Archive for the ‘Steam Men’ Category

Early “Steam Men” Illustrations

A Steam-driven baseball pitcher.

Modern Steam Punk illustration.

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1986 – “Humongous” (Labyrinth) – Jim Henson (American) / George Gibbs (British)

Copy of original artwork.

Labyrinth scene with Humongous:

Excerpt from Inside the Labyrinth:

Check Youtube for clips on "The Making of the Labyrinth".

The text for Inside the Labyrinth documentary was originally transcribed by Stephanie Massick.

JIM HENSON: "It seemed like right late in the story what we wanted was for our heroes to come up against some huge obstacle, something worse than anything they'd encountered so far. And we came up with the idea of building the largest puppet we'd ever built."

GEORGE GIBBS (special effects supervisor): "Jim asked us about last January. He said, 'Boys, I¹d like a fifteen-foot high giant.' We said, 'Oh yeah. Very interesting.' Lots of people had tried to make fifteen-foot giants that walk and throw their arms around. They hadn't been very successful. So it was a challenge, really. So, we decided how we were going to make it and we went ahead and made all the mechanics and everything work wonderfully. When the body was produced in fiberglass, it just wouldn't work, because the fiberglass wouldn¹t flex. Fortunately for us, we had our foam expert. And he developed a foam for us with skin, skin that would flex without looking rubbery. We made the foam look like steel armor."

JIM HENSON: "He weighs . . . I don't know how much. Lots. With all the rig and all the hydrolics, the thing has to be several tons. And so this was the largest, most complicated thing we'd ever built. We didn't have very long to build it, probably two to three months."

GEORGE GIBBS: "One man could operate the whole thing. In the old days, we'd have probably had five or six guys all at different levers, working hydrolics. But one man operates the whole of Humongous all by himself, makes him walk forward, makes his body spin 'round, makes him bow down, makes his arms swing the ax. And it's all done with hydrolics. Every move his arm makes, the arms of Humongous make exactly the same move."

JIM HENSON: "When George first showed me Humongous in action, it was really an amazing thing, to just stand there and have this large thing walk toward you. It's one of the most awesome sights in the world."

The walking animatronic.

Humongous was suspended by a horizontal beam in its back to a rolling platform on rails.

Radio-controlled eye movements.

The Waldo being used to control Humongous' right arm.

Close-up of animatronic walking frame.

Hoggle at the controls. Although there are electrical switches, Humongous was a "steam man".

Humongous from Labyrinth Guide by Chaotica.

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1982c – Steam Man (a.k.a. Iron Man) – Tom Scherman (American)

When I first saw information on Scherman's Steam Man (2004), there was very little information about him. Scherman worked for Disney, and was the definitive person on Disney's Nautilus. His concept for a steam man is amazing.

A Vernian enthusiast posted some images (flickr)  found in Scherman's friend Kendall roundhouse., also showing a pin-up board of his inspiration, Reade's Fictional Steam Man of the Prairies 1868 (not 1841 or 1892 as read in the images [although 1892 might be a re-issue date]).

A more recent article suggests that the Steam Man, referred to as the Iron Man, was proposed to Disney for a TV series around Nemo and Nautilus 2 (that Scherman had modelled). The Iron Man was to cart supplies around Vulcania.

Above 2 photographs property of John Patrick Burke (as per article).

For the full article and other wonderful articles around Scherman, see here

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1875 – W.W. Cole’s Circus “Steam Man” – (American)

$7,000 Mechanical Wonder !

The only Steam Man

Actually walks and runs alone! The Greatest Invention of Modern Times.

The W.W. Cole's Great New York and New Orleans Zoological and Equestrian Exposition toured the American continent between 1871 and 1886, and in 1875 and early 1876 featured a Steam Man. Other than the illustration that appears in the newspapers of the time (see above),  there is little information currently discovered on this Steam Man.   Was it Dederick's old Steam Man, Morrison's Steam Man, Winans-Eno Steam ManC.C. Roe's Steam Man, a copy of one of these, or a totally new Steam Man?

Dederick's Steam Man had its first outing in January, 1868 and was possibly last reported on in September 1869 when a Steam Man was for sale!

Morrison's Steam Man seems to be only exhibited in 1870. A  later article says that the Steam Man was connected to a buggy, so probably not Morrison's.

Winans-Eno "Steam King"  was on show in 1869, then was retained by Joseph Eno and later by his son, Alfred until at least 1906.

C.C. Roe's Steam Man was on show 1874, then in 1878.

Unfortunately we don't yet know how accurate the image of this Steam Man is. Dederick's Steam Man was almost 8ft tall, Roe's was 5ft tall. Morrison's walked stand-alone without pushing or pulling a cart or carriage. Later Steam Men were also fired by oil or gasline, not coal. Winans-Eno Steam Man (6ft 9in) was converted from a coal fired steam generator.  Dederick's Steam Man caught fire possibly because it was coal fired. Roe's Steam Man shows smoke coming out of its hat / smoke stack, but its steam generator was not located within its body!

