The Colonel Richard Gimbel Aeronautical History Collection

The Genesis of Flight

Printed Books  1891 – 1953

Brewer, Griffith, and Alexander, Patrick Y.

Aëronautics: An Abridgment of Aëronautical Specifications Filed at the Patent Office from A.D. 1815 to A.D. 1891

In May 1891, Patrick Y. Alexander (1867-1943), a wealthy English balloonist and technological enthusiast, accompanied Griffith Brewer (1867-1948), a patent agent and amateur aeronaut, on a flight from Chelsea. Striking up a friendship, the two men decided to collaborate on a digest of existing British aeronautical patents. Her Majesty's Patent Office had already issued an annual index of all patents, but Brewer and Alexander did not believe that it was particularly useful to flying machine experimenters. "Many of the specifications," they noted in the preface, "describe inventions which are impractical... ridiculously absurd... and probably the result of dreams."

The two collaborators were determined to produce an annotated compendium of existing patents that would help serious investigators separate the wheat from the chaff. Brewer conducted most of the basic patent research, while Alexander evaluated the designs and identified key features. The resulting volume is still of interest and value to historians of flight technology.

Griffith Brewer (who eventually became a close friend, student, business associate, and supporter of the Wright brothers) was one of the great figures in the early history of British aviation. Although considerably less influential than Brewer, Patrick Alexander would remain a well-known figure in aeronautics during the years prior to World War I.

Chanute, Octave

Progress in Flying Machines by O. Chanute, C.E.

New York: American Engineer and Railroad Journal, [1894].
iv, 1l., 308 p. illus. 22.5 cn.
TLB251.C45 1894
Gamble 1485; Randers-Pehrson 99

A native of Paris, France, Octave Chanute (1832-1910) immigrated to the United States with his father in 1838. At the age of 17 he took a position as an apprentice with a railroad construction crew and rose through the professional ranks to become one of the leaders of American civil engineering during the years following the Civil War.

In the early 1870s, Chanute became fascinated by the aeronautical experiments undertaken by French and English engineers. He immersed himself in the literature of the field and began to correspond with virtually every major experimenter of flying machines in the world. In 1886, Mathias Forney, editor of the American Engineer and Railroad Journal, invited Chanute to publish a series of articles on aeronautics. Twenty-seven installments of the series "Progress in Flying Machines" were published in the journal beginning in October 1891. Forney published the entire series, revised and expanded by the author, as a book of the same title in 1894. This volume, combined with Chanute's lectures, his support of promising young experimenters, and his involvement in the design and testing of hang gliders, established the engineer and author as one of the world's leading authorities on flight.

The most important association of Chanute's life began in May 1900, when he received a letter from Wilbur and Orville Wright, the owners of a small bicycle shop and manufacturing facility in Dayton, Ohio. Over the next decade, Chanute served as an important sounding board for the Wright brothers, introduced them to the larger international circle of aeronautical experimenters, and generally publicized their work. In spite of a general cooling in their relationship with Chanute after 1905, the Wrights never doubted the value of his friendship and support. "By the death of Mr. O. Chanute the world has lost one whose labors had to an unusual degree influenced the course of human progress," Wilbur Wright noted in January 1911. "No one was too humble to receive a share of his time. In patience and goodness of heart he has rarely been surpassed. Few men were more universally respected and loved."

Means, James, ed.

The Aeronautical Annual. . . Devoted to the Encouragement of Experiment with Aerial Machines, and to the Advancement of the Science of Aerodynamics.  Edited by James Means.  no. 1-3; 1895-1897

Boston:  W.B. Clarke & Co., 1894-1897. 3 v. illus.
Brockett 8288, 8289, 8290; Randers-Pehrson 102, 105, 112

Bibliographic note:  The Gimbel collection also contains a copy of The Epitome of the Aeronautical Annual... Ed. by James Means... Boston: W.B. Clarke Company, 1910. 4 p.l., 5-220 p. front., illus., plates, ports. 23.5 cm.  The epitome includes reprints from the original three volumes together with some new material.  Additional Means items in the collection include:  James Means, Manflight, by James Means.  Boston: James Means, 1891. 29 p. diagrs. 23.5 cm., Brockett 8285; Randers-Pehrson 83; James Means, The Problem of Manflight, by James Means.  Boston:  W.B. Clarke & Co., 1894. 20 p. incl. diagrs. 23 cm., Brockett 8292; Gamble 2443;  Randers-Pehrson 97; James Means, Five Patents Relating to Aviation.  Boston, [1909?].  [7] p. 22 cm.; James Means, The James Means Control for Flying Machines.  Boston, 1913.  [12] p. illus. 18 cm.; James Means, Twentieth Century Energy:  A Pamphlet which Treats Briefly of an Unseen Yet Potent Form of Matter, by James Means.  Boston: W.B. Clarke & Co., 1896.  19 p. 23 cm.


James Howard Means (1853-1920), a native of Massachusetts who had made a fortune in the shoe business, became a center for aeronautical enthusiasm in the Boston area and a major publicist in the cause of heavier-than-air flight. Convinced that rivalries and miscommunications between experimenters were retarding the search for a successful airplane, Means was determined to establish a publication that would offer useful and trustworthy information to the entire aeronautical community.

