Posts Tagged ‘1875’

1875 “Psycho” the Whist-playing Automaton – Maskelyne & Clarke (British)

"Psycho" at the Museum of Science, London. (Image source: Mechanical Toys – Charles Bartholomew)

My intent in putting up this entry is to draw attention on the aspect of remote control by which the slave component is anthropomorphic. This fits in with the early history of teleoperators and manipulators. All other aspects of "Psycho" are well covered on the net and in books already, well beyond my capability,  available time, and need.

This remote control shows early thinking using available technology on the problem of how to manipulate an anthropomorphic arm by remote, and in this case, quite novel means.

Whilst Maskelyne's "Psycho" was the first Whist-Player, my two main sources are based on the Whist-player published in Will Goldston's book "Exclusive Magical Secrets" 1912 and Vere's 1879 book Ancient and Modern Magic. My copy of Goldston's book is a mass produced paperback version published by Coles. Goldston states that his description is based on the property of A.W. Gamage, Ltd. Gamage were suppliers of apparatus as well as publishers.

"Psycho" was first exposed by Dr. W. Pole [a writer of card playing strategies] in January of 1876 [RH: actually published for the Christmas edition, which is the January edition] who became aware of the existance of Maskelyne's and Cooke's new Whist-playing automaton act, and published his description in McMillan's Magazine. (see MacMillan's pdf here).

Note: RH Jan 2011  The patent only gained a provisional protection and there were no published drawings with it. See patent details here.

Note: RH Jan 2011 My research to date has not revealed anyone who has mentioned that the "Psycho's" pictured with Maskylene above and below are actually different. The number of cards on display has been reduced from 13 to 5, and the panels in the cabinetry are different. The base is different too, hence the change in overall height. 

[UPATE 8 JUNE 2011 – Maria (see comments below) advises that Psycho as he is seen today still shows 13 cards, but they are laid out in 3 rows now. the front row furthest away from him holds 5 cards in a slight arc, as does the second row and the third row nearest his body holds 3. – Thanks Maria!]

Side-by-side for an easier comparison. From what I can see externally, only the head is the same.


(From Automata, Chapuis & Droz – 1958 English Translated Alec Reid)

Several sham automata are operated from a distance by compressed air, and the card-player shown in figure 473 is an example of this.

A platform with a large cylinder of clear glass on top of it is brought on to the stage, then the automaton is shown to the public and is placed on a glass cylinder to make it seem completely isolated from any outside communication. But an assistant under the dais attaches a tube connected to a large rubber bulb, and by pressing this, he increases the air pressure in the whole machine through the glass tube visible to the audience. Inside the card-player's body is a bellows, which fills up under the increased pressure, and one can easily imagine how this mechanical movement will make the imitation card player work.
A clock-work mechanism, A, works continuously while pulling in one direction or the other a vertical axis, B, which controls the position of the player's arm on the table and in the area where the cards are laid out. The clock-work movement also connects with the head by the pulleys, H, and the axle, M.
When the bulb is squeezed, the head and the arm turn slowly in the required direction, but as soon as it has been emptied the bellows, C, allows the rod, E, to come down, and a key, G, which is attached to it, engages the teeth of a segment F, which is carried by the axle for the arm. This is stopped at exactly the desired place. When the rod, E, drops, it pulls the cord, L, which is stretched and moves the thumb of the automaton's hand so that it grips the card selected.
The assistant under the stage receives his instructions through a speaking-tube, into which speaks a commentator, who is hidden from the public and is following the game with opera glasses. The spectators have no idea at all how such an ingenious deceit is contrived.

Excerpts from Ancient and Modern Magic.

Ancient and Modern Magic by Aprey Vere, 1879 here and here.

Excerpts from Goldston's 1912 book Exclusive Magical Secrets.

See the full chapter on Automata in Exclusive Magical Secrets by Will Golston, 1912 here.

extract from 1902 Encyclopedia White Magic

 WHITE MAGIC. Under this head is included the art of performing tricks and exhibiting illusions by aid of apparatus, excluding feats of dexterity in which there is no deception, together with the performances of such automaton figures as are actuated in a secret and mysterious manner.

