Detail map of Mansfield, Ohio, United States,Santa Monica, California, United States

A: Mansfield, Ohio, United States, B: Santa Monica, California, United States

Elektro, the Most Famous Robot of the 1930s

1937 to 1938
Senator John Heinz History Center   IMG 7802

Elektro the Moto-Man and his Little Dog Sparko; created by Westinghouse Electric Company for the 1939 World's Fair. Exhibit in the Senator John Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, PA.

Elektro, a robot built by the Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse Electric Corporation in its Mansfield, Ohio facility between 1937 and 1938, was seven feet tall and weighed 265 pounds.  Humanoid in appearance, he (it) could walk by voice command, speak about 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoke cigarettes, blow up balloons, and move his head and arms. Elektro became the most famous robot of the 1930s.

Elektro's body consisted of a steel gear, cam and motor skeleton covered by an aluminum skin. His photoelectric "eyes" could distinguish red and green light. He was on exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair and reappeared at that fair in 1940, with "Sparko", a robot dog that could bark, sit, and beg.

"Elektro toured North America in 1950 in promotional appearances for Westinghouse, and was displayed at Pacific Ocean Park in Venice, California in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He also appeared as "Thinko", in Sex Kittens Go to College (1960), which starred Mamie Van Doren and Tuesday Weld. In the 1960s, his head was given to a retiring Westinghouse engineer and his body was sold for scrap." (Wikipedia article on Elektro, accessed 02-21-2012).

Remarkably Elektro seems to have survived the scrap heap, and in 2012 was reportedly being restored for the Mansfield Memorial Museum.

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