12 March, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion

Tintype of Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion Deakin. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

We have long been remiss in noting that two members of our historical cast of characters enjoyed a relationship that extended well beyond their mutual involvement and membership in the Society of the Mechanical Sun.  Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion were married on 31 August, 1885.  We formally acknowledge this matrimonial status as we present our latest exhibit relating to the series of 1889 tintypes discovered within the Deakin Archive.  Our third featured tintype showcases the then Mr. and Mrs. Deakin in what is most certainly a rather non-traditional portrait of a Victorian-era married couple.

As with the other 1889 tintypes, the photograph was taken by Robert Deakin as members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun were preparing to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.  Timothy Deakin is brandishing an æther-modified flintlock, one of twelve produced in the late 1870s by Hyperion in collaboration with Geoffrey Hawkins and Berkley Vanderzee.

10 March, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Berkley Vanderzee

Tintype of Berkley Vanderzee. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

Scientist and inventor Berkley Vanderzee is the subject of our second exhibition relating to the 1889 tintypes discovered as a part of the Deakin Archives.  This tintype is especially significant in that it confirms that Vanderzee did in fact lose his right arm and ultimately replaced it with a rather sophisticated æther-powered mechanical prosthesis.

"Based on numerous written accounts, we knew that Vanderzee lost his right arm in an accident that occurred in his automaton laboratory during the summer of 1885," notes Archer Bowens, Documents Archivist for the Victorian Mechanical Museum. "We had encountered some written references to experiments with æther-based replacement arms, but the tintype is the first visual confirmation of his use of an actual mechanical device."

As with the other 1889 tintypes, the photograph was taken by Robert Deakin as members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun were preparing to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.  The image shows Vanderzee standing near two combat modified IA Æther Collectors.  The intelligent automations were originally created by Vanderzee in the early 1880s for the purpose of extracting æther from remote and inaccessible deposits in caverns and catacombs deep beneath London. They appear to have been retrofitted with æther-powered particle beam cannons.

06 March, 2018

The 1889 Tintypes: Geoffrey Hawkins

Tintype of Geoffrey Hawkins. 1889.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

After a number of recent 20th century explorations, we return to the 19th century to showcase items from the Deakin Archive.  Archive curator Matthew Alexander has provided us with a series of photographic tintypes that date to the summer of 1889. The images prominently feature members of the Society of the Mechanical Sun as they prepare to confront Enoch Cyncad in his underground stronghold.

A tintype was an early photographic process by which an image was produced by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer.  The metal sheet then provided support for the resulting emulsion.  Tintypes were widely used during the 1860s and 1870s and remained in use well into the early 20th century.  The format became especially popular due to its portability and ease of use in settings beyond a normal indoor studio.

The 1889 tintypes discovered in the Deakin Archive were likely created by Robert Deakin.  Our first featured image in the series presents Geoffrey Hawkins as he navigates an underground tunnel.  He is clad in a kind of improvised battle outfit and carrying a rifle-type weapon.  Devon Gillroy, Firearms Curator for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, clarifies, "Hawkins is armed with a æther-modified blunderbuss which could blow a hole in the side of a brick building.  In the underground setting, he likely used it for demolition in addition to assault and defense."

07 February, 2018

Item 110: Tomorrow Comics #1

The eccentricities of a retired newspaper reporter, and the potential dangers those eccentricities presented, are showcased in Collection Item 110.  The item designation encompasses a copy of issue #1 of Tomorrow Comics, published in May of 1939, and a typewritten letter found tucked within the comic's pages. The comic book was enclosed in an envelope addressed to G. Thomas at 3975 Main Street in Munhall, Pennsylvania and bearing a Los Angeles postmark of 28 August, 1939.

