Peter O. Elliott
From Kook Science
Peter Olson Elliott (c. 1869 - May 22, 1904) was a machinist and inventor of Scandinavian origins who came to notoriety after being arrested at the White House in October 1903 while seeking a meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt, purportedly to assassinate him. The national press portrayed Elliott as having been driven insane in his attempts to develop a perpetual motion device, a common claim in the era, while Minnesota newspapers described him as a known paranoid eccentric and socialist agitator with delusions of grandeur who had routinely claimed contact with Roosevelt. Just over a month later, in November 1903, Elliott was reported as having been discharged from custody after being evaluated by authorities at the St. Elizabeth's Hospital for the Insane in Washington, D.C., though seems to have been subsequently held at the St. Peter Asylum for the Insane in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he was said to have escaped from after a short stay. He resurfaced again at Minneapolis in late May 1904, being arrested and held briefly by local authorities, only to hang himself from a railroad bridge a day later.
After Elliott's death, local Minnesota newspapers published reports on notes and letters found among his personal effects, including a long letter seemingly in Swedish that was claimed to be untranslatable, as well as records of certain curious inventions, including a musical device proposed for the Exposition Universelle (Paris Exposition) of 1900, described as "a mammoth steam calliope[...] of monstrous size, so gigantic that six or eight big high-pressure boilers would be required to furnish the steam," which would "have a range of about three octaves, or twenty-eight notes to be exact, with every whistle powerful enough to be heard all over Paris."[MJ]
Though some reports following his arrest in 1903 indicated Elliott had been working on perpetual motion, any notes he may have had regarding such efforts were not publicised subsequent to his death.
- SPG (6 Oct. 1903), "MINNEAPOLIS CRANK SEEKS PRESIDENT - He Lands in Insane Asylum — Threatened Roosevelt's Life Months Ago.", St. Paul Globe (St. Paul, Minn.): 1, 6, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/85102396/ — in which, it is alleged, Elliott showed signs of paranoia, fearing poisoning by a Swede conspiracy, and obsessive interest in Roosevelt, claiming the President had promised him a government posting (and even to find him a wife), as well as a note that Nels Lennes, a photographer, had taken photos of Elliott's perpetual motion models.
- MJ (6 Oct. 1903), "ELLIOTT IS IN AN ASYLUM, Minneapolitan Who Tied to Call on Roosevelt Is Declared to Be Insane. He Made No Resistance When Taken to the Asylum — Friends are Silent.", Minneapolis Journal (Minneapolis, Minn.): 2, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045366/1903-10-06/ed-1/seq-2/
- ST (6 Oct 1903), "CRAZY MAN ATTEMPTS TO ENTER WHITE HOUSE, SEEKS THE PRESIDENT - ARMED STRANGE CLAIMING TO BE PETER ELLIOTT OF MINNEAPOLIS - FIGHTS FOR LIBERTY - OVERPOWERED AFTER STRUGGLE IN WHICH HE TRIES TO SHOOT OFFICER. VISIT NOT UNEXPECTED, PRISONER HAD SENT HIS PHOTOGRAPH AND A LETTER SEVERAL DAYS BEFORE. IS WELL KNOWN LOCAL CHARACTER.", Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.): 1, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/180792775/
- RJ (6 Oct. 1903), "MANIAC SETS WHITE HOUSE IN A FURORE - Peter Elliott, Who Insisted Upon Seeing the President, Overpowered by Officers. During Fierce Struggle He Pulled Revolver -- Special Detectives Awaiting His Coming Made Arrest, Furious Fight Following.", Racine Journal (Racine, Wis.): 1, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/343596016/
- "EXAGGERATED RUMORS, Stories Set Afloat Regarding White House Incident. ELLIOTT'S RECORD, INSANE MAN KNOWN TO POLICE IN MINNEAPOLIS. Transferred to St. Elizabeth's Hospital and Efforts Made to Secure Additional Information.", Evening Star (Washington, D.C.): 7, 6 Oct. 1903, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045462/1903-10-06/ed-1/seq-7
- SPG (8 Oct. 1903), "Editorial Comment", St. Paul Globe (St. Paul, Minn.): 4, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/85102420/, "Elliott, the Minneapolis crank who was arrested at the Whitehouse, is said to have gone insane over attempts to invent a perpetual motion machine. He could have achieved his desire and saved his reason by getting pointers from the Roosevelt press bureau."
- TL (15 Oct. 1903), "WASHINGTON LETTER", Mound City Republic (Mound City, Kan.): 1, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/422462136/, "The police later learned that the man was a Dane named Peter Elliott and that he had just come to Washington from Minneapolis, where he spent his time trying to invent 'a perpetual motion machine.'"
- SFC (1 Dec. 1903), "GUARDS AT WHITE HOUSE FEAR RETURN OF A DANGEROUS CRANK - Elliott, Who Was Arrested After a Hard Struggle While Trying to See the President, Escapes From St. Paul Asylum and Starts for Washington", San Francisco Call (San Francisco, Cal.): 7, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/466122927/
- ST (21 May 1904), "PETER ELLIOTT TALKS AND LANDS IN JAIL, MAN WHO BELIEVES UNCLE SAM IS SLOW PAY AND WHO USED TO THREATEN THE PRESIDENT IN LETTERS LANDS IN POLICE STATION.", Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.): 9, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/181263853/
- MJ (21 May 1904), "ELLIOTT DOESN'T HAVE TO GO BACK, Escaped Asylum Inmate, Who Wanted to See Roosevelt, Was 'Discharged'", Minneapolis Journal (Minneapolis, Minn.): 7, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/76284017
- MJ (23 May 1904), "ELLIOTT'S BODY FOUND HANGING - FANATIC WHO GAINED NATIONAL NOTORIETY COMMITS SUICIDE. Papers on His Person Indicate that He Was the Victim of an Insane Self-appreciation — His Rebuff at the White House Had Preyed Upon His Mind.", Minneapolis Journal (Minneapolis, Minn.): 7, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83045366/1904-05-23/ed-1/seq-7
- ST (23 May 1904), "ELLIOTT DIES BY HANGING, Noted Lunatic Is Found Suspended From Girder of Short Line Bridge. BREAKS NECK IN FALL, Writes Long Letter, Which Swedes Are Unable to Translate Into English", Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.): 1-2, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/181266249/
- MJ (25 May 1904), "GREAT HORROR FOR PARIS EXPO - PETER O. ELLIOTT DEVISED A MONSTER CALLIOPE. Its Notes Were to Be Loud Enough to Be Heard All Over the City — Gigantic Battery of Boilers Was to Furnish the Steam — Parisians Did Not Take to Plan.", Minneapolis Journal (Minneapolis, Minn.): 6, https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/76284189