Saturday, 3 June 2017

Bran Tub # 11: Lightning Rod Fashion ...



Lightning Rod Umbrellas or Hats … the fashion of the day in the 1770s …
Benjamin Franklin drawing electricity
from the sky - painted by
Benjamin West (1816)


Honestly – I could not believe what I saw and then read about – so you had to know too!   Life does throw out some wonderful and weird ideas …


Benjamin Franklin (one of the Founding Fathers of the United States [1706 – 1790]) the renowned polymath had invented the lightning rod to protect wooden structures, but which did not become commonplace until 50 years after his death.


Church with Steeple on high ground
 - illustration


To back up a little (well over 250 years ago) – the highest point in villages and towns was the church steeple, and in that steeple were metallic bells that were rung to ward off storms - ?? ...






Denny Church, Falkirk,
Scotland, showing damage
via lightning strike

... ideal for the lightning … not so for the Church or particularly for the 103 bell ringers killed by lightning strikes per a report published in Europe in 1786 noting the 386 recorded strikes in the previous 33 years (1753).



To make the disaster complete there was a habit of storing gunpowder in the vaults of churches … a church being a sacred place - its vaults were considered the safest place to store munitions.   An explosive idea …. ?!


Brescia in northern Italy

The clergy of the Church of St Nazaire at Brescia in northern Italy had refused to have a lightning rod installed … then in 1769 the church was struck … 


... the resulting fire ignited 90,000 kg (nearly 200,000 lb) of gunpowder stored there – causing a massive explosion which destroyed one-sixth of Brescia (90 houses) and killed 3,000 people.



But as with all things it took time to accept that lightning rods were an essential protection … but then there’s the overreaction – really why this post is being written! - everything had to be grounded by a Franklin rod …


Le Parapluie-Puratonnere


Lightning Rod Fashion came to the fore, especially in Paris … the concept was, by now, to some extent accepted practice … that the lightning bolt would strike the Franklin-designed protective device instead of the person, sending the electricity harmlessly down the metal chain to the ground.



Umbrellas for men were invented … named “le parapluie-puratonnere” literally ‘umbrella protecting against thunder’ – a misnomer, as it was intended to protect against lightning, not thunder!


Each of the hats at the back has a silver chain
running down to the ground

While women had special hats … a woven metal ribbon was wrapped around the hat, a silver chain was attached to the ribbon which then trailed to the ground …


This is one of those extraordinary unintended inventions arising from Benjamin Franklin’s foray into science … and especially the concept of how electricity worked …


Title page of 1751 original edition

I do this Founding Father of the USA an injustice … as his 86 page book on electricity went through five editions in English, three in French, one in German and one in Italian … and he received numerous awards and acknowledgements …


This phase of his life lasted less than seven years … politics was beckoning … with his influence as a newspaperman and his fame as a scientist … Franklin was an ideal candidate for office.


So did you know this part of Franklin’s life … I knew little about him … so I have learnt … but what an extraordinary fashion to be in vogue in the late 1700s – that’s the story of the fashionable lightning rod.


Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

85 comments:

Elephant's Child said...

How incredible. It seems that Benjamin Franklin would have succeeded in whatever avenue he attempted. I wonder what turned him away from science to politics? Though the American people benefited - either way.

Rhodesia said...

Wow Hilary what a fantastic post and all totally new to me. Can you imagine walking around with an umbrella that would protect you from lightening, or a hat with a metal ribbon. I don't like hats so I guess I would be stealing a man's umbrella :-)
Very enlightening post and thanks for sharing. Have a good weekend Diane

Rhonda Albom said...

Very interesting history and facts. You have to love the fashion that comes out of science and technology.

Out on the prairie said...

I was unaware of the spread of his thoughts . Not sure I would carry an umbrella to defray the charge.

Jo said...

Now I need to buy a hat. Haven't worn one in years LOL. Fascinating stuff Hilary, as usual.

Kim Blades said...

Hi Hilary. I didn't know very much about Franklin either before this fascinating post. I have connected to your blog via email now which I am very pleased about. Kim

Joanne said...

