1947-51 – Mechanical Elephant – Frank Smith & Eric Smith (British)

Frank Smith with his very first Mechanical Elephant outside his garage. (Image courtesy Larry Gavette)

Eric Smith, Frank Smith's son with their Elephant. Note the distinguishing tusks. (Image supplied by Larry Gavette)

(Image courtesy Larry Gavette)

Letter by Eric Smith in response to Larry Gavette enquiry 24 Apr 1983. Full of information pertaining to Mechanical Elephants. As at 2011, Eric is still with us and living in Morecambe, UK.

See pdf  

For an update on Eric Smith's life story see pdf here

Redcar's Amusements – 1950. Note that this elephant has tusks whereas all the other  non-Frank Smith baby Mechanical Elephants don't. The trunk is also longer (dragging on ground) and the toe-nails are different to the others.
Although this elephant seems the fit the characteristics of a Smith elephant, one aspect doesn't and that the lack of an axle between the legs. As Smith made three elephants in total (outside of those made under the patent he sold to Macades), it may be that particular one. otherwise it was made by someone else yet to be identified.
(see possible baby Frank Stuart elephant's here).
Eric Smith inside an amusement bus he operated.
(Image supplied by Larry Gavette)
As the article states, the second, improved Frank Smith elephant. Referred to as the Mark II, one of the improvements was to the shape of the head. You can also clearly see the axle running between the wheels, which is another characteristic of the Smith elephants.

Image supplied by Eric Smith.


See full British Patent here.

Patent Number 654,438
App Date: Apr 28, 1948.
Published: June 20, 1951.
Note that the Patent document has Frank Smith as the inventor, but the specification is by Albert Heritage Wade and George Herbert MacIntosh, both of Morecambe, Lancaster, who were the founders of Macades [Entertainment] Ltd. The Patent was sold to Marcades Amusements.
The Patent mentions that this elephant had tusks, and that one tusk , when twisted, turned on or off a windscreen-wiper motor to make the eyes look to the left and right.

See the Macades Mechanical Elephants in a separate post here.

Mr Eric Smith was contacted by the Postal Code officer to build an elephant for them, but he recommended Luneside Engineering to build one. Possibly the image above is the next generation elephant being built at Luneside Engineering in Halton, Lancaster. [Update May 2011 – David Taylor – ex Luneside employee, says that this workshop is not at Luneside.]

The original PoCo (Postal Code) mechanical elephant.

This elephant was rented out by a school. It has the plate saying "MADE BY F. SMITH & SON, KING STREET, MORECAMBE".

All above photo's courtesy Larry Gavette.

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7 Responses to “1947-51 – Mechanical Elephant – Frank Smith & Eric Smith (British)”

  1. larry Says:

    Looks like the one just sold through ebay above is Wilhemina of early post, the seat gives it away. glad to see there is interest in all, big and small

  2. David Taylor Says:

    I worked for Luneside Engineering at Halton from the mid 1970’s until engineering work ceased on the site in 2008. By this time the company had earned an enviable reputation for manufacturing complex parts for the aircraft and nuclear industries. Mechanical elephants were by then part of the company’s early history.
    The picture showing a new elephant with a mesh framework was taken somewhere other than Luneside. The Luneside workshops were all smaller than the one pictured.
    On a positive note on the page dedicated to the Macades elephants there is an article dated 9 January 1977 from The Visitor by Ken Andrew. Photo 3 in this article shows a Mk.2 elephant. This picture is at Luneside, the loading bay was at the east end of the original stone building. A picture very similar to this and another showing an elephant complete with loading steps loaded on the back of a small truck used to be on display in the Luneside Engineering factory at Halton.

  3. cyberne1 Says:

    Hello David, thanks for this wonderful reply. It is a huge step forward in determining the differences between the Frank Stuart stiff-legged walkers versus Luneside’s manufactured for Macades. There are a few of these smaller elephants around, some felt covered, some papier-mache. They look very similar. The Luneside model as confirmed by yourself appears to be felt covered. I am in regular contact with Eric Smith who built the prototypes with his father Frank. Eric drew up the original patent designs. The initial two from Smith’s are easy to identify, but the third model was probably closer to the production version by Macades/Luneside.
    Kind regards, Reuben Hoggett.

  4. Glen Cooper Says:

    Is this the same elephant that was featured on Four Rooms last night (July 5)? It was owned by fun-park proprietors down south and they turned down £10,000.

  5. cyberne1 Says:

    Hi Glen,
    No, this isn’t one of Eric or Frank Smith’s Mechanical Elephants, but most likely derived from it, as both Frank Stuart and Luneside Engineering via Macades (of Morecambe who bought the Smith patent)) made them. I believe this elephant was originally called “Baby Nellie”, and has been converted from petrol to battery power, and has been heavily fibreglassed. See an early advert for “Baby Nellie” prior to the fibreglass modification here http://cyberneticzoo.com/?p=5011 . A similar elephant (“Wilhelmina”), in deteriorated condition, sold for £1,600 earlier this year on eBay. Its mentioned in the same post. Interesting to note that one of the 4 auctioneers – Emma Hawkins, sold a Frank Stuart walking elephant in 1998 (to America, where it resides today) see here http://cyberneticzoo.com/?p=4885 .

  6. Kevin Bradshaw Says:

    This is an amazing story and one I have a personal interest in. I recently heard from my Nana that her cousin, Eric Smith, had built and patented a mechanical elephant to give rides to the children on Morecambe promenade.

    As yet I know very little of the details and have learnt more about it from the great collection of documents and photographs on Cybernetic Zoo than I have from my Nana. I no longer live in Morecambe (I’m now in Manchester) but will certainly be doing some first-hand research on the subject when I get the chance.

    On an interesting side note, Eric mentions in his handwritten letter that his father got the idea when seeing a real life elephant giving rides to children at Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester. The skeleton of that very same elephant is now on permanent display at the Manchester Museum.

  7. Jon Sear Says:

    Just heard the piece on Radio 4 (Questions Questions) Looking at the picture of the mesh elephant I wouldn’t be certain it wasn’t taken at Luneside. Have spent a lot of time there recently as I’m involved with the community redevelopment – and the workshops look (or looked – the biggest one has been demolished) much bigger once everything was stripped out of them – quite similar to the photo in fact…