Ben Franklin’s Birthday!

Printer, author, scientist, musician, inventor, diplomat and revolutionary.
On Sunday, January 18th the museum will be celebrating the birthday of our town’s namesake, Benjamin Franklin, born January 17, 1706.

The town of Franklin was originally to be named Exeter. As our forefathers made their way to Dedham to establish the charter of incorporation, word of Ben’s success in establishing the French alliance with Louis XVI had made it’s way to the Colonies. And, as noted in the History of Franklin by Mortimer Blake, a last minute decision was made, ‘… and it was with graceful tribute to the successful diplomatist, Franklin, that the town, just at that date applying for incorporation, should bear his name.’

As a special treat, Vera Meyer will return to the museum to perform on the glass harmonica, a unique instrument invented by Benjamin Franklin.

About the instrument:
The glass harmonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. The instrument enjoyed wide popularity in Europe (where Franklin was living at the time) for about 40 years until it was banned by German police around 1830. It was feared by people and thought to cause insanity, nervous disorders, convulsions in dogs and cats, marital disputes, and even wake people from the dead. It is possible that the lead in the glasses used at the time caused a neurological problem for people. However, maybe it was the haunting tones of the instrument, or maybe it was because Anton Mesmer used the instrument to hypnotize his patients. We have discovered about 300 compositions originally written for glass harmonica, including works by Mozart and Beethoven.

About the musician:
Vera Meyer discovered glass music in 1983 when she happened upon street musician Jim Turner playing his 70 musical wine glasses on the street in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. She was so captivated by the sound of the instrument that she immediately worked to acquire her own glass instrument. She started by building a similar set of tuned wine glasses, but very soon thereafter she heard about Gerhard Finkenbeiner, a master glassblower who built glass harmonicas based on the Franklin design. Vera contacted Gerhard immediately to procure one of the first such instruments he ever made. She has been playing the glass harmonica ever since and her performances include everything from informal functions to formal concert engagements. Vera is co-founder of Glass Music International, an

organization with the goal to promote a renaissance of glass music around the world, after 150 years of obscurity for the instrument.Vera wishes to dedicate all future concerts to the memory of Gerhard, her friend and mentor.

Stop by the museum on Sunday the 18th, between 1:00 and 4:00pm, to enjoy a piece of cake, hear the unique sounds of the glass harmonica, and celebrate Ben!

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