|from The Literary Gazette 1830|
|from The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction 1823|
Weeks' museum contained, besides his own constructions, the work of eighteenth century mechanics James Cox, and John Merlin, originally from Liege. They had had their own museums in the late 1700s, and Weeks bought some of their stock as they retired.
In 1819 Richard Rush, American ambassador to London, visited the Weeks' Exhibition, where he was told that the clocks in the display were alone worth 30,000 pounds. Many of the automata had been made for the Chinese market, but trade with the Orient faltered and so Weeks' Museum took shape.
The machines exhibited were by all accounts astonishing. They included: a silver swan..that swam on 'artificial water', life-size musicians, self-opening umbrellas, a caterpillar that fed on the foliage of a golden tree, a ouse made of Oriental pearls, and a 115 piece tarantula. There was also a figure of an old woman who came out of a cottage, on crutches, and walked about in a natural manner.
|Literary Gazette 1830|
Glimpses of other automata have come down to us. The 'silver dancer' made by John Merlin was seen by Charles Babbage in his youth. Read more here. Weeks bought the dancer in the early 1800s but never displayed it. An 'artificial duck' complete with digestive processes, was built by Vaucauson in the 1700s, among other wonders.
And of course, where there are wonders, there are con artists. In 1770, Wolfgang von Kempelen unveiled his mechanical chess-player, now called "The Turk". It purported to play chess against anyone, and indeed it did, but by means of a person concealed in the desk below it. You can read more about it here.
|From the London Encyclopedia 1829|
Weeks' Mechanical Exhibition did not outlast his death in 1834. Most of his treasures were auctioned. The remainder were sold for a pittance at Christie's when his last surviving son died in 1864. The silver swan, however, survived and is now at Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle. It still offers an interesting afternoon outing.
'Til next time,