Front Page Titles (by Subject) LXXVI: TO A FRIEND IN BOSTON 1 - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753
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LXXVI: TO A FRIEND IN BOSTON 1 - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. II (Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753).
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TO A FRIEND IN BOSTON1
Philadelphia, 25 December, 1750.
I have lately made an experiment in electricity that I desire never to repeat. Two nights ago, being about to kill a turkey by the shock from two large glass jars, containing as much electrical fire as forty common phials, I inadvertently took the whole through my own arms and body, by receiving the fire from the united top wires with one hand, while the other held a chain connected with the outsides of both jars. The company present (whose talking to me and to one another, I suppose, occasioned my inattention to what I was about) say that the flash was very great, and the crack as loud as a pistol; yet, my senses being instantly gone, I neither saw the one nor heard the other; nor did I feel the stroke on my hand, though I afterwards found it raised a round swelling where the fire entered, as big as half a pistol-bullet, by which you may judge of the quickness of the electrical fire, which by this instance seems to be greater than that of sound, light, or animal sensation.
What I can remember of the matter is that I was about to try whether the bottles or jars were fully charged by the strength and length of the stream issuing to my hand, as I commonly used to do, and which I might safely enough have done if I had not held the chain in the other hand. I then felt what I know not how well to describe—a universal blow throughout my whole body from head to foot, which seemed within as well as without; after which the first thing I took notice of was a violent, quick shaking of my body, which gradually remitting, my sense as gradually returned, and then I thought the bottles must be discharged, but could not conceive how, till at last I perceived the chain in my hand, and recollected what I had been about to do. That part of my hand and fingers which held the chain was left white, as though the blood had been driven out, and remained so eight or ten minutes after, feeling like dead flesh; and I had a numbness in my arms and the back of my neck, which continued till the next morning, but wore off. Nothing remains now of this shock but a soreness in my breast-bone, which feels as if it had been bruised. I did not fall, but suppose I should have been knocked down if I had received the stroke in my head. The whole was over in less than a minute.
You may communicate this to Mr. Bowdoin as a caution to him, but do not make it more public, for I am ashamed to have been guilty of so notorious a blunder; a match for that of the Irishman whom my sister told me of, who, to divert his wife, poured the bottle of gunpowder on the live coal; or of that other, who, being about to steal powder, made a hole in the cask with a hot iron. I am yours, &c.,
P. S.—The jars hold six gallons each.
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN, AT NEW YORK
Philadelphia, ——, 1751.
I enclose you answers, such as my present hurry of business will permit me to make, to the principal queries contained in yours of the 28th instant, and beg leave to refer you to the latter piece in the printed collection of my papers, for further explanation of the difference between what are called electrics per se and non-electrics. When you have time to read and consider these papers, I will endeavour to make any new experiments you shall propose, that you think may afford farther light or satisfaction to either of us; and shall be much obliged to you for such remarks, objections, &c., as may occur to you.
I forget whether I wrote to you that I have melted brass pins and steel needles, inverted the poles of the magnetic needle, given a magnetism and polarity to needles that had none, and fired dry gunpowder by the electric spark. I have five bottles that contain eight or nine gallons each, two of which charged are sufficient for those purposes; but I can charge and discharge them altogether. There are no bounds (but what expense and labor give) to the force man may raise and use in the electrical way; for bottle may be added to bottle ad infinitum, and all united and discharged together as one, the force and effect proportioned to their number and size. The greatest known effects of common lightning may, I think, without much difficulty, be exceeded in this way, which a few years since could not have been believed, and even now may seem to many a little extravagant to suppose. So we are got beyond the skill of Rabelais’s devils of two years old, who, he humorously says, had only learned to thunder and lighten a little round the head of a cabbage.
I am, with sincere respect,