Miers Fisher on Redheffer's Perpetual Motion Machine
Spent the evening at Samuel Longstreth's [Miers' son-in-law] where Joshua Longstreth gave me an account as well as he could of the Machine invented by Andrew [sic] Redheffer called the perpetual motion, the idea of which I at first ridiculed, but upon interrogating him I received a more satisfactory account of it than from many other of its visitors and began to think it more feasible and retired to bed with my mind strongly impressed with the image of it.
My mind was occupied much in the night by the Machine for perpetual motion and I believe the invention will answer the [illegible]. The principle is simple tho the machine is somewhat complex. The power is a weight or rather two descending on an inclined plane in one or two wheeled[?] carriages which move with the friction, but attached to the arm of levers passing thru an upright shaft and moving round with it. The carriage would descend rapidly, but being fast to the lever they move round leaving the carriage stationary on the inclined plane; its momentum being transformed to the lever which turning the upright shaft also turns a wheel fixed at the lower part of it in horizontal direction whose teeth work in a vertical [illegible] wheel, which will continue the motion to any machinery. The principle then is to keep the momentum of the weight on the inclined plane stationary and constantly acting on the arms of the lever which crosses the perpendicular axis or shaft. To keep them in exact equilibrium seems to be the only difficulty, which however cannot be great as all that have seen it say the one is perfectly stationary and the other equally moving. Of course there is no need of winding up a weight which does not descend, and of course the motion will continue until some part wears out. I propose to go see it as soon as convenient, in order to form a judgment ex autopsia
I waited on Peale at the museum for an answer to my letter to his father concerning the ground rent due to Hunt Estate.
I spent the morning at home reading a book by an anonymous author on religious metaphysics....
I went to town PM. Searched for Marshall Key; he was gone to Chestnut Hill to see Redheffer's self moving Machine and had not returned.
Benjamin Warner and Marshall Key stayed this evening which I hope was not spent idly. We had much conversation on various subjects, the manners of the people in Virginia and Kentucky, slaves and their treatment better in the latter than in the former, their masters work with them. The atomaton not forgotten; we agree to go together to examine it.
Benjamin Warner, Marshall Key and myself agree to visit the Atomaton tomorrow, to set off at 9 AM and go to dinner at Ury.
Marshall Key and myself set off a 9 in the carriage. Benjamin Warner and Hannah [Fisher, Miers' daughter] to follow us in a gig in half an hour. We Stopped at Stenton in hope D. Logan would accompany us. His wife and son had gone to town (we met them) and he had no mode of going unless I would take him a return to dinner, which did not suit as my company were to dine and sleep at Ury. Coming out of the gate we saw the gig with B.W. and Hannah about 50 yards ahead. Passed them and we reached Redheffer's 1/4/past 11. There were 6 or 8 persons there before us. The description of it was first given to me by Joshua Longstreth who doubted the reality of the invention, but I caught by the eye of my mind the true principle of the moving powers while I was in the act of denying its possibility and immediately became a firm believer of it. Thomas Gilpin afterwards sketched a draft of it with his pencil so that I perfectly understood the whole of it at first glance. T.G. was not clear about it and cautioned me not to commit my self till I had seen and considered it, but I had 20 times explained the principle and power before I saw it, but I exceeded my expectations. I defined it as the power of a pendulum restrained from falling to its perpendicular and the [illegible] is the moving force. For a car weighing altogether (blank) pounds suspended on the hypotenuse of a triangular box on 4 brass wheels, the base of the box being also on 4 brass wheels and resting on a toothed wheel of about 7 f. diameter and suspended by 4 irons, thru which an upright shaft passes without fixture, having a lesser wheel fixed to its lower extremity which toothed into a vertical wheel which turns a roller with a band turning a grindstone with great velocity. The car suspended on the inclined raise of the triangular box and pressing toward a perpendicular by its own gravity but unable to do so by its suspension to an arm passing thru the perpendicular shaft generates a force which fastened to the hanging wheel carries it round exactly upon the same principle that the wind blowing at right angles with a skipkiel[?] acts upon a boon-sail to propel her forward. The boon forming an angle of 45 degrees with the kiel. The principle and machinery are simple beyond expectation and may be adapted to any purpose that a fall of water, wind or steam can effect. The extent of the power that can be thus acquired must be found by repeated experiments, but I see no limits to prevent its equalling the force of any steam engine; for as the power with [illegible] in proportion to the square of the measured radius and increased weight it is possible if not probable that it may carry any force that wood and iron machinery is capable of bearing. My imagination is lost in contemplating the revolution which a few years will produce in all manners of machinery and the whole rational creation should pause to give thanks and praise to the Author of all good for disclosing to an illiterate mechanic the means by which gravitation may be rendered a substitute for half the purpose of animal labor. Surely, while such an improvement in natural things is permitted to meliorate the external conditions of man in this life by so very simple a means, the Christian believer has reason to hope that all the process going on in the moral and intellectual world is intended to produce a regeneration of the spirits of men. So that whole civilized world being now at war, the end of this war may superinduce universal peace among men, never again to be interrupted.
