"...Electricity, containing as it were, all within its power, alone exhibits the effects of many sciences, combined together different powers, and, by striking the senses in a particular and surprising manner, affords pleasure, and is of use to the ignorant as well as the philosopher, the rich as well as the poor. In Electricity, we are pleased with beholding its penetrating light, exhibited in numberless different forms; we admire its attraction and repulsion, acting upon every kind of body; we are surprised by the shock, terrified by the explosion and force of its battery; but when we consider and examine it as the cause of thunder, lightning, aurora borealis, and other appearances of nature, whose direful effects we can in part imitate, explain, and even avert, we are then involved in a maze, that leaves nothing to contemplate but the inexpressisible and permanent idea of admiration and wonder.". Tiberius Cavallo, A Complete Treatise On Electricity, 1795

"THE electrical effluvia is far more subtile than air, is diffused through all space, surrounds the earth, and pervades every part of it; and such is the extreme fineness, velocity and expansiveness of this active principle, that all other matter seems to be only the body, and this the soul of the universe.".  T. Gale, Electricity or Ethereal Fire Considered, 1802

Static Electricity has captivated humans since the beginning of time.  The practice of actually capturing and harnessing its power only began in the late 1600s by Otto von Guericke.  In 1705 Francis Haukesbee produced artificial light with electricity and paved the way for this new field to become not only entertaining but useful and practical for everyday purposes...
Static Electricity from McIntosh Static Electric Machine, originally from Washington Jefferson College in Pittsburgh, Restored by Jeff Behary.
Was featured in the TV show "Forever" episode "Fountain of Youth".
Carre Static Electric Machine, restored by Jeff Behary for Frank Jones.  Made by Queen & Company of Philadelphia.  When Frank purchased this machine there were only two others known to exist in the USA.  He since bought a second and sent to me from France, and I have built several replicas.  The machine is unique because it combines frictional electricity with electrical influence - and was the first machine of its type.
The Carre Dielectric Machine as it first arrived.  It was never meant to have sectors, not sure why and when these appeared...  The disks are made of ebonite on this machine.
Dodd & Struthers Thunder and Lightning Machine, used to sell Lightning Rods.  It was taken door to door with a small house that could be made to blow apart from an electrical discharge if it wasn't grounded.
Shinn made a similar machine, and also sold lightning rods.  The machines were quite successful in demonstrating the safety of a safely grounded structure.
Frank S.  Betz Toepler Holtz Machine, as originally purchased by Daniel Cuscela from the Dirk Soulis auction in Kansas City.
Sparks from the machine after we restored it when a leyden jar was included in the circuit.
This photo was taken from a UV camera with quartz lenses.
Here is a photo of the same machine restored.  It cost over $10K to restore and Dan Cuscela and I spent over a year making it functional.  It is the largest machine of its type in the United States, if not the world to be fully-functional.
Here is Benjamin Franklin's original electrical machine in the Franklin Institute.
Here is a later version of a machine that he built to study electricity.
This is a "battery" of leyden phials, a capacitor bank used to store static electricity.
Franklin's Bells were a clever invention to warn people when it was going to rain.  It used atmospheric electricity to attract and repel a small ball which would strike the bells.
This is an early static machine from the late 1700s found in a barn outside of Philadelphia.  Benjamin Franklin or Joseph Priestley might have experimented with this machine.  It was generously donated to me by  Andy Barr.

Here are two examples of static electric machines from the Narodni Technicke Muzeum in Prague.  I took these photos in 2003.