The first volume of the Aeronautical Annual focused on figures from the relatively distant past:  Leonardo da Vinci, Sir George Cayley, F.W. Wenham, Thomas Walker, and Benjamin Franklin. In the second and third volumes, however, Means featured articles by the leading experimenters of the day:  Otto Lilienthal, Octave Chanute, S.P. Langley, Hiram Maxim, and others. Although the publication was relatively short-lived, it did become a forum for the presentation of the latest research, as Means had hoped.

Lachambre, Henri, and Machuron, Alexis

Andrée and His Balloon

Westminster:  A. Constable, 1898. 305 p. illus. 20 cm.
G700.L13 1898

Bibliographic note:  In addition to this volume on the construction of the balloon Ornen and the early history of the Andrée expedition, the Gimbel collection also contains books published after the discovery of the remains on White Island.  The most important of these is Svenska sällskapet för antropologi och geografi (Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography), Andrée's Story: The Complete Record of His Polar Flight, 1897, from the Diaries and Journals of S.A. Andrée, Nils Strindberg, and K. Fraenkel, found on White Island in the Summer of 1930.  Translated from the Swedish by Edward Adams-Ray.  New York: Viking Press, 1930.  Gamble 4507

Henri Lachambre and his associate and nephew, Alexis Machuron, were among the leading balloon builders of fin de siècle Paris. During the winter of 1895-1896, the firm won the contract for the construction of a very large balloon designed to carry a crew of three from the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen to the North Pole and on to a safe landing. Salomon August Andrée, chief engineer of the Swedish Patent Office, was to head the expedition, accompanied by Nils Strindberg and Knut Fraenkel. The project was privately funded and attracted the support of both Alfred Nobel and King Oscar of Sweden.

The finished balloon, named the Ornen (Eagle), had a volume of 170,000 cubic feet. It was constructed of 3,360 individual pieces of silk sewn together with 8.4 miles of thread. Fifteen miles of Italian hemp made up the net that supported the large closed basket, or gondola. The expedition was well equipped to deal with any emergency encountered aloft or on the ice.  The intrepid explorers would report their progress to a waiting world via carrier pigeon.

At 1:43 P.M. on the afternoon of July 11, 1897, the Ornen rose slowly to an altitude of some 300 feet over Dane Island, Spitsbergen, then began to move in a northeasterly direction over Virgo Harbor. The first serious attempt to reach the North Pole by air was under way at last. The balloon dipped so low that the basket touched the water, then rose rapidly to an altitude of 1,950 feet. Observers on shore noted that the huge craft was still moving to the northeast when it vanished into the clouds and into history, at 1:56 P.M.

The disappearance of the Ornen and its three passengers, Salomon August Andrée, Nils Strindberg, and Knut Fraenkel, was one of the first great mysteries of the air age. Thirty-three years later, on August 5, 1930, the Bratvaag, a sealing vessel chartered by a Norwegian scientific expedition, sent a party ashore to explore White Island, a remote spot of land east of Spitsbergen. To their astonishment, members of the party stumbled into the last camp of the Andrée expedition.  In addition to the remains of the three explorers, the crew of the sealer found cameras, diaries, logbooks, letters, maps, and diagrams that chronicled the expedition from takeoff until October 7, 1897. Developed more than three decades after they had been taken, the photographs provided a ghostly visual record of the final days of the Andrée expedition. The old mystery was solved.

The records revealed that the Ornen had crashed on the ice far to the northeast of Spitsbergen just three days after takeoff.  Their dream of reaching the pole dashed, the three explorers had then started back toward the Arctic coast on foot, dragging what equipment and supplies they could salvage. Their goal was to reach Spitsbergen before winter.

Instead, they were forced to pitch their final camp on White Island. All three men died within a few days of reaching the island. Death came as a result of exposure to the elements, although other factors, notably the consumption of tainted polar bear meat, have also been cited as possible causes of death.

Wells, H.G. [Herbert George]

The First Men in the Moon... With Many Pictures by E. Hering

Indianapolis:  Bowen-Merrill Company, [1901].  4 p. 312 p. front, plates, 20 cm.
PR5774.F5  1901a

H.G. Wells (1866-1946) was, with Jules Verne, the most important and influential early contributor to the literary genre that would become known as science fiction. Although the best of his early novels (The Time Machine [1895], The Island of Dr. Moreau [1896], The Invisible Man [1897], The War of the Worlds [1898]) are more concerned with the impact of science on society than with technical detail, he clearly had a gift for inspiring dreams.

By 1915, Robert H. Goddard, the American spaceflight pioneer, was already deeply involved in his early rocket experiments. His diary records that he read H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon on July 19, 1898. Ten days later, after a morning spent working on rocket nozzles and pumps, he looked the book over a second time. Then, on August 8, Goddard had a vivid dream in which he flew to the moon.

"In 1898 I read your War of the Worlds," Goddard informed Wells in 1932. "I was sixteen years old... and I decided that what might conservatively be called 'high altitude research' was the most fascinating problem in existence." Like Verne, Wells delighted millions of general readers and inspired a handful of geniuses to transform the dream into reality.

Lecornu, Joseph

Les Cerfs-Volants . . .

Paris: Librairie Nony et Cie, 1902. 2 p.l., [iii]- 240 p. illus., diagra. 22.5 cm.
Brockett 7362; Gamble 2652

Experience with kites, the oldest flying objects constructed by human beings, played a critically important role in the invention of the airplane. Joseph Lecornu, a graduate engineer and member of the French Aerial Navigation Society, produced the best introduction to the theory, practice, and history of kites that was available to the engineers who designed and built the first airplanes.