Old Ben was a womanizing genius. He was wily, witty, and ahead of his time. Growing up near Philly, we learn a lot about him and can trod the very cobblestone streets he walked. Good post

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Ben was a creative and clever man even if he never was president.

Storing gunpowder in a place known for lightning strikes was a really bad idea.

Botanist said...

I knew about Franklin's experiments, but not the fashionable follow-up. Wow, what a concept! I wonder if there's any recorded instance of someone with one of those devices attracting a lightning strike - and what was the consequence?

bazza said...

Last week a cousin posted that, during a particularly windy night while camping last week, he was proud that his metal-poled tent was the one that withstood the electric storm best.....then I queried if that was the most sensible thing to do. He was genuinely shocked and admitted he hadn't thought about it! I am going to point him to this post!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s auspicious Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ EC – I think that’s right he obviously was an incredibly clever man and able to turn his hand to most things … I guess he was encouraged to lead – thus becoming one of the Founding Fathers … exactly: the American people benefited …

@ Diane – I have to say I was amazed to read up about this – also to learn more about Ben Franklin, though know I should be reading up much more.

It is extraordinary to think that they believed they were safer walking around with ‘these things’ attached … me too – don’t like hats, nor umbrellas for that matter … I’d have to hope that being smaller any strike would have missed me!

Delighted you enjoyed the post …

@ Rhonda – thanks … don’t we need to wonder at times how disciplines cross-reference each other … including fashion …

@ Steve – I have to say I didn’t know about Ben Franklin’s range of interests and abilities … I suspect many of us wouldn’t worry too much, now-a-days, we’d say ‘no thank you’ about the offer of being connected to a lightning conductor!

@ Jo – yes, but bearing in mind my comment above – I’m sure it’d be a waste of money … better to go off and buy more asparagus!

@ Kim – so pleased the email link works: I finally got my act into gear. So glad you enjoyed the post and the parts about Franklin …

@ Joanne – was he a womanizer as well … yes a genius definitely – no wonder he switched around … a new woman or two each time!! I’m sure you learnt loads about him from your days in Philadelphia … history and walking in early footsteps is always fascinating …

@ Diane – he wasn’t president … but he’s become known as the “The First American” – at least that’s what Wiki mentions! Perhaps that’s better than being president … certainly a title no one else can claim.

The interesting thing about the gunpowder was that it was very commonplace to store it in churches … or in a particular instance in St Paul’s Cathedral – which did burn down during the Great Fire (1666) burning lots of treasures, but fortunately the gunpowder stores had been sent east to the Tower … if the fire had reached the Tower of London then absolute havoc would have occurred probably obliterating London. Food for thought?!

@ Ian – it’s such an extraordinary invention … but I suppose back then when they didn’t understand electricity or lightning strikes it all makes ‘feasible sense’ …

I didn’t see any notation about someone being hit by a lightning strike … and how many of us are hit today … that consequence we know about – whether the lightning rod fashion would have helped or not … is ??? questionable!

@ Bazza – perhaps you’ve enlightened us even further … yes, electrical storms of any sort are pretty dangerous … how fascinating to read about your cousin … it’ll be interesting to know his reaction! Camping was obviously fun … and I guess that’s the main thing – though hopefully not amongst trees …

Life is strange …

Thanks so much everyone – we can so easily be brought up short by something extraordinary … as here with Franklin’s device. Cheers to you all - Hilary

A Cuban In London said...

You always manage to dig out the most interesting facts ever. Who knew? Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Janie Junebug said...

I've long known about Franklin's experiments with lightning, but didn't know any of the rest of it. "This president of the USA"? I'm confused.

Love,
Janie

Ann Bennett said...

I think of modern day equivalent's to a lightning rod umbrella. Maybe a I-watch, a teeny tiny computer that essentially can only be read by the very young and patient.

I remember reading a biography of Franklin. They should have known he would become a revolutionary. He was the youngest son of a youngest son.

Susan said...

Love the idea of lightning rod fashion!