Among the most meritorious and celebrated mechanical illusions have been automaton figures secretly influenced in their movements by concealed operators. In the 17th century M. Raisin, organist of Troyes, took to the French court a harpsichord which played airs as directed by the audience; but, upon opening the instrument, Louis XIV. discovered a youthful performer inside. In 1769 Baron Kempelen, of Pressburg, in Hungary, completed his chessplayer, which for a long time remained the puzzle of Europe. It was an illusion,—the merit consisting in the devices by which the confederate player was hidden in the cabinet and body of the figure, while the interior was opened in successive instalments to the scrutiny of the spectators. The first player was a Polish patriot, Worousky, who had lost both legs in a campaign; as he was furnished with artificial limbs when in public, his appearance, together with the fact that no dwarf or child travelled in Kempelen’s company, dispelled the suspicion that any person could be employed inside the machine. This automaton, which made more than one tour to the capitals and courts of Europe, and was owned for a short, time by Napoleon I., was exhibited by Maelzel after the death of Kempelen in 1819, and ultimately perished in a fire at Philadelphia in 1854. A revival of the trick appeared in Hooper’s "Ajeeb," shown a few years ago at the Sydenham Crystal Palace and elsewhere. Still more recently a chessplaying figure, "Mephisto," designed by Gumpel, has been on view. No space exists for the accommodation of a living player within; but, as there is no attempt at isolating the apparatus from mechanical communication through the carpet or the floor, there is nothing to preclude the moving arm and gripping finger and thumb of the figure from being worked by any convenient connexion of threads, wires, rods, and levers. In 1875 Maskelyne and Cooke produced at the Egyptian Hall, in London, an automaton whist-player, "Psycho," which, from the manner in which it is placed upon the stage, appears to be perfectly isolated from any mechanical communication from without; there is no room within for the concealment of a living player by aid of any optical or other illusion, and yet the free motions of both arms, especially of the right arm and hand in finding any card, taking hold of it, and raising it or lowering it to any position and at any speed as demanded by the audience, prove that the actions are directed from without. The arm has all the complicated movements necessary for chess or draught playing; and Psycho calculates any sum up to a total of 99,000,000. What the mysterious means of connexion are has not been discovered ; or, at any rate, down to the time of writing this article there has appeared no correct imitation of this joint invention of John Nevil Maskelyne and John Algernon Clarke. Perhaps a still more original automaton is Maskelyne’s figure "Zoe," constructed in 1877, which writes and draws at dictation of the audience, yet cannot have a living person within, and could not be more completely severed from all conceivable means of control without. "Zoe," a nearly life-size but very light doll, sits loose upon a cushioned skeleton-stand, of which the solid feet of the plinth rest upon a thick plate of clear glass laid upon the floor-cloth or carpet of the stage. "Psycho," a smaller Oriental figure, sitting cross-legged on a box, is supported by a single large cylinder of clear glass, which, as originally exhibited, stood upon the carpet of the stage, but was afterwards set loose upon a small stool, having solid wood feet; moreover, this automaton may be placed in almost any number of different ways. Thus, from the precautions observed in the isolation of Maskelyne’s automata, no current of electricity, no magnetic attraction, no hydraulic or pneumatic force can reach them, or, if it could, would not account for the many and delicate movements which they execute; and there can be no wires, threads, or hairs, passing in any direction away from the figures, seeing that persons from the audience admitted close around the figures while they are in operation could not fail to observe them. It may be mentioned that, in the same year in which "Psycho" appeared, the joint inventors patented a method of controlling the speed of clockwork mechanism by compressed air or gas stored in the pedestal of an automaton, this compressed fluid acting upon a piston in a cylinder and also upon a rotating fan when a valve is opened by "an electrical or other connexion worked by the foot of the performer or an assistant." But it is not known whether the principle obscurely described in the specification was applicable in any way to the invisible agency employed in "Psycho" or in "Zoe," or whether it had reference to some other invention which has never been realized. The whist-playing automaton is affirmed to be the only one of Maskelyne’s many subtle inventions in which he received suggestions from another person.

Timeline of Whist-playing Automata

1829-31 Maelzel acquired Whist-player invented by Balcom (American). There is also a suggestion that a rival chess player by the Walker brothers was eventually purchased by Maelzel and converted to a whist-player.

