10 October, 2017

Item 97: Hawkins Steam Walker Ephemera

Collection Item 97 is an envelope containing pieces of ephemera that relate to one of Geoffrey Hawkins' more interesting inventions: the single passenger steam walker.  The pieces consist of a technical drawing, a vintage photograph and a number of financial documents.  For exhibit purposes, we are presenting the drawing and the photograph.

Sometime in the late 1880s, the British government commissioned Hawkins Industrial Laboratories to design a steam-powered mechanical walker for potential military applications.  In early 1889, Geoffrey Hawkins presented the Royal Engineers with a prototype design that was quickly rejected due to budget constraints.  Hawkins decided to pursue the design independently, and on 16 July 1889, he approved manufacture of a prototype as noted on the technical drawing now displayed here.

According to Devon Samuelson, Transportation Curator for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, ten steam walkers were manufactured in 1890. Six were purchased by the City and South London Railway company and used in construction of what was the first deep tube underground railway in the world.  Two were sold to Nevada cattleman Giles Ainsworth and used on his Timberjack Ranch.  Hawkins retained the last two at his Hawkins Industrial Laboratories in Faversham. Samuelson notes, "All six used in the C & SLR construction did not survive the project's completion and were likely sold for scrap.  The two walkers retained at the Hawkins Industrial Laboratories were destroyed in the catastrophic fire of 1896."
Hawkins personally delivered the component parts to Ainsworth in September of 1890 and supervised the construction of the steam walkers at the Timberjack Ranch. The photograph found in the Strongbox is dated 13 October 1890 and shows a steam walker in front of Deakin Bros Photography studio in nearby Carson City.
The Timberjack steam walkers have miraculously survived into the 21st century.  One was donated to the Victorian Mechanical Museum where it was restored and placed on exhibition; the other remains in the possession of the Ainsworth family.

22 September, 2017

Item 157: Cabinet Card of Jack Deakin

The Cabinet Card of Jack Deakin is the first item we are exhibiting from Lot 15, often referred to by Mechanical Museum researchers as the Frontier Ephemera collection.  It is part of a rather substantial number or artifacts dating from the latter half of the 19th century and originating in American West.  It is cataloged as Item 157.

Jack, the youngest of the three Deakin brothers, emigrated to America in early 1883. It is likely that he desired to leave London following the traumatic events relating to his 1882 kidnapping and imprisonment by criminal operatives of Dr. Enoch Cyncad. After arriving in America, he lived briefly in both Pittsburgh and Kansas City, before ultimately settling in Carson City, Nevada. There he established a second Deakin Bro's photography studio with financial assistance provided by Nicholas Vanderzee and Giles Ainsworth.

Nicholas Vanderzee, twin brother of Berkley, had served as Sheriff in both Carson City and nearby Washoe City in the late 1870s.  In 1883, he was in the early stages of creating the Vanderzee Detective Bureau.  Ainsworth, maternal uncle to the Vanderzee brothers, was a prominent cattleman and owned the Timberjack Ranch, a massive 800 square mile spread located between Carson City and the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe.

The Cabinet Card of Jack Deakin dates to September 29, 1883.

16 August, 2017

Item 55: Hell's Revolver

Collection Item 55 was discovered early in our Hawkins Strongbox explorations, but required careful handling and restoration before becoming available for exhibition at the Victorian Mechanical Museum and subsequently here at our online showcase.  It was designated as Hell's Revolver by Museum researchers, the origin of said epithet to be explained later in this missive.

The path to Item 55 originated in Lot 7, from which we have previously exhibited Collection Item 31: The Deakin Bro's Trade Card.  That group of items relates specifically to the 1882 disappearance of Jack Deakin and the efforts of his brother Timothy to find him and bring him home.  According to a narrative recorded by Timothy Deakin in a small bound journal (Collection Item 29), Jack Deakin was taken prisoner by criminal underlings working for Dr. Enoch Cyncad.  He had been searching for one of Cyncad's rumored subterranean outposts deep below the city of London.

Timothy Deakin enlisted the aid of underground explorer Matthew Hardy and newspaper reporter Adler Fanshaw in locating and recovering his brother.  After a heated battle with a number of Cyncad's clockhead automatons, the trio rescued Jack and managed a strategic retreat back to the relative safety of London's surface streets.  In the process, they confiscated a firearm used by one of Cyncad's higher ranking subordinates.

In his notes, Timothy Deakin identified the weapon as a heavily modified Saunders Æther V prototype, manufactured by Saunders and Sons in 1880.  He observed ". . . that numerous ventilation ports had been added to reduce the combustibility risks," and "exterior mechanics were used to synchronise particle beam rotation through the multiple barrels."
According to Devon Gillroy, Firearms Curator for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, Saunders and Sons abandoned the Æther V design in early 1881.  As noted here previously, Kenyon Saunders was tragically killed in 1882 while developing the company's Æther VI model.

