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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Auburn Company's "Kyro" Unveiled!

I love the end of long searches.

The Auburn Company of Providence, Rhode Island has already gotten a fair assessment of its known history and products in my previous Wanda Tipping Table blog, given there due to the fact that for years collectors and researchers had assumed that their Syco-Graf was somehow related to Grover Haffner's creation due to the similarity of facial design. Unfortunately, that theory doesn't look to be playing out any more now than it did when I first revealed that info on the Auburn Company and its owners, and no new company information has come to light since that time. So it goes.

Various Syco-Grafs and ads for same, 1920s.
But there's been a major discovery, nonetheless! We'll recall from our previous post that Whitfield J. Hainer of 227 Sackett St. registered “The Auburn Company" as a sole proprietorship manufacturing novelties in Rhode Island on March 1, 1920. He had a partner, C.H. Martineau, and duo's company was located at 64 North Main Street, in Room #2.

Beyond the company info, we have surviving ads for the Syco-Graf, or, the "Micro-Psychic Machine," and the search for them had led us to ads for another of Auburn Company's creations, the aforementioned Kyro, the Psychic Writer.

Kyro Psychic Writer advertisement, The Independent, March 1921
So, the hunt was on to uncover the Kyro. While I wish I could report the discovery of a flesh-and-blood specimen, for now we'll have to be content with images of the item as revealed through what is either a period sales pamphlet or instruction sheet. Thank you to my buddy Brian Altonen and his Amazing Cures, Astonishing Beliefs blog for uncovering this little gem, nestled as a bookmark between the pages of 1000 Years in Celestial Life. Introduction to Science and Key of Life. Manifestations of Divine Law. [Received through Psychic Telegraphy.] Autobiography of Clytina; Born in Athens 147 B.C. Passed to Celestial Life, 131 B.C. which is, as the title indicates, an autobiography of an ascended deific spirit channeled by the psychic W.E. Cole through a radio receiver. Pretty fitting, I'd say.

The pamphlet is a beautiful, petite little single-fold, expounding on the wonder of the Kyro psychic writer. We're blessed to finally, after this long search, to have a picture of the device, and in use, at that:

While we could have wished for a less-obscured view, the illustration and accompanying text tell us a lot about the Kyro. We know it is hexagonal and constructed of three-ply mahogany with a "birch inlay finish." This, of course, is also how the Syco-Graf is described, and as I've noted before, this isn't the most honest of descriptions. The "inlay" is actually stamped sections in the wood that are stained a lighter color. While is is an interesting touch, it becomes painfully obvious what the process of construction is, if the Syco-Graf is any frame of reference, when one sees the darker-stained areas surrounding the lighter "birch" sections, and the old towel marks left in the stain as the makers tried to deftly apply an even coat by mopping around the lighter sections without bleeding into them, with mixed results (the upper-lefthand Syco-Graf pictured above shows this inconsistent staining).

Operationally, the Kyro differs from other planchettes in that its aperture is centrally-placed, and  "consists of a pencil and a special receptacle processed from silicated xylonite. The receptacle is covered by a thin diaphragm which connects with the pencil through a sensitive composition styled a "float," the same composition in effect as is now used on the latest model SYCO-GRAF."  Xylonite is an early Bakelite-like celluloid substance, often used for knifes handle and imitation coral jewelry, so it seems we basically have a celluloid ring used as a retention for a thinner membrane in the window which holds the pencil, not unlike Fuld's classic clear-plastic-windowed planchettes from this period, only instead of holding a small needle as an indicator, the diaphragm is designed to hold the device's pencil. The illustration shows the planchette in use, and, sure enough, the young woman's hand is clasping the pencil, not the planchette's body--a possible clue into the potentially fragile nature of the celluloid diaphragm.

What is more mysterious is how this material is incorporated on the Syco-Graf, as the excerpt maintains. While the Syco-Graf in the Mysterious Planchette collection is admittedly missing its wooden indicator wheel, the remaining housing is brass, though it may be that the accompanying housing in the indicator itself was made of xylonite for "insulation" purposes, or the specimen I have wasn't the "latest" model incorporating this feature as the pamphlet hints.
Kyro detail.
The planchette's legs do not seem to be wheeled castors, and instead appear to be turned pegs, like earlier versions of Ouija's planchette. If there are wheels, they are tiny, and given that the pamphlet notes the legs are also made of this xylonite material, this is a possibility. Another interesting feature of the Kyro is a "domed pearl partly inset in the top...affording the visualizing properties of a gazing crystal when at rest, and diminishing self conscious mental interferences when used while the writing is in progress." They thought of EVERYTHING! An automatic writer AND a scrying crystal! Finally, it is noted that the Kyro contains no metal.

So, what are we looking for? The Kyro is a red mahogany-stained hexagonal plywood planchette, with some sections stained in a lighter "birch color," so it probably looks a lot like the woodwork of its larger sibling, the Syco-Graf.  It is likely stamped with its name. It has bakelite-like legs that may or may not have tiny little wheels, and have the turned-wood appearance of early Ouija planchette legs. The aperture should have a retention ring of the same substance surrounding a celluloid film with a hole in the middle to hold a pencil. And, of course, somewhere on top is that essential faux-pearl.

Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure this thing couldn't be confused for anything else! So, eyes open, stalwart readers, and here's hoping that somewhere, a perfectly-preserved Kyro is lurking in a dark basement or attic, just waiting for its rediscovery.You just come whispering back to me...

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