Silver Swan

Contributed by The Bowes Museum

Mechanical Swan, c. 1773 from the London workshop of James Cox. Silver with glass and metal fittings. The Bowes Museum

The Silver Swan is the only one in the worldThe Silver Swan, made by James Cox in London in about 1773, is a life-size clockwork automaton that imitates the behaviour of a real swan. Cox was a showman and dealer; the Swan appeared in his Mechanical Museum in 1774. The mechanism is clockwork, of great quality; it is thought that the celebrated inventor John Joseph Merlin was responsible for designing the automaton. The automaton was exhibited at the Paris International Exhibition in 1867 and John Bowes purchased it in 1872 for his new museum. The Swan is the finest example of an automaton of its kind in the UK and one of only two of its size and importance in the world. It is enjoyed and well remembered by generations of visitors to the museum and now forms the museum's logo.

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