Ancient and early 20th century Robots

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.
  • 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.
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But some "hoaxes" can be more elaborate than others, and then you start questioning the "hoaxness" of the issue. The below "Electric Man"patent is not directly related to the above, "Automatic Man". They sure do look similar.

Electric Man



Newark Steam Man
In 1868, Zadoc Dederick of Newark, New Jersey built a robotic man wearing a top hat to pull carriages. His creation became known as "the Newark Steam Man," and its inventor hoped to build an army of steampunkish carriage drivers.


Here's a description of the Steam Man from the January 23, 1868 edition of The Newark Observer.

Newark Steam Man_1.jpg

What I find interesting about this 1868 Newark Steam Man, is the fact that it was invented simultaneously with the 1868 publishing of The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Ellis. This science fiction robot presented in the novel co-existing with the actual model is bizarre, in my opinion.

Steam King Robot


A photograph of a steam-powered robot pulling a wagon. The photo was registered in 1869 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. The court’s clerk pasted the photo into the copyright record book.


Occultus - Barbarossa
The October 7 1911 issue of "The Pathfinder" Newspaper News Magazine had in the scientific section, a weird photo and article on an automaton / robot named "Occultus" recently exhibited in Berlin by a man named Whitman. The author of the article displaying the below two images thinks that these Barbarossa robots were fake.

Here is the opinion of the author:
  • In my opinion all the mechanism is there only for show, with the wheels and dials clearly placed to impress the viewer.Furthermore note the robot stands just in front of a screen. I would guess that the robots head was really the head of an actor/accomplice, pushed through a hole in the screen with the screen edges disguised by the hair and the beard. The forearms could have been raised and lowered by the accomplice using the two ropes attached to the forearms and going over the shoulders.

Maschinenmensch Robot
And then, of course, we have our Metropolis Movie robot called "Maschinenmensch". Though some props and costumes from Metropolis did survive, the iconic Maschinenmensch apparently was destroyed during filming, although its actual fate is unknown. Replicas of the robot are found in many museums, notably in the Berlin Filmmuseum, The Cinématheque Francaise in Paris, and the Museum of the Moving Image in London. Oddly enough, almost all versions are silver rather than the original golden-bronze colour.

Links and Sources:

KD: anyways, what's your opinion on this entire robot thing. It appears the topic was extremely popular between approximately 1890 and 1910. Could there be something we are missing on the entire issue?

Giovanni Fontana Giovanni Fontana (engineer) - Wikipedia (ca. 1395 - ca. 1455) 15th century Venetian physician and engineer known as the magician, attended the University of Padua, where he received his studies in Arts in 1418 and in Medicine in 1421.
Fontana is one of the first inventors to have preserved written works and, in particular, a book of machine drawings known under the name "Bellicorum instrumentorum Liber, cum figuris et fictitys litoris conscriptus" whose only copy is kept in the Munich Library. The book includes 70 pages with more than 140 illustrations accompanied by short notes, usually the first sentence in Latin, but the sequel is encrypted.

His interest is not exclusively military, he also mentions water sources and the principle of the trap that is used several times in all engineering books of the 15th century. Continuing with the Greek and Arabic tradition, he works on developing automata.


Viztlipuztli was generally presented as a minor Image, called Tlaboc (TLALOC?)
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Found this fascinating 1860s Russian comic book (it looks like one) on the New York Public Library website. Some things in this pub do not really make sense. There is too much "ancient Roman" stuff, imho. Unfortunately, I'm limited to looking at pictures.

Anyways, I'm pretty sure that below we have the same "steam man" mentioned in the OP. There is a lengthy description. If someone could assist with getting it translated, that's be great.


Fairly speculative and potentially useless comment, but while looking at this again, it occurred to me if human beings had been at one point subservient to a larger "giant" race of people, designing these large robots to pull folks around takes on another connotation.

It just seems like if you could make a complicated robot like this, you could also just make the carriage self-propelled.

