On October 16, 1908, cowboy showman and kite enthusiast Samuel Franklin Cody became the first man in England to achieve self-sustained manned flight. To honor one of the kiting world’s most famous and certainly most illustrious personalities, the Drachen Foundation will be using this “Featured Archive” column to highlight some of the Cody items it houses in its archive.
This month focuses on a model of a Cody war kite, purchased by Executive Director Ali Fujino at the Sotheby’s auction of the S.F.C. Cody Archive. It was purchased grouped together with samples of fabrics used in kite construction, a sales brochure for the Cody War Kite and two copies of an advertising leaflet for Pearson’s Magazine entitled The Kite That Lifts a Man.
The model (25 cm wide by 15 cm long) is composed of card, wood and thread, and is complete with a hand carved lifting basket. On the front and the back of the kite sail, one can see the hand drawn pencil lines the maker used as guidelines. Only a minor amount of wear has damaged this early-1900’s model, as the kite is intact but for a detached back-right spar. Also, the glue used for affixation appears to have discolored the cardstock.
Cody’s purpose in having this model created is unclear, although speculation is that it was a promotional model created to show others the simplicity of his man-lifting system. This speculation is supported by the detail attended to the model—even the basket’s woven detail is hand-drawn in with pencil.
Both the brochure—written by Cody himself—and the Pearson’s Magazine leaflet included in the sale of this artifact promote the use of “the kite that lifts a man.” Together, they document Cody’s ambition “to play an important part in the complete conquest of the air.”
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