Lenny Lee said...

wow! another really interesting post. as usual, i learned a lot of stuff i didn't know.

for sure some of those guys carrying the Franklin umbrella and the ladies wearing the chained hat got struck by lightning and lit up like a light bulb. wonder if that's where the expression "blow your top" came from. lol










































beste barki said...

Indeed, life does throw out many a weird and wonderful idea.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ ACIL - when I found out ... I just thought this is fun - so thank you for agreeing with me ...

@ Janie - I didn't know too much about Franklin, or hadn't realised he'd written up on electricity and then his other interests. Thanks - I've corrected him ... upgrading him to Founding Father from president - my mistake ...

@ Ann - I don't think we want to attract lightning to us ... but there are some amazing technologies now-a-days ... Interesting to know he was the youngest son of a youngest son ... does that lead us to rebel ...

@ Susan - it's an extraordinary fashion isn't it ... or was!

@ Lenny - it was so fascinating to write up and find out about.

Lighting up like a light bulb, or going 'pop' ... I'm not sure where the term originated ... possibly industrial - kettle boiling etc ... but could well be that Franklin had a similar phrase ...

@ Beste - so right ... a weird and wonderful idea - but the world learnt about electricity ...

Cheers to you all - I am glad we don't have lightning rod fashion around today though ... Hilary

Anabel Marsh said...

I knew about Franklin and his scientific work but not the stories about churches or the bizarre fashions that followed his discoveries! Fascinating (and amusing) post. Not so amusing for the church bell ringers though.....

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

I knew about the crazy hats and umbrellas, but I did not know about the church in Brescia. That's so horrible, so massive.

mail4rosey said...

Have you read the story of his friend who experimented with medicine and was believed to be a grave robber in order to do so? I believe he lived with Franklin for a number of years, and used his basement to bury the bones from the deceased bodies he had stolen or purchased. Craziness to partner up in something that could get him into so much trouble, even if he wasn't partaking in the deeds himself... if he knew about it at all.

The fashion statement hats or umbrellas you speak of? Count me out. ;) I hadn't heard of either until now though. Def. a fun fact to learn. And gun powder in huge amounts stored in churches?? I didn't know that either. You've definitely depicted a recipe for disaster (which was played out in full with your Italian city example!).

Here to say hello!

Robert Bennett said...

I'll be honest...I kind of expected horror stories regarding the lightning rod fashion, not unrelated to the same issue with the poor bellkeeps.

Guilie Castillo said...

Benji Franklin and his electricity experiments were part of the culture I grew up in (yes, even in Mexico), but I had no idea about the parapluie puratonnere — what a crazy idea! And the hats... Oh, my. Like Robert commented above here, I'm surprised there weren't at least as many mishaps with these 'protective' features as with using the metal church bells as protection back in the day. Wow...

Thanks for the visit over at Quiet Laughter , Hilary. Always a pleasure to see your name in the comments, and even more so to hop over and read one of your amazing posts :) Happy Sunday!
Guilie

FinnBadger said...

I knew Franklin was a scientist, and had a good understanding of electricity, but had no idea he invented the lightning rod. The fashionistas of the day with their trailing wires to the ground are hysterically funny. Then again, people are struck by lightning on a regular basis....

Fil said...

So funny Hilary - it just shows that obsession with fashion is not a new thing. Brilliant post :)

Jz said...

It's a good thing I didn't live then - I would undoubtedly have tripped and choked myself on the safety chain...

Inger said...

While I knew about Franklin, I didn't know about the churches, the bell ringers and lightning, and nothing about the gunpowder and that town in Italy. There are so many things we, human beings, had to learn the hard way, but that seems like a really hard way to learn.

DMS said...

As always I learned a lot! I didn't have any idea about those poor bell ringers! Yikes. What a dangerous job. I had no clue that there was such a think as lightning rod fashion. Wow!

Thanks for enlightening us! :)
~Jess

Nilanjana Bose said...

How very interesting!I didn't know ...The fashions look really dangerous to me though! I expect there were some sad mishaps with those umbrellas and hats, same as the church steeples/bell towers.

Always learn something new at your blog!

