reach stuff. During his days as a printer, Franklin fashioned a pole with pincers at the end so he could reach items on high shelves.

We assume that the artificial arm also allowed him to remain seated for long periods. It took four men to carry Franklin in his sedan chair into the Constitutional Convention.
Some zealous historians have speculated that Franklin sired upward of a dozen illegitimate Bens and Belindas. Others put the number even higher, but only son William has been confirmed.

All agree, however, that Franklin was a notorious flirt.

Thomas Jefferson said of his fellow Founding Father: "I have marked him particularly in the company of women where he loses all power over himself and becomes almost frenzied."

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