The glass harp was first created in 1741 by an Irishman, Richard Pockrich: he is known as the first virtuoso of this instrument and started a completely new musical tradition. The composer Christoph Willibald Gluck performed on a glass harp in Copenhagen and London, his instrument consisted of 26 goblets. Musical glasses became popular in the XVIII century, when "Instructions for the Playing of the Musical Glasses" was published in English and German.
During this time, statesman Benjamin Franklin, after attending a glass harp performance, was astonished by the the sweetness of the tones, but at the same time could foresee the limits of the instrument given the distance between the wine glasses. He overcame the problem with his inventive creativity by nesting many glass bowls one inside the other so the rims would be close to each other and many notes could be played simultaneously. With this idea Franklin invented the glass harmonica in 1761, this new instrument became very popular and quickly took the place of the conventional musical glasses.
About 400 works were written for the harmonica between 1761 and 1835, some even by Mozart and Beethoven, but it’s popularity ended suddenly when chamber music evolved towards larger orchestras performing in larger halls where this instrument’s airy sound was just not loud enough. Glass music was also banned by a police decree in some German cities, it was thought to cause both mental and physical disorders and also to recall spirits. So the glass harmonica was abandoned for about a century.
It’s first reappearance was in 1919 in “Die Frau ohne Schatten” by Richard Strauss. Just a few years later, in 1929, German musician Bruno Hoffman from Stuttgart made his first glass harp. He dedicated most of his life developing and promoting this instrument which became popular again thanks to his great contribution.