A Robot in the Family
One might think that having Catherine Hayes in one's family tree was quite enough but how about a robot too? His name was Alpha and he was famous in America and Canada although he could not sing but he could speak!
Alpha the Robot saves San Diego
You may think we have departed into the realms of science fiction already but it's true in a manner of speaking. It's quite elementary, my dear Watson, as Holmes might have said. You see, Alpha was created by my uncle Harry May and he played a major role in saving San Diego from financial ruin in 1935. He made over a $1,000,000 for the City in admission fees during the Exposition and stayed on for a further year.
Conceived in 1918 and completed in 1932 at a cost of $180,000 Alpha toured England and drew capacity crowds. In 1933, he emigrated to Canada for the National Exposition at Toronto where police had to control the crowds. Over 300,000 paid to see Alpha perform. Harry could make him stand up, sit, move his arms , fire a revolver and answer questions. Quite a feat in the days when computers had not been invented.
From here, Macey's in New York secured Alpha for a first showing in the USA. It's said the store attendance exceeded 150,000 over the previous week. Other venues included Gimbel Bros., Radio City, Shrine Auditorium LA before reaching the Hall of Science at America's Exposition, San Diego. Alpha ended his days in a New York warehouse after his inventor returned to England in 1939.
He was born in London in 1900 and died aged 77 in 1977 having made and lost several fortunes in his life. A partner is said to have run away with a lot of the money from the Robot era. After a spell working for MGM on special effects, he returned to England where he married and started a needle factory in the Midlands which employed 400 people at one time. While with MGM, he became a friend of the Marx Bros. and Louis B. Meyer.
He also built model boat kits known as 'Maycraft Kits'. We have a letter from HM the Queen thanking him for a present of one to the young Prince Charles. Next came fine French antiques when he opened Maycraft Galleries in Hampstead, London. He was also a diamond dealer at Hatton Garden and was made a Freeman of the City of London.