The retired newspaper reporter in question is Adler Fanshaw, whose association with the Society of the Mechanical Sun and the Hawkins Strongbox histories spans parts of both the 19th and 20th centuries.  Fanshaw gained admission to the secret organization in late 1882, shortly after he assisted Timothy Deakin rescue Deakin's younger brother Jack from criminal underlings working for Dr. Enoch Cyncad. Fanshaw moved to America in 1921 and in his retirement wrote pulp fiction for various publications.  As noted in a recent exhibit here, his Rocket City series of stories was adapted into three successful movie serials in the early 1940s.  With the Strongbox discovery of Tomorrow Comics #1, it is revealed that Fanshaw was also writing scripts for comic books as well.

Archer Bowens, Documents Archivist for the Victorian Mechanical Museum, was instrumental in discovering and deciphering the contents of the Fanshaw Envelope (Collection Item 111) which revealed evidence of Fanshaw's superficially disguised, Mechanical Sun inspired storytelling.  Bowens notes, "We were aware of Adler's short fiction, most notably what was published in Starling Stories.  But it never came to our attention that he was doing comic book work as well."  He adds, "Even though the comic book credits never include his first name, the Sparky Elektro story in Tomorrow Comics #1 leaves no doubt that the comic book Fanshaw and Alder Fanshaw are one in the same."

Tomorrow Comics was published by Lake City Periodicals, a small magazine company based in Chicago.  Issue #1 featured the debut of Sparky Elektro, a superhero who could "harness the raw power of electricity itself." The untitled story is credited to Fanshaw and Brooks and is highly derivative of names and places relating to the 1939 New York World's Fair.  The name Sparky Elektro is a direct lift from Elektro the robot, the premiere attraction at the fair's Westinghouse pavilion.  The story itself takes place at the fair and the fictional Robot Exhibition Building is based on the design of the actual Westinghouse pavilion.
Fanshaw's indirect but obvious allusions to the Society of the Mechanical Sun are reflected in the characters of "evil scientist Dr. Sin-Cad" and "scientist and businessman Bernard Zeevander," derived from real life counterparts Enoch Cyncad and Berkley Vanderzee.  The story focuses on Sin-Cad's attempt to steal Zeevander's World's Fair robots and then unlock the secret of the mysterious energy source that powers them.  It is a reference to Berkley Vanderzee's  æther-powered intelligent automata and Enoch Cyncad's  numerous attempts to appropriate them.
"Adler struggled with an obvious paradox for most of his life," observes Bowens. "How does one reconcile being a dedicated journalist, always striving for truth and transparency, and at the same time commit to the secrecy of a covert society of scientists whose discoveries and inventions were newsworthy beyond measure? Later in his life he could contain it no longer and it emerged in the form of pulp fiction and comic book adventures."
Fanshaw likely considered these fictionalizations benign and harmless, but the material most definitely alarmed other Society members, as indicated by the typewritten letter found tucked inside the comic book:
   Please pardon the impersonal nature of the typewritten missive but my arthritis has been paining me beyond measure these last few weeks.
   Why am I forwarding to you a child's comic? I can only relate to you my shock when little George was reading aloud from its stories. I hear him cite the names Sin Cad and Zeevander. Upon examining the comic more closely, it appears that the story is a veiled reference to events we have strived to obscure for the past half century. We have long been worried about Adler's sometimes dangerous eccentricities, and this most certainly validates those concerns. He did not even bother to conceal his own name in the publication.
   We have warned him repeatedly in recent years about tangible threats. We know that the Germans are actively searching for Society secrets and this has the potential to compromise the safety of our family and friends. But he continues to ignore all attempts at contact or correspondence. A personal visit, perhaps?
   Share with me your thoughts,
The letter is significant and reveletory in many ways.  It appears to confirm that Geoffrey Hawkins was indeed the same G. Thomas who received the 1939 World's Fair Postcard (Item 107) and that Hawkins was very much alive and well almost three decades after his mysterious disappearance in 1911.  The address in Munhall, Pennsylvania is just a few miles from the location where the Hawkins Strongbox was discovered in 2003.  The Los Angeles postmark and signature "T." would indicate that the letter and comic book were sent to Hawkins by Timothy Deakin.  Deakin was living with his son Everett in southern California at the time.  Bowens notes, "The reference to the Germans seeking Society secrets is a notable and intriguing avenue of research we will need to explore further." 

