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Lawrence Hargrave and his famous boxkite

November 19th, 2012 by

P2903-1/44 Photographic print, black & white, Lawrence Hargrave kneeling beside box kite at Woollahra Point, New South Wales, Australia, original print

This image shows aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave with his famous invention the box kite at Point Piper on Sydney Harbour in about 1905. Hargrave lived in Point Piper (a harbourside suburb of Sydney) from 1902 and from here he conducted flight trials over water. This image is one of a number collated by William Hudson Shaw during his research into Lawrence Hargrave. The kite winder shown in the foreground is held by the Deutsches Museum, Munich.

The collection database notes:

Hargrave’s greatest contribution to aeronautics was the invention of the box or cellular kite. This kite evolved in four stages from a simple cylinder kite made of heavy paper to a double-celled one capable of lifting Hargrave sixteen feet off the ground. The fourth kite of the series, produced by the end of 1893, provided a stable supporting and structural surface that satisfied the correct area to weight ratio which became the foundation for early European built aircraft. For example, Hargrave’s box kite appears to be the inspiration for Alberto Santos Dumont’s aircraft named ’14bis’, which undertook the first powered, controlled flight in Europe in 1906. Similarly, Gabriel Voisin states in his autobiography that he and his brother Charles, who manufactured the first commercially available aircraft in Europe, owe their inspiration to their construction to a Hargrave box kite, while via correspondence with Octave Chanute, there is also evidence for Hargrave’s box kite influencing the aircraft used by the Wright Brothers during their historic flight in 1903.

William Hudson Shaw was a Qantas Airlines executive and aviation historian. He was the author of Lawrence Hargrave: explorer, inventor and aviation experimenter and numerous articles about Hargrave. During his research Shaw made friends with members of the Hargrave family, notably Lawrence’s daughters Helen Gray, Margaret Hudson and Olive Blackman and his grand-daughter Grizel Gray. The family gave Shaw papers and photographs relating to Hargrave. The family also donated papers to the Powerhouse between 1962 and 1979, often with Shaw acting as intermediary. Shaw donated his papers to the Powerhouse in 1977.

The Powerhouse Museum holds an extensive archive of material about Lawrence Hargrave as well as objects and reproductions of his kites.

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