Gillroy notes there is evidence that Cyncad was just then beginning to tinker with æther-based weaponry. That tinkering apparently involved numerous flawed designs absconded from Saunders laboratories. The modified Æther V was likely one of Cyncad's earliest experiments.  Timothy Deakin examined the piece extensively and concluded " . . . it is a thoroughly volatile and dangerous modification of an exceptionally flawed concept. "  He added, "I hope to God Almighty that it is the only one of its kind."  He then neutered it by removing its æther battery core and secured it in a lead-lined box within a second lead-lined box.  At some later date it was placed within the Hawkins Strongbox.

In July 1949, the pulp magazine Startling Stories published Adler Fanshaw's short story "The Battle Below," a thinly veiled albeit exaggerated fictional recounting of the rescue of Jack Deakin.  At the story's climax, the heroes are confronted by an adversary who was "brandishing a revolver forged in the firey pits of hell itself."  Museum researchers were inspired by Fanshaw's prose and Collection Item 55 became known as Hell's Revolver.

10 August, 2017

Curator's Notes

After six long years of legal quagmire, the Hawkins Strongbox online exhibition is finally ready to resume operations.  Due to court-imposed restrictions, we are not permitted to provide details of the litigations that effectively shut down our efforts in early 2011 and left our many readers confused and confounded.  Rest assured, we continue to decipher, unlock and explore the contents of the ever mysterious Hawkins Strongbox.  Item exhibits will be returning in the near future.  As always, thank you for your interest and patronage.

15 February, 2011

Item 85: The Fitzgerald Envelope

Chicago is indeed a long way from London, but it is the focus of Collection Item 85.  Christened the Fitzgerald Envelope by the research assistants at the Victorian Mechanical Museum, its contents are both enigmatic and revealing, and appear to open an entirely new chapter in the life of Geoffrey Hawkins.

It is known that Hawkins left England sometime after his second Hawkins Steam Coach was destroyed by sabotage in early 1889.  He spent most of the following decade traveling abroad, and spent a considerable amount of time living in a number of different locations in the United States.  Many of his journals from this time period remain missing, and those discovered have yet to be researched and cataloged.  But Collection Item 85 does inform us that Hawkins was in Kansas City, Missouri during the summer of 1895 and was likely associated in some manner with the Vanderzee Detective Bureau.

The Fitzgerald Envelope contained the following items:
  • a set of newspaper clippings from the Chicago Tribune, all of which were published in August, 1895.  (Item 85A)
  • a Western Union telegram sent to Geoffrey Hawkins in Kansas City, dated August 20, 1895.  (Item 85B)
  • a set of small mechanical components, severely blackened due to fire damage.  (Item 85C)
The newspaper clippings all focus on the then notorious case of  H.H. Holmes, a particularly heinous serial killer most famous for preying on female visitors to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The article headlined "Modern Bluebeard," published in the Chicago Tribune on August 18, 1895, took readers on a tour of Holmes' infamous home:
A veritable murder factory ban been discovered in the house built at Chicago by H. R. Holmes, who is charged with at least eleven murders and suspected of many more. In this house built and occupied by Holmes the police have found secret rooms without light or air, a sealed chamber, a hidden trap door leading to a hanging secret room, and a steel-bound room built into the wall.

The second floor is a labyrinth of mazes, doors, and passages.  It contains a death shaft, where bodies could be lowered into into the cellar and from which a hidden passage led to the sealed chamber. One witness has already identified the room where Holmes showed him three corpses on this floor of the house. Another has described a narrow escape from death in one of the dark rooms.

The cellar, where large quantities of human remains have been discovered, contains every provision for destroying bodies. Two large vaults of quicklime. one of them containing some human remains, have been found beneath the floor.  A hidden tank was found which contained a deadly oil, and when this was unearthed an explosion followed which nearly cost three of three workmen their lives. Even more horrible than this was the discovery of a crematory in the cellar where human bodies could be incinerated.

A woman's footprint discovered in a bed of quicklime in the cellar is supposed to be that of Miss Williams, who was last seen in this house and part of whose jewelry has been identified among the contents of a stove used by Holmes. Human bones of all kinds have been dug up out of the cellar of this Bluebeard's castle, and police have found tufts of hair, blood-stained lined and pieces of clothing which had been hastily concealed.
The second clipping is dated the very next day (August 19) and reports that a devastating fire had destroyed Holmes' "notorious castle."  The third clipping is a picture engraving of Holmes himself.

Item 85B is a Western Union telegram sent to Hawkins in Kansas City, in the care of the Vanderzee Detective Bureau.  This private agency was a more specialized rival to the famous Pinkertons and was established by Nicholas Vanderzee in 1885.  The message of the telegram is brief and mysterious:
To G. Hawkins
c/o The Vanderzee Agency, Troost Ave
Items requested are forthcoming. Fire destroyed building.  Nothing remains.

Item 85C is a set of three mechanical components, severely damaged and blackened by fire.  After careful examination by scientists at the Victorian Mechanical Museum, it was determined that these pieces closely matched the augmentations found on the Clock-Head Skull (Collection Item 5).  This evidence very strongly indicated that Dr. Enoch Cyncad, at some point prior to 1893, had emigrated to America.

