home  >  History Making robots  >  Pseudo, Art, Entertainment and Fictional robots 5 January 2013

Pseudo, Art, Entertainment and Fictional robots
1868 - John Brainerd's The Steam Man - fiction by Edward S. Ellis
1876 - Frank Reade's The Steam Man MkII - fiction by Harold Cohen
1879 - Frank Reade Jr.'s The Steam Man MkIII - fiction by Luis Senarens
1885 - Frank Reade Jr.'s The Electric Man - fiction by Luis Senarens
1893 - Professor Archibald Campion's Boilerplate - fiction by Paul Guinan
1911 - Occultus or Barbarossa - pseudo
1930 - Televox (maybe later Mekko) by Eugine Wendling- pseudo
1932 - Alpha or The Roboter - pseudo
1954 - Anatole by Jean Dusailly - entertainment
1958 - Cosmos - entertainment
1967 - Albert by John Billingsley - art
Pseudo -
Pseudo robots are not necessarily insignificant but are those where false claims are made for their abilities.

Entertainment robots here were the then modern equivalent of the glove-puppet or marionette.

Fictional Victorian Steam and Electric Men

The following were, no doubt, inspired in the first place by Zadoc P. Dederick's Steam Man announced to the public at least as early as January 1868.

Some are mentioned in Fantastic, Mysterious, and Adventurous Victoriana by Jess Nevins
http://www.reocities.com/jessnevins/vicintro.html [Jan13]

1868 - John Brainerd's The Steam Man - fiction
Johnny Brainerd was the creation of Edward S. Ellis in "The Huge Hunter, or the Steam Man of the Prairies", which first appeared in Irwin P. Beadle's American Novels #45 (August, 1868) before being turned into a novel and reprinted many times over.
In the story Johnny Brainerd, a small, hunch-backed dwarf, on his mothers suggestion builds the Steam Man, ten feet high with a stove-pipe hat, which tows behind it a wagon in which Johnny Brainerd and any passengers ride and which carries the wood to feed the Steam Man. After building up a full head of steam it's capable of moving 30 miles an hour.
Fantastic, Mysterious, and Adventurous Victoriana by Jess Nevins http://www.reocities.com/jessnevins/vicb.html [Jan13] or archived here.
(Nevins' entry for John Brainerd is unfortunately marred by ending "Boilerplate A real-life Steam Man" which links to Big Red Hair's Boilerplate page.)
For further information on this work of fiction see  http://www.bigredhair.com/steamman/index.html [Aug07]
Download the story from Project Gutenberg [Aug07].

1876 - Frank Reade's The Steam Man MkII - fiction
1879 - Frank Reade Jr.'s The Steam Man MkIII - fiction
Frank Reade was created by "Noname," aka "Harry Enton," aka Harold Cohen, and debuted in “Frank Reade and His Steam Man of the Plains, or, The Terror of the West”, Boys of New York #28, 28 February 1876.
Later Luis Senarens created Frank Reade Jr. in the story, "Frank Reade Jr. and His Steam Wonder" (Boys of New York #338-350, 4 February-29 April 1879) and much later, in 1899, Frank Jr. was succeeded by Young Frank Reade.
Frank Reade's Steam Man is much like that of Johnny Brainerd, only it has headlights. Better still, it is armed, shooting "fiery missiles" which dart "hither and thither like stars of fire" from "belts of fire at the neck and waist" of the Steam Man, its wagon is not covered and is two feet taller and can travel at a staggering 50 miles per hour.
Fantastic, Mysterious, and Adventurous Victoriana by Jess Nevins http://www.reocities.com/jessnevins/vicr.html [Jan13] or archived here.
For further information on these works of fiction see  http://www.bigredhair.com/frankreade/steamman.html [Aug07]