Have a great week.
Best,
Nila.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Anabel – had sort of skirted around Franklin, but was amazed to find out about this information – not so good for the bell ringers as you say …

@ Holly – I’d never heard of the hats or brollies, nor the church in Brescia … such a huge explosion.

@ Rosey – no I haven’t heard about Franklin’s friend … well it certainly adds some gory details to the story line or to some future horror story.

I know about grave diggers from that era – and I guess they had to put their bodies somewhere – before they could research into them … I imagine that’s what Franklin’s friend was doing … it happened here in the UK … but usually they were bought by intrepid early doctors pre being dug up – so had a place to be taken to … our modern day medicine understanding came out of these experiments …

The fashion statement is a little extraordinary isn’t it – but proven for churches, so I guess they thought it’d work for people – but I wonder how many were struck by lightning, even today not many.

The storing of gun powder in the crypt of churches – again the safest place … unless a lightning strike occurred – with devastating results on occasion.

@ Robert – I wonder if perhaps the lightning rods in umbrellas and hats attracted lightning ... but I guess we’ll never know.

@ Guilie – I’m sure Ben Franklin’s life was well known – even in Mexico as you mention … but not the ‘parapluie puratonnere’? – the best bit of history! I wonder if the contraptions attracted lightning in the first place … yet there don’t seem to be any records of strikes … but the bells yes, and then the poor bell-ringers unfortunately struck down ..

Good to see you here – thanks for the compliment …

@ Phillip – I didn’t know too much about Franklin (still don’t) … but it made a fascinating read into ‘history’ and the development of electricity. I know the fashionistas of the day – quite extraordinary … more people now: so more opportunities perhaps for strikes.

@ Fil – it is amusing isn’t it … and shows what fashion followers are in for … today probably not!

@ Jz – I wonder if there were accidents from the chains – highly likely … but in today’s age similar to the high heels – I expect they were taken off as soon as possible …

@ Inger – this taught me so much ... and how far information travelled, was copied, and tested. I expect the church crypt was probably the only place that was secure from theft … but not lightning. We did learn the hard way … but if we hadn’t experimented – we’d have never have learnt … and be able to live as we do today.

@ Jess – it was such an interesting topic to write about … and I had no idea either – but those poor bell ringers I can relate to them … especially the clambering up to the spire to ring the bells … it’s enlightened me too!

@ Nila – it all looks rather strange to us today – and I suspect the fashion lasted a very short time … because by then electricity would be better understood. I’m sure there were some unexpected results from these contraptions … but the understanding of having your steeple protected by a lightning rod (eventually) came in pretty quickly …

Cheers and thanks for visiting … have a peaceful week - Hilary

Keith's Ramblings said...

During the storm last week I stood for a while on my balcony watching lightning strike a tall crane a couple of streets away. BF would have loved it!

Click to visit Keith's Ramblings

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

A truly shocking tale, Hilary! As usual, excellently researched and told. Love the idea of the trailing lightning road from the hat - never heard THAT one before!

Bish Denham said...

Certainly I knew about Franklin and the lightening rob and about churches being hit by lightening all the time. But I didn't know about umbrellas and hats being equipped. What a hoot! I wonder if they worked...

Pamela Wright said...

This is really interesting Hilary. I knew that Benjamin Franklin was an inventor but I didn't know he invented the lightning rod - love the clothing accessories.

cleemckenzie said...

I knew he was a prolific inventor and I did know something about the lightning rod, but not some of these fascinating details. I'm still trying to imagine maneuvering the streets of a cobblestone city with a grounding chain down my back! :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Keith - we missed the storm here ... well I did apparently! - others said it was loud and bright - I knew it was there ... but it didn't impact. So interesting that 'just up the coast' you were able to watch lightning strike a tall crane - fantastic to watch. You're right BF would have loved it ...

@ Mike - well I guess we were lucky he wasn't killed! The story just struck me as really 'odd' - but a tale on how we learnt how things worked. I just wonder whether anyone got struck wearing a hat, or using an umbrella ... I was sober when writing this up!!

@ Bish - as I mentioned to Mike above ... there's no record as to whether the fashions worked or not ... I'm sure many do know a lot about ol' Ben - he was some clever chap ...

