Special Exhibition Spotlight: The Mechanical Turk

Now on display in the Guinness Gallery!

The original Automaton Chess Player, or Mechanical Turk was conceived and created by Hungarian inventor, Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen in 1769, specifically to impress Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. From its first performance at the Palace in Vienna in 1770, the Mechanical Turk toured until it was destroyed by a fire at the Chinese Museum in Philadelphia in 1854.

Pictured in the 1783 engraving, Von Kempelen’s Automaton Chess Player played against distinguished opponents such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin—both were defeated by the Mechanical Turk. To dispel the belief that someone hid inside the cabinet, von Kempelen opened doors and drawers for spectators to view.

Master of Illusion John Gaughan presents his reproduction automaton, The Chess-Playing Turk, which he devoted 35 years to building. There are many theories about how the automaton works but Gaughan never reveals the secret of his chess player.

Come to the museum to see this life size chess-playing automaton, and watch a portion of the History Channel’s “Lost Magic Decoded.” As Napoleon had in 1809, International chess master Andranik Matikozian is invited to play against the Turk—who will win?

Come and see if you can determine the secret of the Turk!


Jul 01 2020 - Jul 01 2021