1885 - Frank Reade Jr.'s The Electric Man - fiction
Nevins doesn't mention the Electric Man however
Luis Senarens using the pseudonym "Noname" wrote the story "The electric man, or, Frank Reade, Jr. in Australia" which was published by Frank Tousey, 1893. (Frank Reade library ; no. 37, v. 2). A copy is in the University of South Florida Library http://www.lib.usf.edu/ [Aug07]
[The electric man may have debuted in earlier Frank Reade stories.]
For further information on this work of fiction see  http://www.bigredhair.com/electricman/index.html [Aug07]

1893 - Professor Archibald Campion's Boilerplate - fiction
This is entirely a 21st century creation of Paul Guinan & Anina Bennett on their Big Red Hair site http://www.bigredhair.com/boilerplate/index.html and only mentioned in error by Nevins (see above 1865 - John Brainerd's The Steam Man).

Why any educated person should choose to believe that an iron frame, burning coals, hot water and even hotter steam could accomplish in the 1800s what is still beyond our capabilities with 21st century technology is somewhat beyond my comprehension. Nevertheless there are many entries on the web which indicate people do think that the above robots were real rather than works of fiction.

1911 - Occultus - pseudo
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. [Reuben Hoggett]
1924 Whitman: "Radiomensch Occultus" is an entry under Regelsysteme/Automation in Mueller Science's table Vorläufer der Systemwissenschaft 1600- 1939. See -


Note: these are not the same photograph. In addition the right hand of occultus appears to have been retouched so that the first finger is in a different position, cf. Barbarossa.

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.

Photos contributed by Reuben Hoggett.

Televox - 1930
Maybe later known as 'Mekko'. pseudo - An entertainment or stage show robot.

There is the robot, also called "Televox", made by the engineer Eugene Wendling and exhibited in the Knie Circus. It is made to look like a giant in human shape and is constructed of sheet steel; it first apppears seated with its arms hanging down stiffly.
"The mechanism is comparatively simple. When the current is switched on, the eyes become luminous. Two neon bulbs light up showing that the mechanism is about to work.
"Three photo-electric cells concealed in various parts of the chest operate amplifiers and motors, which are cornpletely independent of each other, so that three separate mechanisms can be distinguished in the robot.
"The operator holds a small electric flashlight in his hand and directs the luminous beam from it for a moment on one or other of the cells. The mechanical man responds to the action of the first cell by getting up from his seat, while the subsequent operations of the other cells, which work independently of each othermake him move his head and his arms." The robot stands up suddenly, looking to its left, then to its right, and gently lifts its right arm, which holds a pistol. After a moment's delay, during which it seems to listen, it directs its glance towards one of the corners of the room, waves its arm and fires. This performance always produces a lively reaction from the public.
Chapius Droz AUTOMATA
It would appear from the dates that Harry May the inventor of Alpha got from Wendling's Televox the idea of his robot firing a gun.

Photo contributed by Reuben Hoggett.

1932 - Alpha or The Roboter - pseudo

An entertainment or stage show robot almost certainly operated offstage by a hidden assistant.

See the main Alpha page

1954 “ANATOLE” - entertainment
A radio controlled French robot made by Jean Dusailly
According to Tout Savoir magazine for July 1954 Anatole could move its head right and left, move its arms and responded to ten commands; and it weighed 140 kg and was 2m 10 high. (It looks as if it also had wheels in its feet and could move about.)
Photos contributed by Reuben Hoggett.

Anatole in 1976 at the "Vrijgezellenmachines" exhibition in Amsterdam.

1958 - Cosmos - entertainment
A radio controlled robot which opens and shuts its mouth and waves its arms was demonstrated at the 'Land and the Cosmos' exhibition at the Eiffel Tower, Paris, in July 1958.

Cosmos in Monaco in 1960 at the annual Inventors' Congress.
Photos contributed by Reuben Hoggett.

1967 "Albert" Art by John Billingsley
This is the same John Billingsley who created the present Micromouse competition which uses a 16 x 16 cell maze with the goal in the centre.
Photo contributed by Reuben Hoggett.

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