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Otsego Herald

January 24, 2013

Battle with the Indians

From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Jan. 23, 1813

Compiled, with comments



WHEREAS my wife Betsey, has eloped from my bed and board, this is therefore, to forbid all persons harboring or trusting her on my account, as I will pay no debts of her contracting after this date. JAMES YOUNG, Jun., Milford, Jan. 8, 1813.

Perpetual motion hoax

All’s over! The secret’s out! The perpetual motion lately advertised in this city and exhibited in a house, about a mile out of town, and for the sight of which many a credulous visitor has paid his dollar, is no more!

Alas! Its motion is stopped forever. Among the visitors was Mr. Fulton, whose suspicions were awakened yesterday by the sound of a turning crank. On a repeated visit this morning, accompanied by several friends who were determined, if there was an imposition to detect it, these suspicions were confirmed.

They began by requesting to take the machine to pieces for the purpose of examination, which being refused, they commenced an attack upon it, and the first piece torn off the upper wheel to which the perpendicular shaft was fastened, discovered the cheat.

It appeared that the motion was communicated by a crank turned by an agent in the chamber above; on entering which they found him in the act.

The confusion that ensued was not small. The three fellows concerned returned the money to those present, but it is much to be lamented that they were suffered to make their escape unmolested. —New York Evening Post

COMMENT: The hoaxer was Charles Redheffer, who had first exhibited his machine in Philadelphia, and then moved to New York. He was exposed by none other than Robert Fulton (1765-1815), the inventor of the steamboat. According to one account, “Fulton… removed some boards from a wall neighboring the machine. A long hidden cord made of catgut was revealed. Fulton followed this cord upstairs where he found an old bearded man sitting and eating a crust of bread with one hand, while he turned a hand-crank with the other. An angry mob, realizing the scam, demolished the perpetual motion machine, and Redheffer fled.” Never one to give up, Redheffer was still working on “perpetual motion” as late as 1820, when he got a patent for one such devise. He then vanishes from history.

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