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Fifty Years of Flight: L’Aérophile Collection

In the past, we have mentioned the L’Aérophile Collection in blog posts such as “Come Fly Away with Me, Courtesy of Wilbur and Orville” and “Flights of Fantasy and Fact: Man-made Wings in Literature and History.” However, there is much more to this collection.

L’Aérophile Collection is devoted to the early years of aviation history covering a fifty year span. This Image from L'Aerophile Collectioncollection ranks among the more unique treasures at the Library of Congress because there are, arguably, few comparable collections of this kind in the world; and, because it is comprised of both technical documents and illustrative material. Acquired by the Library in late June 1970 from Max Blondel la Rougery in Paris, material from this collection was originally used for L’Aérophile, a leading French aeronautical journal. The journal was published from 1893 to 1947 by Georges Besançon, a balloonist and journalist, at first in collaboration with Union Aérophile de France, and later as the official journal of the Aéro-club de France. The L’Aérophile Collection complements other French aeronautical collections acquired by the Library in earlier years, such as the Tissandier Collection, which also documents the early history of aeronautics, particularly focusing on balloon flights in France and other European countries, that was discussed in a past post.

Among the 15,000+ items in the L’Aérophile Collection, you can find correspondence, intelligence reports, blueprints, cartoons, and much more. While L’Aérophile focused primarily on French endeavors, its scope of coverage extended far beyond France. There is something for everyone—from types of aircraft, to information on companies that produced aircraft engines at the time. You can find a treasure trove of images, too!

Here are some interesting photographs from aviation exhibitions in the early 1900s from the collection:

1re Exposition Internationale de Locomotion Aérienne (Salon de l’Aviation), held September 25 to October 17, 1909, at the Grand Palais in Paris, France.

M. Branger, 5 Rue Cambon, Paris, ref. 48890; Library of Congress, L’Aérophile Collection

On display at this exhibition is a gondola for a French balloon. This gondola was used by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries to fly across the English Channel in January 1785.

M. Branger, 5 Rue Cambon, Paris, ref. 42105; Library of Congress, L’Aérophile Collection

This image captures the rear right side view of the Ader Avion III’s engine. It is atop a wheeled cart for installation in a display at the exhibition

M. Branger, 5 Rue Cambon, Paris, ref. 42105; Library of Congress, L’Aérophile Collection

This aircraft, the Blériot XI, occupies the exhibition’s central place of honor. The Blériot XI, was used by Louis Blériot to fly across the English Channel.

2e Exposition Internationale Aéronautique (Salon de l’Aviation), held October 15 to November 2, 1910 at the Grand Palais in Paris, France:

This photograph captures different types of planes at the exhibition from the balcony level. In the foreground, on the right is the Wright biplane. It is labeled “Wright Aeroplane which holds all the world records.” In the background, on the left is the Blériot IX. Hanging at the center of the photo is an Antoinette VII type monoplane. On the balcony above the Antoinette VII resides the Henri Farman N°I (H.F.I) biplane built by Voisin Frères.

M. Branger, 5 Rue Cambon, Paris, ref. 42105; Library of Congress, L’Aérophile Collection

This photograph captures different types of planes at the exhibition from the balcony level. In the foreground, on the right is the Wright biplane. It is labeled “Wright Aeroplane which holds all the world records.” In the background, on the left is the Blériot IX. Hanging at the center of the photo is an Antoinette VII type monoplane. On the balcony above the Antoinette VII resides the Henri Farman N°I (H.F.I) biplane built by Voisin Frères.

Displayed at the exhibition is the Voisin Type Paris-Bordeaux (a.k.a Type Bordeaux). This aircraft was fitted with a 38mm Hotchkiss rapid-firing cannon.

Meurisse, 9 Faubourg Montmartre, Paris, ref. 57654; Library of Congress, L’Aérophile Collection

Displayed at the exhibition is the Voisin Type Paris-Bordeaux (a.k.a Type Bordeaux). This aircraft was fitted with a 38mm Hotchkiss rapid-firing cannon.

4e Exposition Internationale Aéronautique (Salon de l’Aviation), held October 25 to November 10, 1912 at the Grand Palais in Paris, France:

This photo captures the view from above the French military stand (Aéronautique Militaire) at the exhibition. Displayed on the stand are several small trucks outfitted with covered trailers used for carrying aviation squadron equipment.

M. Rol & Cie, 4 Rue Richer, 4, Paris, no photo number; Library of Congress, L’Aérophile Collection

This photograph captures the view from above the French military stand (Aéronautique Militaire) at the exhibition. Displayed on the stand are several small trucks outfitted with covered trailers used for carrying aviation squadron equipment.

Hopefully, this post provides a preview of some of the interesting items that can be found in the collection. To learn more about the L’Aérophile Collection, please browse our Finding Aid. Meantime, stay tuned for more highlights from this collection!

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