When did this start? I had always assumed that Philip K. Dick's novel We Can Build You (written about on this blog a couple of weeks ago) riffed on the famous Disney audio-animatronic Lincoln, a pneumatic device that first appeared at the New York World's Fair and was then reconstituted as a more permanent exhibit at the Anaheim Disneyland.
But according to Dick's posthumous literary chronology, We Can Build You, although published in 1972, was written ten years earlier, in 1962, between The Man in the High Castle and Martian Time-Slip. The New York world's fair wasn't until 1964. So it appears that once again Dick's fertile, twisted imagination hatched this fake, electromechanical president two years before Disney went public with his and eighteen years before the first one entered actual politics, with the election of Ronald Reagan.