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An auspicious moment in flight

At 8:00 PM on Friday, May 7, 1909, the members of the American Philosophical Society gathered in Philosophical Hall to hear a lecture on the current developments of flight. However, the invited speaker that evening was neither Wilbur nor Orville Wright (who had achieved flight on December 17, 1903 in Kitty Hawk, N.C.), but the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell. In his opening remarks, Bell commented "Nothing can show more clearly that we really have entered the 20th Century than the fact that your great scientific organization desires a lecture upon researches connected with this subject." Titled "Aerial Locomotion," the talk was itself a high-tech affair, using slides and motion picture footage to illustrate the experiments that Bell and his associates had undertaken in the previous two years.

While on vacation in Nova Scotia, Bell began flying kites as a means of recreation. Eventually this turned to scientific experimentation as he built bigger and larger kites, and began to investigate the properties needed to keep larger "flying machines" in the air. Others interested in flight came to Nova Scotia to work with Bell. At the suggestion of his wife, Bell's experiments lead to the formation of the Aerial Experimental Association on October 1, 1907. Other members of the Association included Douglas McCurdy, Fred W. Baldwin, Glen H. Curtis, and Lt. Selfridge, US Army.

Over the next two years the Association worked towards the goal of getting into the air. Working with powered kites they called aerodromes (or dromes for short), the members eventually achieved success on July 4, 1908 with the flight of the "June Bug" (or Drome 3) that captured the trophy offered by Scientific American. During his APS lecture, Bell illustrated the momentous flight with a motion picture. The Association disbanded in March 31, 1909, as its member (McCurdy, Baldwin, and Curtis) went on to pursue the commercial possibilities of flight.

Currently on exhibit

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