Sympathetic Vibratory Physics - It’s a Musical Universe
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NYT - 11/27/1885 - The Keely motor Directors announce that they are again about "to submit Mr. Keelys discoveries and inventions to a party of unprejudiced men - men competent to judge and reliable in their statements, and who have no pecuniary interest therein." They have selected the Superintendent of Fairmount Park, the Superintendent of Transportation of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the President of an express company, the manager of the Bell Telephone Company, a mechanical engineer, and a few other men, as the committee. This will be about the twentieth time a committee has investigated Keely and his alleged motor, and if the test is honest it promises to show again the supreme idiocy of the claims of Keely and his backers.

The test need not be a prolonged one. Let the committee insist on Keelys opening up every portion of his apparatus, and not alone a part. He should take his machine apart and set it up somewhere else than in the ramshackle stable which he has converted into a workshop. Then a proper and scientific dynamometer should be provided. The pressure gauge need not be one constructed for more than 10,000 pounds pressure, and Keelys own absurd contrivance for the purpose should not be employed.

When the apparatus is put together and a pressure is exhibited in the cylinders, some of the vapor should to collected in the usual way for collecting gases and subjected to chemical analysis. If the substance is found to be atmospheric air, carbonic acid gas, nitrogen gas, or some other well known, it will dispose at once of Keelys pretension. If the cylinders contain "interatomic ether" in a high state of tension. That ought to be manifest. A competent chemist could settle the business in half an hour.

Above all, let the Directors and their aiders and abbettors, including the counsel, be absent from the test. Their presence and their conduct on previous occasions did much to convey the impression that they were parties to an intended fraud and a hindrance to an honest investigation.

The public, too, would have more confidence in the proposed test if the committee contained some well known engineer and a competent chemist. It would also, perhaps, be as well if others than Philadelphians were selected. And by all means let them make sure that the investigators "have no pecuniary interest therein."



NYT - Philadelphia, Jan. 3, 1888. - The latest development concerning the Keely motor is an injunction which was granted today against Mr. Keely. Bennett C. Wilson is the complainant, and from the array of eminent lawyers who appeared for him in the Court of Common Pleas No. 3 it seems that there is now a possibility of the world knowing in the near future more of this invention than has heretofore been given to it. Complainant Wilson is represented by Rufus E. Shapley, A. L. S. Shields, and the patent lawyers J. Bousall Taylor and United States Assistant Attorney-General William C. Strawbridge.

In the bill of equity Wilson says that in 1863, while buying and selling furniture in this city, he engaged the defendant, John W. Keely, to varnish furniture. After being a short time in the workshop Wilson discovered that Keely was of an inventive turn of mind, and was desirous of inventing something to generate and utilize power. Soon after Keely entered into an agreement with Wilson to give his attention to the making and patenting of inventions. Wilson was to find the tools and materials, and pay the necessary expenses of such inventions as Keely should make. Wilson further says that Keely agreed that all inventions so made, together with all letters patent obtained, should be owned half and half by himself and Keely, and that Keely from 1863 up to about 1872, in pursuance of this contract, devoted himself to the making of inventions, Wilson finding all tools and materials and paying all expenses. Prior to Aug. 14. 1869, Keely, under the agreement, invented and reduced to practice the "Keely motor," and on the 14th of August, 1869, he assigned to Wilson "one full half ownership of the above-described principle or machine, and also of all improvements that may hereafter be made on the same, and also one-half of all moneys that may be derived from the sale or exhibition of the same."

In his bill Wilson further claims that late in August of 1869 Keely said it would soon be ready for sale, but he wanted funds, and Wilson furnished Keely with money. Keely then made an assignment in writing of his whole right and title, with all interest in said invention, to Wilson. Wilson alleges that only recently he became possessed of the knowledge that the machine now called the "Keely motor" is the same in construction and mode of operation as the motor made by Keely in 1869, and that year assigned to Wilson. The bill prays for an injunction restraining Keely from removing the machines or models known as the "Keely motor" from the places where they are actuated, and from changing or varying the construction or mode of operation of the same; also for an injunction restraining Keely from selling or assigning the inventions. The bill also asks that an order may be made compelling Keely to exhibit to the complainant all models, machines, and drawings of the invention referred to in the assignments to Wilson, and that an order be made compelling Keely to fully disclose the invention and the mode of constructing and operating it.