The book opens with a useful introduction to the theory of kite design and proceeds to a discussion of materials, construction techniques, and similar practical matters. Over half of the volume is devoted to aspects of kite history and to a discussion of specialized topics, including man-lifting kites, kite photography, meteorological kites, and the use of kites for scientific research. A careful and detailed treatment of the subject, Les Cerfs-Volants remains as useful and interesting an account as it was at the time of publication almost a century ago.

Santos-Dumont, Alberto

My Air-Ships, by A. Santos-Dumont

New York:  The Century Co., 1904. ix, 356 p. incl. plates, ports., diagrs., front. 19.5 cm.
Brockett 10808

Bibliographic note:  The Gimbel collection has a second copy of this volume:  My Air-Ships, New York:  Dover, 1973, xviii, 122 p. 22 cm.  In addition, the collection has other volumes by Santos-Dumont:  Alberto Santos-Dumont, Dans l' Air, Paris:  Charpentier et Fasquelle, 1904. 2p.l., 343 p. 21.incl. illus., plates, port., front. 21 cm.; Alberto Santos-Dumont, O que eu vi. São Paulo:  Typ. Piratininga, 1918. 100 p. illus. 22 cm.; Albert Santos-Dumont, Os meus balões, [Rio de Janeiro]:  Biblioteca do Exército, 1973. 260 p. illus. 23 cm. (Coleção General Benício, vol. 109.)

Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) was one of the most colorful figures in the early history of powered flight. Le Petit Santos weighed only about 110 pounds and stood 5 feet 5 inches tall in his shiny patent leather shoes fitted with lifts.  Dark hair, parted sharply in the center and plastered in place with pomade, capped a cadaverous face. Those who knew him assure us that his faintly comic appearance masked a cold patrician manner. His enthusiasm for flight was so all-encompassing that he ate at a table and chair suspended 6 feet above the floor of his dining room.

The son of a wealthy Brazilian coffee planter, Santos-Dumont came to Paris in 1897 to acquire an engineering education. He acquired a balloon instead, but quickly tired of operating at the mercy of the winds. Prior to the turn of the century he ordered the first in what would become a series of 15 small, one-man airships. One of the great moments of his career came on October 19, 1901, when he won the 100,000-franc Deutsch de la Meurthe Prize for a flight from the Aéro-Club de France hangar at Saint-Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back in less than half an hour.

The sight of the little Brazilian chugging along just above the rooftops of Paris epitomized the spirit of the Belle Époque, but Santos-Dumont soon grew as dissatisfied with pressure airships as he had with the free balloon. Inspired by news of what the Wright brothers were accomplishing in the United States, and armed with an imperfect understanding of Wright technology, Santos-Dumont began work on an airplane. On the afternoon of October 23, 1906, that aircraft, 14-bis, flew for roughly 164 feet at an altitude of 9 to 16 feet. For the first time, an airplane had made a publicly announced flight.

A second aircraft developed by Santos-Dumont, La Demoiselle, established him as one of the preeminent designers of the era. Diagnosed as suffering the early stages of a debilitating disease, however, he retired from active involvement in aeronautics prior to World War I. Depressed by his own failing health, by a series of air disasters that had taken a heavy toll on human life, and by an outbreak of violence in Brazil in which air power was a factor, Alberto Santos-Dumont took his own life on July 23, 1932, three days after his fifty-ninth birthday.

Root, A.I.  [Amos Ives]

"Our Homes, By A.I. Root," in Gleanings in Bee Culture

v.33, no. 1, January 1, 1905, pp. 36-38.
SF521.G4 33

By September 20, 1904, Wilbur and Orville Wright had been flying from Torrence Huffman's cow pasture, some 8 miles east of Dayton, Ohio, for some time. They had made their first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, and returned home to Dayton determined to find a local site where they could continue to practice flying and perfect their machine in relative seclusion. After a less than impressive demonstration flight in the spring of 1904 that discouraged curious local reporters, the pair settled on Huffman Prairie.

The world was still not aware of the fact that the Wright brothers had invented the airplane, but Amos Root was determined to correct the situation. A resident of Medina, Ohio, Root operated a very successful beekeeping supply house and edited Gleanings in Bee Culture, a trade journal. For some weeks he had been hearing vague rumors about two minister's boys who were emulating the birds in a field near Dayton. Fascinated by all things mechanical, he drove south in his automobile to investigate for himself:

Imagine a locomotive that has left its track, and is climbing up in the air right toward you. . . . Well, now, imagine this white locomotive, with wings that spread twenty feet each way, coming right toward you with a tremendous flap of its propellers, and you will have something like what I saw. The younger brother bade me move to one side for fear it might come down suddenly; but I tell you friends, the sensation that one feels in such a crisis is hard to describe.

For the first time in history, an airplane had turned in full circles, and Amos Root had been there to see it. Gleanings in Bee Culture had scooped the great newspapers of the world on the story of the century.

