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ancient automata
15th–17th Century
18th Century
19th Century




19th century


Many interesting automata were made and perfected in the 19th century. It was a prolific and golden era. It was also a time when mass production techniques meant that automata could be made cheaply and easily. It's around this time that we see the automaton becoming more of a child's toy rather than an expensive adult parolur amusement. In the early 1800s, many automaton makers were magicians or creators inspired by the shows of illusionists that were very much in vogue at that time. Among the great magicians who built automata was Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic, and Stèvenard, a contemporary of Robert-Houdin and perhaps the most talented of all automaton makers. The Maillardet brothers were inspired by the theme of magic and created clocks with magician and soothsayer automatons.

Joseph Faber took 25 years to make his famous automaton Euphonia. The automaton produced sounds similar to the human voice. It started by reciting the letters of the alphabet and then said ‘How do you do ladies and gentlemen’. It asked and answered questions, whispered, sang and laughed. It even spoke in a German accent as it talked in English. Everyone who inspected the mechanism was satisfied that it was the automaton which made the sounds, not a ventriloquist.


Joseph Faber's Euphonia.

Later in the 19th century the creation of automata became industrialised. About ten artisans, living for the most part in the Marais section of Paris, made numerous performing automata. Admittedly, these creations were less glorious than those of the 18th century, but were perhaps more endearing, since they were inspired by the parisian life and the world of entertainment: magic shows, circuses and music halls. Among the most famous makers were Théroude, Phalibois, Lambert, Renou, Roullet- Decamps, Vichy and Bontemps.

George Moore made a steam powered man that worked from a gas-fired boiler. It reached a walking speed of 9 miles an hour.

At the outbreak of World War I, this industry gradually started to disappear.


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