I first saw this mentioned in David M. Earle's interesting book titled "Re-Covering Modernism: Pulps, Paperbacks, and the Prejudice of Form", but John Ptak's recent post reminded me of it. I have used his image of the prototype walking machine.
The model of King Grey, the Electric Titan. Although called "Electric", the motive power is by two large 40 H.P. automobile engines. A smaller engine will generate electricity to be used for sensors and controls. See below article for further details.
The Colac Herald [Victoria, Australia], 30 Jan 1918
ELECTRIC WAR TITANS.
THE FIRST MODEL ASTONISHED THE NATIVES.
It is highly improbable, as we have said before, that military "Tanks" will stop where they are. The invention is too revolutionary not to excite the interest of engineering experts, and, moreover, the field is so sure and promising that it must attract the creative. The ironclad commenced its career in much about the
same way. It was just an old wooden hulk cased in the railway rails of the day. The Tank is merely an armoured plus-motor-lorry on caterpillar wheels, which were originally devised for agricultural purposes.
Here is an invention, due to an American electrician, Mr. Vern Pieper. He has devised a wonderful walking giant! At the present moment, he has completed only the model, but the real giant-a nine foot marvel of steel plates, knuckles, and cog wheels-is now in the process of being forged.
The movement in the feet and legs in the little model is so perfect that his steps appear natural; he may be stopped standing on the toe of one foot and the heel of the other, or in almost any natural position that would he assumed by a human being.
When fully grown King Grey-as the inventor calls him-will be 9 feet tall; his weight will be 750 pounds. His anatomical proportions will be: distance from hip joint to the ground, 4 feet 9 inches; distance from toe of boot to rear of vehicle, 21 feet; foot 16 inches long; 7 inches wide; step, 42 inches. The legs will be weighted with mercury to maintain a low centre of gravity.
The chief achievements of King Grey will be drawing a vehicle weighing over 1,500 pounds, containing four persons, any distance desired. That is the hope of the inventor, and the hope is not beyond the realms of possibility.
An intricate mechanism is required to direct the movements of the giant. Besides the two 40-horse power automobile type engines required as propulsive force, a small 2-horse-power engine will be used to govern an electrical nervous system. This small engine will operate a set of feather clutches, controlled by the movement of an electric plumb-bob in the giants head. The bob, moving in accordance with the slope of the ground will cause the giant to lean forward when ascending a hill and backwards when descending.
King Grey will be caused to turn corners by shortening the stroke of the inside leg and lengthening the stroke of the outside one.
He will be connected to the vehicle he draws by two steel shafts, 5 inches in diameter and 8 feet long, bolted to his body at the hips; his hands will rest on the ends of the shafts, and it will appear as if he were a live man of extraordinary size, pulling the vehicle after the manner of a horse hitched to a dog cart.
Four sledge-like runners will be mounted under the car, one at each wheel, and at the slightest sign of a mechanical derangement that might tend to cause a wreck, the runners will automatically drop to the ground and the wheels at the same instant, rise from the ground. The car, thus converted into a sledge, will act as an enormous break and bring the machine to an instant stop.
The nation, says Mr. Cracker, that could put into the field a legion of steel mechanical giants-filled with men armed with guns-charging down over the hills, smashing with their huge feet through the feebly obstructing barbed wire, leaping the trenches, and massacring the helpless defenders, would, especially if the thing could be done by surprise, demoralize, and even rout a whole army. Other scientific miracles have been frequent. Why, it is asked by our authority, may not such a monster as the Electrical Titan be part of the mechanical equipment of the armies of the future ?– "Popular Science Siftings."
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 22, 1914
EXHIBITING MECHANICAL MAN,
Fern Pieper Shows Electric Man Who Could Walk Long Distances If Anyone Wanted Him to Do it.
At the room on Third street, in the Wuerker building, where the International Correspondence School is conducting an exhibit, Ernest Harlow, the local representative, today put on exhibition the mechanical man which was built by Fern Pieper, one of the pupils of the school. Mr. Pleper is a mechanical genius and in his spare time has perfected many curious mechanical devices. One of these is the mechanical man. He hasn't put a head on the man as all that is needed for the present is the legs-the motive device. He plans to construct a nine foot high man, if anybody would engage the services of such a man, and let the mechanical man walk to the San Francisco Exposition. A man of such size as Mr. Pieper proposes would be able to haul a real man in a cart behind, who could guide the brainless mechanical man.
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, June 25, 1914
A great many interested spectators today at noon witnessed some of the performances of the mechanical man built by Ferdinand Pieper, and equipped by him with electrical contrivances and devices calculated to make him go some. He is unlike "Percy the Mechanism Man" of the funny papers a few years ago, in that his conduct is more orderly. Percy was continually doing things to prove himself a natural outlaw, and all of the machinery that caused him to do things, when a button was pressed, was inside of him.
