Leap of Faith: Robert Cocking’s Parachute Experiment of July 24, 1837

July 24, 2013

To take a leap of faith is to jump without knowing how one will land, either physically or metaphorically. For some, purposefully jumping from a plane and placing full faith in the parachute strapped to one’s back would constitute such a leap. Imagine the level of faith involved when jumping from a balloon when the technology of the parachute had yet to be perfected and often animals were sent in lieu of more »

Rare Books and Journals on Aviation Now Digitized

In the early 20th century, few things excited the public more than the development of mechanized flying machines.  Whether aircraft or dirigible, these machines were documented in the specialized and popular literature of the day.  The Smithsonian Libraries is committed to digitizing its special collection of rare books and journals on the invention and growth of aviation. Many of the tiles we’ve scanned and digitized to date are accessible through the Internet Archive.

Windsock Datafiles

Researchers have indicated that the Windsock Datafiles are an excellent reference for anyone interested in World War I aviation.

Kitty Hawk, December 17, 1903

Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Dedication of the Wright brothers home and shop in Greenfield village, Dearborn, Michigan, April sixteen, nineteen hundred thirty-eight., 1938? Taking to the Skies: The Wright Brothers and the Birth of Aviation: On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers were the first men in history to make powered, sustained and controlled flights in an airplane. The machine, engine and propellers were all of their own design and construction. It was bitterly cold that morning and a gusty 27 mile-per-hour wind scoured the sand dunes. It seemed unsafe to try their flying machine but Orville and Wilbur Wright decided to start from the level ground before their camp. As was typical of all of their efforts, the Wright brothers carefully and methodically made their preparations. The Flyers: In Search of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Adams, Noah. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2003.  Inventing Flight: the Wright Brothers and Their Predecessors. Anderson, John David.Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. Gentleman Amateurs: An Appreciation of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Bernstein, Mark more »

The Motor Boys Lead to Girl’s Real-life Adventures

Did you know that the National Air and Space Museum Library (NASM) collects historical children's books on aeronautical themes? Yes, there are picture books and juvenile readers about balloons and planes and pilots nestled on the same shelves with highly technical manuals on rocketry and legal documents about the inventions of the Wright brothers, amid the other treasures of the Ramsey Room. And why not? Looking at children's books, you can see how quickly interest in aeronautical inventions spread among the American public. For the young readers of these books, flying was not just an adventure or a novel way to travel, but a new profession that they could realistically hope to enter someday. They could imagine themselves to be inventors, or pilots, or intrepid world travelers, and if they were hard-working, smart, and resourceful they could even succeed and prosper in this exciting new age. This entrepreneurial spirit was embodied by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, an agency that specialized in commissioning and ghost-writing mystery and adventure stories for children in the first more »

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