And apparently Geoffrey Hawkins was attempting to find and apprehend him.

It can be assumed that the Fitzgerald in the telegram is Chicago Police Detective Fitzgerald, one of two detectives who investigated the Holmes "castle."  It appears that Fitzgerald found the mechanical pieces, likely in the basement crematorium, and forwarded them to Hawkins in Kansas City.

These revelations certainly raise more questions than they answer.  But they do set the stage for a greater exploration of Hawkins' visitations to the United States in the closing years of the 19th century.

26 January, 2011

Curator's Notes

Legal representation for the Victorian Mechanical Museum has given me permission to post this brief missive.  It is anticipated that the court-imposed gag order relating to the release of the Adler Fanshaw Envelope will be lifted sometime in the near future.  That action has effectively kept our online exhibition inactive for nearly 10 months and forced the temporary closure of the Museum's London facility.  Because the issues involved are international in scope, efforts to resolve the matter have been consistently frustrated and a resolution has been slow in materializing.  As always, thank you for your continued patronage and support.

17 April, 2010

Item 2: The Æther-Modified Flintlock

The curators and archivists at the Victorian Mechanical Museum have returned from their annual spring sabbatical, and upon said return have provided us with one of our more impressive collection items.  This particular item is not entirely new to our online exhibition.  Geoffrey Hawkins is holding an Æther-Modified Flintlock in a cabinet card photograph that was previously featured as Collection Item 46.  We are very pleased to announce that an example of that firearm was discovered within the Hawkins Strongbox and has been designated Collection Item 2.

According to Devon Gillroy, Firearms Curator for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, the Æther-Modified Flintlock was one of the very first successful applications of an æther power cell.   Gillroy explains:
"Geoffrey Hawkins and Berkley Vanderzee created the first æther battery during the summer of 1875.  A few months later, Hawkins suggested to Vanderzee that they use an æther cell to be the power source in their particle beam experiments.  When the two scientists successfully created a working particle beam in January of 1877, Faylynne Hyperion in turn applied their prototype firing mechanism to the stock of a typical flintlock-style dueling pistol.  The Æther-Modified Flintlock discovered within the strongbox was a final refinement of those early experimental pieces and stands as history's first documented particle beam weapon."
Museum records indicate that Hawkins, Hyperion and Vanderzee produced a total of twelve Æther-Modified Flintlock pistols between 1877 and 1880.  The Museum has been attempting to restore one such firearm that was discovered in Kansas City in 1999.  The fates of the other ten pistols remains a mystery, although one was rumored to have been seen among stored items at the British Museum as far back as 1968.

28 March, 2010

Curator's Notes

The curators and archivists at the Victorian Mechanical Museum have departed on their annual spring sabbatical and hence, we must take a similar break here at the Hawkins Strongbox online exhibition.  We will return to our normal exhibition schedule in mid-April.

Among our upcoming exhibitions: materials relating to the Kansas City-based Vanderzee Detective Bureau; documents pertaining to the mysterious and notorious Dr. Enoch Cyncad; and an actual æther firearm preserved within the strongbox itself.

As always, thank you for visiting and for your continued encouragement and support.

21 March, 2010

Item 107: The 1939 World's Fair Postcard

Collection Item 107: The 1939 World's Fair Postcard. 1939.

Item 107 is a small, but still very significant item.  In July of 1939, Timothy Deakin, a few months past his 84th birthday, attended the the New York World's Fair and subsequently mailed a postcard to a friend then living in Munhall, Pennsylvania.  It is the second item we have exhibited that dates from the 20th century.

The postcard was sent to G. Thomas at 3975 Main Street in Munhall, a small borough just outside of Pittsburgh.  The message on the card reads:

So wonderful to see you despite such a brief visit.  James and Min have brought us to the fair.  The world of Tomorrow feels just a bit like yesteryear to us.  Berkley would have no doubt found Elektro the Robot quite amusing, God rest his soul.

We regret we will not see you again as we will catch a plane in New York City.
All our best.  T.

According to Deakin family records, Timothy Deakin was residing with his son Everett in southern California in 1939.  His youngest son James lived in western Pennsylvania with his wife Minnie and their four children.  It can be assumed that Timothy had taken an extended trip to Pennsylvania during the early summer of 1939, and visited not just with his family but also with the mysterious G. Thomas.  James and Min later escorted Timothy to the World's Fair just outside of New York City, after which it appears he boarded an airplane and returned to California.

Was G. Thomas in fact Geoffrey Hawkins, who had vanished from society some 28 years earlier in 1911?  The tone of familiarity and the sentimental reference to Berkley Vanderzee, both contained within the missive, could certainly be clues to that effect. 

15 March, 2010

Item 20: The Æther Collectors: Matthew and James Hardy

Matthew and James Hardy dressed for æther collection.  1875.

