Scott Skinner

From Discourse 14

The Historical Kite Workshop was held this year in Beinwil, Switzerland, the final weekend of April. The creation of a three-winged Brogden kite took center stage as the 51 attendees each attempted to complete a replica of this sophisticated historical kite before the weekend ended. Over 20 sewing machines were urged on by their owners, as the project was tackled by workshop attendees new and old. The Brogden kite kit was developed by organizers Christoph Gautschi, who compiled an informative photo-history of the kite and wrote the step-by-step plans, and Charles Tacheron, who completed massive amounts of bamboo- work, engineering of ring-fittings, and sail and re- enforcement cutting, which were needed by all. Most participants were able to get their kites into one piece, with the sails completed, and only the line-work remaining to be done.

Additional highlights of the meeting included a “show and tell” time where I presented two origi- nal William Eddy sails and frames, and a variety of Paul Garber memorabilia; including prototype target kite rudders and sails. In both cases, there was an almost total lack of written documenta- tion on the history and use of the items, so we fo- cused on photographing, measuring, and analyz- ing materials. Subsequent to the meeting, I was delighted to receive correspondence from Dieter Dehn who took a closer look at his photos upon his return home and sent me the following;

“When I checked my photos from Beinwil at home, I found something on the label of the Eddy kite that I obviously missed when I had the kite in my hands. When you look at the label you read “USED BY THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT” and “PATENT AP-

PLIED FOR.” I read this as: Printing of this la-

bel (and start of production of the kites) was

sometime between 1898, when Eddy tried to sell his kites to the army and Wise took some of the kites to Kuba for signaling and 1900 when Eddy’s patent was issued. But on the label of this kite, there is an addition: there is an additional stamping “PATENTED MARCH 27, 1900” and “PATENTED MAY 1,

1900.” This tells us, the kite we had in hand was produced after May 1900. So far – so obvious. But why are there two dates? Check- ing my patent-database I found: the first date (March 27) is Eddy’s patent for his kite. The second date (May 1) was the surprise: This is Woglom’s patent for his “kite-like aeroplane!” This shows the “EDDY KITE” was Eddy’s and Woglom’s war-kite!

On Saturday evening, British kitemaker and re- searcher Paul Chapman was gracious enough to share material on Charles Brogden, as well as his finding of the “Cody Brogdens” in the Sotheby’s Cody Auction. Paul’s fascination with Cody’s version of the Brogden kite was fueled by the purchase of a set of original Cody Brogden spars, which, with the help of kite historian Jan Disem- pleaere, were used to reconstruct and build a rep- lica kite as close as possible to Cody’s specifica- tions. Detailed drawings of the Cody Brogdens by Jan Desimpeleare were also a beautiful part of the presentation. Of particular interest in Paul’s presentation was his discovery that Brogden had been experimenting with this style of kite for fif- teen years, and had even used it for gliding or man-lifting experiments, many years before we see the kite in photographs.

Finally, Dutch kite researcher, Frits Sauvé, pre- sented findings on the “oldest kite in the western world” in what has been a cooperative research effort organized by The Drachen Foundation, involving Thom Shanken, in the United States, and John Verheij, Hans van Duren and Alexander Sauvé, all from the Netherlands. All participants shared their expertise, from forensic science to the history of playing cards, to deduce new pos- sibilities on the origin and true age of this kite. Having never actually put his hands on the kite, Frits was still able to come to some conclusions


Top: Workshop attendee with completed Brogden replica.

boTTom: Garber target kite rudders on display. No written explantion has been found to explain the sizes and different applications.

Scott Skinner

An early French broadsheet warning against kiteflying near telegraph lines. From the 1840s!

Scott Skinner

  • not sure things, but supportable ideas, nonetheless. Analysis of the kite’s tail pieces has prov- en very interesting, with some tail pieces being made of pages from “Jani templum Christo na- scente reseratum,” a religious book that had most likely been expendable (hence the use of pages for making a kite tail); playing cards, definitely from before 1850, and therefore probably from an incomplete deck; and, finally, personal letters of the family, one dated from 1772.
  • It is likely that the kite was made in 1773, as it is dated in writing on the front of the sail. Amazing! Further investigations into the origin of this kite will be continued, however Frits has been frus- trated by the lack of cooperation by the current owners of the house where the kite was found. Research into the family histories from the house have come to a dead end due to this lack of co- operation, and the investigation is not considered complete.

Finally, the highlight to any HKW is the raffle, which was organized by Ralf Masersky, who managed ably, without help from his fellow raf- fle-mate, Holm Struck (legitimate family obliga- tions forced Holm to miss the meeting). A num- ber of fantastic kite items were offered for raffle. Some of the victors of the drawings, raffle-host (Ralf) and visiting guest (me), took home great prizes; Ralf a Japanese ukiyo-e print with kite in its design, and me, a Lindenberg X-Kite replica, made by German Falk Hilsenbeck.

Many thanks to the workshop organization team of Charles Tacheron, Uwe Wipprecht, Stefan Rott, Karin Siegrist, and Chirstoph Gautschi.

for more informaTion abouT The “old- esT KiTe in The WesTern World” see friTs sauvé’s ConTribuTion To This issue of disCourse and also The draChen foun- daTion’s publiCaTion journal, issue 23


–The ediTors

Scott Skinner

Charles Tacheron’s ring fitting hardware for the three winged Brodgen kite.