W. L. Leach

From Kook Science

Wolcott Lawrence Leach (September 11, 1831 - January 20, 1912) was an American carpenter and farmer who received some attention in 1863 for his invention of a machine that he claimed produced perpetual motion, but which was ultimately shown to be a fraud requiring the regular winding of a hidden mechanism to sustain the illusion, in consequence of which he was taken to court by Abraham Gotleib, one of the people he had swindled.

Press Coverage

  • "SOMETHING IN IT.", Rutland Weekly Herald (Rutland, VT): 2, 7 May 1863, 
  • "PERPETUAL MOTION.", Burlington Daily Times (Burlington, VT): 3, 9 Mar. 1864, 
  • "LEACH'S PERPETUAL MOTION.", Rutland Weekly Herald (Rutland, VT): 1, 15 Sept. 1864, 

    Our readers will recollect some notice taken in these columns about a year since of a small machine exhibited through the country, which its inventor claimed to contain the principle of self motion, or perpetual movement. The machine was a metallic wheel with a system of cords and falling balls suspended to the arms of the wheel, which is supported on a thick base of wood. It turns out that the affair is a very ingenious deception. The base or platform contains a system of clock work, a spring running up to the axis through one of the standards supporting the wheel. When 'would up,' it would run some twelve hours. The inventor of this wonderful 'perpetual motion' is said to have made quite a sum by humbugging persons, and then imparting the secret. Of course, parties who have invested are anxious to get their money back by sale or exhibition, and have a motive in keeping this secret. The exposure of the cheat was made by an honest German pedlar, who proposed soon to bring the matter before the courts. — Stanstead Journal.

    The honest German peddler mentioned certainly refers to Abraham Gotleib, who sued Leach in the Vermont courts.

Legal Coverage

  • "Abraham Gotleib v. W. L. Leach.", Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court for the County of Orleans at the August Term, 1867., p. 278-285, 

    The plaintiff’s testimony tended to show that the defendant represented to the plaintiff, at the time of malting the contract, that the balls attached to the wheel were the motive power of the machine, and that the machine was perpetual motion, and that after the trade was made, and the consideration paid, the defendant showed the plaintiff that the motive power was springs and clock work concealed from view in the bottom of the machine, of which, till then, the plaintiff was ignorant. The defendant’s evidence tended to show the contrary, and that he explained all this to the plaintiff before the trade was made, and that he exhibited the machine in different places prior to making the trade with the plaintiff, and never on such exhibitions said the motive power was in the rim of the wheel, or in the balls; but stated that the people present must judge for themselves, as to the motive power. Held, that this evidence having been put in by the defendant as to what took place when the plaintiff was not present, it was not error to allow the plaintiff to disprove it.