The tangible threats that Deakin references eventually caught up to Fanshaw shortly before his death in 1953, as documented by the aforementioned Collection Item 111: The Adler Fanshaw Envelope.  Whether Cameron Starkweather specifically followed these same comic book breadcrumbs to Fanshaw is as yet to be determined.

02 January, 2018

Curator's Notes: Ted Hawkins in Hollywoodland

Hollywoodland Magazine.  September 1940.

Stepping away from the Strongbox for a moment, we are today presenting additional material and information that relates to the recent exhibit of the Collection Item 317: The Rocket City Lobby Card 1942.  In that post, we introduced visitors to Ted Hawkins, grandson of Geoffrey Hawkins.  Fortunately, we do not have to rely on the contents of a secure strongbox to provide further details and ephemera about this most interesting gentleman.

Ted Hawkins began his film career as a stuntman at Republic Pictures in the mid-1930s.  In 1939, family friend Magnus Deakin offered Hawkins similar work at the fledgling Hyperion-Zephyr Productions. In early 1940, Hawkins landed the leading role of Captain Zephrim Cutlass in the chapter serial The Pirates of Blood Cove and was quickly on a path to stardom.  Later that year he completed two western films, The Timberjack Kid and Riders of the Desert Sun, and then starred in the fifteen episode serial Zephyr Squadron to the Rescue.  His dashing good looks and friendly nature made him a darling of the Hollywood press, despite his poverty row studio pedigree. In September of 1940, he was featured on the cover of Hollywoodland magazine.
Publicity Photo of Ted Hawkins. 1940.

Hawkins is best known for portraying Preston Powers in the three Rocket City chapter serials produced from 1942 to 1945. In the late 1940s, he starred in a series of well regarded crime dramas that are now considered minor classics of the film noir genre. He made his last film in 1953 and then quietly retired to live near family and friends in western Pennsylvania.

18 December, 2017

Item 317: Adventures in Rocket City Lobby Card 1942

Collection Item 317: Adventures in Rocket City Lobby Card. 1942.

What possible connection does a 1942 movie serial have to the Hawkins Strongbox histories?  That is the riddle presented by Collection Item 317.

Adventures in Rocket City was a fifteen chapter movie serial produced by Hyperion-Zephyr Productions and released during the summer of 1942.  Discovered inside the Hawkins Strongbox was an original studio lobby card used to promote the picture and now archived as Collection Item 317.  The item measures 11 in x 14 in and was printed in a sepia tone black and white.

Hyperion-Zephyr Productions was a part of Hollywood's poverty row, a collection of studios that specialized in B pictures and movie serials.  The studio emerged in late 1939, taking over the former Disney Studio location at 2719 Hyperion Avenue in the Silver Lake neighborhood just east of Hollywood.  Walt Disney had moved his studio to Burbank earlier that year. Hyperion-Zephyr used that facility for soundstage production, while operating a backlot at the Timberjack Movie Ranch in the nearby San Fernando Valley.

Despite its second-class status in the studio hierarchy, Hyperion-Zephyr earned a reputation for producing good looking films with impressive optical and special effects that belied their typically low budgets.  While most of the other poverty row studios focused on westerns and crime dramas, Hyperion-Zephyr specialized in science fiction and fantasy adventures.  Adventures in Rocket City was one of the studio's more high profile endeavors and spawned two sequels, Revolt of the Rocket City Robots in 1944 and Rocket City Race to Jupiter in 1945.

But what connects all of this to the Hawkins Strongbox and its storied cast of 19th century historical characters?  An examination of the credits on the lobby card provides at least some answers.

Adventures in Rocket City was inspired by a series of stories by Adler Fanshaw, published in the magazine Startling Stories between 1939 and 1942.  As visitors here know, Fanshaw was a member of the Society of the Mechanical Sun.  Following his retirement from newspaper work in 1925, he wrote novels and short stories until his death on 15 August 1953.
Publicity Photo of Ted Hawkins. 1942.

