The Duck Who Discovered Electricity

Another Famous Duck of History

Human Bias


As the almost entirely ignored author of the series “Famous Ducks Of History” (occasionally found on these pages), I get an underwhelming number of letters from friend and fowl alike who write to tell me human history really ought to pay more attention to the facts.  I’ve thus made it a personal mission to set the record straight.  Take Benjamin Franklin for instance—now, there’s a man who gets more credit than he deserves.

Doesn’t Add Up


I think we can all agree Ben Franklin invented about a bazillion different things, but just because he did those things, should we then give him free rein to take credit for electricity?  Come on, does anyone believe that cockamamie story he flew a kite in a storm?


Painstaking Research


It was a miserably wet and nasty day, which if you stop and think about it makes the whole exercise of kite flying pointless.  The kite would quickly get soaked and thus be too heavy to fly, right?  Of course, I’m right, I’m making this up!  Now, pay attention!


I have to say, bringing truth to light in this case was no simple matter.  The facts were twisted almost beyond recognition by the spin of egocentric human historians (obviously fed by Franklin who was a master spinmiester himself).  However, I was finally able to cobble them back together after running across a heretofore unpublished manuscript written by one Sedgewick Blacktoast who turns out to be Franklin’s next door neighbor and confidant—one who insists Franklin spent whole days staring at his navel whenever he was troubled.  Mr. Blacktoast also claims to have been told the real story of electricity. It goes something like this…


On The Day In Question…


Ben Franklin staggered out of his sixth pub for the day after first hitting the hardware store to purchase a new copper pipe. He bought the pipe because he wanted to direct the flow of rainwater off his roof—meaning he was fixing his gutters. However, he ended up using the pipe as a walking stick, since his blood alcohol had vastly exceeded the Philadelphia pedestrian maximum of .16 (which is double the rate allowed for a horse pulling a buggy and three-quarters that for its driver). You could say Franklin was so sloshed on the day of discovery he was bound to end up mucking around in the gutter either way.


About half way home, and just as the weather took a turn for the worse, old Ben spotted an incoming unidentified flying object racing toward him over the trees.  “Egads, alien ab-duck-tors!” he thought.  Rubbing at his eyes, he soon realized his first impression was inaccurate.  T’was only a duck and nothing unusual about that in the least.


The duck—Benjamin Frankberry—was also on the way home.  Incidentally, Frankberry’s residence was a deluxe bird house located in a nearby tree built by our very own Javabird’s ninth great grandfather’s third cousin twice removed.  Now, as the neighborhood was rather seedy and had become home to a gang of tobacco-spitting squirrels, Frankberry had recently installed a new lock on his front door. You see where this is heading, right?


Poor Frankberry was blasted by lightning.




As Frankberry’s keys came out of his pocket a huge blast of lightning filled the sky.  The flash was so bright Franklin momentarily lost site of Frankberry.  Yet as his eyes cleared he saw one very crispy looking Frankberry jumping up and down in excitement.


“I can see electricity from my front porch,” shouted Frankberry.  “I can see Russia, too!  No, wait, that’s just the after burn from the flash.  Wow, the lightning hit my keys. Oh, my gosh, it’s the metal!  The metal conducts electricity.  I’ll be famous!”


Still swimming in an alcohol induced fog, Franklin quickly realized that all his inventions might pale in comparison to Frankberry’s discovery.  It was unacceptable!  There was no way he would be bested by a duck!  This required quick action and he instantly hatched a devious plot.


“Good day, sir,” he called up to Frankberry.  “I’m a famous inventor myself and happened to witness this astounding event.  However, without a proper drawing to depict it no one is ever going to believe you survived.  Fortunately, I am a decent artist and publicist and willing to render a free portrait which I can publish in my newspaper.”


Giving Franklin a quick once over, Frankberry could tell the man was inebriated, but his offer seemed too good to pass up.  “That would be great,” he agreed.  “Do you want me to come down for the drawing or shall I stay where I am?”


“Oh, stay,” Franklin said, as he pulled a tablet and quill from his coat pocket.  I want to get this just right.  Oh….hmm…rats, this isn’t going to work.”


“Why not?” demanded Frankberry, who was already envisioning new fortune and fame.


“It’s the keys, good sir.  They’re simply too small.  No one will see them if we don’t do this just right.  Oh, I know, why don’t you tie them to the end of my pipe.  Here, take it and hold it high so everyone gets the idea.”


“Oh, yes, that’s an excellent idea,” Frankberry agreed.  He quickly pulled a string from his pocket and tied the keys with a knot.  “Will this work?” he asked, raising the pipe over his head.


Checking the clouds, Franklin replied, “Just a little higher…there…perfect.”


Later that evening, as Franklin polished off his delicious electric-roasted duckling, he could only laugh and smile to himself.  “Ah, yes…electricity…a truly marvelous discovery.”


The official Famous Ducks Of History Frankberry portrait.

To his credit Franklin did draw a portrait of Frankberry, yet fearing a public outcry and worried about his reputation he never gave Frankberry credit for his discovery.


If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read:
George Duckington Crosses The Delaware
The Inside Scoop On Gettysburg



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