The Keely Motor Craze

The Keely Motor Craze.

A Donkey-Cabbage Race.

How Much Longer Will The Clever Juggler Be Able To Delude His Victims?

To the Editor of "The Tribune."

The Tribune, NY - 11/30/1888 - Sir, - The success with which Keely has deluded his victims by appealing to their credulity with a mystery, and to their cupidity with a promise of "all the kingdoms of the earth," which would not be of greater value than the monopoly of infinite power without cost, which he dangles before their astonished vision, makes him and his antics subjects of unusual interest. His last performance appears to be an issue of 5,000,000 dollars of new stock representing a new discovery veiled in mystery, which is to far outstrip his former one, on which 5,000,000 dollars of stock was issued and is now held by his dupes. Two of these new millions are to go to the old holders as a compensation to them for their disappointment in not realizing perpetual motion under the old discovery; two more to go to Keely to be sold to the public; and the remaining one million is in the treasury to be sold for the benefit of Keely and the others, half and half.

For fifteen years the donkey has been ridden by Keely with the cabbage on a pole held just in front of his hungry mouth, and now the donkey is told that the cabbage after all is only sham, but that the new cabbage is real, and if he will only consent to run fast enough and far enough he certainly will reach it and grow fat.

It would seem that the donkey ought to pause and consider before being another fifteen-year race after perpetual motion, and it is here proposed to assist him in his reflection by a few facts. More than fifteen years ago Keely made himself known to the public by exhibiting an apparatus in which a great pressure was manifested, which, he said, resulted from the discovery by him of a new force the nature of which was his secret. Several people, as usual, were astonished at the show, and bought and paid for shares in the patent which was promised. To give colour to the pretence, Keely applied for a patent before 1876, but did not assign to the purchasers their shares; whereupon some of them protested against the issue of the patent unless their shares were recognized in the grant. The Patent Office replied to these protests that it could not recognize the rights claimed unless there was a written assignment filed in the office, which the claimants did not have. The Commissioner, however, called upon Keely to furnish a "working model" of his invention, which, of course, he could not do, and his application was rejected. The specification and drawings of this apparatus show a very silly form of the common perpetual motion machine, of which there are thousands. It was open to the public for some years, when, under a new rule of the office, it, along with all other rejected applications, was withdrawn from inspection; but it is in the office, together with the protests of those who had paid Keely for a share in it. I examined it years ago, and informed Mr. Lamson, and others of Keely's stockholders, of it. Mr. Lamson told me that he had charged Keely with deception, because he had always said that he never had applied for a patent, and that Keely explained it by saying that he had purposely concealed his invention from the Patent Office in that application to which he had made oath.

Keely, however, finding the perpetual motion trick, profitable, extended his operations and became well known to many influential people by his exhibitions. In the winter of 1875-76 he produced two metallic spheres, one about thirty inches in diameter, hung like an ordinary terrestrial globe, which, he said, would revolve with a force equal to two horse-power, and would continue to run when once started as long as the Centennial Exhibition? should be open, and until the thing was worn out by friction. In starting it Keely used to have a blackboard in the room, on which he would write a few figures in chalk in the presence of his dupes, and would say that at a certain time the globe would start - and it did, and would revolve as long as the lookers on remained to see it. Keely pretended to explain this phenomenon by a string of unintelligible jargon; but the point of it all was that he said the thing ran in consequence of its internal mechanical arrangement - or, in other words, that by combining pieces of metal in a certain way power was generated without any other expense than that required to construct the apparatus. Naturally he refused to show the interior construction which did the miracle, but if his statements were true, it existed inside of that globe, and could be produced indefinitely with the result of producing an indefinite amount of horse-power without current expense.

The stock about this time rose to a great price - about 600 per cent. - as it will might if this ball was an "honest ghost." Some of the stockholders had sense enough to see that if Keely's story were true, nothing more could be desired, for it must at once supersede coal and all other means of producing power, and its novelty could not be doubted. It was in effect, "all the kingdoms of the earth," which Satan once offered. But, on the other hand, if Keely's story were not true, then he was simply an impostor who had been defrauding the stockholders out of their money; and they demanded of Keely that he should proceed at once to patent this miraculous machine, which could create power by a peculiar-shaped hole in a sphere of iron. Of course Keely refused to comply with this reasonable request, and many of his stockholders sold out and left him; since which time the stock has gradually declined down to the present time, when its value is admitted to be nothing.

In view of these facts the curious question is why the donkey goes on any further. The revolving ball is a fact known to hundreds of the stockholders. It is either a real cabbage capable of feeding the donkey with a perpetual feast, like the widow's cruse of oil, or it is only a sham such as any good mechanic could construct and operate as Keely did. Why doesn't the donkey balk and insist on biting into the cabbage? If it is real the Keely stock is worth untold millions. It would put an end to steam engines and electric batteries for ever. One of those balls in the corner of a room would make all the heat and light which could be used, and have power to sell; and all that would be needed would be to learn Keely's cabalistic signs on the blackboard in order to make it start, and to stop it when it had done enough. But if the ball is only a trick, then, of course, Keely could be sent to prison, and his victims could close their accounts and be sure that they would lose no more by him.

Without going any father into the history of this remarkable delusion, which is full of similar tricks too numerous to mention now, it seems clear that these facts ought to be used to bring to an end in one way or the other the Keely craze.
Edward N. Dickerson?. New York, Nov. 30, 1888.
(The Tribune, New York)

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