What 19th-century child wouldn't want this creeping doll? Imagine it dressed in Victorian finery, scuttling across the hardwood floor, propelled by a noisy spring-wound mechanism.
This model demonstrates the invention of a mechanical crawling doll. It accompanied the patent submission of George Pemberton Clarke, who received U.S. patent No. 118,435 on 29 August 1871 for his "Natural Creeping Baby Doll." The original patent office tag is still attached with red tape. Clarke's patent was an improvement on the crawling baby doll patent of his associate Robert J. Clay (No. 112,550 granted 14 March 1871).
The doll's head, two arms and two legs are made of painted plaster. The arms and legs are hinged to a brass clockwork body that actuates the arms and legs in imitation of crawling, but the doll moves forward by rolling along on two toothed wheels. A flat piece of wood is attached to top of the movement.
A commercial version of the doll is also in the collection. See also Catalog number 2011.0204.01a.
This mechanical toy is part of a fascinating continuum of figures built to imitate human life. This long Western tradition stretches from ancient Greece through the mechanical automatons of the Enlightenment, through wind-up toys to contemporary robots and other machines with artificial intelligence.
The doll inspired the exceedingly hard-to-find 1972 cult movie, Miriam: The Wind-Up Killer Doll.
From a 1985 issue of the Japanese slasher movie fanzine karuto a gō gō (Cult a Go Go) [Google Translation]:
"Miriam: The Wind-Up Killer Doll" is a controversial 1972 cult classic that has been polarizing audiences for decades. The film follows a group of friends who discover a vintage wind-up creeping baby doll at a garage sale, only to find out that the doll is possessed by a sinister force that begins to stalk and kill them one by one. The film is often compared to Ruggero Deodato's 1980 horror film "Cannibal Holocaust" due to its graphic violence and exploitation of taboo subjects.
One of the most striking aspects of "Miriam" is its use of practical effects to create the doll's movements, which are both convincing and eerie. The film also features a strong cast of unknown actors, who give convincing performances, particularly the protagonist, who gives a nuanced portrayal of a young woman who has to face the terrifying reality of the doll.