Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Navigating the Air"

As I've said before, a really great way to get a feel of an individual's papers or an organization's records is to begin combing through correspondence files. In the case of an individual's correspondence, it is a chance to "hear" the person's voice in an intimate way that may not come through in that person's professional or public writing. In the case of an organization's correspondence files, it gives you a glimpse of the day to day routines and encounters of the administration and staff.

Last post, I mentioned that Katie and I had just uncovered a whole slew of "re-organized" correspondence files. Although many of these letters have proved to be interesting and important, so far my favorite find is this letter from J.F. Cameron (unsure if that's a correct interpretation of the handwritten signature):

As you can see, this letter was sent in June 1862, which is about 40 years before the Wright brothers successfully launched their Wright Flyer. I guess its just provides further proof that there were others out there testing "aerial ships" and "flying machines" well before Orville and Wilbur began their experiments. I think its interesting that this inventor would have written to the NYCC offering a demonstration; he says that he hopes to, "carry passengers and merchandise," so presumably there lies the connection to commerce and industry. I haven't been able to find any reference to this J.F. Cameron in relation to aviation (though I realize that I may be reading the name wrong), which leads me to wonder if he either wrote this letter before he was successful in flying his aerial ship, or if his flight was just never documented. He seems pretty confident about accomplishing this flight however: "I trust you will not condemn my petition because it seems marvelous. I am prepared and fully confident to prove my assertions." You would have to assume that this guy had at least gone through some test runs, right?

I don't know what the Chamber's reaction to this epistle was--we have no record of a reply. But I am hoping that, fascinated by the possibility of "navigating the air," they at least allowed the guy to give it a try.

Have a great Halloween!


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