@ Pam - thanks ... I've learnt from having read up a little about him ... but certainly never knew he'd invented the steeple lightning rod ... aren't the clothing accessories fun ...

@ Lee - as I mentioned above re the invention and electricity ... it's as you say fascinating to think of them manoeuvring around in the streets in those days ... especially if there were puddles around?! - and more so with a chain hanging down my back - well someone was devilishly clever!

Cheers to you all - I'm conjuring up all kinds of attire for the street now ... and how to murder someone ... lots of ideas here - take care - Hilary

Lynn said...

I wonder how many women were struck by lightning while wearing those hats?

Love the painting of Benjamin Franklin - a very "striking" man!

Click said...

Wow, fashionable lightning rods, hehe. Literally dying to be fashionable!

Cait @ Click's Clan

Liz A. said...

I did not know about lightning rod fashion, but I did know of his scientific experiments. Franklin as an historical figure is well-known in the U.S. The kite flown in the rainstorm is as famous as George Washington and his cherry tree.

Deborah Weber said...

Oh Hilary - I'm swooning with delight over the lightning rod hats and umbrellas! I believe I have a bit of mad hatter in me, as I love all millinery-related trivia. You've set me off imagining that perhaps an undisclosed fashion trend was a hat shaped like Franklin's kite - now that would be amusing, albeit dangerous.

Karen Lange said...

Ben Franklin was quite the pioneer in so many ways. Growing up, I often visited the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where his influence was very well known. In many ways, his legacy is still celebrated to this day, especially in that tri-state area. Thanks for sharing about him and this wonderful segment of history. Have a wonderful week!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lynn - I have a feeling no-one was struck while wearing the hats ... I'm sure they'd have been inside away from the rain- but it does make one think doesn't it. The painting is very "striking" ...

@ Cait - yes, so true ... they could so easily have been dying to be fashionable.

@ Liz - I'm sure in the States you'd know about Ben's experiments and his scientific abilities ... and the kite to Ben, as the cherry to George - that symbolism I hadn't realised.

@ Deborah - well I hope you don't go along this route ... but can see the millinery interest, though the electrical angle would worry me! I wonder if something like that hasn't been created for the great horse races when 'ladies who hat' attend with amazing creations on show ... a kite hat - could well have been invented and worn ... worryingly dangerous though.

@ Karen - Franklin was a great pioneer wasn't he ... I imagine Philadelphia is proud of its son and I'm sure they keep his name alive in the city. Pleasure - I enjoyed sharing this fascinating and fun snippet of history ...

Thanks everyone ... June's come around and we have storms, heavy seas with no lovely sunshine!! Cheers from a very wet south coast. Hilary

Murees Dupé said...

Wow! I can't believe so many people were killed. Interesting fashion.

RO said...

This is pretty amazing, and I really enjoy learning more about history and trivia like this. Thanks for sharing this valuable info! Hugs...

Emily Bloomquist said...

Incredibly interesting, Hilary. It is unfortunate that so many died before the church implemented lighting rods. What interesting umbrellas and hats.

diedre Knight said...

Immensely interesting post! "Explosive idea," gave me a giggle. Ironically, Mr. Franklin was on my mind as well when I wrote the post I've scheduled for Wednesday ;-)

Marja said...

Fascinating how clever Mr Franklin was and how stubborn people can be, referring to the church in Brescia and how funny, referring to the hats with lightning rods.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Murees - it was just that combination of storing explosives in churches and the fact the churches were built of wood ... while that fashion is, as you say, interesting.

@ RO - good to see you here ... and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post - as I rather like history and will add trivia at times ... am happy I shared.

@ Emily - thank you, yes some churches were short-sighted for a while .. til the realisation sank in that lightning rods were good for churches, probably not so good for fashionistas!

@ Diedre - the whole thing made me giggle, while admiring Franklin and his inventive spirit and learning more about him ... I shall look out for your Franklin post today ...

@ Marja - Ben Franklin was amazing and yes people tend to be stubborn aren't they. The Brescia story was devastating to read ... but hats or brollies with lightning rods - just 'silly'!