Sons of a wealthy western Pennsylvania glasswork tycoon, Matthew and James Hardy took leave of their father's business in 1870 and went on to make one of the most important, albeit largely unrecognized discoveries of the 19th century.  During the summer of 1874, while exploring catacombs and caverns deep below the surface streets of London, the two self-proclaimed adventurers and explorers stumbled upon a plasma-type gas that would ultimately be dubbed æther upon later examination by Berkley Vanderzee and Geoffrey Hawkins.  An 1875 photograph of Matthew and James Hardy has been cataloged as Collection Item 20.

A patient, generous and indulgent father, Jasper Hardy wished his two sons well when they set out to see the world in the spring of 1870.  Their wanderings brought them to London in early 1874, where rumors of vast networks of tunnels and caverns below the city surface piqued their interests.  While preparing for their initial subterranean expedition, they met Berkley Vanderzee, from whom they acquired various supplies and mechanical instruments deemed necessary for their forthcoming journeys.  Vanderzee in turn brought their plans to the attention of his friend Geoffrey Hawkins, who was intrigued enough to underwrite some of their costs and expenditures.  It was on their second expedition in late August of 1874 that they made their momentous discovery.  The brothers subsequently presented samples to Vanderzee and Hawkins, who named the gaseous matter æther.  They took the name from Greek mythology, æther being known in that context as the substance of the heavens.  Within twelve months, Vanderzee and Hawkins had developed the first functioning æther power cell.

The æther deposits that the brothers discovered were deep underground and typically engulfed in toxic gases.  Successful extractions depended on the two being outfitted with specialized optics and breathing filters, thus accounting for their appearance in the above image.  The Victorian Mechanical Museum displays a number of æther-collection items at their London location, including the optics and masks that Matthew and James are wearing in the photo.

From the collection of the Victorian Mechanical Museum.

Matthew Hardy chronicled his subterranean adventures in a book entitled My Travels Underground, published in London in 1889, but he and James never revealed publicly any information about æther or the æther-powered weapons and devices subsequently created by Vanderzee and Hawkins, and later Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion.

09 March, 2010

Item: 111: The Adler Fanshaw Envelope

Collection Item 111: The Adler Fanshaw Envelope and Contents.  1953.

The mysteries contained within the Hawkins Strongbox are in no way limited to the 19th century.  Archer Bowens, Documents Archivist for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, has recently recovered an envelope dating from 1953, the contents of which relate to an individual named Adler Fanshaw, a 19th century contemporary of Geoffrey Hawkins.  This envelope and its contents have been cataloged as Collection Item 111.

The contents are:
  • a cabinet card photograph of Adler Fanshaw, dated 1893. (Item 111A)
  • a newspaper clipping of an obituary for Fanshaw, annotated with a date of August 15, 1953. (Item 111B)
  • a copy of Startling Stories magazine from July 1949.  (Item 111C)
  • an incomplete transcript of an apparent interrogation of Fanshaw, date-stamped October 5, 1953.  (Item 111D)
The focal point of this discovery is most certainly the four typed pages that appear to document an interview conducted with a 92 year-old Fanshaw sometime in late 1952 or 1953.  The pages are numbered 2 through 4; each bears a date stamp of OCT 5 1953.  What follows are scans of those pages.  

(Select each page for an enlarged image.  A separate transcription of all four pages can be found here. )

Page 1 (Document Page 2)
Page 2 (Document Page 3)
Page 3 (Document Page 4)

Page 4 (Document Page 5)

The Fanshaw document is quite a discovery, albeit a very enigmatic one.  It is incomplete; page one is missing and it is unknown how many pages followed page five.  It is an original typed document, not a carbon copy.  It is likely that it was transcribed from another copy at the time of the OCT 5 1953 date stamp, and that occurred some seven weeks after Fanshaw's death on August 15.  The four pages appear to then have been removed or stolen at some point from their place of storage.

Who was interrogating Adler Fanshaw?  Archer Bowens notes, "The recipient of the pages made an intriguing notation--connecting the initials "CS" with the name Starkweather.  This proved to be a fortuitous clue as it directed us to the person of Cameron Starkweather, information about whom existed in our own archives here at the Victorian Mechanical Museum."

According to internal records, Victorian Mechanical Museum Curator Robert Fitzhugh was visited on December 2, 1947 by a gentleman who identified himself as Jonathan Rogers, an American private investigator working at the behest of a lawyer settling estate issues relating to a member of the Hawkins family.  He was searching for any documents and personal effects that may have belonged to Geoffrey Hawkins, who had disappeared in 1911.  Suspicious of the man's story and motives, Fitzhugh dismissed him politely but firmly.  Fitzhugh, a retired British intelligence officer, immediately began an investigation of the man.

