THE FIRST KITE
Among Ben Franklin inventions, the kite is sometimes incorrectly attributed to him.
But the first kite was actually built in China as a ceremonial hat prized for its symbolic angularity. Popular as headgear for royalty, it gained increased attention during a 1349 weather event, when thousands of Chinese serfs witnessed a particularly imposing headpiece achieve liftoff with a princess attached. She was discovered years later in the Prefecture of Sichuan, happily enlarged and living out a mostly toothless existence with an extended family of nomads among whom she had descended wearing her special hat. Her incoming flight earned her a promotion to the status of goddess and a free lifetime supply of sour Yak milk.
THE ELECTRIC DOORKNOB
Ben Franklin’s kite experience was brought on by his confusion over electricity and how it might be used to power refrigerators. One day he got a nice tingle out of a doorknob after walking across the rug and felt experimentation with curious electric doorknobs and their corresponding keys was in order.
Tying the key to the end of a long string, Franklin hired an small learning-challenged boy to hold a doorknob in one hand and its key in the other, while flying a kite in the middle of a thunderstorm. Franklin hoped to store electricity in the boy. When the boy reached full charge, Franklin’s intention was to grab his doorknob for experimental purposes. But, alas, things did not go according to plan.
The first stroke of lightning terminated the boy, a fact left out of later accounts because Franklin had promised six pence for the youngster’s services, and, in Ben’s opinion, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”
THE LIGHTNING ROD
Pocketing the now famous key, Franklin kept it in his pants for many years awaiting the founding of the Smithsonian Institute. The damnable pointy object often dug into his leg, which prodded Franklin to invent the metal spike in 1857. Hard-pressed to market his invention, Franklin eventually determined an application for his metal spike. He convinced homeowners to install the spikes upside down on their rooftops, which attracted lightning, resulting in peels of ironic laughter as people watched their houses burn down in torrential rainstorms.
After initial sales success, the lightning rod grew less popular as the population thinned due to the rampant house fires of the late 1700′s. Later, when railroads appeared, workers discovered the rods could be turned the other way around and driven into the ground to secure cross ties, a much safer practice with fewer fatalities.
THE FRANKLIN STOVE FIRES
Franklin assisted with population control on other fronts as well. The Franklin stove was an invention that warmed the domiciles of those who had not yet lost them to lightning rods. Franklin stoves were purpose-designed to fill rooms with smoke and ignite housing that had thus far escaped the onslaught of Franklin inventions.
SMELLY GOVERNMENT WORKERS
History books leave you with the impression our Founding Fathers were incapable of certain gaseous eruptions emanating from the rear chassis area.
Ben Franklin knew better. He sat among the Founders day after day. He watched them figure out a way to gain independence from a tyrannical King. He observed his fellows as they designed a system to trick us into believing “we the people” are in control. And yes, Benjamin Franklin smelled his co-workers as they developed our own, home-grown, American version of tyranny.
Accordingly, Franklin submitted blueprints for the building of a legislative statehouse including a system of pipes running to the bottom of each lawmaker’s chair. The other end was ducted into a fireplace chimney. His design allowed for the updraft to suck away doo-doo smells as American politicians performed their toxic discharges in the course of a day’s work.
As an added attraction, the collective gases flaming up as they exited the chimney would, especially when lawmakers toiled into the night, serve as a beacon of hope to all Americans.
This odor-free politician plan was rejected on the grounds that, once again, Franklin and fire were uncomfortably intertwined in a way that did not bode well for the structural integrity of the building.
To this day there is still no effective system for the removal of odiferous lawmaker emissions.
BEN THE JOKER
Ben Franklin was not asked to write the Constitution because everybody knew he would insert a joke or two nobody would catch until it was too late.
Politicians have always had tin ears, and today’s breed is no different. Our leaders, with their abysmally proscribed sense of humor, are fond of blaming Ben Franklin for originating daylight savings time. While it is true Franklin proposed the practice in a letter, any sane reading of his suggestion to change the clocks twice a year reveals he was j-o-k-i-n-g. It’s easy enough to find the missive on the internet and decide for yourself, but I think you’ll agree it reflects poorly on any political figure who perpetuates the myth.
If only Ben Franklin inventions filled Washington today. Old Ben would have tried to burn them out, or at least shield us from the odor.
With his inventions website, Michael Glen explores the intriguing world of inventors and investigates the secrets of creativity. Sometimes as he writes about famous inventors he gets a wild hair and writes a corresponding spoof like the one you just read. He is invariably apologetic to a fault.