Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

 

 
Paper Flights
 

This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of folded Paper Flights. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other important information that should be added. Thank you.

**********

The first volume of 'La Science Amusante' by Tom Tit (real name Arthur Good), which was first published in Paris by Librairie Larouse in 1890, contained a drawing showing a pen nib combined with what I take to be a waterbomb base (though the French text does not specifically say this) to make a dart. This book, along with its two companion volumes, was a compendium of articles previously published in the French magazine 'L'Illustration'. I do not know the date that this article was originally published.

(As an aside, the method of turning a needle into a dart by attaching a piece of cotton was described De Viribus Quantitates, written by by Luca Pacioli and published in around 1502, chapter 134 of which is headed 'To toss a needle with a string and have it stay in the door or other wood'.

**********

According to www.patrickchaplin.com/Paperflight.htm Nathan P. McKenney, of Dixon, in the County of Lee, Illinois, USA, filed a patent application on 11 March 1898, Letters Patent No. 613,386, which was approved on 1 November 1898.

This site quotes the application to the effect that “My invention relates to toys and games, and particularly to a game apparatus of the ‘dart and target’ type, and has for its object to provide a dart, adapted to be projected manually, whereof the feather is of four-wing construction and is formed from a foldable blank of paper or other flexible material to adapt it to be replaced with facility”.

An illustration from the application which shows that the flights were of two types, preliminary base and waterbomb base folds, is shown below.

The full patent can be viewed at https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/c9/dd/49/f5e2e044dbbd18/US613386.pdf

**********

'La Ensenanza del Trabajo Manuel' by Pedro de Alcántara García and Teodosio Leal y Quiroga, which was published in Madrid in 1903, describes how to fold a waterbomb base and then how to attach it as a flight to a wooden dowel, which is either, in the case of young children, sharpened to a point, or in the case of older children, fitted with a pen nib to act as a point.

**********

There is a possible reference to darts made with paper flights in 'Coming Up For Air' by George Orwell, first published in 1939. 'And I got inky fingers and bit my nails and made darts out of penholders and played conkers ...' (p69 of the Penguin Modern Classics paperback edition).

**********

'How to Play Darts and New Games for the Dartboard' by John Young, published by Foulsham in London in 1939 contained the following information relating to folded paper dart flights:

Information from Patrick Chaplin.

**********

In March 2012 the Daily Mail Online reported that a trove of paper planes (sic) had been discovered in the eaves of St Anne's Chapel, Barnstaple during renovations, presumably having been thrown up there around 100 years before by children when the building functioned as a school. As far as I know no attempt has been made to date these darts precisely. Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2111963/Schoolboys-100-year-old-paper-planes-pre-date-manned-flight-eaves-chapel.html

**********