On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
FLIGHT GIVES US a unique perspective of cities, their configurations, and special attractions. Here are several cities from the air, gleaned from a book at the nexus of two genres, art and aviation.
Looping the Loop was published in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s exhibition “Looping the Loop: Posters of Early Flight,” organized by the National Air and Space Museum, the Allen Airways Flying Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.
Our aerial tour is over four cities, staring with Baden-Baden and concluding with the city of my youth.
Baden-Baden. The popular European spa locale of Baden-Baden is in Germany’s southwest, six miles from the Rhine, which determines the French-Germany border in the region. The springs of Baden-Baden were known to the Romans. Bad is the German word for “bath.” And, if you go back far enough, one of Wife Dottie’s forebears is from there.
“The splendid craft illustrated here,” Looping the Loop authors Villard and Allen note, “may be taken as representative of the fleet of airships that sailed regularly over the scenic German countryside in the vicinity of Baden-Baden at a steady seventy-two kilometers per hour” [45 mph].
Bournemouth. Located on the south coast of England, Bournemouth became known as a health resort in the early 1800s with the newly fashionable pastime of sea-bathing.
Villard and Allen observe, “Aided by a well-dressed lady coyly beckoning in this poster, the popular English Channel resort of Bournemouth staged a week of carnivals, fêtes [British pronunciation: rhymes with “mates”], and international aviation in the summer of 1910 to celebrate… its reputation as ‘The Riviera of England.’ ”
Brussels. Belgium’s capital city is home to the Port de Bruxelles, an inland port gaining access to sea-going commerce by means of canals.
The poster celebrates inauguration of the Port de Bruxelles as part of a “circuit of three rivers,” an international competition of hydroaéroplanes and bateax-glisseurs (“gliding boats,” i.e., hydrofoils) planned for September 1914. Alas, the event was cancelled, with World War I breaking out in August.
Villard and Allen identify the poster’s interesting craft, including a Maurice Farman biplane lifting off, a canard Voisin already in the air, and a curious airboat “such as might have been used in the Belgian Congo,” a swamp buggy ahead of its time.
Cleveland. With wartime exceptions and 1931, international Gordon Bennett Balloon Races were held regularly from 1906 to 1939. “During that period,” Villard and Allen note, “it was won ten times by the United States, seven times by Belgium, four times by Poland, three times by Germany, once by Switzerland, and ironically only once by France, the country where the balloon was invented.”
Located on Lake Erie, Cleveland is the city of my youth. I recognize the Terminal Tower and a bridge over the Cuyahoga as landmarks in the poster.
Because of the northeast sweep of Cleveland’s lakeshore, I grew up geographically conflicted: I was told the sun supposedly set in the west, yet I saw it invariably dip into Lake Erie, which was north of Cleveland. (!?) ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020