After making a number of discreet inquiries to former associates in the intelligence community, Fitzhugh discovered that Jonathan Rogers was in fact Colonel Cameron Starkweather, an American military intelligence officer.  It was determined that Starkweather was at that time assigned to Project Nick, a top secret operation located at Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.  Project Nick was created to determine the feasibility of particle beam weapons, applying theories developed by the late Nikola Tesla.  It immediately became apparent why Starkweather was pursuing information and materials relating to Geoffrey Hawkins; the members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun had invented particle beam weapons using ætherdynamic science some six decades earlier.

Project Nick was supposedly disbanded a few years after its inception, so it is not clear why Starkweather was so aggressively pursuing the matter with Fanshaw in 1953.  A similar initiative was undertaken in 1958 by ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency; later DARPA) and given the codename Project Seesaw.  It is unknown whether Starkweather had any involvement with that operation.

Apparently, a frustrated Starkweather learned very little from any of his investigations.  The recipient of the four-page transcript even made a point of underscoring one particular statement made by Starkweather:  " . . .we have to date been unable to collect any substantial information or resources concerning Mr. Hawkins and his associates."

It is not known exactly when Starkweather conducted the interview with Fanshaw, but it would have occurred sometime between October 10, 1952 and Fanshaw's death on August 15, 1953, based on Fanshaw's stated age.

Presented next is the newspaper clipping of Fanshaw's obituary:

The annotated date of August 15, 1953 refers to the day of Fanshaw's death; that is confirmed by the Saturday reference in the obituary.  The date of publication was either August 16 or 17; Fanshaw's funeral was held on August 18, 1953.  Though unidentified, the newspaper was likely the Homestead Daily Messenger.  Fanshaw's home in Munhall, Pennsylvania was quite close to the Duquense location where the Hawkins Strongbox was discovered in 2003.

Also included in the envelope was a copy of the magazine Startling Stories that was referenced in the interrogation transcript.

The short story, The Battle Below, is listed on the contents page with the tag line, "Deep below the streets of London, secrets await discovery."  Archer Bowens recalls, "The Musuem's last contact with Adler Fanshaw was in the early 1940s.  He had donated a number of notes and records relating to his tenure at the London Evening Gazette during the 1880s.  He had published a few obscure mystery novels in the '30s and a smattering of magazine stories during the war.  The Battle Below was an unusual departure for him, coming so late in his life and referencing long kept Society secrets.  One can not help but question his motivations for writing and publishing it."

The remaining item found within the Fanshaw Envelope is somewhat of an anomaly, but significant nonetheless.  This cabinet card portrait of Fanshaw is dated 1893, predating the other items by sixty years.

In the portrait, Fanshaw wears a Mechanical Sun brooch on his lapel.  His membership in the Society of the Mechanical Sun had been long suspected but never confirmed.  It would appear that question has now been resolved.

06 March, 2010

Item 49: Falynne Hyperion Cabinet Card

Item 49: Cabinet Card of Falynne Hyperion.  Early 1882.

We have to this point said little of Falynne Hyperion, an original member of the Society of the Mechanical Sun, whose 1882 cabinet card portrait we now reveal.  We have previously exhibited  the portraits of the other founding members, Geoffrey Hawkins (Item 46), Timothy Deakin (Item 47) and Berkley Vanderzee (Item 48).  The cabinet card of Falynne Hyperion is classified as Collection Item 49.

Falynne Jane Maddock was born to parents Magnus and Ivory Maddock in Paris in on 15 May, 1853.  Magnus Maddock, a professional magician, was better known to the general public as Magnus Hyperion.  Maddock was born and raised in London, but shortly after his marriage to Ivory in 1848, he traveled to Paris to study under the tutelage of master conjurer and performer Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin.  The couple returned to London in 1857 where Magnus, as the Grande Hyperion, became one of England's premiere stage magicians.

Ivory Maddock was tragically and brutally murdered in October of 1862, leaving Maddock as the sole caregiver for the young Falynne.  She soon became immersed in her father's professional life and was especially fascinated with the mechanics of the illusions he created and performed.  By age seventeen, she was designing and building her own illusions that Magnus happily included in his repertoire.  She traveled extensively with her father throughout much of Europe and the Americas prior to his retirement in 1875.   When her father's tour stopped in Chicago during the summer of 1873, she met cattle rancher Nicholas Vanderzee.  Impressed with the young woman's intellect and natural abilities, Nicholas suggested she contact his brother Berkley, a well-known London inventor and watchmaker.  Nicholas would write his brother on Falynne's behalf and suggest an informal apprenticeship to commence when Falynne returned to London later that year.

Falynne had little interest in theater and celebrity, and with the help of Berkley Vanderzee, instead channeled her passion for mechanical design into successful enterprises as both inventor and entrepreneur, remarkable achievements in the male-dominated society of Victorian England.

As a tribute to her father upon his passing in 1878, she formally adopted Hyperion as her surname.

The set of four cabinet cards and the Hawkins timepiece have been formally categorized as Lot 1: January 1882.

03 March, 2010

Correspondence: George Eastman and Timothy Deakin

As always, our thanks to all our exhibition visitors who have contacted us with kind words and encouragement.   We truly appreciate your time and attention.

