1860 Matthews Spring Motor Electro Magneto Machine With Clockwork Fusee Movement


Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you realize that you haven’t even scratched the surface.

Here’s a most unusual magneto electric machine manufactured in London ca. 1860 by W. Matthews.

Unlike conventional magneto-electric machines made between 1855 and 1890 — which relied on hand power to generate electricity — the Matthews machine used a spring motor coupled to a fusee assembly. This clockwork movement allowed the instrument to be used hands free, with the fusee regulating the rotational speed of the coils spinning above the horseshow magnet.  As the motor wound down, and its torque decreased, the conical-shaped fusee would compensate by gradually changing the ratio between the spring barrel’s diameter and that of the fusee — not unlike the gears on a contemporary 15-speed bike or inside an automotive transmission.

This Matthews Magneto, perhaps the only surviving example, is original throughout but will require some level of restoration in order to be operable.  Everything  moves freely, the horseshoe magnet is still viable, and the instrument appears to be complete (except for the electrode handles), but the mainspring and fusee drive string are both broken.

An individual skilled at clock repair should be able to bring the movement back to life, but no assurances to that effect are stated or implied.

Despite its condition issues, this is a remarkable object in many respects, speaking as it does to the history of mechanics, electricity and medicine.  Its rarity is beyond question.


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