Alexander Graham Bell's Kite Tutorial: Smithsonian Curator Recalls a Lifetime in Aeronautics

Marian Frelicher
Paul Garber
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Marian Frelicher: "Would you tell us something of your early years?"

Paul Garber: "In my early boyhood, my family lived here in Washington, D.C., on Connecticut Avenue just south of Dupont Circle, across from the British Embassy. I recall that in, I guess it was 1910, I was flying a kite and along came a distinguished gentleman whom I'd often seen going by and that was Alexander Graham Bell. He lived nearby. He looked up at my kite and told me the kite was not bridled correctly. And reaching up, all six feet of him, he pulled down my kite and while I held it he changed the bridling of it. The bridle is that cord that extends from the flying line to the surface of the kite, what we used to call the bellyband. So he rebridled it and then held the kite while I again put some tension on the line and the kite flew much better. So my interest in kites dates from being patted on the head by one of the greatest kite fliers of all time, Alexander Graham Bell.


"As a child I enjoyed coming to the Smithsonian. I never had much of an allowance-my father was a well-off art dealer but never gave me much of an allowance-so weekends I would rather come here to the Smithsonian than go to a movie as my friends did. In those days, the Smithsonian did not have the wide publicity that today it receives. It was another pleasant Washington opportunity-I think more of an opportunity than an activity.

"In those days, the Arts and Industries Building at the Smithsonian interested me. There was the Wright military airplane there and the Langley aircraft and Stringfellow and Lilienthal gliders up on the gallery, and I was fascinated to look at them. Yes and I remember a model of a glider by Octave Chanute."

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