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. 

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 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.

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.

04 February, 2010

Correspondences: A Long Term Venture, Max Planck and More

We would like to thank all those individuals who have contacted us since the launch of the Hawkins Strongbox online exhibition.  We are both humbled and flattered by your attention and also deeply gratified for the enthusiasm you are collectively expressing for this project.

Some readers have sent in queries we would like to address.

  • Alfred W. asks:  "Is it your plan to eventually exhibit all of the items found within the strongbox?  By your own estimation, there will be close to one thousand items ultimately cataloged.  As you have so far only addressed three collection items, it appears that this could potentially be a very long term venture."

Thanks for writing, Alfred.  Our purpose here is not to exhibit every single item found within the Hawkins Strongbox.  Many items are considerably mundane and contribute little if anything to the overall history that we have set out to explore.  That said, there is still a considerable amount of material that warrants exhibition and so it is very likely that Hawkins Strongbox will become the "long term venture" you describe.  We will also frequently supplement the exhibition of collection items with other documents, materials and information that bear relevance to the subjects at hand. Much of this supplemental material has been culled from the archives of the Victorian Mechanical Museum.

  • Regarding an observation made by Archer Bowens of the post Timothy Deakin Cabinet Card (01 February, 2010), Barbara M. observed:  "It seems very unlikely that Timothy Deakin would have been able to create a thermal imaging device in the mid 19th century, as Archer Bowens speculates.  Where would he have been educated in this particular science? "
Archer Bowens answers, "Deakin traveled to Germany a number of times during the late 1870s, meeting frequently with a freshly educated physicist and mathematician named Max Planck.   The young Planck was at the time involved in research relating to heat mechanics and thermodynamics."  Bowens also notes, "It is significant to mention that in the years following World War II, both British and American intelligence services scrambled to track down any surviving Deakin optical devices because of rumored thermal imaging capabilities.  A number of working Deakin-manufactured goggles had surfaced throughout the war, but by the time any were recovered during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the associated æther cells had all reportedly disintegrated."

  • Paul D. asks:  "As Geoffrey Hawkins appears to be the central figure of your efforts and studies, can you at least provide a little more biographical information about him?  You have been somewhat lacking in that area so far."

You are correct Paul, but I would like to think that our motives in that regard are at least well intentioned.  We feel that it is much more compelling and interesting to unfold the story of Geoffrey Hawkins via the contents of the strongbox as they are investigated and cataloged.  Also, by attempting to construct too much of a biography of Hawkins at this point, we risk inaccuracies and contradictions that would most certainly undermine our long term goals and efforts.   It is also important to note that even though we have presented the distinguished Mr. Hawkins as the central figure and namesake of our efforts, this history that we explore has a wide and varied cast of characters and it appears that the contents of the strongbox will reveal much, much more than the story of just one man.

CORRECTION:  Relating somewhat to Paul's inquiry, we wanted to post a correction regarding information presented in The Mysteries of Duquesne (17 Jaunuary, 2010).  In that post, I stated that Geoffrey Hawkins was born in London in 1850.  I based this on information provided to me more than three decades ago by my grandmother Esme Sigismund Pepper.  Archer Bowens has since informed me that while the date of 1850 is correct, Hawkins was actually born in Dixton near the town of Monmouth in south Wales.  Archer notes, "One might wonder if Hawkins parents named him for Geoffrey of Monmouth, the famous 12th century clergyman who wrote the Historia Regum Britanniae, a largely fictional British history that was one of the first texts to mention King Arthur."

01 February, 2010

Item 47: Timothy Deakin Cabinet Card

Item 47: Cabinet Card of Timothy Deakin. Estimated date 1882-1883.

The legacy of Timothy Deakin is proving to be very tangible within the Hawkins Strongbox, as evidenced by our recent posts.  Collection Item 47 finally provides us with an image of this scientist, inventor and photographer. The item is a cabinet card portrait of Deakin produced by his own studio.

Robert Deakin, Timothy's brother, once described his younger sibling as " . . . an exemplary but often bored student."  He was considered a mechanical and engineering genius while still a teenager, and patented his first invention at age twenty.  In that context, it is not hard to understand why he was so often underwhelmed when fulfilling his more mundane academic requirements.

Charles Hawkins introduced Timothy Deakin to his older brother Geoffrey sometime during the autumn of 1877.  Charles and Timothy had become acquainted during their time together as students at the College of Science at the University of Edinburgh.  Timothy and Geoffrey became fast and close friends, sharing passions both scientific and philosophical.  Together with Berkley Vanderzee and Falynne Hyperion, they would form the nucleus of what was seemingly one the 19th century's most covert secret societies.

Item 47 is undated, but the photo is likely to have been taken around 1882-1883.  Archer Bowens notes that, "Deakin is wearing his own Model II Mechanical Spectacles which he first manufactured in 1882.  He also is wearing a Mechanical Sun brooch on his jacket lapel.  Members of the Society began sporting these brooches sometime in early 1882."

ADDENDUM:  Item 47 is part of a set of four portraits associated with the inception of the Society of the Mechanical Sun in January of 1882.  The other portraits are of Geoffrey Hawkins (Item 46), Berkley Vanderzee (Item 48) and Falynne Hyperion (Item 49).

