Monday, March 22, 2010

Discovery during the restoration of an automaton

Check out this video to see the incredible discovery Michael Start made while restoring this antique laughing sailor coin-operated automaton.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Realistic dachshund clockwork automaton

Made in Paris around 1900 by Roullet & Decamps, this is a life-sized paper-mâché automaton dog. The clockwork mechanism housed inside the dog's body makes it nod its head and open and shut his mouth -- as if panting -- for about 20 minutes.

Visit AutomatomaniA to see more images of this very realistic dachshund automaton.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Mechanical Christmas tree stand with four tunes

Made around 1900, this German clockwork Christmas tree stand spins the tree around and plays four tunes.

For more info, visit

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Gnome picture automaton from around 1890

Here is a wall-mounted animated picture depicting a group of gnomes. The automaton was probably made by Schoenhut of Germany and dates back to before the turn of the century. It measures 35cm wide by 27cm tall by 12cm deep.

From the YouTube description:
The picture features a replaceable section for advertising purposes, probably of a bar or cafe. In good original condition with very few repairs evident. There is a later added musical movement playing "La Traviata" which can be removed if required.

See this and other amazing antique automata at

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Video of antique walking peacock automaton

I posted last month about an antique walking peacock automaton by Roullet and Decamps that was on eBay. I'm happy to report that the peacock has found a good home and will soon be getting a new coat of feathers.

Visit the AutomataMania Workshop to see more pictures of the walking peacock clockwork automaton.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Video of vintage automaton cat restoration

Here is bit of video from the folks at Automatomania showing the inner workings of a antique cat automaton made by the famous makers Roullet and Decamps.

From the YouTube description
This is an automaton of a fur covered papier mache cat by Decamps of Paris Circa 1900. The film shows the restoration at the stage where all the parts have been repaired and the cat is tested prior to re-assembly.

Note the tail curl, it is a realistic action achieved with wooden balls wedged along a tapering spring within the tail, the cord pulls on the last ball only to curl it. This is a fragile part of the cat and is always broken in antique examples I have seen.

The restored cat is now for sale and can be seen at the Automatomania shop online shop.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Singing bird automata makes for high fashion

Singing bird automata makes for high fashion
To celebrate her 20th anniversary in the business, British designer Lulu Guinness decided to make a singing bird automaton -- within a handbag!

She tapped Adam Wright, a film animatronics maker, to help with the mechanics of the piece. He, in turn, looked to Michael and Maria Start of Automatomania -- experts in the repair and restoration of automata -- for their specialized knowledge and skill.

According to Michael Start, "He spent a few days with us learning about singing birds and then sent us the bird body for Maria to feather in scarlet feathers."

When it was completed they went to an unveiling party at London's Victoria & Albert Museum -- a star studded event with the handbag as a center piece. It's official: automata have become high fashion!

Here is a video about the Singing Handbag.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roullet and Decamps smoking monkey automaton

Here is a good video of a smoking automaton -- once a popular theme. This one, made by Roullet and Decamps, features a monkey puffing away on a cigarette.

From the YouTube description
This monkey has been trained to smoke cigars and cigarettes. He was made around 1900 by the Parisian firm of Roullet and Decamps and is made of Papier Mache covered with real fur. His enigmatic green glass eyes show just how much pleasure he gets from a fine tobacco.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The automaton who saved the world!

According to the YouTube description, we all may owe this drinking bear automaton a lot!

An automaton bear that was played with by Gromyko at an important UN meeting during the Cold War, after a frosty start, the automata were produced, and this one melted his heart. The result was he took his finger off the red button. I have the pictures to prove it!

From our friends at

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cute antique wind-up pig automaton from 1890s

Here is a video of an automaton walking pig by Roullet and Decamps from around 1890. The sound is great!

The video is courtesy of our friends over at AutomatomaniA.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More info on antique smoking head automaton

disembodied head automaton
Michael Start of AutomatomaniA has been kind enough to supply some additional information about the smoking head automaton we saw a few days ago.

Michael thinks the head dates from circa. 1865, though Maria thinks it may be as early as 1840. Additional photographs and a scan of the 1882 letter may be seen on his news page. The letter is in the last two photos of the sequence.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Classic automata film: Princely Toys

Here is some very rare film footage of vintage French automata from the collection of Jack Donovan. The film was shot in 1976.

Thanks to Michael and Maria Start of Automatomania for this video.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Fantastic disembodied smoking head automaton

Here's a short video of a fantastic disembodied head automaton that smokes!

From the video description:
A clockwork head that moves its glass eyes and smokes either a pipe or cigar. The head is made of papier mache and wood. The original wooden box contained envelopes of saltpetre and 'ribbon of bruge' to load the pipe with, also a letter dated 1882 explaining how to work it and confirming its sale to a London coffee shop.

Thanks to Michael and Maria at AutomatoMania for this video.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mythical Automata Shop: THE HOUSE OF SYBIL

Maria and Michael start have just competed this piece for an upcoming exhibition.

From the Artists:
"The building itself is a living entity with an eye for its sight and a heaving floor for breath. The cellar imprisons innocence, whilst for those on the first floor conventional life has departed with the knife. Within the shop the Alchemist works with complete precision of word and deed. Like a watchmaker, he first re-assembles the spirit, and then the careful application of electrical fluence allows the invigoration of the automata, which you see for sale in the ground floor Salon of The House of Sybil."

This is one of 24 pieces that will form the exhibition in the Elissa Cristall Gallery opening on the 23rd of May, 2008.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Automaton by Vichy - Clockwork Mechanism Inside

This is the repaired inner mechanism of a Vichy automaton made in France in 1875. The complete automaton depicts a lady who breathes, closes her eyes, turns her head, fans herself, and lifts her glasses to her eyes.

You can learn more about Vichy and the other famous French automaton makers from the late 19th century and early 20th century from the Automata: The Golden Age 1848-1914.

Thanks to the experts at AutomatomaniA for this wonderful video. AutomatomaniA is the UK's only specialist automata restoration company.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Nancy - The Knitting Woman Automaton Video

The good folks over at AutomatomaniA ( have started to post videos of pieces in their workshop -- mainly antiques. Check out this clip of an automaton featuring a woman knitting.

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