The serial starred Ted Hawkins as hero Preston Powers.  Hawkins was born Theodore Victor Pepper on 20 October 1904 in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.  He was the youngest son of parents Brent Hawkins Pepper and Orphelia Burby Pepper.  His paternal grandfather was Geoffrey Hawkins.

The film was directed by Magnus Deakin. He was born in 1908 to parents Everett Deakin and Mary Ann Hughes Deakin.  His paternal grandparents were Timothy Deakin and Falynne Hyperion Deakin.  Magnus Deakin was one of four individuals who formed Hyperion-Zephyr Productions. It would appear that the name of the studio was inspired in part by Falynne Hyperion's late 19th century airship fleet. Prior to the studio's inception, Magnus Deakin worked for Walt Disney Productions where he helped develop the multiplane camera and numerous other technical innovations.

04 December, 2017

Collection Item 98: Cabinet Card of Shannon Kennicot Pepper and Brent Hawkins Pepper

We have discovered little so far within the Hawkins Strongbox that provides details of the passionate and sometimes contentious relationship between Geoffrey Hawkins and Shannon Kennicot. The two met as teenagers in their native Dixton in the late 1860s. A desultory courtship ensued over the next decade, culminating in the birth of their out-of-wedlock son Brent Hawkins, on 1 December, 1877.  Thirteen years later, mother and son posed for a photograph at Deakin Bro's studio in London. Collection Item 98 is a cabinet card of that photograph.

Item 98 has been designated as part of Lot 15: Frontier Ephemera. Robert Deakin sent the card to Geoffrey Hawkins when Hawkins was staying at the Timberjack Ranch in Nevada during the autumn of 1890. Included with the card was the following missive:
     I hope this finds you well. Young Brent asked me to send you this copy, despite his mother's objections. Your son is wise beyond his years. He may not know of the Society and the troubles with Cyncad, but he seems to truly sense you are not the devil his mother portrays you to be.  Shannon does it all to protect Brent, of this I am certain, but he will chart his own course, I am sure.
     They live comfortably as Roderick's inheritance provides for their needs. The Society endeavours to keep them safe. I hope the image cheers you as you continue to try to squelch this evil that has beset us these too many years.
                                                              Stay safe my friend,
The note was dated 9 September 1890.

It can be assumed the Geoffrey Hawkins wanted to shield Brent and his mother from the dangers of Enoch Cyncad and thereby initiated the estrangement that Robert Deakin alludes to in the missive.

Shannon Kennicot married book publisher Roderick Pepper in 1879. Pepper in turn adopted Brent on the occasion of  the boy's fifth birthday.  Roderick Pepper died suddenly in 1888, leaving the inheritance that Deakin makes reference to. Upon reaching adulthood, Brent would join the Society of the Mechanical Sun and shortly thereafter, fight along side his father at the infamous Battle of Silver Mountain.

26 November, 2017

Item 3: The Society of the Mechanical Sun Photograph

Collection Item 3: The Society of the Mechanical Sun Photograph. 1882.

On 9 January, 1882, the Society of the Mechanical Sun was established in a private room in London's famed Scientia Club.  On that auspicious occasion, charter members Geoffrey Hawkins, Berkley Vanderzee, Falynne Hyperion and Timothy Deakin took a moment to pose for a photograph, staged by Deakin's older brother Robert.  A copy of that photograph was discovered within the Hawkins Strongbox and has been classified as Collection Item 3.  It was inscribed on the back with the aforementioned date and the notation, "My colleagues and I travel into the future every day. It is a wondrous, but sometimes dangerous place." The handwriting has been identified as that of Geoffrey Hawkins.

