November 21, 2011

Collection Name: Drachen Foundation Collection

Collection Number: 1917

Post Type: Kite Object or Accessory

This item was entered by Ali. They assume full responsibility for all content.

Artist or Author: Bob White

Creation Year: 2011


I'm probably going into more detail in my response than you necessarily need, but I hope that the information that I am writing and the attachments that I am sending will be useful to you. I have spent a lot of time and energy tracing the William Abner Eddy story. Although I have a lot of information and many documents on Eddy and his kite work, one likely never has the entire story as essential pieces of a historical story tend to get lost over time. The three Eddy war kites that I am aware of are: • The Smithsonian Institution: - this Eddy kite has an excellent frame but very tattered sail. This, of course, is the one that Eden Maxwell wrote about in the Drachen Newsletter some years ago. It is my understanding that this kite came into the Smithsonian collection as a result of a direct donation by Margaret Eddy Fleming, the daughter of William Abner Eddy and Margaret (Doubleday) Eddy. • Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa: - this Eddy kite has an excellent sail and perimeter wire support for the sail, but the frame does not contain any of the original Eddy parts. The frame consists of a bamboo main spar running from top to bottom and a cross spar fashioned from aircraft grade spruce. I have attached a picture of me standing with this kite in an examination area of the main conservation workshop at the museum in Ottawa. This photo was taken in 2000 when I was doing research on Guglielmo Marconi's use of kites. The provenance on this Eddy kite indicates that it was donated to the museum around 1969, two years after the museum was founded as a Centennial project*. The Eddy kite was donated to the CSTM-Ottawa by CMC Electronics Inc.** of Montreal when they were in the process of clearing out some old materials from a storage area at company headquarters. There were also four Conyne style kites in the package that was donated to the museum. The only information I could gather at the time that I was doing my Marconi research in 2000 was that all five kites (1 Eddy + 3 Conynes + 1 rectangular box kite, non-Hargraves type) were used in the early 1900's to raise temporary aerials when early wireless relay points were being constructed across Canada. It is my understanding that the kites were used by field teams to test signal strength from hill tops. Purportedly, they were only flown in the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick, but that is sketchy information. In addition, the Conynes were identified by the notes provided to the Museum by CMC staff as having been part of Marconi's kite kit at Signal Hill in 1901, but this is definitely incorrect. Marconi only used Baden-Powell type kites manufactured by G.C. Spencer and Bros. Ltd., Highbury, London, England. As you know, the kites were only used by Marconi at St. Johns as a last resort after the hydrogen filled balloons all broke away in the fierce winds that typically blow on Signal Hill in December.*** As a further note on the Conyne kites in Ottawa, they could have been made by G.C. Spencer and company if they were ordered prior to 1907. If the kites were made after 1907 it is possible that the British kite making company Brookite in Dartmoor, a town in south Devon , England could have made them as well. As you likely know, Brookite made Conyne kites that seem to conform to the Conyne patent for many years. Brookite still makes modern versions of these kites with contemporary materials. •Scott Skinner: two Eddy kites just purchased in the eBay auction.   So, counting  there would be four Eddy War kites extant.  As you know, I published an account of William Abner Eddy's kite flying career and the development of his kite in 1999. I made a few updates to the story in 2005. It is now time for me to rework the entire account as I have uncovered much more information in the past six years. One example of the additional information that I have on Eddy kites is contained in the attached PDF of a page of the Fredricksburg, VA News (1898-06-09). This newspaper account shows a half-tone image of two Eddy kites flying in train and carrying a camera over Havana, Cuba during the Spanish American War. The kites were flown by Lieut. D. Wise of the US Army. The caption under the image notes that dynamite might be dropped from the kites on Havana if there is no progress in the war. I have a separate newspaper article, complete with an image, detailing the bomb dropping device that Eddy developed. This latter newspaper story contains a very nice image of Eddy at about 49 years of age. By the way, Lieut. Wise also did some work with Eddy kites for the Army in tests in New Jersey and Virginia that included raising telegraph wires on trains of Eddy kites that were linked to ground posts distant from one another, thus allowing telegraph transmission of messages in Morse code. In my pursuit of information about the Eddy kite, I also traced the life of Margaret Eddy from her early years in Bayonne, New Jersey through her education and art school training as she approached adulthood. She moved to LaJolla, CA after her parents died to live with her cousin and his wife. It was there that she pursued her art work and came in contact with naturalist Guy Fleming, who she married. Margaret Eddy Fleming was a reasonably well known sketch and water color artist among the Southern California art community. Some of her work still hangs in galleries in the area. Some of her work is owned by the Scripps Foundation. Guy Fleming, her