Category Archives: Postcards

Collecting robots on postcards – 9 – Enigmarelle

This unusual, and admittedly rather creepy looking, postcard came up for sale recently on eBay. The “robot” on the left is Enigmarelle who was, according to the card, “the rage of London”. I was inspired to research a little further, and found an excellent article on the website cyberneticzoo (click here for article). As you may have guessed, it seems that there was a man inside the automaton with a false head on top of his own. That man was the unfortunate Alba Root, who lost both his legs in a railway accident when he was younger. Alba was able to ride a unicycle with artificial legs, and there a photographs of Enigmarelle riding a bicycle on stage.

I also discovered the following news story in a 1905 edition of The Entr’acte & Limelight.

The Entr'acte & Limelight masthead

Saturday 26 August 1905

“Enigmarelle” Again

Mr Garrett was engaged on Friday, at the West London Court, in hearing summonses taken out by Sub-Divisional-Inspector Crocker, T, against Mr. E. H. Dobson, manager of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire Music Hall; Mr W. A. Bennett, Press representative at the hall; Mr. F. Ireland, and George Dee, for being concerned in causing an obstruction in Goldhawk Road by parading a mechanical figure called “Enigmarelle,” which had been exhibited at the hall. Mr. Philip Conway represented the defendants. Inspector Crocker stated that on the 8th inst. a coach and four, driven by the defendant Dee, drew up in front of the music-hall. A crowd of from 1,500 to 2,000 persons gathered. The coach waited some fifteen minutes, and then from a side entrance of the theatre emerged the mechanical figure, controlled by Ireland. The figure walked across to the coach in the centre of the roadway, and remained there nine minutes. By this time the crowd had increased to 4,000 persons, and witness requested Ireland to take the figure away. The coach was accordingly driven away, but it returned, and then the figure came out again, and by means of a ladder ascended to the box-seat of the coach and, taking the reins in its hands, drove off, followed by an immense crowd, which completely blocked the roadway. Mr. Dobson and Mr. Bennett both assisted the figure up the ladder, and apparently it drove off by itself. Previous to the occurrence witness had received a letter from Mr. Dobson announcing that it was proposed to make the experiment with the figure, and witness had an interview with Mr. Dobson and Mr. Bennett, who assured him that they would take the responsibility in the matter. Mr. Conway suggested that it was trifling with the procedure of the criminal law to summon Mr. Dobson and Mr. Bennett for aiding and abetting in such a trivial offence. Every information was given beforehand to the police, and arrangements were made for the observance of public order. It was not the fault of these gentlemen if a large crowd gathered. The Magistrate observed that there was no question that an obstruction was caused, and the common-sense view of it was that the defendants wished to advertise the mechanical figure. The larger the crowd the better the advertisement, and the object of the defendants was “to cause a crowd to assemble.” He fined Ireland 40s., Dobson and Bennett 20s. each, and Dee 5s.

In the same newspaper, on the front page, there was an advertisement proclaiming Enigmarelle as “the rage of London!” announcing that the mechanical figure would be appearing at the Empire Theatre, Nottingham.

Enigmarelle the rage of London

It is hard to believe that so many people were fooled into thinking that it was possible to create a mechanical man as sophisticated as Enigmarelle, and especially one capable of controlling a coach and four. There was even an article in the January 13, 1906 edition of Scientific American, headed “A clever mechanical and electrical automaton” in which they stated that Enigmarelle “is seemingly a mechanical and electrical combination. The figure stands exactly six feet in height, weighs 198 pounds, and is composed of 365 distinct and separate parts … the figure contains seven motors, which are of special design … there are fourteen dry storage battery cells of small capacity … at the back of the figure is the switchboard containing the rheostat, fifteen switches, three single levers, and three automatic brakes …” The full article can be read on the Cyberneticzoo website linked to above.