According to Victorian Mechanical Museum archivist Archer Bowens, the photograph is significant for other reasons beyond its four prominent human subjects.  On the table in forefront of the image is an early prototype of a Vanderzee Critical Engine, what Bowens describes as "a second generation Babbage-inspired processor constructed in 1878."  Bowens notes that, "Vanderzee refined the design and used it as the 'brain' component on nearly all of the intelligent automatons he created and built in subsequent years."  Prominent among those creations was Ian, an IA biped designed to find and retrieve æther resources in the tunnels and catacombs below London.  Ian can be seen in the background of the photograph standing next to a grandfather clock.

Also displayed on the table is a heavy stock Hawkins Æther Repulsor. Firearms Curator Devon Gillroy informs: "The Repulsor was designed by Geoffrey Hawkins and constructed at the Hawkins Industrial Laboratories in early 1881.  It was only one of its kind and Hawkins retained it in his personal arsenal for nearly two decades. It was reportedly damaged beyond repair during the Battle of Silver Mountain in 1899."

An unidentified optical instrument, likely belonging to Timothy Deakin, rests on a small table in the right background of the photograph.

A matching negative of the photograph was found in the Deakin Archive and catalogued as Negative DA1882-01.

16 November, 2017

Deakin Archive: The Zephyr House at Lake Tahoe 1896

Photograph DA1896-027: The airship Iron Zephyr on approach to the Zephyr House. 19 October, 1896.

The Zephyr House was the American base of operations for the Society of the Mechanical Sun and also served as a home for Geoffrey Hawkins during the final few years of the 19th century.  It was an architectural marvel designed by Hawkins and Falynne Hyperion, rising above the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe on land that was part of the Ainsworth family's Timberjack Ranch.  The Zephyr House is showcased in three amazing photographs recently discovered in the Deakin Archive and now presented here as part of our online exhibition.

In 1895, Falynne Hyperion moved her airship engineering laboratory from England to Nevada, primarily to escape the industrial espionage perpetrated by jealous European rivals, most notably Ferdinand Von Zeppelin.  Nevada rancher Giles Ainsworth (and uncle to Society member Berkley Vanderzee) provided a large tract of land on his Timberjack Ranch that afforded Hyperion the necessary privacy to design and construct her fleet of Hyperion Zephyr Airships.  At roughly the same time, Geoffrey Hawkins was pursuing Enoch Cyncad across the American continent and he convinced Ainsworth to expand the newly created Zephyr Air Field by adding a large estate that could serve as a strategic headquarters for the Society.

Construction of the Zephyr House was completed during the summer of 1896.  While there are no existing records that provide specific architectural details about the imposing iron and steel edifice, we do know that the design included electricity via an early prototype hydroelectric generator, two elevators, a wireless telegraph and a high altitude dock to accommodate airship traffic from the nearby Zephyr Air Field.

Photograph DA1896-028: The Iron Zephyr docked at Zephyr House. 19 October, 1896.

On 19 October, 1896, photographers Jack and Timothy Deakin documented the maiden voyage of Falynne Hyperion's semi-rigid airship, the Iron Zephyr, as it approached and docked at the Zephyr House.  Photograph DA1896-027 was taken by Jack Deakin and provides a spectacular panorama of the structure from the nearby lakeshore. The Iron Zephyr can be seen approaching in the distance. With photograph DA1896-028, Jack Deakin captured another impressive vignette, pointing the camera up from ground level as the airship was tethered to the house dock. 
Photograph DA1896-029: The Zephyr House airship dock. 19 October, 1896.

The final photograph, DA1896-029, was taken by Timothy Deakin and presented an interior view of the house's airship dock. Shown in the photo are Geoffrey Hawkins and Falynne Hyperion.  In the background, a servant IA (intelligent automaton) can be seen approaching the tethered Iron Zephyr.

The Society maintained use of the Zephyr House into the 20th century, but it was largely abandoned following the disappearance of Geoffrey Hawkins in 1911.  The elevators were eventually removed, making the remainder of the building inaccessible from the ground.  It became something of a curiosity to Lake Tahoe tourists over the next two decades. In the mid-1930s, eccentric millionaire George Whittell Jr. purchased a significant amount of the Ainsworth family's Timberjack Ranch lakeshore properties including the Zephyr House.  In 1942, Whittell had the remains of the building demolished and donated the scrap iron and steel to the war effort.

