Mansfield, Ohio is a mid sized city in north central Ohio. It is most famous for the historic Mansfield Reformatory, which was used for the filming of Shawshank Redemption.
Also in Mansfield is their local museum, housed in a 1800s Soldier’s and Sailors Home.
Mansfield was once home to a division of Westinghouse that built home appliances. At one point in the 1950s over 8,000 people from Mansfield worked for Westinghouse.
Without a doubt the most interesting thing ever developed and built for Westinghouse in Mansfield is Elektro, the Robot.
Elektro was designed by Joseph Barnett for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. He is credited with being the first true robot ever built.
With voice commands he could walk, talk and count on his fingers. Built out of gears, cams, motors, vacuum tubes and a photo electric cell, one of Elektro’s stranger talents was the ability to smoke a cigarette.
When we arrived in Mansfield we were greeted by Scott Schaut the curator of the museum, and expert on Elektro. When I asked why he wasn’t in a museum in Pittsburgh, the home of Westinghouse, Scott replied ‘over his dead body’!
Scott has re-created Elektro with modern resin’s and other components. The original is on the left, with the recreation on the right. There was once a dog named Sparko but he was lost to time.
Also within the museum are some exhibits on the Westinghouse products built in town.
Including a roasting pan.
The museum has other local interest items scattered throughout.
While much of the museum has a military feel to it, they also have some local minerals on display, along with more eclectic items.
As part of their military display they have a very large model airplane collection.
While most are military, they have some of the early airplanes like the Wright Flyer.
The models are very detailed in the presentation. Scott said it best when he said, we are the museum for Mansfield but 90% of the people that walk through the door are looking for Elektro – just like us.