This event exhibits to my mind a proof and example that it is easier for a [illegible] or is it rendered Camel to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, or in other words it is easier for him to perform any natural apparent impossibility than to change the hearts of men without or against their wills. Indeed I see no end to the considerations which arise up on this occasion, may it not be considered as a partial repeal of the sentence passed upon Adam "in the sweat of thy face shall thou eat thy bread." But I must stop my pen and wait in the belief that in a few years whether I may live to see it or not this principle will perform the hardest part of the mechanic labor of man.
We spent an hour and now in viewing this wonder of the age during which time a large number of persons 30 or 40 came to see it, and it seems to gain [illegible] which for some weeks has been refused to it especially by the learned. We reached Ury in an hour and 35 minutes, about 9 miles, and spent the day and evening very agreeably.
Samuel Stanton came and stayed the night, an interesting conversation on several subjects, perpetual motion, etc.
I called at W. Rawles[?] about [illegible] he showed me Redheffer's Specifications of his self moving machine. It appears to me to be well drawn, but he denied me to take it home with me and considerate it at leisure.
PM Abram[?] Woolman and three other neighbors called to see the plan of Redheffer's machine, which I explained as well as I could to their understanding.
Employed in preparation to go to town this afternoon and also in drawing an addition to Redheffer's Automoton to propose to Wm. Rawles[?].
...thence to W. Rawles[?] [illegible] and gave him my [illegible] to the specification which he appraised.
...spent an hour at Philadelphia Insurance Co.; perpetual motion attacked and defended.
I have been employed part of yesterday and this in writing an essay on Redheffer's Machine now the subject of all conversation in town.
1812.12.25 Friday called Christmas
Yesterday and this I have transcribed and enlarged an essay written some days ago on Redheffer's self moving machine.
W. Sansom called PM to see me and took me in his [?] to the upper ferry over Schuylkill, hoping to see L. Wernway's[?] attempt to make a self moving machine, but it was removed.
Benjamin Warner dined with us and after dinner Jos. Watson of the family of Wm. Bolt came and spent an hour with me on the subject of Redheffer's machine. He threw some new light on the subject.
Samuel Longstreth went to Ury this evening early having heard that Sally was now indisposed. I intended to have gone but received an invitation to see a self moving machine made by Lukens in imitation of Redheffer's. It was made by subscription among some opponents of Redheffer's machine expecting to prove that it would not go without the secret power which they suspect he has in some part of his. I was informed that there were to be but six persons present and that we should have a fair opportunity to examine it. I concluded to stay in town this night and return in the morning.
I expected to find but six or eight persons, but the room was soon crowded with between 20 and 30 or perhaps more. The machine was upstairs but was soon brought thence, being a cold chamber[?] to the back parlor where was a good fire, being placed on a table. Lukens did something to it and it proceeded very slowly, they say about six revolutions per minute. I read my explanation of Redheffer's machine, and called on Lukens to inform us whether this was conformable to it. I especially asked whether the motion caused by the Carrs[?] upon the inclined plane acted first on the upright shaft or on the hanging wheel. He told me he did not know. I expressed some surprise that the maker of it did not know the first principle of it. During the time of my examination of it he very often came to it and with his hand moved the wheel back for several turns with a jerk after which it stopped and then proceeded in the proper direction for a little while when he can and repeated his jerk and thus acted several times and afterwards informed us that a company of ladies was waiting near at hand for our dispersion to come and see it. The machine was taken from the table and set in a dark corner of the room, and I came away without any satisfactory examination of the machine.
Benjamin Warner, B. Tucky[?] and one or two others returned with me to Samuel Lonstreth's where we had a few oysters and strong suspicions were mentioned that this instrument was to quiz people.