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Ben Franklin & the Mechanical Turk

The discovered serendipity of history fascinates me to no end. Like seeing Ben Franklin pop up in the Wikipedia entry for the Turk (known as frequently now as the “Mechanical Turk”, thanks Jeff).

I did some light research and found a letter BF received from the Turk’s inventor, Wolfgang von Kempelen, while Philly’s best man was there trying to negotiate the Treaty of Paris.

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Here’s how Google Translates it. Have a better one? I’d love to see it.

If I have warned you rather my return from Versailles, and renew my request to attend a representation of my chess-playing automaton, it was only to gain a few days, which were necessary to advance me a another very interesting machine that I have the book, and I wish to see you at the same time. So have Mr. goodness for me to name the day and time in which to I-rai have the honor to have you home. My home is a hotel Aligre series of Orleans St Honorè. I have the honor to be with the Respect and esteem the perfect Mr. três your humble and obedient servant três

I wasn’t able to find a direct source confirming that Franklin accepted the invite, and the Wikipedia reference isn’t cited. Point me there if you know the way!

Update: This book by Gerald Levitt seems to have the reference.


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