This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
If a piece of sealing-wax be rubbed briskly against the sleeve of your coat, or any other woollen substance, for some time, and then held within an inch or less of hair, feathers, bits of paper, or other light bodies; they will be attracted, that is, they will jump up, and adhere to the wax. If a tube of glass, or small phial, be rubbed in a similar manner, it will answer much better. The bottle thus rubbed becomes electric; and when the operation is performed in a dark room, small flashes of divergent flame, ramified somewhat like trees bare of leaves, will dart into the air, from many parts of the surface of the tube, to the distance of six or eight inches, attended with a crackling noise; and sometimes sparks will fly along the tube to the rubber at more than a foot distant.
Cut two bits of cork into the shape and size of a common pea. With a needle, draw a thread through each of the corks, so that they may be made to hang at the ends of the threads with a knot below them. Let the other ends of the threads be inserted in the notch of a small piece of wood, about a foot long, and an inch broad, and the thickness of a common match. Lay the piece of wood over two wine-glasses, a few inches asunder so that the end of it, in which the threads are, may project over the edge of the glass nearest it, and the corks may be in contact one with another Take another wine-glass, and, having rubbed it briskly with a piece of flannel, or upon the skirt or sleeve of a woollen coat, hold its mouth to within about an inch of the corks, and they will suddenly start asunder, and continue so for some time.
Lay a pocket-watch upon a table, and take a common tobacco-pipe, and place it on the face of the watch so that it may balance thereon; then, after rubbing a wine-glass, as described in the former experiment, bring it to within an inch of the smaller end of the tobacco-pipe, and by moving the glass gently round in an horizontal circular track, you will cause the pipe to turn round on the watch-glass, as the needle turns on its centre in a mariner's compass.