P. C. Mattox

From Kook Science

Pinkney Columbus Mattox (February 4, 1850 - September 16, 1933) was an American farmer and mechanical tinker who, while resident at Piedmont, South Dakota, claimed discovery of the secret of perpetual motion in 1892, displaying as evidence a model of wheels, levers, and balls in public exhibitions. In the decades that followed, Mattox went on to become a touring showman, managing a wild west troupe under the stage name Diamond Dick, then moving on to imitation Mexican bull fights, before retiring from the entertainment trade to become a rancher and wildcatter in New Mexico, and, finally, settling in Los Angeles, where he invented a boll weevil insecticide.

Press Coverage

Perpetual Motion (1892)

  • "Perpeturl Motion.", Black Hills Union (Rapid City, South Dakota): 2, 8 Jan. 1892, 

    Twenty seven years ago, a boy of mechanical turn of mind was feeding a shingle machine at a saw mill located at Bluiner, then Vanyille, Wisconsin, At odd times during the stoppage of the mill, he traced upon the smooth surface of the shingles a machine which his imagination suggested. With one of these drafts he felt he had secured the plan he sought and hid it in the saw dust pile until the working hours were over.

    This boy and man is found in the name P. C. Mattox, of Piedmont, who has been announced by the press of the Hills as the discoverer of perpetual motion. It was our fortune to meet Mr. Mattox at the late district Alliance and we were pleased to receive an invitation from him to inspect his startling discovery. Mr. Mattox removed to the Black Hills in June '85 with his wife and three children and located two miles south of Piedmont. Later he took a ranch on Elk creek three miles east of Cottel's store. Of late he has resided in Piedmont and during the past year has labored to resurrect the machine buried in his brain 15 years ago.

    For twelve years, as opportunities offered, the boy and young man labored to produce a working model from the draft. He labored under many difficulties as the practical father or vigilant employ would not countenance his hobby. Fifteen years ago when a man grown with a family depending on him for support, the grasshopper scourge drove him out of Kansas and he removed to Council Bluffs' where he hoped to find work for the winter. Here his faith in his project is shown by the purchase with his last remaining change of lumber for further experiment and the borrowing of a bowling ball for further experiments. Here during the hours he could spare from work he continued to build and rebuild until finally he produced a working model but only to find an elephant on his hands with no acquaintance and not even the small amount of means to secure a patent. He dare show the result of his labors to no one and to preserve his secret he chopped up the result of all these years of labor depending upon his head to resurrect it at some future year.

    It looks as though Mr. Mattox had succeeded, improbable as it may seem. We are not enough of a mechanic to give a plain description of the machine or power, but will give the outlines advising all our readers who can to see it for themselves. It seems very simple in its construction and derives all its power from that greatest of powers, the lever. There is a walking beam thirteen feet long provided with a double track on which runs a ball weighing 100 pounds on the one side attached to either end are levers carrying weights of about 25 pounds, on the opposite side are levers with weights of 10 pounds. The weighted levers are so constructed as to be in strain as the ball passes from one track to the other and thus their weight raises the beam the grade of the tracks on the two sides being such that a slight raising of the beam starts the ball on the return track, as the ball passes or drops from one track to the other at the end for a second it is suspended does not touch either track and here is where the lever appears to get in its work. Won't it stop — is the question everyone asks. It has run continuously for fifty hours, and was then stopped. A company of professors from Hot Springs watched it for twelve hours when the early hours of the sabbath forced them to adjourn. Before seeing it we were inclined to doubt its power, but it seems to be limited only by the length of beam and weight of ball that can be used. In this model with a beam of thirteen feet and a hundred pound ball a weight of sixty pounds was attached to the beam sixteen inches from the fulcrum and it did not impede the speed of the machine a particular. Mr. Mattox is a practical hard working farmer and his search for this long sought power did not effect his brain nor has his apparent success turned his head. He states that he does not expect a fortune out of his discovery but will dispose of it at a reasonable figure. The price he named to us seems in fact ridiculously low. He already has many offers for exhibition rights. It surely looks to a casual observer that a valuable power had been discovered, but if used as a curiosity only it is a fortune to any man who properly manages it.

