Mechanical Elephants

I have elephants on the mind today; I’m not sure why.

This elephant is from a French show in 2006 called “Visit From The Sultan Of The Indies On His Time-Travelling Elephant”. It was designed by François Delarozière, made mostly of wood and needed 22 handlers to operate its hydraulics and motors. But wait, there’s more.

This guy was gasoline powered with a 4 cylinder Ford engine. He was built around the 1950s by Frank Stuart, and his company, Mechanimals.

As we head back to the 1940s, we find this motorcycle engine-driven elephant built by Jim Smith named Jumbo the Mechanical Elephant.

Wow, Eric. They made mechanical elephants all the way back in the 1940s? That’s nothing, I say! All the way back in 1798, the famed prop-maker Alexander Johnston created quite the spectacular mechanical elephant for the stage:

One morning, Mr. Sheridan, John Kemble, and myself, went to the property room of Drury Lane Theatre, and there found Johnston, the able and ingenious machinist, at work upon the horses, and on the point of beginning the elephant, which was to carry Blue Beard. Mr. Sheridan said to Johnston, “Don’t, you think, Johnston, you had better go to Pidcock’s, at Exeter Change, and hire an elephant, for a number of nights?” — “Not I, Sir,” replied the enthusiastic machinist; “If I cannot make a better elephant than that at Exeter Change, I deserve to be hanged.”

(Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, by Michael Kelly and Theodore Edward Hook. 1826; pg. 290)