Cheers to you all - thanks for your visit ... Hilary

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Lightning, explosions, weird fashions - everything to make a great story! Thanks for sharing the info :-)

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Hillary,

Always and FUN and INFORMATIVE post. I knew some of these things about Franklin, but the fashion trends of the lighting rod is a fascinating subject.... interesting. Quite the fashion scene. LOl

Yolanda Renée said...

Totally unbelievable! We are such a curious species, silly really! Love the history lesson!
Franklin was an amazing man!

Christine Rains said...

How amazing! I had no idea Ben affected fashion and helped save churches all around. Bells and gunpowder? Yikes!

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

What an interesting post! I've read a number of books about Franklin, so was aware of his experiments, discoveries, and inventions, but those umbrellas and hats are news to me. Lightning doesn't always behave as expected, but there's no way I'd try to "attract" a strike to my head. Having it strike a tree in our back yard was too close for me.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

As I've said before, Hilary, you have the most interesting posts I've ever read. Thanks so much for this. Yes, I knew of Franklin's dabble into science. He wasn't afraid to consider new ideas and test them. But I've never heard of these umbrella and hat things. Hindsight allows us to look at discoveries and methods with new knowledge.

All the best to you, Hilary. Thanks for always teaching me something new.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Hilary
I did know about old Ben's lightning experiment, but not about all the gun powder in churches, the umbrella and hats. My guess is that neither umbrella's or hat's worked. The gun powder in churches is beyond scary.

On a personal note, I gave my husband a DNA kit for his Birthday. Turns out he is directly related to Benjamin Franklin. I said, "Well, old Ben did like the ladies."

Nancy

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Some of this I knew, but not about the churches. Surprising that more didn't blow up. Hi Hilary. Happy Spring.

Crystal Collier said...

I have studied Franklin quite a bit, as he is my FAVORITE of the founding fathers, but I didn't know anything about the bell ringing and funky umbrellas. I got a good chuckle out of that. Poor bell ringers!

Elsie Amata said...

Fun fact: my dad used to tell me that the metal pipe sticking out of our roof was a lightening rod - it was meant to direct the lightening safely to the ground during a storm. I grew up thinking that until I owned my home and found out from a repair guy it was the dryer vent. Hello embarrassing! My dad only told me that so I wouldn't be scared during a storm. Guess he never thought ahead far enough. :)

Elsie

Mark Noce said...

I love Ben Franklin, especially his almanac. He has the best sayings:)

Jean Davis said...

While I knew about the rod, I hadn't heard of the umbrellas or hats. It would seem that the chain would get caught on all sorts of things. Though, that was probably better than taking of the chance of being struck my lightning.

Lynda R Young said...

lol at the lightning rod fashions. I hadn't heard that before and had to laugh.

Denise Covey - Author said...

My gosh, Hilary, I'd never spared a thought for the bell ringers killed by lightning strikes. Makes sense. Poor things. I saw a movie once where a psychopath was carrying one of those lightning rod umbrellas and got struck and died. Neat ending.

Looking forward to a 'typical Hilary' post for Bridges. Go girl!

Denise :-)

J Lenni Dorner said...

I lived in Philadelphia. Ben's obsession with lightning/ electric is well known. Perhaps not the umbrellas or hats though.
To my understanding, a lightning rod slogan is basically "it attracts the hits, taking them so you don't have to." Which is why some people were/are against them, because the rods are always getting hit. But... that's sorta the point, because they can take it. Franklin was big on "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." It's the people who ignore the second half of that who really didn't get along well with him.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Our farm where I grew up had lightning rods on everything and they were struck many, many times. Franklin had his hand in so many things. He was amazing.

Becca said...

I can't believe how many bell ringers were killed, that is so sad! But, this was a fascinating history lesson! :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Ronel – you’re right there … it would make a good tale … and if you see Denise’s comment below she mentions someone has written such a story …

@ Michael – good to see you ... I know life hasn’t been easy and am glad this post lightened the day a little … and yes fashionable at that …

@ Yolanda – yes completely unbelievable, yet remarkably true … when we put all the threads together for history’s sake; Franklin – I learnt a lot about him …

@ Christine – Ben Frankin had some great ideas … but it’s what the church administrators did … with the gunpowder … putting two and two together can be difficult sometimes!

