An early 19th-century American musical instrument, the grand harmonicon, or musical glasses, was patented in the United States by Francis H. Smith in 1825. The origin of the DAR Museum’s grand harmonicon, dated from around 1826 to 1833, is unknown.
Derived from the Italian word armonia, meaning harmony, the instrument is an arrangement of 24 various-sized glasses that produce celestial sounds when the rims are rubbed with a moistened finger. Of the 24 blown glasses encased in the mahogany chest, only three are not original to the DAR Museum’s grand harmonicon.
A similar instrument was popular in Europe in the 18th century and was used by both Mozart and Beethoven in their works. With his 1825 patent, Smith revived interest in the grand harmonicon as an instrument for the home. Accompanied by an instruction book, the instrument could be mastered by anyone.
American Spirit, Volume 140, No. 1, January/February 2006, Page 9
Photo by Mark Gulezian/QuickSilver