1848 – “Mr. Eisenbrass” by Dr. Lube

Dr. Lube's 'Mr. Eisenbrass' Characteristics:

  • Electrically powered – electro-magnets, solenoids
  • Rubber skin
  • Activated by piano-style keyboard
  • Stand-up. bow, sit down.
  • Electro-mechanical voice styled after Prof. Faber's machine

From 'The Racine Advocate' 10th May 1848 p1 Article also appeared in Scientific American Vol3#34-13May1848 p272 but written in 3rd person. [Note that some of the pre-amble hasn't OCR's correctly due to poor original]


The exciting political intelligence from Europe, brought by late arrivals, has so absorbed the attention of the press, that matters of less importance, but no less inter- esting in the general reader, has been overlooked. The following account of an extraordinary achievement of art, we find in an Augsburgh [Augsburg] (Germany) Gazette, we have had it translated for our readers. —???

"The achievements of art have of late, become so extraordinary that we cease to wonder at them ; and, at times, are half Hi””’".’ to the belief that the accounts of the wonderful performances of the ancient Magi were real—going as they do, but [left little?] ???? ahead of some of the wonder workings of the present age. Indeed, so astonishigly have we advanced in the last Du- [decade?] ????l, that it seems not unlikely that the dreams of certain modern philosophors will yet prove realities; and the day is not distant when manual labor will be almost entirely supplanted by the introduction of new improvements in machinery, and when there will be little left for man to do, save to direct and guide iron slaves — with nerves of brass and sinews of steel — in the performance of all the ordinary drudgery of life, and the fabrication of all the manufacturers required by man.

The introduction of steam- the invention of the spinning jenny – the Jacquard loom – , the magnetic telegraph, and a hundred other labor-savinging machines, go far to sustain such an opinion. But if any further evidence is wanting to confirm the hopes of the doubting, we have it in the performance of a machine—if machine it can be called – which we had the pleas- ure of seeing yesterday, and which was nothing less than an artificial man! Not a reasoning, thinking, intellectual being— endowed will the capacities of seeing, hearing, smelling, talking—capable of realizing the emotions of friendship—of anger, of sorrow ; or with the power of feeing the delights of love, hope, joy ;—but a senseless thing of wood, iron, brass and steel, made in the semblance of man—and so closely too, as to deceive almost any one at first sight, yet capable, under the skillful guidance of the inventor, of performing many of the functions of the hu- man subject.

This wonderful Automaton is the invention of our ingenious townsman, Doctor Lube, who kindly invited us to his laboratory, to witness its extraordinary feats. When we entered, the Doctor was seated at a sort of cabinet, having a key-board, somewhat similar to that of a piano forte arranged on one side of it; and nearly in the center of a room sat a fashionably dressed gentleman who rose and bowed as we entered. Our salutations with the Doctor being over, he introduced the gentleman to us as Mr. Eisenbrass, who politely wished us good morning —and remained standing there until we were seated, then quietly sank into a seat himself.

At first our conversation was upon the ordinary topics of the day—Mr. Eisenbrass joining in with an occasional remark, but to which the doctor paid little attention, and kept amusing himself with the keys of the instrument at which he was sealed, yet without producing any sound. This surprised us, and we observed to the Doctor, that his instrument did not seem inclined to be musical this morning."—. This brought a laugh from the Doctor, [next column] which was immediately echoed by his friend in such an unearthly and comical manner, that we could not refrain from laughing also—although we felt that it was at our own expense.

As soon as we became a little calm the Doctor arose from his seat, and taking us kindly by the hand, said : " Pardon me, my dear friend, for having played an innocent prank upon you. Mr. Eisenbrass is the Automaton I invited you here to see; and being the first who has seen it I could not resist a sort of parental desire of showing it off, as fond parents always do their first-born children."

We looked at the Doctor, then at Mr. Eisenbrass, and again at the Doctor, to see if he was not quizzing us. There sat Mr. E. immovable, with his eyes fixed upon the floor, while the Doctor seemed almost bursting with delight.

We looked again, " I see," said he, you are incredulous, let me convince you" —and seating him at the instrument again, and touched the keys, Mr. E. immediately became animated, and laughed and talked quite fluently. We now observed quite a thick bundle of fine enverud?? wire extending from the cabinet to the chair of Mr. E.