@ Susan – I suppose these things (hats and umbrellas) aren’t worth mentioning as they were the unintended consequences of Franklin’s lightning rod some decades later. Lightning doesn’t behave as expected … and home or garden strikes are really terrifying … and I can quite believe that was too close.

@ Victoria – thank you so much … I try and make them different from the norm. I think Franklin did a little more than dabble – he was exceedingly thorough … and he tried and tested things. He didn’t invent the hat or the umbrella – some other ‘bright spark’ went that route a few decades later. You’re right there – hindsight into history makes life more interesting in some ways and funnier…

@ Nancy – how amazing your husband is directly related to Ben Franklin … I didn’t know about his (Franklin’s!!) womanising though – or just didn’t note it when I was reading up about the fashion.

The storing of explosives in churches made sense probably – as the crypt could be locked up … but not so clever if there was no lightning rod once they’d realise the invention worked … funny old life though …

@ Joylene – thankfully lightning might be random, and only ends up at a strike point … thus saving a few churches …

@ Crystal – Franklin is an incredible man … he did achieve so much … yet even snippets are still being noted today. The bell ringing (poor souls) would have been happening when Franklin was researching, but the funky umbrellas and hats were created by someone 50 years later … jumping on the bandwagon, I’d say!!

@ Elsie – it was interesting to write up … your Dad was right in some ways … most houses now have a metal strip running down the outside of the house from the chimney taking the electricity strike away into the ground … but not into the house as could have happened at your home. Well he was thinking about you and I’m sure you were reassured … till you found out!

@ Mark – I don’t know enough about his almanac … but keep seeing articles about Franklin and his inventions etc …

@ Jean – I must say I hadn’t realised Ben Franklin had done so much research into electricity. The chain from the hat or umbrella would be a nightmare to walk around with … while, would you be out in the storm … so I think my hat or umbrella would be unused at home … funny old world!

@ Lynda – just glad you had a laugh … me too …

@ Denise – I expect no-one put two and two together and realised that the bell ringers were in danger in a storm … but it does make sense doesn’t it. That movie with the psychopath and his lightning rod umbrella – yes great way to kill him off – as you say neat ending.

@ JL – thanks for your extra bits of information and I expect your time in Philadelphia was interesting.

@ Susan – lightning rods are still common … I remember farms in South Africa having rods everywhere and reading about strikes that travelled underground along wires into the houses … so dangerous. Franklin was an amazing man …

@ Becca – yes bell ringers seemed to live in dangerous times without any protection … I expect no-one realised quite how dangerous it was … so glad you enjoyed the fun side of history …

Cheers to you all – well we’re into Election Day … what will tomorrow bring … see you around - Hilary

Deniz Bevan said...

I kinda like the way the umbrella looks! But usually if there's thunder and lightning, there's probably wind too. And umbrellas can never withstand wind... Who are all these people strolling fashionably through storms? My silly question of the day :-)

Bill said...

This is fascinating. Thanks. I knew about lightning rods, but not about lightning rod hats or umbrellas, or churches packed with gunpowder. How interesting!

Theresa Milstein said...

Churches, highest spot in the area, gunpowder--what could go wrong??? All those poor bell ringers!!!

Ben Franklin was one interesting guy.

Liza said...

Now this is one fun story. Who knew? Imagine walking around with one of those hats on. Yikes!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Deniz - they looked fashionable ... but what fashionable thing has been easy to wear ... high-heeled shoes etc ... I forgot the wind, I remembered the wet ... exactly a "very sensible" silly question on a marketing ploy ...

@ Bill - it just amused me so I had to write about them - then found out about Franklin etc ... I am being educated ...

@ Theresa - yes the highest spot with gunpowder stored down stairs ... I know what could go wrong??? Extraordinary ... but obvious to us today - poor bell ringers if they'd been fried alive ... not nice at all ...