The Burlington Weekly HawkEye 29 Apr 1875 p5

The Great New York and New Orleans
Zoological and Equestrian Exposition.

The new invention, that will astonish
everybody, is the Steam Man. Walks
and runs alone, unsupported. A mechanical

One of the first circuses known to have visited Burlington, when it was still known as Company Shops, was William W. Cole’s Circus. It appeared on Thursday, Oct. 21, 1875, and its featured attraction that year was a “steam man,” described as the “greatest invention of modern times” and costing $7,000. It is suspected that most people were disappointed when they saw the steam man because “he” didn’t resemble the illustration in the circus’ advertising at all. In fact, “he” was nothing but a steam boiler attached to the front of a buggy and disguised as a man." [Newspaper source: unknown]

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1876 – Philadelphia Centennial Steam Men – Farr Goodwin (American)

In 1876, America held its Centennial in Philadelphia.  There appears to have been four Steam Men built for the Centennial Exhibition, along with a Mechanical Horse.

An American inventor by the name of William Farr Goodwin, had some of his agricultural inventions produced by manufacturers who exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition, The National Iron Works, for example.  We know that Goodwin also patented ideas for a scaleable toy Mechanical Horse (1867) and also a Walking Toy (1868).  It is quite probable that the Goodwin design of his Mechanical Horse was used by The National Iron Works in their Mechanical Horse.


Iron – June 3, 1876, London, Middlesex
Mechanical horses and Men.- A mechanical horse  is being made at the National Ironworks, New Brunswick, New Jersey, which is quite a curiosity in its way, and is to be on exhibition at the Centennial. The life-size model has been operated satisfactorily to all who have seen it. Every movement of the horse is as natural as life. It walks, and each joint of the leg is put in its proper motion, while the neck and head bob in appropriate unison, and yet the simplest mechanism is used, being nothing more than a few pulleys and one or two belts, the latter corresponding with the tendons of the natural animals. There are also four steam men being manufactured at Munn's machine shop. These men are for exhibition at the Centennial.

Update 26 July 2010: Located article from the Daily Times, New Brunswick, N.J., which confirms Goodwin as the inventor of the Centennial Steam Men and Mechanical Horse.

Evening Post, Volume XIV, Issue 79, 30 September 1876, Page 1


Anglo-Australian writes in the European Mail : — "The Yankees are notably clever in the invention of machinery intended to subvert the use of manual labor. The last achievement in this direction is a mechanical horse and a steam man, which it is said are on view at the Centennial Exhibition. Their uses are not stated, but it is said that they are simple in construction, and very satisfactory in their movements. If they can be utilised in agricultural work, or in field labor generally, the inventor may expect a brisk demand for them in countries where labor is scarce. It would be too much to expect that the steam man could be trained to do the duties of a policeman, a waiter, or a member of any local house of assembly, because it may be assumed that he could not tell us that he was 'coming,' give evidence, or make windy speeches for the sake of obstructing business. Still, it may be assumed that he would be a very useful member of society if any one should have the courage to import him, just to see what he is like, and j what he can do. It would certainly be in his favor that he might be expected of him not to strike — except when the iron was hot — and the staunchest unionist could hardly object to work with him on the ground that he was not a society man. Indeed, from this point of view, he would be essentially a non-unionist, because it may be assumed that he was called into existence by the fact that the Union men were getting so well paid they could afford to do with eight hours' work a day. The iron man, therefore, may be regarded as the very essence of competition, and by-and-by he will be so improved upon that capitalists will be sure to give him the preference, and then your Union men will discover that they reckoned without their host when they conceived they could conserve to themselves a life of ease and independence upon eight hours' work a day."

1876 – Fiction – in [Harry Enton] Harold Cohen's (penname) story "Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, or, The Terror of the West", Frank Reade builds the Steam Man MkII.

Brooklyn NY Daily Eagle 1923 p11

"Noname" Talks About Himself

"The use of the word 'Noname' was suggested by the late Frank Tousey. It was first used by Dr. Harry Enton of Brooklyn, an old friend of mine, who wrote for Tousey the "Steam Man of the Plains.' When he tired of the adventures of the steam man, who was a mechanical marvel who drew an Iron wagon across the world, protecting the young hero from all dangers, Tousey asked me to write a similar series, using electricity as a basis.
"Enton got his idea for the steam man, who was hideous looking, and all powerful steam propelled iron figure, from a steam-man who was exhibited at the Centennlal Exposition in 1876. Enton saw the steam man standing in front of a store on Center St., and built a series of storie about his exploits over the plains of the West and the deserts of Africa and Asia, where boys in search of treasure could by the steam man's aid strike terror to the natives and have adventures aplenty."

["Noname" in this article is Lu Senarens.]

The original 1868 Steam Man of the Prairies Dime novel by Ellis was inspired by Dederick's and Grass' Steam Man, so the Centennial Steam Man is the inspiration to the second generation Steam Man of the Dime novels.