05 November, 2017

Beyond the Strongbox: The Deakin Archive

The Deakin Bro's London studio at 127 Fulham Street.  1885.
Courtesy of the Deakin Archives, Mifflin University.

The focus of our online exhibition is most certainly the Hawkins Strongbox and the fascinating and often enigmatic items contained therein.  But what we have discovered frequently over the course of the last eight years is that there are many, many resources beyond the Strongbox that also document the lives of Geoffrey Hawkins and his associates.  After deliberation with our sponsors at the Victorian Mechanical Museum, we have decided to showcase items that, while not originating in the Strongbox, relate directly to the histories revealed and studied here thus far.

Foremost among these recent discoveries is the Deakin Archive. The archive is part of the Mifflin University Library Archives and Special Collections.  It is administered and curated by Matthew Alexander, who is a direct descendant of Timothy Deakin.

It took Alexander a number of years to trace the origins of the collection. He explains:
In October 1962, twenty-three nondescript cardboard boxes were found at an estate sale in Munhall, Pennsylvania.  The boxes were filled with an enormous number of photographic negatives, prints, daguerreotypes, cabinet cards and other miscellany that appeared to date back to the Victorian era. They were discovered by Gabriel Sherman, a librarian at the nearby Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne. Sherman almost immediately recognized the value of his discovery and transferred the boxes to a storage room in his library's basement, where he planned on cataloguing the contents.
Just mere weeks after his acquisition of the materials, Sherman died of a fatal heart attack.  He had not shared his discovery with anyone and his initial research notes on the collection were clumsily mixed into one of the boxes by indifferent library staffers.  The boxes were subsequently relocated to a remote corner of the storage rooms and forgotten.
A few years later, the library was sold to the Duquesne School District which in turn demolished the building in 1967.  Prior to its demolition, many of the library's assets were deemed unusable by the school district and were donated to the nearby Mifflin University Library System.  Unfortunately, the collection was relegated again to storage where it went unnoticed for nearly thirty years.
The boxes were rediscovered in 2007 by a Hunter Schwab, a librarian conducting an inventory of undocumented assets.  Schwab was intrigued by what he found and noticed that most of the materials were associated with the name Deakin and the Deakin Bro's Photography Studios.  By fortuitous coincidence, Schwab happened to be a close personal friend. When describing the collection contents to me, I noted to him that my maternal lineage was Deakin and that my great-great grandfather was a rather renown scientist and inventor. Scott immediately invited me to examine the materials and we quickly verified the connection to my family lineage.  I have since spent the last ten years cataloguing and digitizing the collection contents.
Alexander found Sherman's original notes and was able to piece together the chronology of events he has here described.  He discovered our online exhibition in late 2015 but was disappointed to see that it had not been updated for a number of years.  He described his new awareness of the Hawkins Strongbox as revelatory and was anxious to share his own discoveries with both myself and the researchers at the Victorian Mechanical Museum.

The collection is especially notable in that many of the photographs include notes and annotations, providing descriptive details and identifying individuals and locations.  Items date from the Victorian era to the mid-twentieth century, and feature places that stretch from Great Britain to locations scattered all across North America. Needless to say, the archive has become an invaluable asset to the Hawkins Strongbox research team.

With the Hawkins Strongbox exhibition now restored to ongoing publication, we will very soon be sharing content from the Deakin Archive, courtesy of Mifflin University Library Archive and Special Collections.

26 October, 2017

Item 86: The Cyncad Packet

Collection Item 86: The Cyncad Packet

We have mentioned the name of Enoch Cyncad a number of times over the course of our online exhibition, but he has largely remained an enigmatic, albeit rather sinister player in the Hawkins Strongbox histories.  With the release of Collection Item 86, we hope to bring at least some clarity to this figure whose machinations led Geoffrey Hawkins and his associates to form the Society of the Mechanical Sun.

