Mechanical doll, “The Wonderful Creeping Baby”

Description
With the turn of a key, this doll appears to crawl along a flat surface. Inside the doll’s body is a spring-driven brass mechanical movement that actuates the arms and legs in imitation of crawling. But the doll actually rolls along on two concealed wheels.
Its date and place of manufacture are not known with certainty. The doll was based on two patents: No. 112,550 granted 14 March 1871 to Robert J. Clay of New York, N.Y.; and No. 118,435 granted 29 August 1871 to Clay’s associate George Pemberton Clarke. Clay’s firm, the Automatic Toy Company, was founded about 1870 and purchased by Edward Ives in 1874. With his brother-in-law Cornelius Blakeslee, Ives established a business for making clockwork toys in Bridgeport, Conn., that operated from 1872 to 1932.
The patent model for Clarke’s invention is also in the Smithsonian collections (cat. 1984.0923.01).
This mechanical toy is part of a fascinating continuum of figures built to imitate human life. This long Western tradition stretches from ancient Greece through the mechanical automatons of the Enlightenment, through wind-up toys to contemporary robots and other machines with artificial intelligence.
Object Name
automaton
doll
date made
ca 1900
Physical Description
metal (doll material)
muslin (doll material)
wax (doll material)
pine (box material)
Measurements
automaton: 11 in; 27.94 cm
ID Number
2011.0204.01a
accession number
2011.0204
catalog number
2011.0204.01a
subject
Science & Mathematics
Sports & Leisure
Robots and Automatons
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Robots and Automatons
Exhibition
American Stories
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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