husband, was a naturalist who was an associate and friend of the Scripps family. The Scripps family owned a huge ranch in Southern California that reached to the shore of the Pacific Ocean. In part of the area of the Scripps ranch there was a section of rugged plateau and deep ravines that reached down to the shore. On this land grew a large stand of the rare Torrey Pine. This is the rarest pine species in the United States. It is an endangered species growing only in San Diego County and on one of the islands off shore. It is a kind of pine that is a part of the coastal sage and chaparral ecoregion in southern California. Guy and Margaret detailed the flora and fauna of the Torrey Pine preserve on the Scripps ranch and encouraged the Scripps family to work with the government of California to create the Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve. According to the research that I have done, Margaret's drawings of the flora and fauna of the area were very influential in helping state legislators to decide to create the preserve. Margaret's drawings and work about this area is published in a book****, which I have in my collection. I pursued Margaret Eddy as a possible source of some information that would still be around about her father and his kites. I was hoping for that magic trunk or storage box in the attic that contained photos, items related to kiting, newspaper clippings and notes of his work, and maybe even an original Eddy kite or too. Alas, the long pursuit turned up nothing. Margaret never had any children of her own. She did help to raise Guy Fleming's two children by his first marriage and was close to them and to her cousin's son, John Shelton Jr., who played with Fleming's children and was sometimes looked after by Margaret. In two phone interviews that I had with John Shelton Jr. in 2007 he told me lots about Margaret and Guy Fleming but said that she only spoke of her father's kites a few times. She did speak of her parents often, but apparently did not pass on much about kites. John Shelton Jr. pursued with Guy Fleming's children the question of any possible legacy information or items of Eddy kites, but they reported to him that none were ever seen or shared with them as they grew up. So, the trail that I had hoped to follow went cold. I got a note in late 2009 from John Shelton Jr.'s daughter that he had passed on so my connection to anyone who knew Margaret has ended. As I noted above, I have uncovered so much more about Eddy that I really do need to update my account of his life and work. The nice thing about the artefacts that I have gathered is that they can be dated and verified and many have images that are generally not known to the kiting world. It really should be assembled and put out there. On a personal note, as you both know, I do all of my research on my own. It is entirely fuelled by my passion for kites, their history and the lives and personalities of the kite pioneers. I have never sought any grants because I don't know if any are available for this type of work. I have also never sold any information to gain funds for my work. I have invested as much money as I can into my historical work and hope that it will be of use to kiters, educators and historians in the future. What I know and the material that I have gathered, I share freely. All I ask is that I get some credit or acknowledgement for what I share or publish. I hope that all of this information helps you. I would be pleased to speak with you folks by phone or correspond further if you have would like more information on Eddy. All the best to you both - I am so very happy that the Eddy kites wound up in your capable and loving hands. Your goal of sharing the knowledge that you gather on kites makes me so very pleased to be able to be in contact with you. Sincerely, Bob Notes: * Canada poured billions of dollars into historical, cultural and community infrastructure in 1967 to mark the centenary of Canada's founding as an independent nation with the move to home rule, independent governance in 1867. Each project was designated as a "Centennial project" as part of a legacy foundation to weave history, culture and the arts into the infrastructure and fabric of Canadian life. ** CMC Electronics Inc. became BAE Systems Canada in 2001. Correspondence with CMC/BAE during my Marconi research gave me the information that the kites donated to CSTM-Ottawa had been used to raise aerials during field tests for wireless repeater sites in the period from about 1915 through 1925. No one at the company could find any detailed notes, correspondence, or documents pertaining to the kites, but company oral history lore suggested those dates and purposes for the kites. It was the best information that I could glean on the matter. *** Spencer and Company was a well known supplier of balloons and kites. They made all of the hydrogen balloons that Marconi brought to St. Johns, NL in December of 1901 for his transatlantic wireless signal tests. The company no longer exists, going out of business sometime around 1920. I tried unsuccessfully to trace its remains after it closed but made no progress. ****Hubbs, C.L and Whitaker, T.W. with Illustrations by Fleming, Margaret Eddy. Torrey Pines State Reserve: A Scientific Reserve of the Department of Parks and Recreations, State of California. 1964 (pp96). [I just had to have this book in my library to have a link to Margaret Eddy.] ----------- Bob White 10402 Bessey Road RR#2 Port Colborne, ON L3K 5V4 Cell: 905-984-0309 Email: Web site: -------------



Geographic: Canada, United States

Kite Type: Bowed

Materials: Cotton, Dowel

Significance: Historical, Scientific

Images: (Click to open in viewer.)