Photo of the Day

photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum

Aviation pioneer Lawrence Hargrave and three box kites

January 16th, 2013 by

Photographic print, black & white, Lawrence Hargrave standing beside box kite at Woollahra Point, c1902-1910, copy print made c1977

This is another photograph of aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave with his invention the box kite. This image shows him with three kites linked together. In the famous man-lifting flight experiment, Hargrave used four kites and was lifted 16 feet from the ground in a 21 mph wind. Hargrave realised that the experiment demonstrated a safe and controlled means of making an ascent using artificial flight technology.

It is likely that these phothographs were taken in the grounds of Hargrave’s home in about 1905. Hargrave lived in Point Piper (a harbourside suburb of Sydney) from 1902 until his death in 1915 and from here he conducted flight trials over water.

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.

This image is one of a number collated by William Hudson Shaw during his research into Lawrence Hargrave. The Powerhouse Museum holds an extensive archive of material about Lawrence Hargrave as well as objects and reproductions of his kites.

Post by Lynne McNairn

Photographer: unknown (P2903-1/52)
No known copyright restrictions

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