Daredevils and wing-walkers

When World War One ended many ex-military pilots wanted to continue flying and to use it as a source of income. They purchased used aircraft at cheap prices and charged members of the public for short flights, gave flying lessons or provided chartered flights. Some pilots used their flying expertise to develop daredevil flying shows.

Crowd scene from a flying circus air show, c1935

These thrilling flying circus shows became known as barnstorming because many events were held on farms or near barns.

Flying circus biplanes in formation, c1935

As the popularity of barnstorming grew so did the daring of the flyers. In 1918 an American called Ormer Locklear started to climb out of the cockpit to walk along the wing and even to step from one plane to the other.  Although this was extremely dangerous it became an expectation that a Flying Circus would have such an stunt. In 1938 the American authorities made it mandatory to wear parachutes at all times. This diminished the daredevil antics and hastened the end of these shows.

A wing-walker in mid-flight at a flying circus

In the earliest days of flight when most aircraft had open cockpits, these intrepid pilots needed protection from exposure to the cold, noise, heat and air pressure. At first, aircraft were flying at slower speeds than motorists and the clothing worn was similar, perhaps a tweed jacket and trousers, hat and goggles.

Louis Paulhan and Claude Grahame-White, c1912

Leading stores like Gamages or Burberry’s soon recognised a new growing market and introduced flying combination suits, fleece lined boots, rainproof gauntlets, leather coats and special goggles. Further developments produced a new range of flying shockproof helmets.

Early aviator, Hilda Beatrice Hewlett, 1911

In 1916 Sidney Cotton, a Royal Naval Air Service pilot made an accidental discovery when having been scrambled for action in his working overalls. He found that the oil and grease which had soaked into the material kept him warm when his fellow pilots were suffering from the cold. He took his idea to Robinson and Cleaver in London and got them to make him a flying suit to his new design. It had 3 layers, a thin fur lining, an airproof silk layer and an outside light Burberry material layer. And so, the Sidcot flying suit came into general operational use.

Pilot beside Avro 504 plane, c1935

See more fantastic images from our Early aviators and their flying machines exhibition on Capital Collections.

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Early aviators and their flying machines

Chocks away! Edinburgh from the air

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Early aviators and their flying machines

We’re delighted to launch a new exhibition on Capital Collections hosting a collection of glass lantern slides documenting early flight in Edinburgh and beyond.

Airspeed Ferry in flight, c1936. Granton Harbour in distance

The early days of flight had many intrepid characters and designs of flying machines. The Wright brothers of the USA and Louis Bleriot of France are well known but there are many others who dedicated time and money to achieving the seemingly impossible.

In the early 1900s as new aircraft were developed, Air Races with considerable cash prizes were sponsored by newspapers in the United States and the UK. The Daily Mail newspaper was a leading sponsor of air races, using the events to both promote the newspaper and to encourage the development of aviation.

A model aeroplane competition took place at Alexandra Palace in London in 1907 where Edwin Alliott Verdon Roe won all three prizes on offer. Just two years later, Louis Bleriot became world-famous for making the first flight across the English Channel and claimed the £1000 prize money offered by the Daily Mail.

Louis Bleriot prepares for his cross channel flight

The stakes were much higher in 1911 when a frenchman flying under the name of André Beaumont won the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain race starting and finishing at Brooklands in Surrey and touching down in Edinburgh en route. His prize money was £10,000, the equivalent of over £1 million today.

Commercial flying developed from the mid-1920s. In 1924, Imperial Airways was formed from a combination of several small struggling companies subsidised by the government to develop Britain’s external air routes. Passenger numbers grew from 10,300 in 1925 to 62,100 in 1938.

Early airliner, possibly of type used by Imperial Airlines, c1925

Aeroplanes have even been manufactured on Leith Walk in Edinburgh. Local cycle maker John Gibson also described himself from 1910 to 1913 as an aeroplane designer and builder. He built a biplane which was followed by two further improved versions. The second had a production run of 10 and the third version had twin propellers. His advert from c1911 offers a complete biplane for £450 pounds – that’s about £50,000 in today’s money.

