1903 – “Phroso the Mechanical Doll” – Frederick Trevallion (British/French)

(Source: LA Herald 21 March 1906)

Phroso appeared in Wisconsin in 1905:

"'What is it anyway?' This is the question that is being asked by those who attended the performances at the Bijou theater and saw the act 'Phroso, the Mechanical Doll.' Phroso certainly is a puzzle, whether man or automaton. He or It is a marvel in fact, and is a study worthy of some good hard thought. After a short announcement by the operator, Miss Campbell, the curtain rises, disclosing a figure, man size, dressed in evening attire, features waxen in appearance and with staring, glassy eyes."

"After Miss Campbell presses the proper buttons, the figure is placed in motion, walking across the stage with a stiff, mechanical movement. After doing several stunts, the figure is walked down the stage and into the audience where it is made to shake hands with whomsoever desires to do so. All the time the machinery can be heard distinctly in operation."

 

The New York Evening Post 7 Feb 1905
The Vaudeville Stage.
Last night's bill at Hammerstein's Victoria Theatre was headed by John T. Kelly and his company. Others to be seen were the Six Musical Cuttys, Lee Harrison, and Phroso, the mechanical doll.


Advert from here. Grazer Tagblatt, 5 Feb, 1903, p13.


From N.Y. Clipper 25Apr1903 or 1904.
Following Terry and Lambert is "Phroso," who, now that the act is no longer an absolute mystery, receives a warm tribute of applause for the cleverness of his deception.

RUTH EVERETT, who claims to be "the original mechanical doll," has signed with Fulton's Jolly Grass Widows for the rest of this season, and then goes to Chicago to play lead In the Trocadero Stock Co.


Movie:

Mysterious Mechanical Toy (1903)
Short | Comedy

a.k.a. Phroso the Mysterious Mechanical Doll (1903)

Director: Alf Collins
Stars: M. Trevallion, Mr. Webster and Alf Collins

Cast overview:   M. Trevallion  …  Phroso


STAGE INTERESTS ABROAD THAT OCCASION COMMENT; Elizabethan Stage Society Presents Marlowe's Edward II. at Oxford — Genius of Charles Dickens Reflected in Dramatization of His Work — News Notes of the French and German Theatre.
August 23, 1903, Sunday
Page 21, 3223 words

"The appearance of this most marvelous sensation was eagerly awaited, and hundreds of mechanics, electricians and other scientifically inclined, who were in the audience, all agreed that is was without question a marvel, the product of a great genius, and an education in itself." The "clown-suited golem" in Wisconsin in 1914 was reduced to "the display windows of the Bergh Piano Co." as it "plays an Auto Player Piano just the same as a real live man." The question of the distinction had arisen earlier in Wisconsin, in 1905 in the case of Phroso.

Phroso was the subject of an article in Oshkosh, "Is It Man or Manikin?" "This is the question that is being asked by those who attended the performances at the Bijou theater and saw the act 'Phroso, the Mechanical Doll.' Phroso certainly is a puzzle… worthy of some good hard thought" all of which is banished from the careworn farmers' brows with the sudden appearanceof "the operator, Miss Campbell," who opens the curtain "disclosing a figure,man size, dressed in evening attire, features waxen in appearance and with staring, glassy eyes."

"After Miss Campbell presses the proper buttons," of course, "the figure is placed in motion, walking across the stage with a stiff, mechanical movement. After doing several stunts, the figure is walked down the stage and into the audience where it is made to shake hands with whomsoever desires to do so. All the time the machinery can be heard distinctly in operation." Phroso skated on a tabletop in one 1907 performance, and declaimed his genealogy. He had been invented, he said, by an Englishman named Trevalian.

He gave his whole name, "La Moto-Phroso," and claimed to be "a direct descendent of the famed Mechanical Chess Player (then holding court at New York City's Eden Musee)." So add to his other claims that of procreation. Phroso finished his career in 1929 "in the window of the Man-O-War Clothing Company of Lima, Ohio, where he demonstrated the smart fit and reasonable price of Kibler Clothes," and was last seen at the Ogden, Utah Dollar Day promotion in 1932 (image previously posted), the ad for which featured an enormous fowl.


See the full list of Fake and Pseudo Automatons and Robots here.

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