Trivia

Hard

A Fashion Fad During The Late 18th Century Found Europeans Wearing What Scientific Apparatus?

Spectrometers
Lightning Rods
Barometers
Telescopes
An engraving depicting lightning rod hats fashion, circa 1778.
Emile Deschamps and Yan Dargent/Wikimedia

Answer: Lightning Rods

If you live long enough, you’re bound to see some weird fashions. If you remember the 1980s, for example, you remember parachute pants and everything neon, but when it comes to really weird fashions, it is tough to beat the craze that swept through Europe in the late 18th century: wearing and carrying items with built-in lightning rods.

The fad started shortly after Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod. Designers in Paris created women’s hats and men’s umbrellas with a lightning rod built into the highest point of the objects. The lightning rod was then attached to a long chain that dangled down from the accessory and made contact with the ground in order to give the lightning a safe path to travel and disperse into the Earth.

That was the idea, in theory, but there are no recorded instances of anyone being protected by such an apparatus in action and having a strong electrical discharge traveling down a thin chain or wire hanging off of your fashion accessory probably isn’t the safest idea in the first place. Perhaps the purchasers would have been better served by adopting the fashion of taking tea, safely indoors, any time they heard thunder rumbling.

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