"The Turk," the mechanical or automaton chess player was a fake chess-playing machine constructed in the late 18th century. From 1770 until its destruction by fire in 1854, it was exhibited by various owners as an automaton, though it was explained in the early 1820s as an elaborate hoax.  Because of the Turk's popularity and mystery, its construction inspired a number of inventions and imitations, including "Ajeeb," or "The Egyptian," (Ajeeb is an Arabic word meaning strange or unexplainable) an American imitation built by Charles Hopper. The mysterious Ajeeb was the pride of the Eden Musée wax museum on West 23rd Street in NYC which opened to the public in 1884.  It drew scores of thousands of spectators to its games, which President Grover Cleveland played in 1885, and other opponents for which included Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt and O. Henry.  The genius behind "Ajeeb" was Charles himself, an expert and fast moving chess player, and later with Hopper's health failing hired such players as Harry Nelson Pillsbury (1898-1904), Albett Beauregard Hodges, Constant Ferdinand Burille, Charles Moehle, and Charles Francis Barker. You could watch Ajeeb play an opponent for 10 cents or you could play chess with Ajeeb for 25 cents and checkers for 10 cents a game. Ajeeb was at the Eden Musée when popular baseball player, Christy Mathewson, liked to take him on too, and did so with a number of Wall Street men who used to spend an hour or two in the afternoon at the Musée on days when the Exchange was quiet. In 1910 Captain Francis B. "Fish" Fishburne of Columbia, SC, while playing at the top of his checker career, traveled to NYC and won 3 games from Ajeeb which testifies to his ability. It was moved from the Eden Musée in 1915 to a museum on Coney Island, New York, Ajeeb was destroyed in a fire in 1929; however, I read on Chess.com this is not entirely so, which has a lengthy article by John Kobles. This research says... Ajeeb was kept operation until 1915, when the Eden went bankrupt and closed, done in by the cinema. The honor of being the last man to work Ajeeb at the Musée went to Jesse B. Hanson.  Ajeeb remained in being but went steadily downhill after the Eden folded. Sam Gumpertz, the expansive gentleman who is now one of the owners of Hamid's Million Dollar Pier in Atlantic City, got what might be called his start by buying a controlling interest in the Musée's waxworks for fifteen thousand dollars and moving them to a museum which opened on Surf Avenue at Coney Island, also under the name Hamid's. The owner of Ajeeb, Mrs. Elmore also moved along with the waxworks and everything else, but finding it hard to pay the high salaries asked by skillful chess players, the Ajeeb owner decided to confine the dummy's activities to checkers, so the manipulator, a tiny, consumptive Brooklyn boy named Sam Gonotsky was hired. Gonotsky is the most feared and strongest checker player in the country at this time.  A wonderful and exciting time for Ajeeb but this is short lived because he doesn't have time for Ajeeb while playing and winning tournaments in the US and Europe. Without Gonotsky to keep up the interest and profit of Ajeeb and shortly afterward Mrs. Elmore had a disagreement with Gumpertz and moved Ajeeb a few doors down to a rival museum called World of Wax, where for several seasons she did a desultory business with the help of lesser talented checker players. In 1925 she remarried, retires, and takes Ajeeb home with her. Sam Gonotsky died in 1929 of tuberculosis at age 26.     http://blog.chess.com/batgirl/i-love-ajeeb      http://blog.chess.com/batgirl/the-strange-and-wondrous-ajeeb     http://blog.chess.com/view/the-eden-museacutee         

http://blog.chess.com/batgirl/the-mysterious-ajeeb---the-pride-of-the-eden-museacutee

http://blog.chess.com/batgirl/the-mysterious-ajeeb       

 

 


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