Enigmarelle postcard back



Collecting robots on postcards – 8

Lost in Space was a television series from Irwin Allen Productions, set in the then future year of 1997. The show first aired in 1965 and ran for three seasons with no less than 83 episodes! This was the first science fiction series that I ever watched (at 10 years old) and my favourite character was, of course, the Robot.

Lost in Space postcard front

I wonder if this was the first Robot to ever have a famous ‘catch phrase’? The Robot saying “Danger Will Robinson” is well known, but apparently that exact phrase was only said once, and not until the third-season episode Deadliest of the Species.

Altoids mints - Danger Will Robinson!The catch phrase was even used to advertise ‘Altoids’ mints. The brand was created in London in the 1780s, but is better known in the USA. What would they have made of the robot B-9 in the UK back in 1780 I wonder!

The Robot was officially known as “B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorising Environmental Control Robot”. If the robot seems familiar, it will come as no surprise to find that it was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Robby the Robot for the film Forbidden Planet.

Thanks to Wikipedia, we have these details of the robots (fictional) capabilities:

1. The Robot possessed powerful computers that allowed him to make complex calculations and to deduce many facts;

2. He had a variety of sensors that detected numerous phenomena and dangers;

3. He was programmed with extensive knowledge on many subjects, including how to operate the Jupiter 2 spaceship;

4. His construction allowed him to function in extreme environments and in the vacuum of space;

5. He was extremely strong, giving him utility both in performing difficult labour and in fighting when necessary. Moreover, his claws could fire laser beams and, most frequently, a powerful “electro-force” that was similar to arcing electricity.

Lost in Space postcard back

One final very interesting piece of trivia is that the open and closing theme music was written by John Williams, the composer behind the Star Wars theme music, who was listed in the credits as “Johnny Williams”.

Collecting robots on postcards – 7 – “Robots-Music”

The band known as “Robots-Music”

I have two interesting old French postcards in my collection which show a robot band. Thanks to YouTube, I have been able to find the film shown at the bottom of this entry, of the band playing in their last ever recorded concert when they reformed briefly in April 2007.

This is the text from the back of the black and white postcard:

Robots-Music black and white postcard“ROBOTS-MUSIC” Attraction sensationnelle de l’Exposition itinérante de la F.N.C.P.G. L’orchestre-robot à télécommande intégrale est composé de trois musiciens qui exécutent eux-mȇmes sur leurs instruments les partitions les plus variées, transmises par leur cerveau électronique. – Tous leurs mouvements sont automatiquement synchronisés. – Plusieurs années ont été nécessaires pour assurer la mise au point parfaite que vous avez admiré et que cette photo vous rappellera.


This is the text from the back of the colour postcard:

Robots-Music colour postcardL’orchestre robot à télécommande intégrale est composé de trois musiciens qui exécutent eux-mȇmes sur leurs instruments les partitions les plus variées, transmises par leur cerveau électronique. Tous leurs mouvements sont automatiquement synchronisés. Accordéoniste: 68 notes; saxophoniste: 48 notes dont trois octaves; batteur: tous les mouvements possibles et imaginables. Plusieurs années ont été nécessaires pour assurer la mise au point parfaite que vous avez admirée et que cette photo vous rappellera.

The following information has been put together from the YouTube page:

We are the robots! Oskar plays the accordion, Ernest plays the saxophone and Anatole is the drummer. Edouard R. Diomgar developed the idea for his robots while being held as a prisoner of war in a German camp. After his release he started work on this project. “Les Robots-music”, an electric/pneumatic machine, playing real instruments. The robots toured from 1958 to 1984, as the “Union of French Prisoners of War”, and could be seen in France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands. They have a repertoire of about 500 songs. The rare piece of film below was shot at Museum fuer Kommunikation, Berlin, on 14th April, 2007, where they could be seen gigging for the first time in 23 years. I wonder where they are today?

The postcard backs:

Robots-Music black and white postcard - back


Robots-Music colour postcard - back