The court is further asked to order Keely to file proper applications for letters patent for the motor, and to execute and deliver to Wilson due and proper assignments in writing of the whole title and interest in and to the invention. It is further prayed that Keely may be compelled to account for and pay over to Wilson all gains and profits that have been received from the unlawful use of the invention, and that Keely, in addition, be decreed to pay the damages sustained by Wilson from such unlawful use, and that said Keely may be decreed to pay the cost of the suit.

The usual temporary injunction was granted. The case will be argued in a few days.

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 Keelys 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 Keelys 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 Keelys 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 widows cruse of oil, or it is only a sham such as any good mechanic could construct and operate as Keely did. Why doesnt 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 Keelys 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.


NYT - 1/20/1899 - It was by a pertinent and fortunate chance that one of the investigators into the subterranean parts of the workshop or studio, or laboratory, or whatever Keely called it, should have been a "Professor of Experimental Psychology." Because really the only question that was left, or that had for years been left, about Keely and his motor was the psychological question. And the repeatedly successful attempts of the "inventor" upon his stockholders belonged also to the domain of "experimental psychology." As a psychological experimental, Keely was much more interesting and successful than as an experimenter in mechanics. He seems to have started with the theory of the multiplication and accumulation of vibrations, which is a very old one. It is as old as the saying of the ancient whose name we do not remember, but it will no doubt be told us within forty-eight hours by half a dozen too well-informed correspondents, that if he had a fiddle he would pull down a bridge. Not the bridge of the fiddle; any beginner can do that, but an actual structure built to facilitate transport across water courses. But the ancient sage never had the face to ask people to come in and inspect the ruins of the bridge which he had fiddled down. The modern inventor went to that extent. That is to say, he invited selected persons who did not know too much. Sometimes he encountered in spite of himself unsympathetic persons who did know too much. One of these was Capt. (then Lieut.) Zalinski, who witnessed some of Keelys experiments upon investors, and incidentally upon inanimate objects, as long ago as November, 1884, and then confided to a reporter of THE NEW YORK TIMES that every result which Keely produced by means of "vibratory force," he could produce by the simple and familiar instrumentality of compressed air. And, in fact, the investigation into the secrets of Keelys laboratory leave little or no doubt that compressed air in a reservoir, judiciously alternated with unconfined air in conversation, was the agency that Keely employed to get his living for many years form many dupes.

But to say this is not to give a psychological analysis of an unlamented humbug. It is scarcely credible that, starting with nothing but the old proposition of the fiddle and the bridge, a man should deliberately set out to deceive and swindle the public with the pretense that he had made a practical application of the "vibratory force." It is more likely that Keely, having a very turbid and confused conception of mechanical facts and laws, as was evident to everybody who ever talked with him who had a clear conception of mechanical principles, began by believing that there was really "something in it," and seemed to himself to find some facts to support this view. It may have been only when his apparent facts falled him, and his machine for reduplicating and prolonging vibrations failed to "function," that he found himself compelled to substitute secret conduits of a familiar force and to become a common swindler in order to get his living from the credulous. Upon this point we await with interest the report of the Professor of Experimental Psychology in the University of Pennsylvania.

As to the psychologizing of the stockholders, that is a much easier matter than the psychologizing of Keely himself. At least the phenomena, if not simpler, are more familiar. When the "manifestations" of Spiritualism began, and awe-stricken gulls saw tables tipped by supernatural agencies and spirit forms emerge from toilet clothes-presses, if the now existing financial methods had been in vogue, there would have been no difficulty in "promoting" "stocking," "floating," possibly not even in "listing" the securities which represented the magical powers of the Fox sisters or the DAVENPORT brothers. The inexhaustibleness of human credulity is a topic too trite to be attractive. But we should really like to know what a Professor of Experimental Psychology thinks about Keely.

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