A recent query from a Hawkins Strongbox online exhibition visitor:
  • Andrew T. asks:  "You note that Timothy Deakin was a photographer by trade, but also characterize him as a scientist, inventor and mechanical genius.  Was he known for any important innovations in photography?"
Timothy Deakin was most certainly an accomplished and skilled studio photographer, though less so than his brothers Robert and Jack.  In the field of photography, Timothy Deakin was most interested in camera optics.  It was this area of specialization that lead to his inventing and producing numerous sets of multi-purpose goggles and other various optical related devices.

In 1886, Timothy Deakin traveled to Rochester, New York at the request of George Eastman.  Though their discussions were closely guarded and largely undocumented, it is believed that Deakin provided Eastman with numerous optical designs that Eastman in turn incorporated into his own Kodak line of cameras, the first of which was introduced in 1888.  In exchange, Deakin became a shareowner of the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company (soon to become the Eastman Kodak Company), a shrewd business maneuver that kept him financially secure for the remainder of his life.  He especially profited when Eastman completed a controversial refinancing of the company in London in 1898.  Another distinct benefit of his close relationship with Eastman was access to prototype cameras and film processes, long before such products reached the general public. Deakin quietly assisted Eastman when the company opened offices and a retail space on Oxford Street in London in 1888.  He  was also granted access to the processing laboratory at the Oxford Street location where he was able to conduct his own occasional photographic research and experimentation.
Timothy Deakin standing in front of the Eastman Kodak London offices,
following relocation from Oxford Street to Clerkenwell Road.  1902. 
Courtesy of the Deakin Family Archives.

27 February, 2010

Item 5: The Clock-Head Skull

Item 5: Clock-head skull discovered by the River Thames in 1881. 

History has left few records of the clock-heads.  These mechanically deformed creatures terrified London slum dwellers throughout the late 1870s and early 1880s, but were largely considered fabrications by the police and newspaper reporters.  One documented newspaper account of a clock-head incident (The London Evening Gazette; 19 September, 1879) characterized eyewitnesses as "greatly intoxicated with drink and revelry and inclined to exaggeration." According to a number of his friends, writer Wilkie Collins was fascinated by "clock-head gossip" as it potentially related to vivisection, the subject of his 1883 book Heart and Science.  But he too ultimately dismissed the plausibility of such reports.

Geoffrey Hawkins and his associates took reports of clock-heads very seriously.  From 1878 through late 1881, Hawkins employed a number of private investigators to pursue any and all information regarding the creatures.  It was his hope to discover what person or collective was behind the creation and disposition of these human-mechanical augmentations.

On Christmas Eve, 1881, investigator Archibald Teddington delivered to Hawkins a human skull that had been discovered by a mudlark* along the banks of the Thames.  It was the first tangible evidence of a clock-head that Hawkins was able to acquire.  That skull, with its embedded mechanical constructs, was ultimately secured inside a small chest within the Hawkins Strongbox.  It is presented here as Collection Item 5.

The skull was examined extensively by Berkley Vanderzee.  It had three distinct augmentations: one large piece embedded in the forehead, a smaller piece drilled into the right side, and a final piece inside the right eye socket.  The forehead piece confirmed the one physical trait nearly all clock-head witnesses agreed upon.  It also matched the drawing produced by a prostitute in 1880 and forwarded to Hawkins by Henry Mayhew (Item 25).  But most alarming to Vanderzee was what he found within the skull's front right ventricle: an active æther cell.  This essentially confirmed Hawkins' long simmering suspicions that Dr. Enoch Cyncad was the mysterious and sinister force behind the clock-head monstrosities.

Berkley Vanderzee with the clock-head skull at the Scientia Club.  1881. 

It would appear that the discovery of the skull most certainly lead to the formation of the Society of the Mechanical Sun less than three weeks later on 9 January, 1882.  The skull itself can be seen in a photograph dated 27 December, 1881.  The photo was apparently taken inside the Scientia Club in London.  Berkely Vanderzee is pictured standing at a small table examining the skull.

*mudlark - "Groups of children spread over the banks were waiting till the river, exposed to its bed of sand, left bare on its banks tongues of damp mud, sullen promontories, which at regular distances ran at low water down into the stream. When the tide was perfectly low, these bands of boys, among whom I noticed girls, a few men, and many old women, scattered on both sides of the Thames over the exposed mud and among the vessels the tide had left high and dry. I there saw them waded up to their knees in the viscous mud covering the sand: they were mud-larks. It may be asked what these swarms of finders expect to find on these sterile spots : they collect in baskets pieces of coal, wood, nails, and, by extreme good luck, a few coppers. They are seen along the whole distance from Vauxhall to Woolwich: some of the children are not above six years of age: nearly all the old women have decrepid features, rendered even more hideous by their wretched rags; the boys all look rather wild and savage; their clothing generally consists of an old straw hat, a coloured shirfr, and trousers tucked up to the knees, though some of them do not possess what can be called a garment, but only rags scarce covering them."
From The English at Home Volume 2 by  Alphonse Esquiros.  1861.

