The Colonel Richard Gimbel Aeronautical History Collection

The Genesis of Flight

Other Holdings

Post Cards

[Woman, man, and child sitting in airplane with greeting "Bonne Année"]  [1908?]

Postcard, 9 x 14 cm.




This postcard reflects popular European interest in aeronautics in the early twentieth century. The greeting is in French ("Happy New Year"); the man, woman, and child are sitting in a Voisin-like aircraft.

[Man and woman sitting in airship gondola] Postmark, New York, N.Y., June 25, 1909

Postcard, 8.5 x 13.5 cm.

This postcard reflects popular American interest in aeronautics in the early twentieth century. The couple sits in an airship gondola above New York City. The Brooklyn Bridge is at bottom left.

Universal Postal Union, British India, Post Card, February 18, 1911, First aerial post, U.P. Exhibition, Allahabad

Postcard, 8.5 x 12 cm.




This postcard was carried on the world's first official airmail flight by airplane—from Allahabad, India, as part of the United Provinces Industrial and Agricultural Exhibition held in February 1911. After a short flight from Allahabad (postmark February 18, 1911) to Naini, the postcard was conveyed to Lahore (postmark February 21, 1911).

Das französische Luftschiff [The French airship].  Postmark, Brooklyn, New York, June 28, 1911

Postcard, 9 x 14 cm.

This postcard depicts the Lebaudy-type airship La Patrie, built for the French army in 1906. The airship was the largest of its time, more than 200 feet long, with a capacity of 111,250 cubic feet. On maneuvers at Verdun in 1907, while the airship was tied to the ground, a tremendous windstorm arose. Two hundred men labored unsuccessfully to hold the ship down and keep it from being blown away. The giant airship broke free, sailing over France, England, Wales, and part of Ireland, and disappeared over the Atlantic.

First U.K. Aerial Post, Coronation, A.D. 1911, By Sanction of H.M. Postmaster General

Postcard, 9 x 14 cm.



This postcard (postmark September 11, 1911) was carried on the airpost flights between London and Windsor as part of a celebration of the coronation of H.M. King George V. These airmail flights are commonly known as the British Coronation Aerial Post.

Revolving Air Ship Tower, Steeplechase Park, Coney Island,  N.Y., undated and unaddressed

Postcard, 8.75 x 14 cm.



This postcard depicts an amusement park ride—a revolving air ship tower constructed at Steeplechase Park—that reflected popular interest in aeronautics at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. Steeplechase Park was one of three amusement areas that opened between 1897 and 1905 at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York.


Harvard-Boston Aero Meet.  Harvard Aero Field, Atlantic, Mass. Sept. 3rd to 13th, 1910

Program,  12.4 x 22.7 cm.
TLC71.H 33 1910



The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet took place September 3-10, 1910, in the village of Squantum, southeast of Boston. It was the first large air meet in the eastern United States; more than $90,000 in prizes and appearance fees were offered. Ten thousand dollars of that sum was paid to the British aviator Claude Grahame-White for winning a 33-mile race over land and water around Boston light, an event that Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss thought too dangerous to compete in.

Educational Demonstration Presenting Mr. Claude Grahame-White, The Famous English Aviator, Harvard Aviation Field, Atlantic, Mass., September 24, 1910.  Issued with the compliments of the Christian Science Monitor

Program,  24 x 14.5 cm.

A group of Bostonians offered Claude Grahame-White, one of Great Britain's foremost early aviators, $50,000 plus expenses to come to the United States to participate in the Boston-Harvard Aero Meet (September 3-13, 1910). After the meet, B.F. Keith, a showman, sponsored a special demonstration on September 24, 1910, in which Grahame-White flew a Blériot monoplane and a Farman biplane. The program featured aerial stunts, including Grahame-White's attempts to dive from 4,000 feet with a dead engine and to beat the world altitude record of 8,000 feet.

Sheet Music

Early twentieth-century American popular music, a product intended for commercial mass market distribution, often reflects its social and cultural surroundings. Because this was a time when new inventions and discoveries were having a profound effect on society, it is not surprising that popular music of the day would use the airplane as thematic material. Many aeronautical songs written in the early twentieth century are concerned with the airplane’s mobility (especially compared with other forms of transportation like the automobile) and escape (for example, the fanciful notion that the flying machine can carry passengers into outer space). The titles presented are primarily early twentieth-century American compositions. However, Icare, a French sonnet set to music, and Aeroplane, or flying machine, a British waltz dedicated to Samuel F. Cody, reflect popular European interest in the subject.

