Boilerplate-A Mechanical and Graphic Marvel

While I don’t dress up as the nefarious Dr. Von….anything with Victorian techno goggles and chrono-whosis.  I do identify  to being ..steampunk curious.  Okay, I built a cool ray gun in my garage… busted ( I’ll take pictures and post) .   I do wear a pocket watch in my vest, but it’s a regular pocket watch it doesn’t distort any temporal ..anything  just tells me I’m taking too long a lunch. Now, that bit of therapy is over… I came a cross a very cool book recently, ( “cool” as an adjective should be used in relation to steampunk stuff whether it’s great writing or not)

Boilerplate cvr

that not only embraces the Victorian fascination with ingenious pin striped mechanical devices, and adventure stories but is meticulously illustrated and written.  “Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel”  by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (168 pp. Hardcover, Published by Abrams Image) is a wonderfully fun (and serious) documentation of the worlds first robot soldier.  The book traces the “birth” of Boilerplate by inventor Archie Campion in 1893 and then goes on to place our iron hero at the cross roads of history in a  Zelig-esque fashion.  Boilerplate is unveiled at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Boilerplate explores the Antarctic, Boilerplate accompanies Teddy Roosevelt as he charges up San Juan Hill, Boiler plate during WWI.


(above) Theatrical poster depicting Boilerplate with Kitchener’s forces during the Sudan Campaign of 1897.



(Above) After five months, the pack ice shifted enough for Boilerplate to effectively carve out a channel that the Euterpe could escape through. The expedition arrived at Cape Evans in the spring of 1895.


Paul Guinan (artist and writer), and Anina Bennett (writer and editor) have a wonderful grasp of historical ephemera.   The book crafts a visual narrative on the phenomena of clebrity that this mechanical marvel enjoys. As time passes sometimes the ephemera is all that’s left of a person place or thing that at one point captured the attention of millions. Examples of period buttons, tickets dime novels, wind-up toys all featuring Boilerplate have been created and mocked up to attest to his celebrity.  THere is even evidence of boilerplate’s story being “revived” as some 70’s era cartoon. They (the authors) are so successful at it that even knowing it’s a charade you at some point begin to ask yourself if this is real.  I consider myself a fair hand with Photoshop and I’m impressed at the level of craft in the art.  Guinan and Bennett include their inspirations as well which adds to their scholarly approach.  A really great fictionalized history that I loved and would recommend picking up. There is a description of how to make a Boilerplate figure at as well as appearances, Guinan and Bennett were at Steamcon .this past Oct.


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