Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Sam Zell Automatons, 1999-2006

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1602
Bib ID 9180164 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Zell, Sam, 1941-
Title Sam Zell Automatons, 1999-2006
Physical Description 8 linear feet (8 oversized custom boxes)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.



Material is organized chronologically.



Collection of eight automatons. Samuel "Sam" Zell. Billionaire investor and chairman of Equity Group Investments, an investment firm focused on transportation, real-estate, energy, media and healthcare industries. Mr. Zell has 675 automatons made each year and gives them out as New Year's presents. The automatons are freestanding sculptural objects that represent a different topic each year. They are charged with an AC adaptor and then started by the push of a button. They begin by playing a new year's message from Sam Zell and then continue with a song parody, generally about the economy (although the 2004 automaton is about the election). The automatons move at the same time as they play the message and song.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Sam Zell Automatons; Box; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Items processed Wes Alcenat 02/10/2012.

Finding aid written Wes Alcenat 02/10/2012.

Revision Description

2012-02-10 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

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Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Automata Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Zell, Sam, 1941- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Samuel "Sam" Zell. Billionaire investor and chairman of Equity Group Investments, an investment firm focused on transportation, real-estate, energy, media and healthcare industries.

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Sam Zell Automatons, 1999-2006

Box 1 The Emperor Has No Clothes, 1999

(Sculptured bronze music Box featuring a figure of an unclothed emperor standing atop a pile of copies of theWall Street Journalaround which is a ribbon that lists many new tech companies. A small figure (a newsboy, perhaps) stands next to the pile. The sculpture sits on a square cube base.)

Box 2 No Free Lunch, 2000

(A man holding a laptop and briefcase walks a tightrope between large yen and dollar currency signs floating in a sea containing smaller currency signs and an alligator whose upper jaw is made of a car, and a golden crown. The man is looking at himself in a mirror, with "caveat emptor' on the frame, which is resting on a barrel on which sits a jester/fool. The sculpture sits on a round base. When turned on, the headlights in the alligator car head glow and the mirror reflects a lion's head.)

Box 3 The Engine That Can, 2001

(Train on railway tracks. Train is a hybrid of a boat, airplane, locomotive, and truck with arms that go from train to wheels. It is towing a car containing a collection of skyscrapers. It sits on a rectangular base meant to look like carved rock with a hand at each corner, holding a hammer, lightning bolts, a log, and a sheaf of wheat. )

Box 4 Get Over It, 2002

(A naked man stands on a brass measurement face of some kind, turning a crank connected to a small wheel, which is connected to a large wheel, which is connected to a sand-filled hour glass. The images is drawn from J. C. Leyendecker's (American Golden Age Illustrator, 1874-1951) "Strength and service turning the wheel of progress." When turned on, the figure turns the crank, turning over the hourglass.)

Box 5 Wired Exports, 2003

(Terrestrial golden globe at the center of a compass, attached to a sextant. When turned on the globe and device parts all rotate. Sits on a cube base with elephant heads at each corner.)

Box 6 This Land, 2004

(Statue of Liberty's verdigrised arm holding a golden flamed torch, attached to the pedestal of the statue. When turned on, a lighted zipper moves the words to the Declaration of Independence around the base. )

Box 7 The Theory of Relativity, 2005

(Man stands with a closed umbrella in the left hand while extending right hand palm up looking for rain. He is surrounded by 24 piles of coins. Sculpture sits on a partially founded base with a two-sided gauge indicating "supply" and "yield".)

Box 8 SarBox, 2006

(Gold stock-ticker Box sits in an oval glass vitrine on a base with the words "compliance", "honestly", "integrity", "truth:, "capital flight", "liability", "audit compliance. Beneath these words is "America" and the "1" from the dollar bill. This all sits on a round wooden base with two hands with the letters "SBOX" on the fingers. When turned on, the ticker turns and tape comes out, and then retracts at end.)