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Miss Honeywell (1968)

Every new promise of futuristic technology brings with it the hucksters, the swindlers, and the merely confused. In the 1970s the three-wheeled Dale car was supposed to get seventy miles to the gallon, but both the car and its inventor were ultimately revealed to be frauds. In the 1930s American newspapers warned that a robot in England had risen up against its inventor and shot him.

In the mid and late 1960s a highly suspicious robot made the publicity circuit with its "inventor," magician Mark Wilson promoting everything from computers to blenders. With Wilson at the controls and a blue ladybot stiffly walking like a zombie to prove just how mechanical she was, it was quite a sight to behold. In this newsreel from 1968 the "robot" is known as Miss Honeywell and the narrator himself even calls into question the veracity of the operator's claims.

The "woman in a robot suit" stunt is so transparent as to likely be harmless, but you have to wonder how many people saw this robot's demonstration and thought it was real. As we know, there are still some children of the 1980's who think, thanks to Back to the Future II director Robert Zemeckis, that hoverboards were taken off shelves by overzealous child-safety groups.

The ad below of Miss Honeywell -- or in this case, the "housewife of the future -- appeared in the October 9, 1966 Oakland Tribune.

Come see the robot "housewife of tomorrow" plugged in October 10th to 15th.

The Hamilton Beach robot "housewife of tomorrow" will be demonstrated in our 15th and Broadway window. She is the amazing robot who is programmed to do all the cleaning. Watch the robot then come to the fourth floor housewares department to register for the free drawing for Hamilton Beach electric knives to be given away twice a day for each day of the demonstrations. Also demonstrations of Hamilton Beach's amazing blenders and carving knives.

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Reader Comments (1)

What probably had the greatest potential to confuse people was not the act itself, but the gimmick of promoting it as a product demonstration. Someone who never actually saw the act might think they had something.

I recall one of the children's book illustrations you posted earlier had a household robot called "Maid Without Tears" that looked an awful lot like a variant of the Miss Honeywell act (as someone pointed out in comments). It was standing behind the Quasar Industries household robot, another hoax that fooled more people.

Around that time, I poked around and discovered that somebody is still doing the Miss Honeywell act, under the name "Robotic Woman", as an attraction at trade shows and the like. But nobody seems to bother promoting it as anything other than a magic act.

Incidentally, the first version of this post was eaten in a server failure at the captcha stage. These days the trick is convincing someone you're not a robot.

July 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMatt McIrvin

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