Wikipedia Surfing: from Houdini to a Whist-Playing Automaton

So, Harry Houdini is Willard Angeline’s arch-rival. I’m surfing Wikipedia and click from Harry Houdini to his mentor, Harry Kellar and stumble on this crazy bit:

In 1878, Kellar returned to England and invested $12,000 in new equipment, one of them being a version Maskelyne’s whist-playing automaton “Psycho”.

Whist-playing automaton?

Picture from the Museum of London:

From the Victorian Dictionary:

Psycho is the figure of a small and melancholy Turk, with lack-lustre eyes, and hands having a peculiarly unnatural appearance, even for an automaton, about the nails. He is seated cross-legged on a box, and he has small boxes near him. On the whole, he rather resembles a Turkish gentleman who, having determined upon travelling, had begun to pack up, and having suddenly tired of the occupation had sat down on a trunk, and rested his left arm on a couple of small boxes. However, Psycho is an independent gentleman, for he and his trunk are raised above the floor on a glass pedestal, quite transparent, and he most certainly appears to have no connection with anybody either on, or off, the stage. He does a sum in arithmetic; he takes a hand at whist, and plays (I was told this, not being a whist-player myself) a very fair game. Some clever people say there’s a dwarf concealed inside. If so, the dwarf himself would be a fortune in a separate entertainment; but, again, if so, Heaven help that unfortunate dwarf! Where the poor creature can possibly conceal himself is, to my mind, a greater wonder than that Psycho should be worked by electricity, as was, I believe (for I dare not say I know) the plain clock face of transparent glass shown in MR. ROBIN’S entertainment.

Punch, February 20, 1875

You can be damned sure that psycho will be in the Spirit of the Century game and when he does, he’ll do a bit more than just play whist, I reckon.

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Ithaca History

Both of these excerpts are from History of Central New York Volume One by Harry R. Malone

“Back into the dim past, the city’s history extends to the time when Sullivant’s army set the forests aglow with the light of burning Iddian village at the head of Cayuga Lake. Lieut.-Col. Henry Dearborn’s detatchment of 200 men in the Sullivan campaign passed across the site of Ithaca in 1779 and camped at the foot of West Hill in the night of September 23. The in April, 1788, eleven men left Kingston on the Hudson, with two Delaware Indians for guides, and visited the Cayuga Valley on an exploring trip. The following year three of hteir number – Jacob Yaple, Isaac Dumond and Peter Hinepaw- returned and planted corn in the clearings before made by the Indians.”

So, basically, these guys came through while on campaign, burned out the natives, thought it was a nice place and came back to plant corn where the Native Americans had cleared space. Oy.

But wait, there’s more:

“One of the unique organizations of the early days was the Moral Society, a group of self-constituted guardians of the morals of fellow citizens. Offenders against temperance were often doused with water and locked up with hogs or their clothes removed and thus exhibited to the society members. On one occasions a group of outraged inebriates after their incarceration caught four of the moralists and confined them in the hog pound. The society demanded tribute of visiting shows and had a semi-official publication, “The Castigator.” “Tecumseh,” the Grand President of the society, was Benjamin Drake, a village merchant.”

Jevon had mentioned “The Castigator” to me once. I’m sure there’s an issue around here somewhere.

EDIT: Found it. The Castigator is in microform.

I heard that Ithaca was once known as Sodom due to the prostitution but I’ll wait until I have textual evidence before I say so for sure.