1882 – “Aluminium” the Compressed-Air Horse – Greene (American)
La Porte City Review 16 Nov 1882 p2 (see pdf here)
Fiction originally from Harper's Magazine
"'This is my creation," continued Joe, stroking the animal's mane. "It is I who have breathed life into his nostrils."
"Is he mad?" I thought to myself.
"What!" I asked, aloud, "do you mean to say that he is not alive?"
"Look!" said the sorcerer, as he opened a trap in tbe side of the figure, displaying to my astonished eyes a most intricate mechanism.
"I have never seen the like before," I exclaimed, in confused wonder.
"It has been the secret study of my life," said he, "my one absorbing ambition, to animate inert matter-to give it it life and being."
I now remembered that some years ago he had invented a flying-machine that was to have been exhibited at the International Exhibition, but which, at least according to his own account, through some carelessness on somebody's part, broke loose the night before the opening, and was not heard of for weeks, when it was discovered flapping and floundering about in a wild manner on the "deep brow of the almighty Helvellyn" by some unsophisticated natives of the "North Countree," who supposed it to be alive, and from whom it experienced some rough treatment in its capture. It was brought back to Paris in a ruinous condition, but after a renovation from the master hand of Joe, being of an erratic disposition and impatient of any trammels, it again broke bounds, and flew off, body and bones -abitt, eripit, evasit-and nobody has been able to discover its hic? jacet. Poor Joe! I endeavored to console him with the little joke, "Sic itar ad astra," but he refused, like Rachel, to be comforted, because his machine was not. "It's just my infernal luck:" said he.
But let me attempt to give my reader some Idea of this wonderful automatic horse, and in as few words as possible, for a detailed description is out of the quesion.
The machine resembles a horse in every detail, being a perfect skeleton, composed of aluminium, covered with a horse-hide.
This is most ingeniously contrived, and will bear the closest inspection. Aluminium (thus named by my friend on account of the metal of which it is chiefly composed) weighs only eighty pounds. The motive power is highly compressed air confined in four brass cylinders of equal dimensions concealed within the carcass, connected with each other and by a complicated machinery with the four articulated legs of the machine. Aluminium is set in motion by pressing gently forward in the saddle, a trot. canter, or gallop being obtained by working the reins as with a living animal.
Turning is contrived by causing the limbs of the machine to move more or less rapidly on one side or the other. This is done by the rider's knees, and drawing in the proper rein at the same time. Joe says that one of the the advantages which Aluminium Possesses over his brethren in the flesh is that, like a railway locomotive, his motion is reversible, and he can go the pace backward as well as forward. This his inventor considers one of his strongest points. Should the rider desire, or should occsion require, I that the metallic-steed be ridden backward, it can be very easily managed, thus: The saddle is reversible, and the rider guides the horse by the tail, which is cunningly divided into two braids, as whilorn English ladies did their back hair. As regards the "looks" of this steed, the only fault I could find in his points was the neck, which appeared unneccessarily straight and clumsy. I ventured to hint this little detail to my friend, who only answered with a wink accompanied with the words: "Looks are not everything, my boy."
The very night of my visit we tried the machine in the Champ de Mars, The movements of Aluminium were very natural, and far less jerky than one might have been led to suppose. Speaking of running time, his marks compared very favorably with the contempory species he was destined to personify on the turf. It was evident that in long distances he was destined to be the master.
see the pdf for the full story.