Zeppelin, Ferdinand Adolf August Heinrich, Graf von

Erfahrungen beim Bau von Luftschiffen.  Vortrag gehalten auf der 49.  Hauptversammlung des Vereines deutscher Ingenieure zu Dresden am 29. Juni 1908

Berlin:  Verlag von Julius Springer, 1908. 23 [1] p. 22 cm.
Brockett 13167; Gamble 1417

Count von Zeppelin (1838-1917), the single most important figure in the history of the rigid airship, served as an officer in the German army between 1861 and 1891. The first flights of La France in 1884, along with the publication of several key papers, fired Zeppelin's imagination and convinced him that Germany should develop an airship of its own. When a prestigious state commission rejected his initial impractical design, Zeppelin turned to Professor Muller-Breslau, who assisted in the development of the classic cigar-shaped craft.

After Zeppelin organized a joint stock company in 1894, work began on the design and construction of the LZ1, which made its first flight over Lake Constance on July 2, 1900. In spite of their impressive size, the early zeppelins were woefully underpowered and difficult to control. Not until the LZ3 (1906) did the Count begin to taste genuine success. During the period between 1906 and 1913 zeppelin enthusiasm was rampant, as the huge airships seen cruising over the cities of the Reich became the very symbol of German strength and technological achievement.

Girard, E., and Gervais, A. de Rouvelle

Les Ballons dirigeables:  Théorie—Applications; avec 143 figures dans le texte

Paris:  Berger-Levrault & Cie, 1907. 2 p.l., 307p. illus., diagrs. 22.5 cm.
Gamble 1069

From the last half of the nineteenth century until 1906-1908, with the full emergence of the German rigid airships, France dominated the field of large navigable airships. Henri Giffard (1852) and Gaston and Albert Tissandier (1883) built and flew the earliest steam and electrically powered dirigibles, neither of which was able to exceed 10 miles per hour in still air. It remained for Paul Renard and Arthur Krebs, of the French military balloon facility at Chalais-Meudon, to produce the first marginally practical airship, La France, in 1884.  Even after the initial success of the early zeppelins, Chalais-Meudon and other French manufacturers continued to produce large airships, including Lebaudy (Le Jaune, 1902), Astra (Ville de Paris, 1906/1907; La Patrie, 1907), and Clement-Bayard (Clement-Bayard, 1908).

Unlike the zeppelins, rigid airships in which gasbags were located inside a rigid, fabric-covered framework, all of the French craft were semirigids, or pressure airships, in which a single large gasbag was attached to an external keel. Les Ballons dirigeables, a review of the leading French airships, is a reprint of articles originally published in the Revue du Génie militaire from July 1906 to January 1907.

Ostoya, Victor, E.

Vole, Wright!

Paris, 1908.  642-656  p. illus. 31 cm. (L'Assiette au Beurre, no. 405, Janvier 1909)

There was simply no precedent for the incredible wave of incredulity, excitement, and enthusiasm that gripped first France, then all of Europe, following the first public demonstration flight of a Wright aircraft at a Le Mans racetrack on August 7, 1908. Periodically over the next century, one aerospace figure after another would emerge as the next great hero of the hour—Louis Blériot, Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Jean Mermoz, Italo Balbo, Yuri Gagarin, the Apollo astronauts. None of them would match the extent to which Wilbur and Orville Wright would stun the world.

Between 1903 and 1908, there was little proof that the Wrights had flown. The brothers had purposely not made any public flights, and they had not released many photographs of their aircraft in the air. When the Americans refused to try for the rich prizes being offered to would-be aviators, most French aviation experimenters assumed that the Wrights were "bluffeurs." The first flights at Le Mans swept all of those doubts away and instantly established Wilbur Wright as the most famous man in Europe.

Caricatures of "Veelbur Reet," with a bird-like beak and a soft, peaked cap, were everywhere, as this typical collection of comic sketches and text demonstrates.

Peyrey, François

Les Premiers Hommes-Oiseaux, Wilbur et Orville Wright

Paris:  H. Guiton, 1908. 2.p.l., [9]-78 p. 1l. illus. (incl. plan) plates, ports., map, 24 cm.

Bibliographic note:  The Gimbel collection holds a good selection of Peyrey's books on the birth of aviation.  In addition to the first edition cited, the collection contains. . . Les Premiers Hommes-Oiseaux; Wilbur et Orville Wright. . . Édition Nouvelle, Relatant Toutes les Expériences des Frères Wright en France et aux  États-Unis ' Amérique. . . Paris:  H. Guiton, 1909. 3 p.l., [9]—151 p. 21 illus. (incl. maps, plans) plates, ports. 24.5 cm. (cover signed by the author); . . . Au Fils du vent; avec une préface du comte Henri de la Vaux. . . Paris:  H. Guiton, 1909. 2 p.l., [9]—303 p. illus., plates, ports. 28.5 cm.; L'oeuvre de l'Aéro-Club de France et l' Aéronautique contemporaine. Paris:  H. Dunod et E. Pinat, [1910]. 2 p.l., 149 p. illus. (incl. ports.) 22.5 cm.;. . . Les Oiseaux artificiels; avec une préface de Santos-Dumont. Paris:  H. Dunod et Pinat, 1909. 3 p.l., [v]-xiv, 667 p. illus., diagrs. 23 cm.

There can be no doubt that François Peyrey (1873-1934) was le premier historien des frères Wright en France. He provided French readers with the first full and trustworthy accounts of the brothers, from their roots in Dayton, through their experiments in America (1900-1905), to their first spectactular public flights in 1908. At the time, Peyrey's books were fuller and more accurate than any accounts of the Wrights available in English.