Gibson’s Aeroplanes of Leith Walk, c1910

Catch up with the other blog posts in this short series on early flight:

Daredevils and wing-walkers

Chocks away! Edinburgh from the air

Have you had a look yet?

Today is Heritage Awareness Day, and whether you love history, are researching your own family history or a sports fan, there are resources to cover all interests in the British Newspaper Archive! The British Newspaper Archive is available to use free in all our libraries. Just click on the ‘Register’ link on the main page and create an account. Once signed in, you will have unlimited access to millions of scanned pages of newspapers.

The opening of our own Central Library’s Lending Department featured in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph of 3 July 1890, stating that crowds gathered outside and “when admission was got nine-tenths of the people rushed to the counters and demanded Stanley’s (explorer Henry Stanley) new book”.

Sheffield Daily Telegraph 3rd July 1890

A recent feature of the British Newspaper Archive is a collection of illustrated magazines. Here you can flick through the pages of the likes of The Tatler, The Illustrated War News and The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News, where in 1908 there was an article on racing in Scotland, featuring Musselburgh Racecourse. How many more people could you fit in the stands?

The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 1908.

For those of you researching your family history the British Newspaper Archive is a great resource to use and goes hand in hand with Find my past, which is also available to use free in all our libraries. Just type in the name of a relative, and see what comes up!

The British Newspaper Archive now provides a title from all 32 counties across Ireland, so if any of your forefathers originated there, this is the place to look for local newspapers.

Derry Evening Post

There is so much more to the British Newspaper Archive, so why not have a look the next time you are in the library. Take it from us you’re sure to find something interesting.

The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries: Robert Butchart

Robert Butchart held the post of Edinburgh City Librarian from 1942 until 1953. Mr Butchart had a particular interest in topographical prints of Old Edinburgh, and collected drawings by the likes of Bruce J. Home and engravings by John Ewbank. After Mr Butchart retired, he published a book in 1955 entitled, ‘Prints and Drawings of Edinburgh’, giving ‘A descriptive account of the collection in the Edinburgh Room of the Central Public Library’. Mr Butchart wrote with pride of the collection of prints and drawings held by the then Edinburgh Room which had been accumulated over the previous 25 years, claiming it ‘undoubtedly ranks as the finest collection in existence of topographical and historical prints of the City’.

In October 1982, Mr Butchart’s personal collection was presented to the Central Library by his daughter, Miss Jean Butchart. In this short film, she explains why she felt it appropriate that the majority of the prints from her father’s collection should be housed in the library where he had first become inspired by the subject.

The prints collection of the Edinburgh and Scottish Collection at Central Library has continued to grow since Mr Butchart’s tenure and you can now search many more hundreds of stunning images of Edinburgh from our collections on Capital Collections.

Read all the articles in this series of ‘The people who helped shape Edinburgh Libraries’:

George Washington Browne: architect

Andrew Carnegie: steelmaker and philanthropist

Henry Dyer, engineer, educationist and Japanophile

William McEwan: brewer and philanthropist

David Mather Masson: scholar and biographer

Thomas Ross: architect and antiquarian

Charles Boog Watson: local historian and antiquarian

The Other Einstein

The titles we get for our OverDrive Big Library Read club just keep getting better and better! Hot on the heels of the brilliant DC Daley (our May ebook read) we now meet an amazing woman in the form of Mileva Marić, the woman behind one of the most famous men of the twentieth century, Albert Einstein.

The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict offers a window into the fascinating story of Einstein’s first wife. A brilliant physicist in her own right, her contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated and may have been inspired by her own profound and very personal insight. This historical fiction book, offers readers a window into a brilliant woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow.

Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric, 1912

“The moment I first learned about Mileva, I discovered that she was fascinating in her own right and I felt compelled to tell her tale,” said Marie Benedict, author of The Other Einstein. “The more I researched Mileva and came to know her through her letters, I realized that her story was powerful and important in itself, and instrumental in understanding our own history and the role of women in it.”

This Big Library Read will be available on our OverDrive site with unlimited downloads from the 12 – 26 June. All you need is a library card to take part. So if you are going away on holiday, this is the first thing to download and put in your suitcase! Why not encourage friends and family to read it too, it’s the perfect excuse to get together and have your own book group. Or join in online with the conversation about the book at BigLibraryRead.com.

 

 

Myplace: Edinburgh a Competition for the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design

Myplace: Edinburgh is a competition to celebrate the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016.

Between 1 June – 10 July 2016 add a photograph of your favourite Edinburgh place (eg a building, location, open space…) to Edinburgh Collected  and tell us what makes it special to you.

poppies

1st , 2nd and 3rd prize winners will be chosen by a panel of judges.  Prizes are kindly donated by the Festival of Architecture 2016 and will be awarded to  1st prize (£200),  2nd prize (£100)  and  3rd prize (£50).

Inch houseCompetition entries will be added to Edinburgh Collected a community archive of Edinburgh memories and featured on the home page.

Terms and Conditions

The photographs you add are your own work
2 Agree to Edinburgh Collected Terms and Conditions
3 Place or building must be within the City of Edinburgh Council boundary
4 Add the tag ‘competition16’  to your memory to enter the competition

pb beach

Visit the Edinburgh Pavilion  at the Pop-Up Cities Expo at the Mound 20th June to the 17th July to see the entries!  Follow us at #popupedin

 

A grand occasion: The Assembly Rooms comes to Central Library

Russell Clegg, Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries, updates us on his Assembly Rooms project, which culminates this month in a fantastic exhibition at Central Library. 

Back in August of last year I contributed a post on this blog about my collaboration with the Libraries’ Digital Team for an Assembly Rooms story on Our Town Stories, and since then I have had greater opportunities to work in partnership with Edinburgh Libraries.

The main thrust has been by touring a small exhibition of Assembly Rooms related artefacts, telling the social and civic stories associated with the building, to selected libraries across the city.

Following the launch at the end of October last year, the exhibits travelled to the East Neighbourhood Centre and Craigmillar Library in November and went on to be hosted by Kirkliston Library in December.

Assembly Rooms exhibition at Kirkliston Library

Visiting these libraries as part of my outreach work also uncovered more stories about the venue and our collections. A visitor in Kirkliston told me of how he worked for Crawford’s, the Assembly Rooms’ catering provider in the 1970s, and when chatting to another gentleman at Craigmillar about Edinburgh’s glassmaking industry, I discovered that he had worked as an apprentice ‘thrower’ for Buchan’s Potteries in Portobello.

By working in partnership with Libraries, the Museums’ collections can be shared in a different way and memories of the city’s heritage venues can be revealed and documented.

This leads me on nicely to the Assembly Rooms exhibition on display throughout January on the Mezzanine level at Central Library.

This display reveals more stories and has new content. You cannot fail to miss the flame red ball dress, made out of a former wedding gown, and worn at a ‘Fireman’s Ball’ in the late 1950s. Also look out for a framed Burgess’ ticket to a ceremony conferring the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh on one Charles Dickens in 1841.

The Special Collections team at Central Library have delved into their own archives to uncover some gems of literature and which tie in with the literary connections of the Assembly Rooms.

My collaboration with Libraries now comes full circle, as I work again with the Digital Team to archive some of the exhibition images for Capital Collections so that future audiences may engage with the present cultural activities about the past!


Russell Clegg is the Heritage and Outreach Assistant with Edinburgh Museums and Galleries. Contact Russell via Russell.Clegg@edinburgh.gov.uk

The Assembly Rooms exhibition runs at Central Library until 2nd February 2015.