Item 86 is a packet that was sent from London to the Kansas City office of the Vanderzee Detective Bureau  in September of 1895.  It contains a Scotland Yard circular, a cabinet card portrait, and a short handwritten note from Berkley Vanderzee to Geoffrey Hawkins.  It appears to relate directly to Item 85: The Fitzgerald Envelope.  Items 85 and 86 have been now designated as Lot 7: Hawkins in Kansas City.  Researchers at the Victorian Mechanical Museum indicate that additional items in this lot are forthcoming.
Item 86A: Handwritten note to Geoffrey Hawkins.

The text of the handwritten note (Item 86A):
10 October, 1895
Geoffrey,Your news was indeed distressing to us all. We thought that devil was returned to hell itself. We hope these prove helpful, despite the time that has passed.  The studio in Edinburgh had retained negatives, fortunate for our purposes.
Be well my friend,

As noted previously, the contents of the Fitzgerald Envelope indicated that Geoffrey Hawkins was in Kansas City, Missouri during the mid-1890s, apparently conducting an investigation into the whereabouts of Enoch Cyncad.  It appears that Hawkins contacted Berkley Vanderzee in London to request identifying materials relating to Cyncad. Vanderzee in turn dispatched the packet that contained the circular and cabinet card.
Item 86B: Scotland Yard Circular. October 1877.

The Scotland Yard Circular (Item 86B) is dated eighteen years earlier. It advertises a £500 reward for information leading to the capture of Cyncad, described as a convicted murderer and escapee from the then infamous Newgate Prison.  It refers to Cyncad as the Edinburgh Frankenstein and notes that the escape from Newgate took place on 21 October, 1877.

According to newspaper accounts from the summer of 1877, Cyncad, then a well known doctor and academic from the University of Edinburgh, was at the center of a London medical scandal that involved experimentation on live human subjects.  The "heinous acts" noted in the circular purportedly focused on surgically implanting mechanical automata directly into the anatomy of kidnapped victims. Cyncad had enlisted members of the London criminal underworld to procure the necessary test subjects, typically from the city's poor and indigent population.  His actions were exposed by one of his former students, Dr. Jeremiah Hawkins, older brother of Geoffrey Hawkins.  Before being taken into custody, Cyncad violently murdered Jeremiah Hawkins. That act of revenge became the most prominent of the crimes for which Cyncad was ultimately convicted.  His escape from Newgate took place mere hours before his scheduled execution by hanging.
Item 86C: Cabinet Card of Enoch Cyncad. November 1876.

The Cabinet Card of Enoch Cyncad (Item 86C) was procured from the studio of Wm. Tower and Son in Edinburgh.  A notation on the back of the card dates the studio sitting to November of 1876.

The events of 1877 were only the beginning of what would become a decades-long plague of crime and horror initiated and perpetuated by Enoch Cyncad.  He would give birth to the monstrous clock-heads, corrupt the science of ætherdynamics and rule a criminal underworld that would stretch from the old rookeries of London to the American frontier.

10 October, 2017

Item 97: Hawkins Steam Walker Ephemera

Technical Drawing of Single Passenger Steam Walker. 16 July, 1889.

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."
Photograph. Carson City, Nevada. 13 October, 1890.

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.
File Photo courtesy of Victorian Mechanical Museum.

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

Cabinet Card of Jack Deakin. 29 September, 1883.

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 29 September, 1883.

16 August, 2017

Item 55: Hell's Revolver

Item 55: Modified Saunders Æther V, aka 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

The contents of 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 20 August, 1895.  (Item 85B)
  • a set of small mechanical components, severely blackened due to fire damage.  (Item 85C)
Item 85A: Clippings from the Chicago Tribune. August 1895.

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 (19 August) and reports that a devastating fire had destroyed Holmes' "notorious castle."  The third clipping is a picture engraving of Holmes himself.

Item 85B. Western Union Telegram.

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.

Items 85C.  Fire damaged mechanical components.

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

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 remain unknown, 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 grandson 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.