Monday, September 20, 2010


   American ingenuity is ever striving for startling effects. It is never satisfied. Ordinary achievements seem beneath its attention. It looks beyond, even if the object of its aim be more or less fantastic. One of the latest freaks of mechanical skill is the contsruction, by Louis Philip Perew, of Tonawanda, NewYork - a small town near Niagra Falls - of a gigantic man. Parew, with all the ardour of a modern Frankenstein, has endeavoured to make his man as life like in appearance as possible. Not only is its outward form a close model of a human being, but within it have been secreted mechanical devices which endow the automation with weird properties, making it even more nearly resemble an intelligent being....The Frankenstein of Tonawanda has brought into existance a thing of wood, rubber, and metals, which walks, talks, runs, jumps, rolls its eyes - imitating to a nicety almost every action of the original on which it is founded... By W.B. Northrop - extract from article published in Strand Magazine of London, England.

Buffalo Express Sept 2, 1900
Walking Automaton is a Mechanical Wonder
This Man May Walk For Years Without Rest or Sleep,  
Yet Never Feel Fatigue or Need For Food or Drink
Tonawanda Man Invents a Graven Image in the Form of 
a Man That Does Not Live, But Gives All Evidence of Life
May tour the continent to advertise the Pan-American

Perew and the "Automatic Man"
   A walking automaton has been invented by Louis Philip Perew of Tonawanda, which eclipses, so far as known, any other similar invention ever made. Of heroic proportions this mechanical wonder is shaped in very way like a man. Not only can it walk but it's eyes roll, it's head turns and all it's joints move naturally.
   It can even talk. To test the powers of the giant fully, it is proposed to walk him across the continent accompanied by only two human companions.  It is expected that other and similar walking men will be made and toured through the country in order to advertise the Pan-American Exposition.  A man that walks is a common sight. A dead man that walks is occasionally beheld by sailors on a Saturday Night.  But a man that walks long distance that never was alive is something so  unheard of that it is hard to believe that such a one could exist.  But exist it does, and walk it can, as any doubters will soon be able to see. For nine years Louis Philip Perew labored with his body and his brain at a huge undertaking.  Now the work is finished and he has a graven image made of wood and metal, in the likeness of a man.  And it walks!
    Seven feet five inches high, of  excellent proportions, this mechanical man is to every appearance a human being.  He is well formed, of heroic stature, and has a dignified military carriage. He has the quick step of the perfect heel and toe walker.  His features are of the typical American and so natural that one would imagine them of natural flesh instead of aluminum.  He is dressed in the height of fashion in a white duck outing suit and cap of the latest shape.
  Eyes of perfect blue roll in the head and gaze upon those who surround him, putting a feeling in the awed spectator that half convinces him that the automation is something more than a mechanical construction.  Such is the giant soulless man that has been made in Tonawanda, and that will walk, it is expected, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Automatic Man and Carriage
   It was in 1891 that Louis Perew struck upon the idea of a walking giant. For weeks and months he worked diligently. At last he had a figure carved  out of wood, three feet high, attached to a cart. When placed on a smooth surface, and provided that someone pushed the cart, the wooden figure would walk as though pulling the entire rig himself.
   Tonawanda men thought they saw much money in the building of an even larger automaton, purchased a share in the idea and had it patented.  A large figure was built and attached to an immense and very heavy vehicle. A man was put inside the rig to propel it by hand, and exhibitions were given about the streets of the village. It's leg motions, although patterned after mankind's, was still crude. There was a quiver and a jerk as the legs came forward that was not natural. The inventors moneyed friends became less enthusiastic, and in the end let the automation project drop.  In 1899, Charles A. Thomas of Cleveland, Ohio ran across the old automation and became interested in it's development.  Under Thomas's backing the U.S. Automaton Co. was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York.  Money was at once spent in lavish sums in the purchase of the very best material; the service of able mechanical engineers were secured and inventor Perew was given a free hand in the construction of his automaton.
Rear View of Apparatus
  After months of hard labor in the spacious hall of the old abandoned armory in Main Street, the mechanical giant began to grow. One week ago it stood before the stockholders of the company completed and ready to walk at the bidding of it's owners.
  In the company of Mr. Perew, the Courier correspondent was shown the automaton and it's mechanical make-up. A signal from the inventor caused assistant Fred Michaels to set the mechanism to work.  There was a slight dull noise, the giant raised it's right foot, and with the ease of a human being took a step forward, following with the left foot and so on, until the automaton was encircling the spacious hall, pulling a beautiful rig at a rate of speed far in excess of an ordinary walk of a good size man....Mr. Perew placed an obstruction in the path of the approaching giant. With eyes turning in their sockets the huge man seemed to discern the act of the inventor and when near the obstruction it stepped upon the obstacle and down to the floor again with perfect ease and went on its way, creating no other noise than that mad by heavy tread of 13 1/2 shoes.  Corners of the hall were turned in such a manner  as reminded the spectators of a living being, while the perfect action of the hip, knee and ankle joints, almost convinced the onlookers that the giant was imbued with life.
Louis Philip Perew - Inventor
   The carriage to which the automaton is attached resembles an electric delivery carriage.  The head of the figure is of sufficient size to permit the planting in the place where the brains are in a man, a complicated clock work, which when wound, causes the eye movement while the automaton is in motion. In its chest will be constructed a cell which will be placed an up-to-date phonograph, which will do the talking for the giant.  Attached directly in front of the carriage holding chains in his massive hands, the mechanical man can be driven at a rate of speed of fully four miles an hour.
  It is the intention of the company to hold a public banquet and  place the Automaton on exhibition.  Afterward it will be sent to New York City , where it will start on a trip across the country to San Francisco to test its walking power and gain for it a national reputation.  The company intends to build and sell the automatons for advertising purposes, and it is rumored that the Pan-American officials are looking into the advisability of using them for advertising the Exposition.
  The local automaton, according to well informed mechanical engineers, conforms with modern mechanical laws.  It's hip, knee and ankle motion is so perfect that a close inspection is necessary to prove that the automaton is not alive.  Aside from this Mr. Perew has invented a Merry-Go-Round, cigar lighters and a device for towing boats in the Erie Canal, the latter now being in the hands of some capitalists, who will at an early date will begin the construction of a mile of the device near Tonawanda.
Much credit is due J.A. Deschinger, who is assistant superintendent of construction, for the excellent workmanship of the automaton. He has labored night and day with the inventor to make the giant a success and it was due to the tenacity of Deschinger and Charles A. Thomas, vice president of the Company,that such obstacles have been overcome in it's construction as would have discouraged most other men long ago.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Strand article is originally titled "The Electric Man". The article as published on Boilerplate has been skewed to fit in with Guinan's fictitious Boilerplate. The picture of Perew is also a fake. See the full story here .