1873-5 Maskelyne / Clarke developed "Psycho".

1875 first showing of Maskelyne's "Psycho".

1875  December – Expose in MacMillans Jan 1876 (actually released in Dec 1875 for Christmas reading) by Dr. Pole.

Hankey (Hanky) – actual small boy hidden inside – octagonal base – later sold to Signor Boz.

1875-80 – Signor Boz (Weston) with "Yorick" the Whist-player (British)

1878 – Charles Arbre (Berlin)

Robert-Houdin (French) – "Sophos le Savant"

1877 – "Zoe" (an artist automaton by Maskelyne, not a whist-player).

???? Professor Pepper – Scynthia (Synthia)

Dr. W. H. Cremer built a psycho called "Agetos" – 1880 earliest date so far – similar to Maskelyne & Clarke's original construction.

1900 Professor Dicksonn – Theatre du Cours la Reine.

French firm built a "Psycho" for Mr. Everett. There are some suggestions that it was later purchased by Kellar. Unlikely as Kellar's did not utilize a hidden boy and Everett's probably did.

???? -The New York Journal exhibited an automaton whist-player, named the "Yellow Kid," in New York – no date.

(Some of the above information was sourced from Bradley Ewart's book "Chess: Man vs Machine".)

Some other Whist-playing Automata.

Dicksonn (Professor) My Tricks. The author is possibly A. de Saint-Genois, who published one book in Paris under the pseudonym Professor Dicksonn. The manuscript is in two parts: comprising seventeen "Drawing Room Experiments", including "The Mysterious Decanter", "Improvised Coffee", and "Neptune's Basin"; and six "Tricks for the Theatre" including "The Domino or Card Player", "The Bodiless Lady", "The Transforming Cabinet" and "The Vanishing Lady".

 In 1878, Kellar returned to England and invested $12000 in new equipment, one of them being a version of Maskelyne's whist-playing automaton. Possibly A. W. Gamage's. (Gamages being suppliers of apparatus and publishers of magic related material.)  A French firm built a "Psycho" for Mr. Everett. Ewart suggest that it was possibly later purchased by Kellar.

Harry Kellar was later one of Houdini's closest friends. Kellar gave Houdini "Psycho," an "automaton," while he was in California making a motion picture. When Houdini died, his collection was acquired by his brother (Hardeen), then passed on to Sidney H. Radner. Gaughan most likely purchased from Radner's Houdini collection when auctioned off in 2004.

As Kellar's Psycho appears today in the John Gaughan Collection.

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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1874 – Adam Ironsides – The Steam Man – C. C. Roe a.k.a. Capt. Rowe (Canadian)

Patent number: 4175
Patent filing year: 1874-01-01
Name/City: ROE, CYRENIUS C.: HAMILTON, Ontario, Canada
Year granted: 1874-12-15

Source: Star And Sentinel, 08 Aug 1878, p2.

Letter from Reading.READING, PA., August 5, 1878.
STAR AND SENTINEL,:—The visitors to the sea shore……………..
next column   …………………

This looked rather disheartening to a church goer, but after the middle of the day I concluded it best to do as other people do when the preachers are all away, and, seeing a strong current moving down Sixth Street to the river bank, I floated along. There I found several thousand people waiting to take passage in the Steamboats Eclipse and Gazelle for High's woods, and favorite resort two miles down the Schuylkill -of course you'll understand the woods is not in the river but on the bank adjoining. On every trip the boats were crowded, and I did not succeed in getting passage until the fourth trip after I reached the wharf. But I got to the woods at about 3 oçlock and the "day" was in "full blast." The first thing that attracted my attention was a "side-show" tent and a thousand people around it.
Having got a red ticket with my Steam-boat pass, I soon crowded into the tent. There I found walking around a circle of ten feet diameter Mr. Adam Ironsides.
Now Adam is somewhat of a peculiar "make-up." He consists entirely of steel and iron, and is no less than a Steam Walking Man. This piece of mechanism is the invention of C. C. Roe, of Hamilton, On., is run by two small engines, and can be made go [sic] backward or forward. The legs and feet have the actual motion of a human being. The "Showman" explained all, and said it was his purpose to utilize his invention for road purposes by so improving it that the engine may be carried in the wagon and have the Iron man fastened between the shafts. Adam was dressed in a full suit of clothes, had a fine head of hair, and an attractive face. I think if he were divested of what was put on him to make him look like a man all that would be left would be a small upright steam engine. When in full performing trim Adam weighs 88 pounds.  ………….. H.B.W. ENDS

Note:  Patents database give reference to Cyrenius Chapin Roe, of City of Hamilton, Country of Wentworth, Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada (See unlelated patent # 169,482 . Signed "C. Chapin Roe".

