Special Exhibition Label: 'Eccentricity: Unexpected Objects and Irregular Behaviour' (10/5/2011 - 16/10/2011)
Three handbills advertising 'scientific' exhibitions in London in the early 19th century.
The mammoth skeleton had been exhumed by the American painter and museum keeper, Charles Willson Peale of Philadelphia and his son Rembrandt, and the display in Pall-Mall had the endorsement of Sir Joseph Banks.
The 'Automaton Chess-Player' was the famous 'Mechanical Turk', created by Wolfgang von Kempelen and purchased, after his death, by Johann Nepomuk Maelzel. This was by far the most expensive of the three displays: the Turk had, after all, first been shown to the Empress Maria Theresa.
The perpetual motion machine was the work of William Martin, a rope maker from Northumberland, who brought his 'Eureka' machine to London in 1808. He founded the Martinean Society, in opposition to the Royal Society and in particular to the gravitational theory of Newton. J.B. Langhorne described him as 'a stout, portly man, perfectly cracked but harmless.'