25 February, 2010

Curator's Notes

Visiting the 20th Century.  The scope of the Hawkins Strongbox online collection has to date been focused primarily on items dating from the late 19th century.  We will soon be expanding that focus quite a bit as we feature items from the 20th century as well.  Archivists at the Victorian Mechanical Museum inform me that they have just recently cataloged a rather important document from 1953, and hope to have it available for online exhibition soon.

The Mysterious Lady Hyperion.  We have received a number inquiries of late regarding the identity of Falynne Hyperion, who has been mentioned recently in relation to the ever enigmatic Society of the Mechanical Sun.  We will be introducing you to Miss Hyperion in short order; her 1882 cabinet card is being prepared for online exhibition even as this missive is being written.  Look for it during the latter part of the next week. 

Chronologically Speaking.  If you are new visitor to the Hawkins Strongbox, we highly recommend you spend a few moments exploring the Hawkins Strongbox Chronology.  It organizes the information derived from the Collections Items into a year-by-year linear history.

Special Thanks.  Our thanks and gratitude are extended to both The Heliograph and The Steampunk Librarian for recognizing our online exhibition and recommending us to their intelligent and most sophisticated readerships.  We are happy to include both sites in our catalog of Academic Referrals.

23 February, 2010

Item 46: Geoffrey Hawkins Cabinet Card 1882

Item 46: Cabinet Card of Geoffrey Hawkins.  Early 1882.

We noted in a prior post that Geoffrey Hawkins, Timothy Deakin, Berkley Vanderzee and Falynne Hyperion all posed for portraits shortly after establishing the Society of the Mechanical Sun in January of 1882.  These portraits were made into cabinet cards and a complete set was found within the Hawkins Strongbox.  We have exhibited the Deakin and Vanderzee cards (Items 47 and 48 respectively) and today reveal the Geoffrey Hawkins portrait.  It has been classified as Collection Item 46.

Hawkins posed for this photograph holding an early model æther-modified flintlock pistol.  He also wears a Mechanical Sun brooch similar to the one worn by Timothy Deakin in his portrait.  It is not entirely certain whether Hawkins was right-handed. left-handed or ambidextrous. In a 1884 cabinet card (Item 254), he holds a Vanderzee-Deakin Æther III in his left hand.  

20 February, 2010

Item 1: The Geoffrey Hawkins Mechanical Sun Timepiece

It is perhaps the most important item to be found within the Hawkins Strongbox thus far.  In a material sense, it is an extraordinary example of æther-based mechanical craftsmanship.  Historically, it is a significant and tangible representation of the origin of the Society of the Mechanical Sun, the secret Victorian-era organization so directly and dramatically connected to the Hawkins Strongbox and its contents.  It is the Geoffrey Hawkins Mechanical Sun Timepiece and it has been appropriately designated as Collection Item 1.

The purpose of the Society of the Mechanical Sun has long been shrouded in mystery and secrecy, and rumors have abounded as to its mission and motivations. It was primarily populated by scientists, inventors and mechanical engineers.  Whenever the group was threatened by public awareness, its members would attempt to portray it as a simple social club.  Geoffrey Hawkins once responded to a reporter's inquiries by calling it a "--collection of self-absorbed intellectuals and academics too often debating matters most mundane and tedious."  But Hawkins and his associates were notable for cleverly misrepresenting their remarkable and often fantastic private adventures, and consistently portraying these affairs " . . . as fanciful fictions better suited to the penny dreadfuls than events of any historical significance."

Many prominent Victorians were rumored to have been members.  Speculation focused on figures such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Bell, Max Planck and Heinrich Hertz, just to name a few. Wilkie Collins reportedly told close friends that he had declined a membership invitation.  Jules Verne was frequently mentioned as being one of the group's founding members.  Yet neither history, nor any of the contents of the Hawkins Strongbox so far cataloged, have yet to confirm Mechanical Sun membership of anyone other than the four individuals we are about to identify.

On the evening of 9 January, 1882, Geoffrey Hawkins, Timothy Deakin, Berkley Vanderzee and Falynne Hyperion met in a private dining room at the Scientia Club in London.  Over the course of a few hours, they created the Society of the Mechanical Sun and initiated themselves as its charter members. Strongbox items so far documented indicate that the group's initial mission focused on containing the use of ætherdynamic technology, especially as it related to the plans and machinations of Dr. Enoch Cyncad.

A few weeks later, Berkley Vanderzee presented each of the members, including himself, with a custom-designed æther-powered pocket watch, denoting their status within the Society.  Vanderzee personally constructed the four timepieces and also designed the Mechanical Sun emblem that adorned the cover of each one.  (Objects employing the same design can be found in Items 47 and 48.)  An inscription on the inside cover of each read "The Society of the Mechanical Sun; January 9, 1882."  The watch face was personalized to each individual and also included Mechanical Sun and Vanderzee identifications. The design required no winding as its internal mechanisms were powered by a small but powerful æther cell.

