“I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.” (L. Frank Baum, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”)
By 1868, the idea of automata, self-operating machines, in the guise of humans or animals was not exactly new. Ancient Jewish legends speak of the throne Solomon devised, with mechanical animals hailing him as king as soon as he sat upon it, with an artificial eagle bringing him a crown and placing it upon his head and a mechanical dove that came and brought him a Torah scroll. Hellenism was full of mechanical wonders, ancient China as well and the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment saw the rise of various automatons, from Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical lion to various chess-playing and music-making contraptions.
The Age of Steam added more physical force to the idée reçue of clockwork-driven automata and the American inventor Zadoc Dederick a 7’ steam-driven humanlike robot called Daniel that was able to walk and pull a cart with a system of levers and cranks. The device was usually clothed for not to scare the more mundane horses doing basically the same job in the streets. The boiler was fed every two or three hours by unbuttoning Daniel’s vest, opening a door in his chest and shovelling in coal. His countenance was designed by his maker with “a cheerful countenance of white enamel, which contrasts well with the dark hair and mustache.” Actually, Dederick planned to go into production with his invention, but Daniel remained a singularity in the end and would have been forgotten if he would not have set the idea of Science Fiction dime novels in motion – Edward S. Ellis immortalised him as the centre-piece of his “Steam Man of the Prairies” in the same year Dederick presented his invention to the public.
Depicted below is a contemporary daguerrotype of Daniel, a true wonder of the Age of Steam before it went punk.
The picture below was found on:http://tuesday-johnson.tumblr.com/post/27010139555/ca-1870s-carte-de-visite-patent-model-portrait
and a contemporary account from the Newark (N.J.) Advertiser can be found here:http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/HistoryMakers/1868DederickSteamMan.htm
and more about Dederick and Ellis on:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zadoc_Dederickhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Steam_Man_of_the_Prairieshttp://www.bigredhair.com/steamman/ #steampunk #wunderkammer #history #victoriana #victorianage