  • "IMPORTANT QUESTION SOLVED. South Dakota Citizen Believes He Has Invented a Perpetual Motion.", Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha, NB): 1, 15 Feb. 1892, 

    Although this is but a small hamlet in the canons of the Black Hills, it can boast of a citizen who has solved the mystery of perpetual motion. P. C. Mattox has invented a machine that has been seen by responsible parties to run for fifty-six hours and was then stopped. He has combined the inclined plane weight and lever theories, and has no doubt solved the problem of perpetual motion. The model he now has is a very crude affair, having been made by himself, and with but few proper tools. It consists of a beam about twelve feet in length, with a track, made of an octagon shaped iron, on top, on which runs an iron ball weighing about 100 pounds. The beam, or walking beam, as it might better be termed, is hung on an iron shaft in the center. The ball is started on the track and gains enough speed in running the first eleven feet to overcome the grade of about one-fourth inch in the remaining one foot of the beam. The track is so constructed that the ball now jumps to another track to return on. While the ball is making the turn at the end of the beam there are levers and weights so constructed that they overcome its weight and elevate this end of the beam, causing the ball to run to the opposite end and return as before.

    The power is to be developed at the shaft in the center of the walking beam, and the speed is regulated by blocks, raising or lowering at either end, making the grade of the track more or less inclined, thereby causing the ball to run fast or slowly as desired.

    The machine has been seen by several scientists, machinists, etc., from Lead, Deadwood and Hot Springs, and all pronounce it a wonder. Parties from Deadwood with unlimited means have been negotiating with Mr. Mattox the past week trying to buy the right or a part interest in it, but Mr. Mattox has so much faith in his invention that he does not wish to sell. He has worked on this scheme for the past seventeen years and has undoubtedly succeeded in every sense of the word. His success has not turned his head, and he is a man with good sound judgment and knows when he has a good thing.

  • "PERPETUAL MOTION. Mr. H. D. Dribble Does Not Believe iu the Mattox Machine and Thinks he has Discovered a Novelty Himself.", Black Hills Union: 2, 25 Mar. 1892,  — in which Harvey Douglas Dibble (1863-1943) relates that he has duplicated Mattox's device and found it unable to act without outside motive power. Dibble, for his part, was a serious engineer and inventor, having a patented an overhead electric carriage system, similar to the modern trolleybus, in 1889, and would go on to receive patents for an explosion engine and a centrifugal slime filter for use in mining.
  • "Perpetual Motion.", Black Hills Weekly Journal (Rapid City, SD): 3, 6 May 1892, 

    The great mystery that has racked the brains of many men for years past, which was advertised to be exhibited in Rapid City yesterday and last evening, remains a mystery yet, so far as the citizens of this city are concerned. Professor P. C. Mattox pitched his tent on the vacant lot adjoining the bell tower yesterday morning and expected to give an exhibition of his perpetual motion machine in the evening, but the machine did not "perpet." It was started in the evening, but was taken apart to show its workings and when being put together again a lever broke thus interfering with a further exhibition for the time being.

  • "THINKS HE HAS GOT IT. A DAKOTA MAN'S PERPETUAL MOTION DEVICE. Prof. P. C. Mattox of Piedmont, After Twenty-Seven Years of Work, Has What He Claims to Be a Perpetual Motion Machine.", Hot Springs Weekly Star (Hot Springs, SD): 7, 6 May 1892, 
  • "Discovered at Last.", Dakota Farmers' Leader (Canton, SD): 2, 6 May 1892, 

Diamond Dick (1894-)

  • "Diamond Dick's Wild West Show", Black Hills Weekly Times (Deadwood, SD): 1, 30 June 1894,, "P. C. Mattox, of perpetual motion fame, whose stage name is 'Diamond Dick,' was in the city yesterday from his home in Piedmont. He has been engaged the past few months securing material for his 'Wild West Show,' with which he expects to embark about the middle of next month."