Won't You Come Up and Spoon in Coey's Balloon.  Words by Victor H. Smalley.  Music by Bernie Adler.  Chicago: Smalley & Adler, 1908

Sheet music, 5 p., 28 x 35.5 cm.
XK-24-2   3420


The title of the song refers to the balloon Chicago, which belonged to Charles Andrew Coey, president of the Federation of American Aero Clubs and the Aeronautique Club of Chicago. According to Tom Crouch in The Eagle Aloft, the Chicago "stood ten stories tall and was perhaps the largest envelope flown in the United States" during the first decade of the twentieth century.

Come Up in my Balloon.  Written and composed by Frank Leo.  Sung by Wilkie Bard. London:  Francis, Day and Hunter, 1909

Sheet music, 4 p., 26 x 36 cm.
XK-24-2   3427


Come Up in My Balloon is an early twentieth-century song that compares aerial conveyances with other forms of transportation (motors, sailing yachts and floaters, and electric omnibuses) but opts for the joy of flying ("Give me aer-ial nav-i-ga-tion, I am caus-ing a sen-sa-tion With my cheap bal-loon excursions up to Mars").

Up in My Flying Machine.  Words by Charles Saxby.  Music by Phil Kaufman.  Los Angeles:  Southern California Music Co., 1910

Sheet music, 5 p., 27 x 36 cm.
XK-24-2   3686


This 1910 song was dedicated to Dick Ferris, originator of the Los Angeles Aero Meet at Dominguez Field in 1910. Like other aeronautical songs of the period, it begins with lyrics about the automobile ("with a chauf-feur smart and a gas go cart and a coup-le of extra ti-res") but quickly focuses attention on the airplane, which enables one to escape earth's boundaries and leave the clouds far below as "on the trails of air we go."

Come Josephine in My Flying Machine  (Up She Goes!).  Words by Alfred Bryan.  Music by Fred Fischer.  New York:  Maurice Shapiro, 1910

Sheet music, 5 p., 26 x 34.5 cm.
XK-24-2   1536



Come Josephine in My Flying Machine (Up She Goes!) has been called the most popular aeronautical song ever written and often appears as background music in films about early aviation. Its connection with popular songs about the telephone (Hello Central, Give Me Heaven by Charles K. Harris) and the automobile (In My Merry Oldsmobile by Vincent P. Bryan and Gus Edwards) indicates that late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century technologies were favorite topics for tunesmiths.

A Hundred Years from Now.  By Caddigan, Brennan and Story.  Boston: O.E. Story, 1914

Sheet music, 5 p., 27 x 34 cm.
XK-24-2   1539



This 1914 sheet music cover depicts a gnomelike figure gazing through a spyglass at a fanciful city beyond.  The city, a projection of what life might be like in 2014 (as the song's title suggests, "A Hundred Years from Now"), shows more than a dozen flying machines, including what looks like a huge aerial yacht. Although there is no mention of flying machines in the song's lyrics, there is speculation about the pace of life a century into the future: "I won-der what kind of a life they'll lead a hun-dred years from now?  I won-der what's go-ing to be the speed A hun-dred years from now."

Icare.  Poésie de Philipe Desportes.  Musique de Victor Massé  Paris: Cendrier [ca. 1840?]

Sheet music, 5 p., 27 x 35 cm.
XK-24-2   1556



This French sonnet (literally, "little song") is based on the Greek legend of Daedalus and Icarus. It is, as Charles Gibbs-Smith has pointed out in Aviation: An Historical Survey, "the modern airman's legend par excellence." Having constructed the Cretan labyrinth for King Minos, Deadalus, an inventor and patron of craftsmen and artists, incurred the King's wrath.  To escape from Crete, he constructed wings fastened with wax for his son Icarus and himself. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly near the sun.  Icarus disobeyed, and the sun melted the wax that anchored his wings, causing him to plunge to his death in the sea. The sonnet is an Italian verse form consisting of fourteen lines, typically of iambic pentameter in English, or alexandrine (iambic hexameter) in French, rhyming to a determined scheme. The illustration shows the dead or dying Icarus lying on rocks, while streams of light pass through ominous dark clouds.

