Indian Automaton

Toy hand-crank Indian automaton / wood and tin / c. 1870s

Antique handmade mechanical automaton toy figure of a painted tin Indian, c. late 19th century. Toys of the period involved animated jointed bodies, but as you turn the wooden handle of this device, the tin Indian does not take on the lively, comic movements of typical figures — rather, he limps along in a pathetic gait, as if crippled by defeat. Made during the Indian Wars of the late nineteenth century — almost certainly by a white hand — the automaton seems to inadvertently capture the suffering of contemporary Native American communities under assault by military and social campaigns undertaken by the U.S. Government. Regardless of its maker’s intentions, the automaton is an evocative piece of folk art and sobering representation of one of the darkest periods in American history.



Good antique condition, with expected wear on wooden base, and significant rust on one side of the tin figure with paint loss (please see photos). The figure is fragile, though stable.



1.5 feet tall

7 inches wide

Figure alone 9 inches tall



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In stock