JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Aeroplane: 1917

Aeroplane: 1917

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


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

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.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2022 Shorpy Inc.