Dummies That Dance and Play
Wonderful mechanical musicians that smoke, bow, wink and pirouette
��TWO hundred years ago, before the days of the steam engine and of the factory, the inventive in- genuity of a mechanic, who was bubbling over with ideas, expressed itself in the making of huge automatons — artificial human beings crammed with clockwork and capable of executing with astonish- ing fidelity acts which seemed to require the control of a brain. There were automatons that danced minuets, auto- matons that could write stilted phrases in praise of a reigning monarch far more clearly and correctly than most courtiers, and automa- tons that even went through the mo- tions of playing a game of chess. They were mechan- ical curiosities — nothing more.
But it must not be supposed that the art of making mechanical dum- mies is dead. Indeed, it flourishes more richly than ever, simply be- cause it has been put upon a commercial basis. Only once in his lifetime would an eighteenth century mechanic produce a dancing or letter-writing figure; it was years before he completed his labors. But with the aid of modern factory machinery, auto- matons are turned out as easily and as rapidly as automobiles. Who wants them? The Coney Islands anti tiic Ivirl Courts of the world. Somehow the huge, automatic musical orcliestras, to the acconii)animent lA which one eats po()corn and marvels at the tattooed man, are far too tame for the sensation- loving showmen who enliven poi)ular seaside resorts. The orchestrions lack the luunan loucii. And so, the machinery that grinds out the latest dance or the
���Painting the faces musicians inT
��latest song must be adorned with meciianical figures — figures clothed with garish care and very lifelike in their stiff, mechanical way. They beat drums, dance, and juggle; indeed they behave very intelligently and correctly.
Triboulet of Paris, is the man who invents many of the more ingenious dimimies. That he is exceptionally ingenious follows from the very nature of his creations. He must be something of an artist, too; for he devises not only the machinery by means of which figures of wood and metal cut capers, but creates a whole setting like any stage manager.
First of all, a scene is planned Then a model of that scene with all the figures in it is made in plaster or in wax, and a cast taken. If this piece of sculpture turns out satisfactorily, working drawings are made of heads, arms, legs and the like for the guid- ance of shop mechanics.
The animating mechanism of these iiiige dolls is complicated enough, as our illustrations prove. The clown wiio grinds the organ, the pyramid of tumb- lers, the monkey who plays the piano with astonishing skill, are all operated by s[)ring motors and are wound up like any clock. The machinery within the dummies is operati\eh- connected with the music-producing mochanisni. By means of starwheels (little copper plates, regular or irregular in form) le\ers are thrown which operate subsidiary mechanism for the purpose of making a dummy smoke a pipe, whistle, wink mischievously, bow, and perform a dozen ordinarv actions.
��of the mechanical r i b o u 1 e t ' s shop