Archive for June, 2010

French Steam Horse “Cheval Vapeur” – Model (French)

This French model, attributed to Alain Gillier, looks as if it is a working model, with the steam boiler in the cart, and a flexible tube leading to the engine mounted in the body. You can see the flywheel in the shadows.  The linkages are similar to other Mechanical Horses in this blog.

I have seen references to several Steam Horses (Cheval Vapeur) being in France around 1875. Any further information most welcomed.

The model was  seen at the International Miniature Museum in Lyon, France.

1987-90 Mechanical Animals – Adrian Wareham (British)

Source: Weekly World News 6 Feb1990.

Adrian Wareham built a mechanical spider for the following year, but I have no images of that machine.

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1944 – Multi-Ped Walking Tractor – Edward Snell (American)

See similar video clip here.


Patent number: 2430537
Filing date: Dec 8, 1944
Issue date: Nov 1947

See patent here.

1949 Multi-Ped Walking Tractor
Manufacture: Multi-Ped Traction Limited, Edmonton, Alberta
Engine: Case Model R tractor, 4 cylinder Wasukesha

Edward ( Ward ) Snell of Wetaskiwin, Edmonton wanted to design a machine that could travel over muskeg and rough terrain. Wheeled vehicles often got bogged down under these conditions, so Snell made his tractor walk rather than roll. The legs move independently, making the tractor walk. Along with Aimee Dragon, who owned a repair shop in Wetaskiwin, Snell built this prototype between 1947 and 1949.
Snell spent ten years refining the multiped concept. In spite of his enthusiasm and efforts to sell shares, only the prototype was ever built. It is now part of the Reynolds- Alberta Museum at Wetaskiwin

Photos from Flickr taken at Reynolds-Alberta Museum .

Ward's Multiped
Written by Vera Saar

See a problem, try to solve it.
Innovation and perspiration.
Try this, try that, find a solution,
Now that's the spirit of tomorrow.

Once a man named Edward Snell,
Who in Crystal Springs did dwell.
A successful entrepreneur was he
Lumbering a part of his family tree.
An innovation here, an innovation there.
Edward had contraptions everywhere.
Edwad Snell was the inventor as well
Of the multi-ped, about which we'll tell.
Where Snell lived the bog was a factor,
What if I put legs on a tractor?

Well Mr. Dragon was called by Snell the contractor
To come and work on the multi-ped tractor
They tried and failed and tried and failed
Many tries later a design was hailed
A thing of beauty with all those feet
Ready for the bog and the public to meet.

A walking tractor, a wonder to behold.
Now had corporate shares to be sold.
Snell took his tractor from town to town,
Saying, "Hey folks, come on down".
With legs like these it will go through bogs,
Makes it easier to get those logs.

"Turn it, turn it, the town folk shouted".
Two miles later the crowd applauded.
Alas, no-one came to buy those stocks,
And poor Ward's company went on the rocks.

Larry Olsen: Vocals/Bass
Gary Beatty: Backing Vocals /Guitar/Banjo
Jon Frolic: Drums

1886 – Ali the Electrical Automaton – De Lacy (British)

Middlesex Music Hall
Place London, Holborn
Title Middlesex Music Hall, … Enormous attraction, the sensation of 1886. Ali … the wondrous electrical automaton! Ali has taken nearly a life time to construct. Its movements are so life-like that it is difficult to believe it is not endowed with life! Admitted by press & public to be the most marvellous automaton ever invented! Monday, April 18th, and every evening. … For a limited number of nights
Size 56 cm.
Date [1887]
Imprint [London] : C. J. Culliford & Sons, 2a Field Court, London
Illustrations Chromolithograph, printed in red, yellow, blue, green and black inks, illustrating Ali reading the Koran, writing, playing instruments and performing a sword exercise; also shown is Mr. De Lacy, the inventor, working the figure and taking it to pieces
Notes Dated in MS.: 87
Genre Poster
Subject Robots; Machinery – Models
Names Lacy, A. de; Ali (Automaton)

Overall, I've been unable to locate much material on De Lacy's automaton.

In August of 1887, Mr. A. De Lacy brought Ali to Australia.

The Argus (Australia) 20 Aug 1887


A novelty was introduced at Kreitmeyer's Waxworks yesterday evening. This consisted of an electrical automaton, Ali, invented by Mr. A. de Lacy, by whom it has been exhibited in various parts of the world. It is a life-size figure, representing a Turk, and, by means of electrical power, which is applied to it in a manner that is highly ingenious, it is made to take up and read a copy of the Koran, to place itself in the attitude of prayer, to answer questions, to write, to play musical instruments, and to go through a variety of manual exercises, including the lifting of a half-hundredweight. The automaton con-   cludes his performance with a salaam, and then the operator takes the figure to pieces, and exposes tho source of its movements in an intricate piece of wirework which ia connected with the wire manipulated by the operator. A select audience witnessed the exhibition, and were surprised at the achievements of the automaton which were certainly remarkable.

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1663 – Cart with Legs – Francis Potter / Robert Hooke (British)

Although sometimes attributed to Robert Hooke, the invention was Francis Potter's, and when presented to the Royal Society (see transcript of minutes below), they asked Hooke to present drawings and comment on it.

Hooke; Robert (1635 – 1703); Natural Philosopher

Potter; Francis (1594 -1678)

Above image found on Royal Society's web site.

Let h. denote a horse
CC. a cart wth 4 leggs.
ffff. the feet of those leggs.
kkkk. the knees.
pp, a couple of pulleys fastened upon the ends of two springs: SS. on wch run
the chaines cccc, wch
move  j legs forward.
R, a rope or chaine to pull the for most leg

Article from here. Includes a link to actual documents.

I [Anna Winterbottom] first heard about the Hooke folio in early 2006 while volunteering in Tanzania. Following the UK news online, I read about the discovery of a bound volume in the handwriting of the seventeenth-century microscopist, engineer and surveyor Robert Hooke, found in the cupboard of a country house. The volume turned out to be the minutes of the Royal Society, mostly from the time Hooke was Secretary (1677–1682). The rediscovered collection chronicled the beginnings of the Society through Hooke’s eyes.

[transcribed text from original minutes of the Royal Society]


[In margin]Feb: 11.1662.3  
mr Aubery presented the company wth the Scheme of a Cart wth Leggs insteed of wheels
Devised by mr Frances Potter it was Referred to mr Hooke to consider of it
and to bring in a Report against next meeting
march: 11. …………………………
march 18. …………………………………………..
mr Hookes account of the Cart wth Leggs brought in by mr. Aubery from mr Potter was Read
and the same wth. some alterations was orderd to be sent to the author of this Inuention
together wth. the thanks of the society. mr Hooke was also orderd to draw vp a full
Description of this Cart together wth. the scheme thereof to the end that it may be
entred. wth the animaduersions vpon it

Places where Hooke is named in
his extracts of R.S.
1661.Apr.10 Ho: …………………………
mar 4. …………….
18. cart wth Legs.
25.1663. ……………………………….

"Have drawn the Cart with Legs tho' I doubt its practicability."   Hooke's comment back to Royal Society.

The full response by Hooke is at the Royal Society, but at this  time I haven't seen it to comment further.