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The Founders Library

List of U.S. Presidents
Founding Documents in Pop Culture
The Temple of Founding History
Independence Artwork
The Founders' Reading List
Founders' Journals
The Magna Carta
The Inventions of the Founders
Early American Postal Service
Music of the Revolution
Colonial Travel
Constitutional Landmarks
First Party System
George Washington the Artist
Founders' Fashion
Colonial Currency

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Inventions of the Founding Fathers

1. Bifocals - Benjamin Franklin

Although John Isaak Hawkins came up with the name for bifocals in 1827 when he invented trifocals, Founding Father and Pennsylvania delegate Benjamin Franklin was the man behind their creation. Being both near and short sighted, Franklin set out to create a lens which would accommodate both handicaps, and he succeeded in the 1760s. However, he never patented his idea, believing that inventions should serve others - and only though this free access could improvements be made on them.

2. 16 Sided Threshing Barn - George Washington

George Washington is remembered for his military prowess, strong leadership, and social graces - but George Washington the inventor? Yes, he did that too. He created a sixteen sided threshing barn in 1794, an interesting agricultural innovation created to improve the threshing process. It made it more efficient and more sanitary, and produced a better grain overall.

3. Wheel Cypher (Jefferson Disk) - Thomas Jefferson

Although officially known as a Bazeries Cylinder, Jefferson's wheel cypher was a remarkable multiwheel encryption device. Jefferson invented the disk in 1795 as a way of sending and receiving "secret" messages. Jefferson's version was never well known, however, and thus the French commandant Etienne Bazeries typically gets the credit.

4. Improved Mouldboard Plow - Thomas Jefferson

This was not a novel invention by Jefferson, but rather an improvement on the old system. He worked to improve the curves of the machine, and cast them in iron. Unfortunately, he became sidetracked with other products and never fully finished the design.

5. Lightning Rod - Benjamin Franklin

Contrary to popular myth, Benjamin Franklin did not successfully prove that lightning was electricity, despite the fact that he first proposed the idea. What he did do, however, was invent the lightning rod, a large metallic object which is placed atop a building to protect it in the event of a strike of lightning.

6. Glass Armonica - Benjamin Franklin

Undoubtedly one of the more curious inventions of the Founding Fathers, Franklin's Armonica was a "modern adaptation" of the art of playing the glass harp. Before the armonica, people would play music by running wet fingers around the rims of specifically shaped and sized glass bowls, called harps.




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