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.

The Aerodrome A

Albert Francis Zahm, The Smithsonian Report for 1914, 1915, Langley Aeroplane (Built 1898-1903) Ready for Launching at Hammondsport, N.Y., May 28, 1914. This image, from The first man-carrying aeroplane capable of sustained free flight: Langley's success as a pioneer in aviation, by A. F. Zahm, Publisher: Washington : G.P.O., 1915, depicts the Langley Aeroplane, ready for launching on May 28, 1914, six years after the death of Samuel Pierpont Langley. The background history of this photograph is fascinating, highlighting the Smithsonian/Wright Brothers feud, as outlined on the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) website: Langley Aerodrome A The remains of the Aerodrome A were left with the Smithsonian Institution by the War Department. In 1914, the Smithsonian contracted Glenn Curtiss, a prominent American aviation pioneer and aircraft manufacturer, to rebuild the Langley Aerodrome A and conduct further flight tests. With significant modifications and improvements, Curtiss was able to coax the Aerodrome A into the air for a number of brief, straight-line flights at Hammondsport, N.Y. After the tests, the airplane was returned more »

Rubber Band Invented, 1845

Samuel P. Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, began his experiments with flight by designing models powered by rubber bands. He went on to almost beat the Wright Brothers in inventing the first airplane, according to the Smithsonian online exhibition, Samuel P. Langley, Aviation Pioneer. S. P. (Samuel Pierpont) Langley, Langley memoir on mechanical flight. pt. 1-2, 1911, Rubber pull model aerodrome

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 »

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