No. 419
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
March 25, 2019

A Magical Duet on the Guitar.

An extraordinary account of a mathematician, mechanician, and musician named Alix.
January 8, 2018
...
...


Coming Soon!
On this date in 1752 the tyrannous Scottish sea captain James Lowrey or Lowry was hanged at London’s execution dock for beating a crew member to death. Lowr(e)y came to public notice in 1751 after the return to English shores of his merchantman, the Molly, from a run to Jamaica: ten of his ex-crew subscribed […]
More...
ExecutedToday.com - 3/25/2019


`
Getting robbed (Click image to enlarge) hich of them to hills do you thinks the highest? Getting robbed of $700 in Skagway, Alaska Newspaper clipping from the Victoria Daily Colonist, March 11, 1898 telling of the robbery of S. F. Jones and others, upon arrival in Skagway, Alaska. ———————————————————— SKAGWAY‘S BAD MEN. ————— Passengers by the “Pakshan” tell of
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/24/2019
"The Age," December 30, 1960, via Newspapers.com At the resort town of Scarborough, England, sometime in the mid-1860s, a remarkably handsome and extremely charming Frenchman, Count Henri de Tourville, made the acquaintance of a well-to-do Englishwoman, Henrietta Brigham. A romance quickly developed, and the two were married. After a honeymoon touring Europe, the pair went to live with
More...
Strange Company - 3/25/2019


[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
More...
Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Patrick S. Donovan, better known as “Snip,” began drinking champagne after the first race at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, on August 6, 1893. The wine continued to flow as he watched the day’s races and Donovan appeared to be in a jovial mood, but he may have been trying to drown his sorrows. “Snip” Donovan was a successful and well-known horse trainer, but he had recently been
More...
Murder by Gaslight - 3/23/2019
Social realist painter George Bellows completed “Bridge, Blackwell’s Island,” in 1909, which is also the year of the opening of the Queensboro Bridge, as this span over the East River was called at the time. Like the East River waterfront, Blackwell’s Island (today’s Roosevelt Island) was to Bellows a place on the margin—where refuse, industry, […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 3/24/2019
So- did Lizzie have a sweetheart? It would seem one Curtis I. Piece had high but unrequited hopes of winning …

Continue reading

More...
Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 2/3/2019
The New Rule at the Post-Office. | Afloat on a Cake of Ice.

A Magical Duet on the Guitar.

Magical Duet on Guitar

An extraordinary account of a mathematician, mechanician, and musician named Alix. [more]

So many wondrous stories are told by the ancient writes of magic and mechanism that ordinary belief is entirely at fault. If we are to believe what we read of the mechanics and learned men of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the little of chemistry or mechanical invention that we know in these times, but was then familiar to learned men, but was suppressed, either by monkish intolerance or noble ignorance. That much of these clams are true we must admit, from the fact that many wonderful inventions have come down to us, among which we can only mention gunpowder and watches as an example.

Among the wonderful stories of this kind is one told by Bonnet in his “Historie de la Musique,” where he gives the following extraordinary account of a mathematician, mechanician, and musician named Alix, who lived at Aix, in Provance about the middle of the 17th century:

“Alix, after many years’ study and labor, succeeded in constructing an automaton figure, having the shape of a human skeleton, which, by means of a concealed mechanism, played, or had the appearance of playing on the guitar. The artist after having turned in perfect unison two guitars, placed on in the hands of the skeleton, in the position proper for playing, and on a calm summer evening, having thrown open the window of his apartment he fixed the skeleton, with the guitar in its hands, in a position where it could be seen form the street. He then, taking the other instrument seated himself in an obscure corner of the room and commenced playing a piece of music, the passages of which were faithfully repeated or echoed by the guitar held by the skeleton, at the same time that the movement of its wooden fingers ,as if really executing the music completed the illusion.

“This strange musical feat drew crows around the house of the ill-fated artist; this sentiment was soon changed in the minds of the ignorant multitude into the most superstitions dread. A rumor rose that Alix was a sorcerer, and in league with the devil. He was arrested by order of the Parliament of Provence, and sent before the court, La Chambre de la Tournelle, to be tried on the capital charge of magic or witchcraft. In vain the ingenious, but unfortunate artist sought to convince his judges hat the only means used to give the apparent vitality to the fingers of the skeleton were wheels, springs, pulleys, and other equally unmagical contrivances, and that the marvelous result produced wat nothing more criminal than the solution of a problem in mechanics.

“His explanation and demonstrations were either not understood, or failed to convince his stupid and bigoted judges, and he was condemned as a sorcerer and magician. The iniquitous judgment was confirmed by the Parliament of Provence, which sentenced him to be burned alive in the principal square of the city, together with the equally innocent automaton figure, the supposed accomplice in his magical practices. This infamous sentence was carried into execution in the year 1644, to the great satisfaction and edification of all the faithful and devout inhabitants of Aix.”


Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 16, 1865.