Ferd's mechanism man is not operated altogether by inside machinery. There is some behind him that assists materially in boosting him along. He claims to do nothing but walk. He was allowed to walk alone and unguided today for a distance on the sidewalk on Belle street, and he did the deed well. Weston, O'Leary or any other champion walker would not be on it with the Alton Percy as far as endurance is concerned anyway, and he gets over the ground rapidly too. As a walking advertisement for some big concern, the Alton Percy would be a winner. He could walk from ocean to ocean and from "Greenland's icy mountains" to Huerta's mescal land without acquiring a corn on his foot or a stone bruise by a toe. The model is not a very large one, but the size of the one that would make the transcontinental trip could be regulated to suit. He could be twenty feet high if desired.
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, November 17, 1916
The whimsical conceit of an Alton inventive genius – a mechanical man – something that was built more as a form of amusement, may become a means of destruction, is the prophecy of a writer who is telling the story about the creature of Fern Pieper's mind. The "Grey King" of Alton has been given much space in the December issue of the Illustrated World, which has just been received at the Mather Book store. In addition to the write-up, the front cover shows the Grey King in action in battle, spitting death and destruction to those in front and on either side of him.
The Grey King is an iron man invented by Fern Pieper, and the story in the Illustrated World which puts Fern and the King before the scientists and inventors of the world, was written by Herbert C. Crocker of Edwardsville. It tells how the model created interest and excitement a few years ago when the inventor sent it out walking through the streets of Alton. That was only a model. A real iron man is now being fashioned in a St. Louis foundry and will soon be ready for action. The Illustrated World calls the invention an electric Titan and elaborates on the possibilities of the invention. With a flock of such men equipped properly, Uncle Sam could send this terrible army against an enemy, and each member of the flock would walk unhesitatingly into the ranks of that same enemy, mowing them down as the harvester mows down grass, and nothing they could do could stop the destruction or disable the walking iron men until the electrical apparatus that guided them broke or run down.
The article is certain to give Alton wide publicity, and it will give Fern Pieper a little, at least, of the credit that is due him. He is an inventor of great ability and merit, and a dreamer who will live to see some of his cherished dreams come true. Machines in war in Europe are the agencies winning the most battles, and it is not a far cry to equipping these machine-made iron men of Pieper's designing with bullet propelling apparatus. Iron that can be made to walk around like a man can be fixed to shoot like a man and with powers and immunity no mortal possesses.
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 20, 1917
WHY NOT TRY A FLOCK OF THESE
Alton Iron Men as Destroyers In France, and Other Fighting Countries In Europe?
Several months ago the Telegraph published an account of the construction by Fern Pieper of a massive iron or steel man, who was equipped with internal machinery that kept him moving steadily in which ever direction he was started.
It was constructed by Mr. Pieper for advertising purposes or a commercial traveller, as it were, but some of the leading magazines of the country took the matter up and pointed out the possibilities of use and destruction the Pieper iron man could become in case the U. S. went to war with any other nation. The man's internal apparatus, it is pointed out in addition to the motive power (electric) could be equipped with rapid fire guns or shells, and the man or a flock of such men could be turned loose out the enemy and their advance could not be stopped or the work of destruction prevented by an army. The iron men would continue to advance and pour fire out of the port holes provided until the electric apparatus run down, while shot or shell of the enemy's army would have little or no effect on the iron men.
Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 13, 1918
MECHANICAL MAN BREAKS DOWN ON TRYOUT.
Man Who Did Not Understand Mechanism Got Machinery Out of Order and He Had To Be Pushed Home.
An "iron man" who can walk and may be a regular Percy, the mechanical man, was taken out for a walk Friday afternoon, by a man from St. Louis, who wanted to test out the man prior to closing a contract to have him rigged up to help roll Liberty Loan bonds. The man was in a shed at the home of Chas. Oehler, who has been perfecting the ground work laid by Fern Pieper, whose ideas originated the walking mechanical man. The St Louis man could not wait, it is reported, until Mr. Oehler could be found to take the man out for a walk and the result was a crank broke in the mechanism of the man. The mechanical man would not walk any further. A new crank was made and that was broken, too. Something had gone wrong. The mechanical man was at last pushed by six other men back to his shed where he will stay awhile. It was planned to use the man in parades to advertise the Liberty Loan. He could not be put in shape for use in Alton next Wednesday, it is feared, but the St. Louis man was so attracted by the possibilities of the man he wanted to use him in a hurry. The "man" walked to Ninth and Alby streets, where he stuck. He had previously been out walking on the streets at midnight, so he would attract less attention.
See here for images of the revised giant pulling a "Liberty" boat.
See other Steam Men and early Walking Machines here.
See other early Humanoid Robots here.