29 January, 2010

Item 31: Deakin Bro's Trade Card with Missive

Item 31: Deakin Bro's Trade Card.  1882.

Numerous items contained within the Hawkins Strongbox bear association with Timothy Deakin and the Deakin Bro's Photography Studio.  The brothers Deakin were Robert, born in 1851; Timothy, born 1855; and the youngest John (though most often referred to as Jack), who arrived in 1860.  Parents Landry and Edyln Deakin also had two daughters, Glynnis born in 1853 and Kendra in 1857.  Tragically, both girls drowned in a boating accident during the summer of 1867.

Item 31, a trade card for the Deakin Bro's Studio, would be otherwise quite mundane if not for the enigmatic message penned across its reverse side.  The card is somewhat unusual in that it only featured printing on one side, but this did afford Timothy Deakin the space to write what appears to be a hastily composed note to Geoffrey Hawkins.

The text of the message:


I beg your forgiveness for the format and nature of this rushed missive. Word of Jack has been delivered to me this very afternoon and I fear that if I do not act swiftly I will forgo this opportunity that fate has so generously granted.

I have little doubt that this trail will take me to Cyncad, and thus should I fall into peril I wanted to leave you with some record of my impending course of action. 

I have until now spared Robert and Mother the details of this unfortunate affair.  They know only that Jack has been on extended holiday.  I trust that you will provide an explanation to them, both suitable and comforting should I not return.

                                                                                           17 Sept. 1882

Archer Bowens, Documents Archivist for the Victorian Mechanical Museum provided these comments on Item 31:

"The Deakin Bro's trade card is part of a group of items we have classified as Lot 7 -September 1882.  It includes the trade card, a newspaper clipping, a number of sketches, and a lengthy narration written by Timothy Deakin.  These items all relate to events surrounding the disappearance of Timothy's younger brother Jack during the late summer of 1882.  I am currently transcribing the pages written by Timothy and hope to have that text available for exhibition sometime in the near future."

25 January, 2010

Item 78: Steam Coach Patent Diagram

Item 78: Patent Diagram for the Hawkins Steam Coach.  1888.

 The Hawkins Steam Coach appears to have been both a tremendous success and bitter disappointment for Geoffrey Hawkins.  It was one of the first major industrial design projects completed by his then fledgling Hawkins Industrial Laboratory.  Three prototypes were produced from 1888 into early 1889.  However, beyond this patent diagram that was found in the strongbox, little to no physical evidence remains of Hawkins' early attempt at building a horseless carriage.  Most records associated with the project were likely destroyed in the catastrophic fire the that consumed Hawkins' lab in 1896.

In a letter dated June 17, 1886 (HS Item 317), Hawkins' American friend Chester Alexander made the following query of his British contemporary:

" . . . and so then, what is the status of your intriguing carriage project?  Your last correspondence indicated that you were in deep study of Rickett's earlier designs and that you had even managed to examine the vehicle he had built for the Earl of Caithness."

Alexander was referring to Thomas Rickett, a Buckingham inventor who had designed a steam carriage some three decades earlier.

The fall 1888 issue of Hawkins Journal of Advanced Science and Industry included a very brief article noting that production had commenced on a prototype.  It was accompanied by a spot illustration that essentially matched the patent diagram.  According to a note from Hawkins to his accountant in December of 1888, his first steam coach met with "sabotage most foul" sometime in November of that year, though he surprisingly provided no other details.

Two additional vehicles were reportedly manufactured by the end of 1888, but indications are that Hawkins kept them under tight guard.  In a letter to her mother, Lady Constance Ockley noted that Hawkins had revealed " . . . a marvelous horseless carriage" to guests on Christmas day at his country home in Faversham.  But she also mentioned that her host had employed "brutish gentlemen in leather topcoats armed with unusual pistols" to guard it around the clock.*

In January of 1889, accounting records indicated that Hawkins was preparing to purchase a vacant factory building near Faversham, but backed out of the arrangement at the last minute.  Again, a note from Hawkins to his accountant provided clues to the fate of his steam coaches.  "They have managed to infiltrate my defenses and the second is now gone as well," he wrote in a letter dated January 17, 1889.   "I am securing the remaining vehicle beyond their reach.  It is indeed sad that society will be denied this amazing and beneficial boon to science and industry, due to the jealousy and greed of my rivals.  They have suppressed a wonderful invention, but I have neither the will nor determination to battle their attacks at this time and I can no longer continue to compromise the safety of those in my employ."

Who are these unnamed rivals that Hawkins refers to?  German automobile inventors Karl Benz, Wilhelm Maybach and Gottleib Daimler were equally busy during the same decade pioneering their own horseless carriages.  Were any or all of these individuals somehow threatened by the technologies and innovations contained within the Hawkins Steam Coach?  Enough to employ the "sabotage most foul" that Hawkins alluded to?

And what of the third and final Steam Coach that Hawkins secured beyond the reach of his unnamed enemies?  Does it still exist, perchance collecting dust in some remote location beyond the reach of historians and mechanical scholars?  Let us hope that the answers may lie deeper within the strongbox we continue to explore.