Ferber, Ferdinand

L'Aviation; ses Débuts—son Développement; de Crête à Crête, de Ville à Ville, de Continent à Continent

Paris, Nancy:  Berger-Levrault & Cie, 1908. xii, 250 p. illus., diagrs. 23 cm.  ("Les Calculs," p. [107] - 248 is a revision of the author’s:  Les Progrès de l'aviation par le vol plané; les calculs. 1907.)
TLB251.F34  1909

Bibliographic note:  The Gimbel collection contains a second copy of this edition (Cinquième tirage) and a 1910 Nouvelle édition.  Other holdings by Captain Ferber include: Les Progrès de l'aviation par le vol plané; les calculs, par F. Ferber... avec 26 figures dans le texte.  Paris, Nancy:  Berger-Levrault & Cie, 1907. 85 [1] p. illus. diagrs. 23 cm.; Les Progrès de l'aviation depuis 1891 par le vol plané; les calculs, par F. Ferber... avec 44 figures dans le texte.  Paris, Nancy: Berger-Levrault & Cie, 1905. 53 p. il. illus. 22 cm.  "Deuxième édition.";  "Extrait de la Revue d'artillerie-mars 1904." ...Die Kunst zu Fliegen... Berlin:  R.C. Schmidt & Co.; New York:  Steiger & Co., 1910.  215 p. illus. (incl. ports.) diagrs. 22.5 cm.

Ferdinand Ferber (1862-1909) was primarily responsible for the rebirth of French interest in aviation after 1900. A native of Lyons and a professional artillery officer, Ferber was something less than the ideal soldier. He was overweight, walked with a slouch, and was apparently a less than dashing horseman. Although chronically nearsighted, he refused to wear spectacles. Legend has it that he once failed to spy the approach of a general officer, missed giving a salute, and was thus doomed to remain a captain.

Ferber became interested in flight in 1898, while serving as an instructor at the École d'application. He corresponded with aviation pioneers, including both Clément Ader and Otto Lilienthal's brother, Gustave, and, by 1900 had built and flown a variety of craft, from a kite to a rather crude copy of a standard Lilienthal glider. A letter to Octave Chanute in 1901 led to his discovery of the work of the Wright brothers.

Ferber built and flew a very crude biplane glider, inspired by the early Wright aircraft, at Beuil in 1902. From that point, until the time of his death in a flying accident seven years later, Captain Ferber remained in the forefront of French experimenters. As this volume, and the others listed in the bibliographic note, demonstrate, he was also a leading publicist and historian of early aviation in Europe.

Berget, Alphonse, i.e., Thomas Claude Xavier Alphonse

...La route de l'air; Aéronautique, Aviation, Histoire—Théorie—Pratique. 82 diagrammes explicatifs, 66 gravures tirées hors texte...

Paris:  Librairie Hachette et Cie, 1909. 3 p.l., vi, 311, [1] p. front., illus., plates. 25.5 cm.
TLB251.B49r  1909
Brockett 1593b

Bibliographic note:  This volume is ex libris Horace Oswald Short, with his book-plate.  The Gimbel collection contains another copy of this edition, ex libris Aero Club of America.  The collection also contains several editions of the English translation:  The Conquest of the Air:  Aeronautics, Aviation, History, Theory, Practice, by Alphonse Berget... New York: G. Putnam's Sons;  London: Heinemann, 1909. xxiv, 295 p. illus. (incl. maps) xxxii (i.e., 36) pl. (incl. front.) 23.5 cm.  The collection has twin copies of the 1911 editions:  "New and revised edition," New York: G. Putnam's Sons; London:  Heinemann, 1911. xx, 249 p. illus. 22 cm. In addition, the collection holds:  Alphonse Berget, Ballons, Dirigeables et Aeroplanes. Paris: Librairie Universelle, 1908.  3. p. l., (i.e., iii) 276 p. incl. illus. (incl. ports.) plates (2 double) 19 cm.; L'Aviation, Ballons, Dirigeables, Avions. [Paris]:  Hachette, 1924. 64 p. incl. front., illus., diagrs. 24 cm.;  L'Air ... Illustré Sous la Direction de Lucien Rudaux.  Paris:  Librairie Larousse, [c. 1927]. 310 p. illus. 32 cm.


Alphonse Berget (1860-1934) was one of the leading historians of early aviation. His work remains useful for its insight into the personalities and events of fin de siècle aeronautics.

Bruel, François-Louis

Histoire aéronautique par les monuments peints, sculptés, dessinés et gravés des origines à 1830.  Deux cents reproductions en noir et en couleur, text par François-Louis Bruel du Cabinet des Estampes de la Bibliothèque Nationale

Paris:  André Marty, 1909. 4 p. i., [5]-93, [2] p. l. plates (part col., part fold.) ports., facsim., 37.5 cm. x 29 cm.
Gamble 170

François-Louis Bruel's (1881-1912) lavishly illustrated Histoire remains one of the great treasures in the history of aeronautical publishing. Covering the period from antiquity to 1830, the volume is filled with a wealth of illustrations, ranging from full-color reproductions of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prints to a wide variety of other historic works of art. Printed on special papers, using colored inks, and tipped or specially bound into the volume, many of the images are reproduced as virtual facsimiles of the originals. In addition to the thoughtful and very informative text, the Histoire is a master-work of the printer's art.

Douhet, Giulio

Le possibilità dell'aereonavigazione

758-771 p. 26 cm. (In Revista delle Communicazioni. Anno III, Fasc. VIII Roma: Ministero delle Poste e dei Telegrafi, 1910.)