@ Liza - it made me laugh ... and seems to have amused you all - obviously most people haven't come across this fashion!

Thanks so much for all your comments - glad I got a laugh .. and it's something I'll remember ... cheers Hilary

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Well this is a interesting post. Yes I knew about Benjamin Franklin. And speaking of another Franklin, my grandfather (Frank) was struck by lighting while riding his tractor in a field. It didn't kill him and that's all I know about it.

Lightning is scary and pretty.

Funny about making lightning protection fashionable. Great article!!!
Teresa

Nick Wilford said...

They took that idea way too far, didn't they? Never knew this stuff about Benjamin Franklin. Any evidence that these umbrellas and hats were effective?

Suzanne Furness said...

Wow, this is so interesting. Lightning rods in fashion? Never heard of that before and so many killed by strikes in churches. Always something new to learn about, thanks Hilary.

Sharon Marie Himsl said...

Incredible! A first for me too. I'll pass on using those umbrellas at our local golf course. Can't imagine they were all that effective. Talk about a walking target!

troutbirder said...

I've always thought some aspects of "fashion" could be over the top....but this one is more than a little bizarre. :)

Trisha F said...

Love the idea of ladies wearing a hat to channel lightning safely. How wacky!

Interesting to consider how Franklin differed from the current US president in terms of being a scientist, etc!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Teresa - gosh your grandfather was struck by lightning ... I guess the lightning struck the tractor, but the rubber tyres were the safety mechanism ... so he was very lucky.

Lightning is scary ... at times pretty ... but those fashionistas were quite extraordinary - so glad you enjoyed the article ...

@ Nick - they did really didn't they ... but of course it wasn't understood - and there's a buck to be made - then the idea will come to the fore. I don't think the hats or umbrellas were put to the test - and if they were we don't know about it.

@ Suzanne - I was totally bemused by the 'story line' and just couldn't resist writing it up ... oh yes and the church steeples - lightning doesn't discriminate does it ... poor souls ...

@ Sharon - it's such an extraordinary idea - still helps us today. No please don't take one of those brollies onto your golf course ... yes a walking target - but they'd be soaked too ...

@ Troutbirder - yes it is certainly a bizarre fashion - so didn't last long - thankfully.

@ Trisha - how wacky and how dangerous ... thankfully we know today. Yes Franklin v Trump - absolutely no comparison ... Franklin was amazing - such a polymath ... he gave us much ...

Cheers to you all - thanks so much for visiting ... enjoy the weekend - Hilary

bookworm said...

I knew about the lightning rod but not these personal lightning rod devices - or about gunpowder being stored in churches. Wow! Talk about fashion, and explosives in one sentence. The Unknown Journey Ahead agingonthespectrum.blogspot.com

Patsy said...

I didn't know any of that! (Well, I'd heard of Franklin and lightning rods, but the rest is all new.)

Jacqui Murray said...

That is amazing. I had no idea that's why so many churches were built on high. Fascinating post, Hilary.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

If only they'd listened to Ben from the moment he opened his brilliant mouth. So many layers of trauma related to lightning and churches - wow. This was fascinating, Hillary. Thank you for the info.

Thanks also for your kind cheer on my blog. I very much appreciate it. Janie's the best. Isn't she?

Happy weekend.

Chatty Crone said...

I never knew that about old Ben - but I am more in awe of how the lightening rod came into being and the church explosion.

Thank you for writing me - I had lost everything! sandie

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Some fun Franklin facts.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bookworm - I guessed many would know about Franklin and the lightning rod, but the mix of subjects - made a good post ...so thank you ...

@ Patsy - yes me too ... but I'd never have put lightning rods and Franklin together ...

@ Jacqui - churches on high ... and in sight of the sea or landscapes ... so the bells could be heard far away - or could be seen from a distance ...

@ Robyn - good to see you ... yes if they'd listened to Ben and his ideas the safety aspect might have caught on earlier saving many early lives.

@ Sandy - well I agree the fashion items were the fun things ...the serious bit was Ben and his ideas ...

@ Sheena-Kay - many thanks ...

Good to see you all - enjoy the weekend - cheers Hilary