On the fourth day of Christmas the 1862 Committee gave to me… four Calling Birds
One of the surprise successes of the 1862 International Exhibition was a mechanical singing Bullfinch in the Swiss Court. Wound-up periodically during the day, the song the bird sang was so beautiful that it drew a crowd from across the exhibition, all fascinated by its haunting sound! However, this was a problem. The Illustrated London News reported that the numbers of spectators the bird drew to it caused havoc and posed a threat to other exhibits in close proximity – displays knocked as people jostled to see the calling bird. In the end, to everyone’s disappointment, the Exhibition’s officials had to ask the Swiss to stop winding up the mechanical bird, the disturbance it caused deemed too problematic to be easily controlled and calmed.
Nineteenth Century Automaton Mechanical Bird in a Cage [accessed 23.12.13]
© Helen Cresswell and Ruth Mason, 2013