The Doctor then rose and explained the whole affair to us. When, Professor Faber completed his speaking automaton, (a partial account of which we gave a year or two since) Doctor Lube conceived the idea of constructing an artificial man, and placing within it a modification of the apparatus of Professor Faber, to be opera- ted by voltaic electricity, but intended to imitate to a greater extent the power of speech than the professor had done. The idea, once conceived, was immediately acted upon. The bones of a human subject were procured, and clothed with a complete muscular system, composed of vulcanized caoutchouc [pr. cow-chook – aka rubber -RJH]. The consummate anatomical knowledgee of Doctor Lube enabled him to do this with great success ; at the same time adding a perfect system of nerves made of fine platinum wire covered with silk. It is undoubtedly known to most of our readers that the muscles of animals act by an enlargement or contraction in the middle, produced by the will acting through the nerves.

These efforts are imitated by placing in the centre of each muscle electro magnets, with delicate machinery attached to be worked by galvanic currents through the platinim wires or nerves, which were connected with the battery, and the keyboard of the instrument above referred to. So all that was necessary to produce a certain action in the figure, or make it give forth particular sounds, was to touch the required key – as in certain description of Telegraphs, and the required result was sure to follow. As a matter of course, the accomplishment of all this was a thing of no small difficulty, and ordinary minds would have shrunk from undertaking it. But Dr. Lube, with a zeal and perseverance worthy of all imitation, has mastered every obstacle, and produced a work that will place his name far upon the scroll of Fame.

We have not space today for a more particular account of the performances, or to give a detailed description of this invention of Doctor Lube. Indeed any description, without explanitory drawings, would fail to convey any adequate idea of this instrument. The Doctor, however, has promised us a full set of drawings, with ample explanations, which as soon as received, shall be laid before our readers. Suffice to say, therefore, that the imi- tation of the human subject is most, complete— the automaton being capable of walking, talking, singing, playing the piano, and doing many other things with as much ease and precision as an accomplished man, and that there is not one man in a thousand, seeing it perform these things, but would have been deceived as we were.

"But," asks some of our utilitarian readers, " of what use can such an invention possibly be?" We have hardly patience to answer such questions, for the answer is self-evident in all who are not too blind to see the sunshine. For ourselves, we can readily see that it can be turned to great account. That we shall soon have artificial servants, laundresses, chambermaids,—nay, the whole corps domestique, with artificial horses, and automaton coachmen, postilions, &c. All that our wives will have to do, will be to place themselves at an elegant cabinet, with several sets of keys, placed in their drawingrooms, and by touching the keys, have their housework done up in good order, without trouble or annoyance from careless or dishonest servants; and a gentleman can mount his automaton horse, and by pressing a key, canter away at his pleasure, without fearing any injury, to the noble animal that carries him. Verily, we are about realizing the hitherto considered fabulous accounts of the Arabian Nights."

A Very Brief History of Electro-magnets

Volta (Italian) – First batteries.

In 1819 (published in 1820), Hans Christian Oersted, a Danish physicist, discovered that an electric current has magnetic properties.

Oersted's ideas encouraged André Marie Ampère (1775-1836) to explore further, and he came up with the concept of the solenoid.

William Sturgeon (British) – In 1824 (also seen 1823), Wrapped wire around and iron bar and connected the wire up to a battery, found that other pieces of iron were attracted to it. Disconnect thee battery, and the iron became instantly inert again.

Joseph Henry (American) Picked up on Sturgeon's ideas, and by 1827 had built an electro-magnet that could lift nine pounds (4 kg.). By 1830, he had built an electro-magnet (all with the help of the school pupils he was teaching at the time) that could lift 750 pounds.(340 kg); another, using the current from an ordinary 1830s-style battery, lifted more than one ton (900 kg) of

Conclusion: The technology for building "Mr. Eisenbrass" was certainly available in 1848, adding viability to the article.

CHALLENGE:  As I have been unable to find any other material on "Mr. Eisenbrass" and Dr. Lube , there may be someone out there who can read German and has access to German libraries to research this further.

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