Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

 

 
The Paper Dart / Arrow
 
This page attempts to record what is known about the origin and history of the origami design known (in England) as the Paper Dart or (in America) as the Arrow. Please contact me if you know any of this information is incorrect or if you have any other information that should be added. Thank you.

The Paper Dart is nowadays considered to be a paper plane, but, as its early names suggest, it was not viewed as a paper plane when it was first designed.

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The earliest published instructions for making the Paper Dart that I know of are to be found in Every Little Boy's Book, first published by Routledge, Warne and Routledge in 1864.

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The design also appears in 'Des Kindes Erste Beschaftigungsbuch' by E Barth and W Niederley, which was first published in Bielefeld and Leipzig, and the foreword of which is dated October 1876. In this case the wings of the Dart are folded inwards twice, producing a much narrower design.

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Diagrams for the Paper Dart, under the title 'Les Fleches', appear in 'Un million de jeux et de plaisirs' by T de Moulidars, which was first published in 1880 and subsequently republished under the title 'Grande encyclopédie méthodique, universelle, illustrée, des jeux et des divertissements de l'esprit et du corps'.

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In his book Paper: Paging Through History, Mark Kurlansky reports that 'In 1881, the New York Stock Exchange declared it would impose a dollar fine on anyone caught throwing a paper dart at a member while the exchange was in session.' I have, however, been unable to track down the source on which this report is based.

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The design also appears, as the 'Arrow', in part two of 'The Kindergarten Guide' by Maria Kraus Boelte and John Kraus, which was probably first published by E. Steiger and Company in New York in 1882.

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In his article 'History of Origami in the East and the West before Interfusion', published in 'Origami 5: Fifth International Meeting of Origami, Science, Mathematics and Education' in 2011, Koshiro Hatori asserts that, ''Many of the European origami models contained in Krause-Boelte's book (ie 'The Kindergarten Guide') are not included in contemporary Japanese records. The pig, house, sofa (also known as piano or organ), balloon (waterbomb), arrow (paper plane), salt cellar (cootie catcher), bird (pajarita or cocotte) and windmill ... were all born in Europe and imported into Japan along with the kindergarten system.'

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Diagrams also appear in 'Cassell's Complete Book of Sports and Pastimes', published in 1882, the paperfolding section of which was based on Moulidars earlier book. The introduction states, 'The paper dart is one of the easiest made of the paper toys, and when made will last some time, if put only to its legitimate use. It is best made of a piece of good, stout paper ...''

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Volume 8, Issue 3, of the Downside Review for November 1889 contained an article entitled 'On Certain Rages at Downside' which is said to contain the words, 'a paper dart has glided noiselessly down the room, amidst the suppressed applause and smothered hilarity of the students.' I have not been able to verify this from the original source.

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The Paper Dart also appears in:

'Pleasant Work for Busy Fingers' by Maggie Browne, which was published by Cassell and Company in London in 1896. This book is an English version of 'Des Kindes Erste Beschaftigungsbuch'.

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'Le Livre des Amusettes' by Toto, which was published in Paris by Charles Mendel in 1899, also contains a variation of the basic Paper Dart.

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'Die Frobelschen Beschaftigungen: Das Falten' by Marie Muller-Wunderlich, which was published by Friedrich Brandstetter in Leipzig in 1900.

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'What Shall We Do Now?, by Edward Verral Lucas and Elizabeth Lucas, which was published by Frederick A Stokes Company in New York in 1900.

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In the novel David Blaize, first published by Stodder and Houghton in 1916, E F Benson wrote 'He had finished his letter with remarkable speed and had, by writing small, conveyed sufficient information to her on a half-sheet. There was thus the other half-sheet, noiselessly torn off, to be framed into munitions of aerial warfare. He folded it neatly into the form of a dart, he inked the point by dipping it into the china receptacle at the top of his desk, and launched it with unerring aim, enfilading the cross-bench where David sat.'

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

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Murray and Rigney's 'Fun with Paper Folding', published by the Fleming H Revell Company, New York in 1928 features a doubly thinned version of the Paper Dart to which a Mitre is added to act as a weight on the nose.

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