History is rife with intriguing stories of conmen and their ploys. The pathetic, but interesting, story of Charles Redheffer is a testament to the fact that smart men will always expose the dumb man (especially when they are as arrogant as Charles Redheffer).
In 1812, Mr. Redheffer arrived in Philadelphia claiming that he had invented a “perpetual motion machine.” He claimed that it required nothing to run. Quickly Redheffer became something of a celebrity in Philadelphia, where he charged the locals to witness his fantastical machine at work.
Redheffer’s downfall in Philadelphia began after he brazenly asked the city to help fund a larger version of the machine. City officials arrived to inspect the machine, but were only allowed to view “through a barred window, as Redheffer was concerned anyone going near the machine might damage it” or, you know, they might discover his fraudulent claims. One of the inspectors’ sons was skeptical of Redheffer’s machine and “noticed that the gears of the perpetual motion machine were worn in the wrong direction if it was really powering the other device.… Read the rest