Giulio Douhet (1869-1930) was the earliest and most influential of the military officers who came to be identified as "Prophets of Air Power." Born into a family with a tradition of service to the House of Savoy, Douhet developed an early reputation as an officer who was willing to say what he thought and fight for what he believed. Already an authority on mechanized warfare, he emerged as the principal Italian spokesman for the military airplane by 1910. Although he had not yet flown, and had seen only one or two airplanes in the air, Douhet was already expressing the major elements of his airpower theory in the most forceful terms. Command of the air, he argued, would prove just as important as command of the sea.

Italy was the first nation to explore the military role of the airplane. Nine aircraft supported the Italian invasion of Turkish Libya in 1911. This small air unit conducted some of the earliest coordinated reconnaissance and bombing missions in history. Named to command the provisional Italian air battalion prior to the outbreak of World War I, Douhet placed an order for an advanced trimotor Caproni bomber without authorization. In spite of the fact that the big Caproni would eventually become the pride of both Italian and American air units battling Austro-Hungarian forces during World War I, Douhet was removed from his post and sent to an infantry unit. Undaunted, he continued his outspoken attacks on Italian air policy, for which he was court-martialed and imprisoned.

Following his release from prison, Colonel Douhet published a prophetic novel, Come Fini la Grande Guerra—la Vittoria Alata (How the Great War Ended—the Winged Victory). His most important book, Il Domino dell'Aria (Command of the Air), appeared in 1921, with a second edition in 1927. Translated into other languages, the book played an important role in shaping a debate on the potential of the air weapon during the years between the wars.

Trowbridge, John

Darius Green and His Flying-Machine, by J.T. Trowbridge; with illustrations by Wallace Goldsmith

Boston and New York:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910. 53, [1] p. incl. front. plates, 16 cm.

Bibliographic note:  The Gimbel collection also contains The Vagabonds, and Other Poems.  Boston:  J.R. Osgood, 1875.  Includes Darius Green . . . iv, 172 p. 17.5 cm


During the years following the Civil War, most Americans came to regard the flying machine as the ultimate in foolish dreams. John Townsend Trowbridge (1827-1916) provided a classic statement of this attitude in his poem "Darius Green and His Flying Machine," which may have appeared as a magazine piece as early as 1869. Like many another "country dunce," young Darius was convinced that "the air was also man's domain." Determined to conquer the sky, he sets to work

     ...with thimble and thread and wax and
     hammer and
     buckles and screws,
     and all such things as geniuses use,
     Two bats for a pattern, curious fellows!
     A charcoal pot and a pair of bellows, some
     wire and
     several old umbrellas;
     A carriage cover, for tail and wing, a piece of
     harness, and straps and strings,
     ... these and a thousand other things.

Encased in his contraption, the inventor leaps from the hayloft and falls straight down into the barnyard, surrounded by "a wonderful whirl of tangled strings, broken braces and broken wings, shooting stars and various things." To the thousands of readers who chuckled over poor Darius' plight, the meaning was perfectly clear: "If God had intended for humanity to fly, he would have given them wings."

Bryan, George Hartley

Stability in Aviation; An Introduction to Dynamical Stability as Applied to the Motions of Aeroplanes, by G.H. Bryan. . .

London:  Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1911. x, il., 192 p. illus., diagrs. 22.5 cm.
TLD491.B91  1911
Gamble 1564

George Hartley Bryan (1854-1928), a professor at the University College of North Wales, was a major first-generation contributor to flight science and technology. The inventors of the airplane were engineers of genius, but they had left a great many questions unanswered. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, German researcher Ludwig Prandtl, based at Göttingen University, addressed fundamental aerodynamic problems and developed the core of a circulation theory of lift. Other pioneering contributors to aerodynamic theory included Wilhelm Kutta, Nikolai Zukovskii, Frederick Lanchester, and a host of Prandtl's students and associates, notably Max Munk and Theodore von Karman.

G.H. Bryan was the most important early contributor to the study of another set of theoretical problems relating to stability and control. Bryan published his earliest article in this field in 1903. Stability in Aviation provided a generation of airplane designers with a solid understanding of issues related to aircraft and control.

Grahame-White, Claude, comp.

The Aeroplane, Past, Present, and Future, by Claude Grahame-White (Winner of the Gordon Bennett International Aviation Cup, 1910) and Harry Harper; with ninety-three illustrations

London:  T.W. Laurie, 1911. 2 p. l., vii-xv, 310.  [1] p. front. plates, ports., fold. tab. 23.5 cm.
TLB251.G74  1911

Bibliographic note:  The Gimbel collection contains two copies of this edition and a third copy marked:  "This edition de luxe consists of 100 copies, numbered and signed.  This is  No. 21."  As noted, the volume is signed and differs slightly from copies of the standard first edition:  xv, 319 p. illus. 23 cm.  The collection also contains a copy of the first American edition:  Philadelphia:  J.B. Lippincott, 1911.  vii-xv, 319 p. illus. 24 cm.

Other volumes by Grahame-White represented in the Gimbel collection include:  The Story of the Aeroplane, by Claude Grahame-White.  Boston:  Small, Maynard and Company, [c. 1911].  xii, 390 p. illus. 21 cm.; Aviation, by Claude Grahame-White.  London, Glasgow:  Collins's Clear Type Press, (pref. 1912).  262 p. front. (port.) 18 cm.; The Invisible War-Plane.  A Tale of Air Adventure in the Great Campaign, by Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harper... London:  Blackie and Son Ltd., [1915]. v, il, 272 p. front. plates. 19 cm.; Learning to Fly; a Practical Manual for Beginners, by Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harper...  London: T.W. Laurie, Ltd., [c. 1916].  111., [1] p. front., plates. 19 cm.