I attempted to translate this using some image-to-text conversions... it's pretty bad, but the gist of it makes me want to know precisely what it says. Especially the beginning:
Titus. Tolyshevas. Meter.
Ts'lna stol'tila, chemists worked in vain to create, chemically, homunculada, currently
A simple mechanic in Vankyork, Tsakhdok Detrick, succeeded in inventing a steam-powered man. Ontak is arranged, which is not only
otgayetsya quickly in all directions, but can serve as a locomotive for the severity, in advance of which it took you
3. get strong. Steam man 1 FT. Long boots: Workers of Detrick, fail him in a long danid. Torso
is a 233 horsepower steam engine, because ordinary steam pumps, axomio Untov
Although on which the torso rests, it represents an amazingly complex mechanism, with the help of their giant strides perfect
bliss and unconstrained, as soon as one leg crosses the other it is lifted by means of a spring and it is pressed by force
container. With each step, the giant moves a foot forward, a full revolution of the machine is equal to four steps.
And so, As a machine gives 1000 revolutions to an aviary in a minute, an Ax-man can walk more than a mile in a minute.
chickpea, but that you she walked quite firmly even to the point where the trict wants the machine to only make 500.
about v'oto. In 1 minute, so his little man will only walk half a mile.
An extraordinary carriage, the iron parts of which, connected by an iron ring, encircling them. How the giant
post-contain it by the vertical committee The position of the required supply of coal is stored under grouting for a year
goats Coal and water are taken for half a day or even a katsgly day. It is clear that no matter what such a giant should aim for.
chesky fear of cattle hitting him on the way, B% features of the Kalinades, but TDedrik tried to help as much as possible
I want this bd, give my Giant a human physiognomy and just his vskrtuk, pantaloons and a lighter vein
Maud. As soon as it is necessary to put on the coachman he stops, slips off the goat and unfastens it.
"Having opened the door of the heart, which is located, the snail gets into it and fastens the vein. It rushes further.
Ecological accidents like a sudden stop, raise the nator ilrva. Provided, worth it. just suppress the spring,
Kvelik an performs what is required for the given minute. To cover the different screws of the Uvelikan nadta through
Tleuo rolled into a tube overcoat is a black hair and a measured mustache beautifully detach the face, which can be expressed
1. This is blood in milk. The parody of man is zooo. Dollars. Son of the Fatherland ". 31. 1864 g)
Sorry, I know that's mostly rubbish, but it's just enough to make me want more...
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Apparently they might have had robotic horses too. So much for them Boston dynamics..
  • In the below illustration, the newly created Steam Horse is tested in a race with the Steam Man Mark II.
  • The Steam Horse won.
This here is from 1954.


