Charles Redheffer

From Kook Science

Charles Redheffer
Born c. 1766
Died 19 February 1821 (54 or 55)[1]
Washington, D.C.

Charles William Redheffer (c. 1766 - February 19, 1821) was an American inventor of German descent, active in Pennsylvania and New York during the early nineteenth century, who claimed to have constructed machines based on the "self-moving principle," which he exhibited to paying customers and used to solicit money from investors. The Redheffer machines shown for public demonstration in Philadelphia and New York City were ultimately exposed as fraudulent by observers, being powered by external sources, including in one case a concealed man turning a hand-crank. Despite this, there is a record of Redheffer's having been granted a U.S. patent in 1820 for Machinery for the Purpose of Gaining Power,[2] though official copies were destroyed in a 1836 fire at the U.S. Patent Office.


  • Morton, Henry (Apr. 1895), "The REDHEFFER PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE", Journal of the Franklin Institute (Philadelphia: Pergamon Press): 246-251, 
  • Hocker, Edward W. (1933), "Charles Redheffer's Perpetual Motion", Germantown, 1683-1933, Germantown, Philadelphia, Pa.: The Author, p. 146-147, 

    From Germantown Township came an early exponent of "perpetual motion," who for a time was a celebrity not only in Philadelphia but elsewhere. His name was Charles Redheffer, and his home, still standing, was on the east side of Germantown avenue, above Gravers lane, Chestnut Hill. Within less than a year after proclaiming his "discovery" he was exposed as a fraud, and then those who had sung his praises could not denounce him vigorously enough.

    Early in the summer of 1812 Redheffer announced his discovery of the secret of perpetual motion, after a series of experiments in his house at Chestnut Hill. Thereafter he conducted most of his operations in a shop along the Schuylkill above Callowhill street, Philadelphia. Long articles were printed in the newspapers about the marvel, but the descriptions were so clouded in scientific phraseology that they conveyed little enlightenment. Redheffer explained that in his machine "the power of gravitation was applied to produce a perpetual horizontal action, produced by the pressure of weights in two corresponding boxes, on a plane inclined in an angle of 45 degrees."

    In September Redheffer exhibited the machine for several days at Henry Cress' tavern, Chestnut Hill, an admission fee of $5 being charged to men, while "female visitors" were admitted gratis.

    City Councils appointed a committee to investigate the desirability of utilizing Redheffer's machine to operate the city water works. The State Legislature also directed a committee to inquire into the utility of the machine. Redheffer made an appointment with the members of the committees to explain his contrivance, but was not on hand at the time designated, nor did he subsequently meet them. Suspicions of fraud were now aroused. Isaiah Lukens, clockmaker, produced a machine like Redheffer's which was operated by a concealed spring. Redheffer gave exhibitions of his apparatus in New York, where Robert Fulton declared it a deception.

    Finally it became known that Redheffer's machinery received its motive power from a man turning a crank in a room below that where the contrivance stood.