Aeroplane.  By Ezra Read.  London:  Music Publishing Stores, Ltd., no date

Sheet music, 7 p., 26 x 35.5 cm.
XK-24-2   1555

This waltz-tempo composition is dedicated to Colonel Samuel F. Cody, a photograph of whose aircraft is on the cover.  Cody was a flamboyant Texan who had been a cowboy, gold prospector, and Wild West showman. On October 16, 1908, he made the first officially recognized heavier-than-air flight in Great Britain in his British Army Aeroplane No. 1 at the Farnborough Balloon Factory.


The Air Balloon Chace:  or, Mr. Blanchard's Flying Vessel, which was launched at Little-Chelsea, on the 16th of October, 1784

Engraving, 9.5 x 13.5 cm.
TLB 276.B6

The illustration and text on the ticket refer to a balloon flight made by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Dr. John Sheldon, an anatomist, on October 16, 1784. This flight, which took place at Lochee's Military Academy, was attended by 250,000 spectators, some of whom arrived in approximately 2,000 carriages. Blanchard and Sheldon made three attempts before ascending successfully.  J.E. Hodgson described the voyage in The History of Aeronautics in Great Britain: "Having cleared the neighbouring buildings, a north-westerly breeze carried the balloon... over Hammersmith, Chiswick, and Twickenham, from which point the descent was gradual, until a landing was made near the seat of Lord Vere at Sunbury." Here Sheldon got down from the balloon, and Blanchard continued alone, landing at Romney, 73 miles from London. The handwriting on the ticket refers to a balloon flight made by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries on Tuesday, November 30, 1784.

Vincenzo Lunardi Lucchese, Anfiteatro Corèa, Viglietto de' Sig.ri Contribuenti, pè l globo aereostatico, 8 Luglio 1788

Ticket with engraving, 11.5 x 7.5 cm.
XB-7-11  2806

This engraved ticket, which contains a portrait of Lunardi, was issued for a July 8, 1788, ascension, although there is no indication as to where the flight took place. Lunardi, an Italian reportedly born in Lucca on January 11, 1759, was secretary to the Neapolitan ambassador to the Court of St. James. He made the first manned balloon flight in Great Britain on September 15, 1784, and quickly established himself as one of Europe's most famous aeronauts. He died on a tour of Portugal on July 31, 1806, at the age of forty-seven.

Grande Semaine Aéronautique de la Champagne [The Champagne region's great aviation week], Reims, du 22 au 29 Août 1909

Ticket, 7 x 9 cm.

This cork-shaped ticket admitted the bearer to the world's first air meet held at Reims, France, from August 22 to August 29, 1909. Sponsored by the city of Reims and France's most renowned champagne houses, each of whom contributed 200,000 francs for prizes in speed, distance, altitude, and passenger carrying. James Gordon Bennett, American sportsman, expatriate, and publisher of the New York Herald and its European edition, the Paris Herald, donated the most prestigious award, the Coupe Internationale d'Aviation (International Aviation Cup, or Gordon Bennett Cup), a silver trophy that was presented along with 25,000 francs in cash.
Although marred by rain and mud, the Reims meet played host to the most famous names in French aviation manufacturing, including Voisin, Blériot, Farman, Antoinette, and the American aviator Glenn Curtiss, and was attended by the elite society of France and America. On the next-to-last day of the meet, Curtiss thrilled the crowd of spectators by beating Louis Blériot for the Gordon Bennett Cup by 6 seconds.

International Aviation Tournament, 1910, Belmont Park, Long Island, U.S.A., Good for One Admission to Field [October 26, 27, 29, 30]

Ticket, 11 x 6.5 cm.
XB-7-11  2830, 2831, 2832, 2833


These tickets admitted the holder to the air meet held at Belmont Park Race Track on Long Island in October 1910. The meet's main event was the 100 kilometer (60-mile) Gordon Bennett Cup Race on October 29, won by Britain's top pilot Claude Grahame-White, with a time of 61 minutes, 4.74 seconds. This was the second time the trophy would be awarded (the first was at Reims in 1909) and the first time it was given in America.

The final event of the meet, a 33-mile race across New York City to the Statue of Liberty and back, evoked a bitter dispute.  John Moisant was declared the winner although he had begun the race 21 minutes after the starting deadline. An angry Claude Grahame-White lodged a complaint with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (F.A.I.) in Paris. Later, the F.A.I. overturned the judges' decision and awarded Grahame-White the $10,000 prize plus interest.