The Patent shows a double-throw crank and a single cylinder engine, the above description suggests there are two cylinders earlier on in the description, then "a small upright steam engine" near the bottom.

See Section:  History of Industry in Hamilton

"During this time period, there was great experimentation with new technology, some of which lead to such idiosyncratic inventions as Adam Ironsides, the Steam Man, by Cyrenius C. Roe who is listed in Hamilton city directories as both a machinist and a showman between 1875 and 1878."

Wellsboro Agitator 24 Sep 1878 p3

An Ohio genius is exhibiting at Columbis, Pa., an iron man that walks by steam The iron man walks on a circle of boards about seven feet in diameter, and is moved by two little engines in the chest, to which steam, is communicated from a boiler by pipes through the hands and arms. In the mouth is a tin tube through which the exhaust steam escapes.

The above article says he is from Ohio. This is incorrect and a bad interpretation of Hamilton, Oh(io)., versus Hamilton, On(tario).

It is interesting the above article mentions Weston, the famous pedestrian of the time. Later in 1893, we know of a walking automation resembling Weston. Are these related?

The articles conclusively linking C. C. Roe to the later Captain Rowe.

Source: Reading Times and Dispatch, Reading, PA., Monday, August 5, 1878.

Some Sunday Amusements Down the River-……

 The principal attraction, however, was Adam Ironsides, the Steam Walking Man. This ingenious piece of mechanism, the invention of C. C. Roe, of Hamilton, Ont., was exhibited in a tent, into which all who had come to the woods by steamers, were admitted free. Others were charged ten cents admission. The "Walking Man" is run by two small engines, and walks over a circular course about seven feet in diameter. The machine can be made to go backward or forward, and the legs and feet have the actual motion of a human person. The machine is five feet high, and weighs 83 pounds. It will be exhibited in this city, commencing on Wednesday next. Mr. Roe and his family travel with their curiosity, upon a small steamer called the "Experiment," which is stationed at present at High's Woods.

This first article refers to  "Mr. Roe and his family travel with their curiosity, upon a small steamer called the "Experiment," which is stationed at present at High's Woods".

The second article extends this description further: Source – Lebanon Daily News, Tues Sep 21 1880.

A Steam Man.
C. C. Roe, of Hamilton, Ont., who is traveling on the Pennsylvania and Union canals in a steam yacht yesterday afternoon arrived at this place and anchored at the Ninth street wharf. Mr Roe has on board the figure of a man made of iron, which is run by steam and imitates the perfect actions of a human being. The engine also runs a music box, and can make 2,000 revolutions per minute,
The Experiment is a wooden vessel, about 60 feet long, and draws one foot of water. Mr. Roe was in this city several years ago with the same vessel. He then had his family with him. The wife has since died in Washington. On the trip he was accompanied by to men and his children. In this way they travel from place to place and enjoy the scenes in the towns they visit. The steam man was patented in 1874. Ha walks on a circle of boards about seven [feet] in diameter, in the middle of the circle are four rods holding the iron pipe which leads from the boiler of the engine and conveys the steam to the man's hand, and through his arms to his chest, in which are placed two small engines. The legs of the man consist of two iron rods, one fixed and the the other movable, which cross at the knees and join at the ankles. The movable rods in each leg are worked by their respective engines, and give natural motion to the legs. The exhausted steam escapes through a tin tube, about ten inches long, placed in the mouth. The man walks as if he was rather stiff in the joints, but the motion is similar to that of an ordinary man. The heel comes down first and then the toe. The whole apparatus weighs about eighty pounds.

See all the Steam Men listed here.