The Automaton Whist-Player

Feb 6, 2009, 1:51 PM |

Chess and Checkers aren't the only games to have inspired the creation of automatons.


The Whist Reference Book
by William Mill Butler.  1898

Automaton Whist-Player.—

Dr. Pole, in Macmillan's Magazine for January, 1876, described a wonderful automaton, exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, which, among other things, could play scientific whist. The name of this marvelous contrivance was "Psycho." He was a little less than adult size, and sat cross-legged, Oriental fashion, on an oblong box, about 22 x 18 z 15 inches. The box, with the figure on it, was entirely detached and carried about by those in charge. When in action, " Psycho" was placed on the top of a strong hollow cylinder of transparent glass. The cylinder was placed on a loose wooden platform about four feet square, which in turn rested upon four legs about nine inches clear of the floor. Before the performance began the platform was turned over and shown, as was also the cylinder. When placed in position, the spectators were requested to walk around the figure, and to pass their hands over his head, to satisfy themselves that there was no wire or other means of communication between " Psycho" and the sides or ceiling of the room. A whist-table was now prepared, and three persons from the audience invited to play, " Psycho" making the fourth. The cards were dealt, and " Psycho's" taken up and placed upright, one by one, in a frame forming the arc of a circle in front of him. When  it was his turn to play, his right hand passed with a horizontal circular motion over the frame until it arrived at the right card, which he seized between his thumb and fingers. Then, by a vertical movement of his hand and arm, he took it up, lifted it high in the air and ir. exposed it to the view of the audience; after which the card was taken by an attendant and placed upon the table, to be gathered into the trick. "Psycho" also played other games at cards, and could add, multiply, and perform several tricks of conjuring. The figure was operated on the same principles as the automaton chess-player, "Ajeeb," in the Eden Musée, New York, and still more closely resembled the famous "Yellow Kid"  automaton of the New York Journal, which was exhibited in 1896. All the figures named, it is said, were built by the same genius.