The miracle of the communication age has brought the obscure to prominence. And it's hard to get much more obscure than Professor Archibald Campion's creation of a mechanical man. In 1888, we saw the most striking advance in artificial life that mankind has yet produced, and you've probably never heard of it. Thanks to the miracle of the internet and a few dedicated historians the true story of "Boilerplate", the mechanical man, can now be told.
Originally intended as an expendable front line troop for military forces, Boilerplate surpassed his inventor's expectations. This tin man was powered by a new form of motive power that was neither steam nor electricity based. Aided by such renowned scientists as Edward Fullerton and Nikola Tesla, Campion was able to assemble the six feet tall android with royalties from his inventions for Westinghouse Electric, in his own lab in northern Chicago. This historical building is still standing to this day, although it has been restructed into an apartment complex. The exact technical details for Boilerplate's construction are being researched, and papers are expected to be published on the matter shortly.
In 1893, the World's Fair had its most unique mascot yet. Boilerplate was the headliner, his visage even was stamped on the tickets for admission. Boilerplate then went with his inventor on a world tour, hitting the unveiling of Tesla's hyrdroelectric power plant at Niagra Falls, Hawaii (coincidentally during the USA's take-over of the island), the South Pole, and was among the first "stars" of the nations early motion picture industry. However, it would not be until 1898 when Boilerplate had the opportunity to prove himself in actual combat, his intended purpose.
Boilerplate performed admirably in many skirmishes over the years, until his disappearance in 1918 during World War I, where he was reported MIA. There was no question about the superiority of Boilerplate over the steam powered men produced earlier in the nineteenth century, or even Frank Reade Jr's Electric Man, produced in 1886. The alternate power of locomotion which is only now being recovered was clearly the key to the success of Boilerplate. Despite his remarkable performance, Boilerplate failed to inspire the US government to produce any mechanical men of their own.
Other inventors of mechanical men saw the lack of appreciation shown for the remarkable Boilerplate and were clearly disappointed, for there are very few instances of new creations after this time. Only recently with Honda's Asimo and Sony's SDR-4X has modern science begun to recover the ground lost to a discouraged and disinterested scientific community. Hopefully, history will not repeat itself again.
The Lost Squadron Don Lawson (Parcel Press, 1962)
Exciting Experiences in the Japanese-Russian War Marshall Everett (Neil Publishing, 1904)
Blackjack and Pancho: General Pershing's Punitive Expedition Against General Villa
Richard Fullerton and George Monroe (Strategy Publishing, 1991)
http://www.bigredhair.com/boilerplate/ - fantastic web site with many collected photos and documents about Boilerplate and his predecessors