Claude Grahame-White (1879-1959) was one of the great English aviators of the first generation, and Harry Harper one of its first great publicists. Grahame-White earned fame in March and April 1910 when he competed with the French aviator Louis Paulhan for the £10,000 Daily Mail prize for the first flight from London to Manchester. Grahame-White lost the race, but he made the first recognized night flight in Europe during the course of the contest and won the affection and admiration of his countrymen.

Grahame-White toured the United States as well. In spite of being targeted by the Wright brothers for competing for prize money with a machine covered by their American patent, Grahame-White emerged as the star of the Harvard-Boston Meet in September 1910 and won the 1910 James Gordon Bennett International Aviation Cup, staged as part of the great Belmont Park flying meet the following month.

In 1910, Grahame-White and his friend, the aviation enthusiast and publicist Harry Harper, published one of the most popular of all early books on winged flight. The Aeroplane is as much a compendium of essays as an authored work.  Among  the featured sections are a chronology of aviation and a list of records;  short biographies of  the first aviators;  a description and analysis of the earliest aircraft fatalities; a discussion of aircraft engines; a discussion of "the constructional future of aeroplanes" by Henri Farman; C.G. Grey's notes on aircraft safety; and the thoughts of Colonel J.F. Capper on the future of military aviation.

La Vaulx, Henri, Comte de

Le Triomphe de la Navigation Aérienne; Aéroplanes, Dirigeables, Sphériques

Paris:  J. Tallandier, [1910]. 2 p. l., 3-392, [4] p. incl. illus., plates. double pl. 33.5 cm.

One of the wealthy sport balloonists who founded the Aéro-Club de France (1898), the Comte Henri de la Vaulx (1870-1930) was a confirmed nationalist who worked to ensure that France, the nation of the Montgolfiers, would lead the world into the air age. As president of the Aéro-Club during the critical year of 1904, he presided over a renaissance of French interest in winged flight following the revelation of what the Wright brothers had accomplished.

The Comte de la Vaulx encouraged experiments with winged aircraft, established prizes to encourage aeronautical achievement, and commissioned the construction of a monoplane based on a design by the nineteenth-century pioneer Victor Tatin, which left the ground on two occasions in 1907. In addition, Comte de la Vaulx produced Le Triomphe de la Navigation Aérienne, a volume that the English authority Charles Harvard Gibbs-Smith regarded as "one of the most authoritative of the early histories of flying"  (The Rebirth of European Aviation [London: PRO, 1974], p. 9).

Appleton, Victor [pseud.]

Tom Swift and His Air Glider, or Seeking the Platinum Treasure

New York:  Grosset & Dunlap, [1912]. iv, 209 p. front. 19.5 cm.


Once upon a time in America, Tom Swift was a name to conjure with. Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), the publishing giant and "king of the juveniles" who inaugurated the Motor Boys, Rover Boys, and Bobsey Twins series of juvenile novels, also set the Tom Swift saga in motion. As had been the case with earlier book series back to the time of Samuel Goodrich, Stratemeyer conceived the character, established the basic formula, and farmed out the writing chores. All of the Tom Swift volumes appeared under the name of Victor Appleton, although author Howard Garis wrote most of the books.

The formula seldom varied. Tom, the son of a widowed inventor, with the assistance of a standard group of friends, supporters, and comic foils achieves yet another technological triumph in order to defeat the latest scheme of the "Happy Harry Gang," rival inventor Addison Berg, or Andy Foger, "a red-headed, squint-eyed rich bully" determined to steal Tom's latest invention.

The most successful of all Stratemeyer's creations, Tom Swift books continued to appear for over a decade after his death. The forty titles published between 1910 and 1941 sold an estimated 6.5 million copies. In spite of the best efforts of school librarians who decried their literary shortcomings, the books had an enormous impact. The indomitable young hero, ever ready to overcome the most daunting problem with yet another breakthrough, helped to inspire generations of American youngsters with faith in the power of the machine.

Curtiss, Glenn Hammond

The Curtiss Aviation Book, by Glenn H. Curtiss and Augustus  Post; with chapters by Captain Paul W. Beck, U.S.A., Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson, U.S.N., and Hugh Robinson; with numerous illustrations from photographs

New York:  Frederick A. Stokes Company, [c. 1912]. 3 p. l., v-x, 307 p. front., 1 illus., plates, ports., diagrs. 20 cm.

Glenn Hammond Curtiss (1878-1930) loved speed above all things.  As a young man, he raced bicycles, then built and raced motorcycles. The sale of a motorcycle engine to power an airship operated by Thomas Scott Baldwin (1864-1923) marked Curtiss' entry into aeronautics. In 1908, he provided the power plant for the SC-1, the first U.S. Army airship, designed and built by Baldwin.

As early as 1907-1908, Curtiss joined forces with Alexander Graham Bell, Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge, J. McCurdy, and F.W. Baldwin to form the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA). The AEA produced a series of machines, culminating in the June Bug, which won the Scientific American trophy for the first public flight in the United States of about half a mile or more (July 4, 1908).

