Permanent Collection

World's First Family of Robots by DeVon Smith

DeVon Smith, Detail: World's First Family Of Robots, n.d., Recycled metal, found objects, Gift of Alice Kumar, Photo by Dan Meyers. Left to Right: Saturn, Sun, & Father Jupiter.


 

"Don't sit in a chair. Get out and do it." –DeVon Smith

DeVon Smith (1926–2003) was born in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, and frequently skipped school as a youngster to hitchhike to the next town over to watch Sci-fi and horror movies all day. Smith quit high school, worked casting tank turrets in Pittsburgh, and was drafted into the 84th Infantry during WWII, earning three battle stars during his service. After the war, Smith became a world-famous hitchhiker, setting the Guinness World Records for Longest Total Distance Hitched: 290,980 miles, and for hitching across the the 48 contiguous United States in 33 days in 1957. When his wandering days were over, Smith settled in Wampum, PA, and made a living trading and selling junk. He lovingly created his own 100% recycled World's First Family of Robots, which he would display at department store openings and the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh. Smith used oscillating fans for movement, and parts from old hair dryers, TV antennas, and other household electronics to construct his robots. He finished them off with paint, bicycle reflectors and car headlights to create each personality in the family. The robots first appeared at AVAM in the 1999 exhibition We Are Not Alone - Angels and Other Aliens. In June of 2000, DeVon officiated at an elaborate Robot Wedding here at AVAM—complete with champagne for the adults, ginger ale and wedding cake for the kids, and featuring a remote control robot dog as ring bearer. "Can you believe I got myself a family for just $39.95?" (the cost of the moving electric components).

DeVon Smith, Detail: World's First Family Of Robots, n.d., Recycled metal, found objects, Gift of Alice Kumar, Photo by Dan Meyers. Left to Right: Mother Venus, Mars & Sis-Star.