John Ludlow Morton

J.L. Morton is a rather obscure 19th Century American artist who was believed to be Thomas Cole's friend and lawyer. The Philosopher and his Kite, by J.L. Morton, was reproduced as an engraving or mezzotint Henry S. Sadd circa 1840. Another print made by W. Neal also circa 1840, was designed expressly for the Columbian Magazine between 1844-1850. In 1876, Currier and Ives made a copy of the Mezzotint and marketed the lithographic image. The image depicts Franklin with a young boy as he conducts his kite experiment which successfully showed that lightning was actually static electricity. As a storm cloud passes over the kite, the negative charges in the cloud travel through the kite and its string, which is attached to a key. Although not shown in this image, many depictions of the experiment include a Leyden jar, a device used for storing static electricity, which was attached to the key by a thin metal wire. The silk string attached to the kite prevented Franklin from being affected by the negative charges on the key, but when he reached out his knuckle to touch the key he felt a shock resulting in a spark, due to the connection of the negative charges with the positive charges in his body.
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