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The Mechanical Turk Automaton

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Author Topic: The Mechanical Turk Automaton  (Read 542 times)
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« on: December 30, 2010, 02:47:11 am »

Mälzel continued with exhibitions around the United States until 1828, when he took some time off and visited Europe, returning in 1829. Throughout the 1830s, he continued to tour the United States, exhibiting the machine as far west as the Mississippi River and visiting Canada. In Richmond, Virginia, the Turk was observed by Edgar Allan Poe, who was writing for the Southern Literary Messenger. Poe's essay "Maelzel's Chess Player" was published in April 1836 and is the most famous essay on the Turk, even though many of Poe's hypotheses were incorrect (such as that a chess-playing machine must always win, and the Turk sometimes lost).[56]

Mälzel eventually took the Turk to Havana, Cuba. In Cuba, Schlumberger died of yellow fever, leaving Mälzel without a director for his machine. Dejected, he took the Turk back to Philadelphia and later made a second visit to Havana. Mälzel died at sea in 1838 at age 66 during his return trip, leaving his machinery with the ship captain.[57]
[edit] The final years and beyond

Upon the return of the ship on which Mälzel died, his various machines, including the Turk, fell into the hands of a friend of Mälzel's, the businessman John Ohl. He attempted to auction off the Turk, but owing to low bidding ultimately bought it himself for $400.[58] Only when Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell from Philadelphia, Edgar Allan Poe's personal physician and an admirer of the Turk, approached Ohl did the Turk change hands again.[3] Mitchell formed a restoration club and went about the business of repairing the Turk for public appearances, completing the restoration in 1840.[59]

As interest in the Turk outgrew its location, Mitchell and his club chose to donate the machine to the Chinese Museum of Charles Willson Peale. While the Turk still occasionally gave performances, it was eventually relegated to the corners of the museum and forgotten about until 5 July 1854, when a fire that started at the National Theater in Philadelphia reached the Museum and destroyed the Turk.[60] Mitchell believed he had heard "through the struggling flames ... the last words of our departed friend, the sternly whispered, oft repeated syllables, 'echec! echec!!'"[61]
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