In the summer of 1909, Curtiss won the first James Gordon Bennett International Aviation Cup, which was awarded for a speed contest staged at the great flying meet at Reims, France. Curtiss was not the first to fly off water, but he did become the world's best-known and most successful builder of flying boats. Curtiss aircraft were also the first to take off from and land on ships. Moreover, the early successes chronicled in the Curtiss Aviation Book were achieved while Curtiss was the target of the most important of the lawsuits brought by the Wright brothers against those whom they regarded as having infringed their patent.

Within two years of the publication of this volume, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company would become the most successful of all U.S. aircraft manufacturers. The firm was the leading supplier of flying boats to the navies of the world, the designer and builder of a flying boat thought capable of flying the Atlantic, and the leading U.S. supplier of aero engines and training aircraft. Curtiss had become one of the great names in American aviation, and so it would remain.

Conneau, Jean Louis Camille

My Three Big Flights, by André Beaumont (Lieut. J. Conneau) with a sonnet by Edmond Rostand and sixty illustrations

New York:  McBride, Nast & Company, 1912. x1, 150 p. front., plates, ports. 23.5 cm.


During a three-month period in the summer of 1911, Jean Conneau, an ensign in the French navy who flew (and wrote) under the name of André Beaumont, won three of the great aerial competitions of the prewar era: the Paris-Rome Race (May 28-31); the Circuit of Europe (June 18-20); and the Circuit of Britain (July 22-24). Conneau immediately began work on a series of lectures and a book, both of which would be illustrated with his photographs.

Conneau's book, which includes a poem by Edmond Rostand, is one of the great personal accounts of the period. The aviator offers considerable insight into the problems of operating the aircraft of the time, including the difficulties of point-to-point navigation. Having made his name as a racing pilot, Conneau returned to duty with the French navy, where he pioneered operations with the Donnet-Leveque biplane, a Curtiss-style flying boat.

[Lewis, Sinclair]

Hike and the Aeroplane, by Tom Graham [pseud.]; with illustrations in two colors by Arthur Hutchins

New York:  Frederick A. Stokes & Company, 1912. 6 p. l., 275 p. col. front., col. plates. 19.5 cm.

"You're damn right," Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) explained to Chauncey Tinker in 1938, "I wrote Hike and the Aeroplane for the sole and not very commendable purpose of getting from the firm of Frederick A. Stokes & Company, who paid outright for the book at salary rates, a long vacation to do a few words on my first novel, Our Mr. Wren." Although the first American Nobel laureate in literature may not have been especially proud of the fact, Hike and the Aeroplane, not Our Mr. Wren, was his first published novel.

Written during a three-week stay at Provincetown, Massachusetts, in 1911, the book is a straightforward boy's adventure story of the Tom Swift variety in which Hike, the 16-year-old hero, makes use of an airplane to triumph over the evil Captain Welch. Fascinated by aviation, Lewis had already published a short story ("Captains of Peace") based on an aeronautical theme.  Lewis informed his friend Gene Baker that three well-known aviation pioneers—Glenn H. Curtiss, J.A.D. McCurdy, and U.S. Army pilot Capt. Paul Beck—had read and approved the manuscript of the novel. "But that ain't no sign," he concluded. "Since when were aviators established as the perfect court of literary judgment?"

Wright, Orville

How We Invented the Airplane

Edited and with commentary by Fred C. Kelly, Drawings by James MacDonald.  New York: McKay, 1953.  78 p. illus. 18 cm.

Neither Wilbur nor Orville Wright was ever able to write a detailed account of their work in aeronautics. During their lifetimes, the full story of what they had achieved remained locked away in their letters, diaries, and notebooks. Both men did tell their story in several major court depositions, however. Orville Wright offered a particularly clear and concise account on January 13, 1920, when he testified as a government witness in the case of Montgomery v. The United States. The suit was brought by individuals who argued that in supporting the patent claims of the Wright brothers and others the government had unfairly ignored the prior claims of John Joseph Montgomery, a California aeronautical pioneer. The Montgomery heirs lost their case, but Fred Kelly, a journalist and official biographer of the Wrights, edited the testimony that Orville offered on that occasion and published it as a short book that remains the best first-person account of the invention of the airplane.

McFarland, Marvin W., ed.

The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright, including the Chanute-Wright letters and other papers of Octave Chanute

New York:  McGraw-Hill Co., 1953. 2 v. 1 v., 1,278 p. illus., ports., facsims., 24 cm.



Few, if any, major episodes in the history of technology are as well documented as the invention of the airplane. The letters, diaries, notebooks, photographs, and other original documents preserved by the Wright brothers represent a remarkably complete record of their achievement. In crafting an agreement transferring the priceless Wright manuscript collection to the Library of Congress in 1949, the executors of Orville Wright's estate suggested that "it would be desirable" to compile and publish the most important documents in order to produce "a comprehensive record of the Wright brothers and their work."

Wisely, the leadership of the Library of Congress placed Marvin W. McFarland in charge of the project. McFarland, who had served as a U.S. Army Air Forces historian in uniform during World War II, decided to follow the example of those who handled presidential papers, publishing the most important documents in the collection in a scholarly edition complete with extensive notes, appendices, and illustrations. McFarland and the members of his small team began work in the late spring of 1950. The result, nothing less than a masterpiece of historical scholarship and editing, was published on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of powered, heavier-than-air flight.