These horses... I'm not overly convinced. Need more info.
If someone could assist with getting it translated, that's be great.
Целые столетия алхимики тщетно трудились над созданием химическим путём гомункула. В настоящее время, простому механику в Нью-Йорке, Цадоку Детрику удалось изобрести, парового человека. Он так устроен, что настолько бегает быстро по всем направлениям, но может служить локомотивом для тяжести, на перевозку которой потребовалось бы 3 сильных лошади. Паровой человек 4(?) фута 9 дюймов роста в сапогах. Рабочие Детрика прозвали его Даниилом длинным. Туловище его представляет собой паровую машину в 3 лошадиные силы, вроде обыкновенных паровых насосов, весом в 500(?) фунтов. Ноги на которые опирается туловище, представляют изумительно сложный механизм, с помощью их великан шагает совершенно легко и непринуждённо, как только одна нога переступает, другая поднимается посредством пружины и движется силою пара. С каждым шагом великан подвигается на 2 фута вперёд, полный оборот машины равняется четырём шагам. А так как машина в 1 минуту делает более 1000 оборотов то паровой человек может пройти более мили в минуту, но что бы он ходил совершенно твёрдо даже по неровной почве, господин Детрик хочет что бы машина делала только 500 оборотов в минуту, так что его человек будет проходить в минуту только пол мили. Парового человека впрягают в обыкновенный экипаж, железные оглобли которого, соединённые железным же кольцом, обвязывающим Великана как пояс, поддерживают его в вертикальном положении. Необходимый запас угля храниться под запятками, вода в котле под козлами, уголья и вода берутся на пол дня, или даже на целый день. Понятно, что бег такого великана должен наводить панический страх на попадающийся ему на пути скот, в особенности же, лошадей, но господин Дедрик постарался помочь, насколько возможно, этой беде, придав своему Великану человеческую физиономию и одев его в сюртук, панталоны и жилет по последней моде. Как только нужно подложить огня кучер останавливается, слезает с козел расстёгивает Даниилу жилет, открывает дверцу, находящуюся на месте сердца, насыпает в него угля, застёгивает жилет и мчится дальше. Всевозможные случайности как-то внезапная остановка, поднятие на гору и прочее предусмотрены, стоит только подавить пружину и великан исполняет то, что требуется в данную минуту. Для прикрытия различных винтов у великана надета чрез плечо свёрнутая в трубку шинель, его чёрные волосы и чёрные усы красиво оттеняют лицо, про которое можно выразиться что кровь с молоком. Паровой человек стоит 2000 долларов (Сын Отечества № 51 1868 (?) год).
For centuries alchemists have worked in vain to create a homunculus by chemical means. Nowadays, a simple mechanic in New York, Tsadok Detrick, has succeeded in inventing, a steam man. He is so built that he runs so fast in all directions, but can carry weights that would require 3 strong horses to carry. The steam man is 4(?) feet 9 inches tall in boots. Detrick's workers nicknamed him Daniel the Long Man. His torso is a 3 horsepower steam engine, like ordinary steam pumps, weighing 500(?) pounds. The legs on which the torso rests are an amazingly complex mechanism, by means of which the giant strides quite easily and at ease, as soon as one leg steps over, the other is lifted by a spring and is moved by the power of steam. With each step the giant moves 2 feet forward, a full turn of the machine equals four steps. And because the machine makes more than 1000 revolutions in one minute, the steam man can walk more than a mile a minute, but so that he can walk perfectly steady even on uneven ground, Mr. Detrick wants the machine to make only 500 revolutions a minute, so that his man will only walk half a mile a minute. The steam man is harnessed to an ordinary carriage, whose iron shafts, connected by an iron ring, which encircles the giant like a belt, keep him upright. The necessary supply of coal is stored under the hitches, water in a cauldron under the goats, the coals and water are taken for half a day, or even for the whole day. It is clear that the running of such a giant must create a panic fright on the cattle that come across him, especially the horses, but Mr. Dedrick tried to help as much as possible, this trouble by giving his giant a human face and dressing him in a coat, pantaloons and vest in the latest fashion. As soon as he needs a light, the coachman stops, climbs down, unbuttons Daniel's vest, opens the door in place of the heart, pours the coal into it, fastens the vest and rushes on. All sorts of accidents, like sudden stops, climbing a mountain, etc., are provided for, you just have to press a spring and the giant performs what is required at the moment. To cover the various screws the giant wears a tube-shaped overcoat over his shoulder, his black hair and black mustache beautifully shade his gorgeous face. The steam man is worth $2,000 (Сын Отечества № 51 1868 (?) год).
For something being bipedal, and purely mechanical, I’d like to know how it could maintain its balance when not hooked up to a carriage.

It’s kind of hard to believe in things like this without actually seeing one in operation.
I wonder why the fixation on having a Robot man pull a carriage, or to lead, or aid the human? As @Banta suggests, was this something humans were used to and were simply attempting to emulate?

Something like Talos?


Intesting how the word 'automaton' can be found in books, according to google n gram viewer as early as 1513 (whenever that was)


Were these Robots/ Automatons 19th Century mans attempt to emulate a much greater technology (gods), as they recoverd from the reset?

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