Electrical apparatus (electrostatic machine), 18th century
Photo courtesy of The...
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Photo courtesy of The Franklin Institute, Inc.

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The machine was supposedly once the property of Benjamin Franklin and was used by him in his electrostatic experiments. However, a report on this electrostatic machine maintained in The Franklin Institute files states that Franklin does not describe a machine exactly like this one anywhere in his writings or correspondence. The machine could have been used by Franklin, and may be the one called "the great wheel." Unfortunately, documentation has not yet been found to support that this was used by Franklin.

Baluster-shaped carved arms support the brackets that brace a glass globe. A suede cushion at the bottom of the globe supports it and is rubbed to create friction (and generate static electricity) when the wheel is turned. An eight-spoked wheel has leather straps that run in the wheel's grooves up to a bracket on the side of the globe.

The machine has large bracket feet which could have been screwed into place: holes drilled into two of the feet could have been used for bolts that would prevent the apparatus from moving across the floor in response to the turning of the wheel.
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