Geoffrey Hawkins' Mechanical Sun timepiece was found within the Hawkins Strongbox, carefully preserved inside a metal case with a cushioned interior.  A small note was also found within the case.

The text of the note:
At 5:56 on the morning of July 17, 1955, Vanderzee's timepiece is finally still.  It was powered by the last remaining active æther cell on the planet.
 The Mechanical Sun timepieces belonging to Berkley Vanderzee, Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion remain unaccounted for.

16 February, 2010

Item 48: Berkley Vanderzee Cabinet Card

Item 48: Cabinet Card of Berkley Vanderzee. Early 1882. 

Shortly after establishing the Society of the Mechanical Sun in January of 1882, its four founding members posed for formal portraits at Deakin Bro's Studio to commemorate the organization's inception.  The cabinet card of Timothy Deakin (HS Item 47) was the first of these four photographs to be discovered within the Hawkins Strongbox.  We will feature the cabinet cards of Geoffrey Hawkins and Falynne Hyperion in the near future.  Today we present Collection Item 48, the cabinet card of Berkley Vanderzee.

Berkley and his twin brother Nicholas were born on the Missouri frontier on 13 November, 1841 to parents Miles and Gillian Vanderzee.  Shortly after the boys' sixteenth birthday in 1857, their mother was killed by a stray bullet from a gunfight between rival outlaw gangs in Kansas City.  Disillusioned and distraught, Berkley and his father, a British emigre, returned to England in early 1858, where Berkley was apprenticed to a London watchmaker.  Nicholas remained in the states, working on a cattle ranch owned by his maternal uncle Giles Ainsworth.

Berkley Vanderzee became publicly renown for his timepieces and also for his mechanical automata.  With his close friends and associates he shared his more elaborate and complicated constructs, such as the mechanical spider posed on his shoulder in this particular portrait.  In his hand he holds a newly crafted emblem of the Mechanical Sun, similar to the brooch Timothy Deakin wears in his own portrait.

13 February, 2010

The Hawkins Strongbox Chronology

 In a effort to aid collection visitors and academic scholars alike, we are very happy to announce the establishment of the Hawkins Strongbox Chronology.  The Chronology will be an ongoing effort to organize the information presented in the Hawkins Strongbox online exhibition into a year-by-year linear history.  As new collection items are presented, relevant historical data associated with those items will in turn be incorporated into the Chronology.  The Chronology can be accessed via the sidebar link on this page.

10 February, 2010

Item 25: Henry Mayhew Letter with Enclosure

  Item 25: Henry Mayhew Letter with Envelope. 1880

During the mid-19th century, Henry Mayhew was a well known writer, journalist and advocate for social reform.  He wrote numerous plays and was also a co-founder of Punch magazine, the enduring British publication famous for its satire and literary humor.  But history remembers Mayhew most for the investigations of London's lower classes that he conducted throughout 1849 and 1850.  He reported his findings in a series of articles for the Morning Observer; these surveys were ultimately collected in a book entitled London Labour and the London Poor.  His work was groundbreaking and significant and had an especially notable influence on the novels and stories of Charles Dickens.

Despite the fame and reputation these endeavors brought to Mayhew, he fell into obscurity in his later years.  The events of his life from1865 until his death in 1887 have long been a mystery, but Collection Item 25 reveals that for at least part of that time he was in contact with Geoffrey Hawkins.  Item 25 is a letter Mayhew wrote to Hawkins on 22 May, 1880.  It was accompanied in the envelope by a what is believed to be the very first documentation of a clock-head.

The text of the letter:

22 May 1880

My Dear Hawkins,

I regret again that I have found no evidence of this mysterious Cyncad of whom you queried me earlier this year.

Though I remain the social recluse you stumbled upon a decade ago, I am no stranger to the streets of this city and I often walk the avenues and alleys that I so notoriously explored more than a score of years ago.

Word of these clock-heads continues to spread.  The police are quick to characterize these reports as the fabrications of of drunken miscreants, and the members of the press seem to have no interest in pursuing the story, apparently judging it unworthy of even uncultured sensationalism.

By chance and good fortune I was recently presented with a drawing of one of these clock-heads.  It is rumored to have been hastily rendered by a prostitute residing within the Old Nichol Street rookery who had been accosted by one of the creatures.  You will find that rendering enclosed herein.  I will leave it to your judgment as to whether any of this bears relevance to your ongoing investigations.

I remain your humble servant in these matters,

H. Mayhew

Item 25-A: Drawing of a Clock-Head. 1880.

The drawing that Mayhew references bears the following inscription, apparently written by Mayhew himself:

given to me 17 May 1880
by A. Steenburgen
artist name unknown
resided in old nichol

Hawkins was actively pursuing the notorious Dr. Cyncad at this time and at some point had enlisted Henry Mayhew in his efforts.  When Archer Bowens forwarded these materials, he noted that it is likely that this was the first time Hawkins and his associates determined a possible link between Cyncad and the clock-heads.