Other Items of Interest

The Descent of the Air Balloon.  A cartoon representation of the sheep, duck, and cock coming out of the basket. Engraving by J. Lodge, 1783

Engraving, 17.8 x 12.7 cm.

At Versailles, on September 19, 1783, before a large crowd that included King Louis XVI of France, Étienne Montgolfier launched a balloon that contained the first air travelers—a sheep, a duck, and a rooster. The balloon rose to a height of 1,700 feet.  While it was descending, the cage containing the animals caught the branch of a tree. The door of the cage was jarred open and the animals escaped. The sheep and duck were unharmed, but the rooster had injured its wing during the journey, prompting some to question the future safety of humans in flight.

The text of the cartoon engraving seems to take no notice of the injury to the rooster: "Monsieur de Montgolfier's air balloon, after having ascended an amazing height above the clouds and being carried by the wind into the air 45 leagues, fell down near a cottage, where the poor country people were exceedingly frightened and astonished. The cock, sheep and the duck came out of the basket which had been tyed to it unhurt."

Aerial Navigation Company.  Stock certificate, April 29, 1852, Washington, D.C., issued to George H. Witherlee

Stock certificate, 12 x 20 cm.
XF-2-1 2433


Rufus Porter's career was varied to say the least.  For fifty years, after he abandoned school teaching in 1813, he was, according to Tom Crouch, in The Eagle Aloft, "a poet, dancing master, shoemaker, machinist, printer, and journalist." In 1845, he founded Scientific American. His career as an aeronautical entrepreneur, however, included the design of an "aeroport," a cigar-shaped balloon with a gondola slung underneath that would carry crew and passengers. In 1852, optimistic that he could turn his idea for the aeroport into a practical aerial conveyance, he issued stock in the Aerial Navigation Company. The Gimbel collection has certificate number 94 for $5.00, issued to George H. Witherlee of Maine.

Reims Air Meet, 1909

Stereograph slides, b&w


This stereograph (photographic images designed to produce a three-dimensional effect when used with a stereoscopic viewer) of the 1909 air meet at Reims is one of forty in the Gimbel collection.

Aeronautical Supplies Catalogue  F 1911

Catalog, 18 x 22 cm.

The E.J. Willis Company, which had two locations (85 Chambers Street and 67 Reade Street) in New York City, sold aeronautical supplies of various kinds. Willis accepted only cash and C.O.D. and offered to pay transportation charges on items priced $10 or more ("exclusive of Woodwork, Oils and Greases") to places within 5 miles of New York and on items priced at $50 or more to places within 100 miles. Willis sold everything from ailerons to wheels, including aviator's apparel, and complete Blériot, Farman, or Curtiss-type aircraft.

Wine Taster

The Montgolfier brothers are commemorated on the medallion enclosed in this French silver wine taster.


Engraving on the back of this silver watch case honors the May 4, 1814, balloon flight of Madame Marie Blanchard.

Pewter Box

Five miniature watercolor paintings adorn the top and sides of this pewter box. The largest, on the top, depicts the September 1783 Montgolfier balloon flight which carried a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.

Wooden Box

The September 1783 Montgolfier balloon flight is also depicted in a capelle watercolor, mounted in an exquisitely crafted cylindrical wood box.

Cream Pitcher

A whimsical depiction of two bears escaping from a balloon graces this 1906 china cream pitcher. The caption reads, “They slid down ropes and hit the ground | And landed in Chicago safe and sound.”


A 15 watt “Kentucky” brand light bulb was transformed into a doll-carrying balloon by an imaginative early twentieth-century crochet artist.

Cigarette Lighter

The Blériot Model X1 monoplane, in 1909 the first powered flying machine to cross the English Channel, graces this silver cigarette lighter.

China Plates (Pair)

In 1840, on this rare pair of gilded china plates, the French painter, J. Siquier, captured the flights of the Robert brothers, Jean and Noel, and M. Colin; and Jean-Pierre Blanchard with Dom Péche.

Earthenware Platter

The unsuccessful 1784 attempt by Guyton de Morveau and the Abbé Bertrand to steer a balloon by the use of sails is depicted on this earthenware plate by an unknown artist.


Romance and ballooning are paired on this nineteenth-century ivory and paper fan.