Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

 

 
Paper Planes
 
This page contains information about the early history of, and early literary references to, paper planes. I am always happy to receive further information and references on this subject.

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It is commonly stated that paper planes originated in China over 2000 years ago as a development of paper kites. I can find no evidence whatsoever to back up this assertion.

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Models made partly of paper do seem to have been used by some pioneers of flight to investigate the properties of various types of aircraft design but there is no evidence that these were paper planes per se.

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The earliest published instructions for making what we would now consider a true paper plane, the Paper Dart or Arrow, are to be found in Every Little Boy's Book, first published by Routledge, Warne and Routledge in 1864.

More information about the history of this design can be found here.

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Will Blyth's 'Paper Magic', published by C Arthur Pearson, London in 1920, contains diagrams for a two sheet paper plane design called 'The Swallow' in which one sheet forms the wings and another the tail.

More information about the history of this design can be found here.

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According to Wikipedia, p38 of the book The Wind and Beyond written by Theodore von Kármán with Lee Edson, published in 1967 by Little, Brown and Company contained the following description of the folding of a paper plane by Ludwig Prandtl at the 1924 banquet of the International Union of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. 'Prandtl was also somewhat impulsive. I recall that on one occasion at a rather dignified dinner meeting following a conference in Delft, Holland, my sister, who sat next to him at the table, asked him a question on the mechanics of flight. He started to explain; in the course of it he picked up a paper menu and fashioned a small model airplane, without thinking where he was. It landed on the shirtfront of the French Minister of Education, much to the embarrassment of my sister and others at the banquet.' I have not been able to locate this source to check the reference. It is not clear from the context what design this paper plane was.

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A design, which I call the Cut and Foldel Model Aeroplane' appeared in 'Winter Nights Entertainments' by R M Abraham, which was first published by Constable and Constable in London in 1932.

More information about the history of this design can be found here.

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