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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Aeroplane: 1917

Aeroplane: 1917

1917. "Langley, Samuel Pierpont. Secretary, Smithsonian Institute. Experimental tandem biplane on Potomac embodying Langley principles." View full size.

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Mystery tandem plane

I know this picture from the files of the Library of Congress. There is even a second one from another angle. This machine is very different from the Curtiss built so-called Langley copy and at that it is dated at 1917, while the Curtiss-Langley affair was in 1914.

There are other pictures of a tandem wing machine on the Potomac in the LOC, where the machine is attributed to the Richardson Brothers.

Alas a lost piece of history here, at least till now


I don't think this is the Langley aircraft Curtiss famously rebuilt (and enhanced) and flew in 1914 to prove it was capable of flight before the Wrights.

That aircraft was a tandem monoplane (two sets of single wings) whilst this is a tandem biplane. The caption phrase about "Langley principles" probably refers to the tandem (fore-aft) wing arrangement, not Langley's direct involvement (he died 10 years earlier).

In any event, this aircraft looks rather primitive by 1917 standards, even for a seaplane. Curtiss's own designs (he was the preeminent seaplane developer) were a lot further ahead.

Rest of the Story

Curtiss Biplane

Curtiss's rebuild of Langley's plane was an attempt to get around the Wright brothers' patents for powered flight. His intent was to demonstrate that Langley had a flight-worthy design before the Wright brothers. The original Langley plane crashed on takeoff. Curtiss rebuilt the wrecked plane years later, making numerous design enhancements to get it airborne. Needless to say the Wrights were infuriated.


I think this is the rebuild of Langley's prototype by Curtiss. All of Langley's versions ( if I remember correctly) failed. Curtiss' version would take off and fly and safely land.

Fantasy Island: The Early Years

Yelling "De plane! De plane!" didn't have the same effect in the silent-film era.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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