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. It probably arises due to a confusion between paper planes and paper kites.

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It is also commonly asserted that Leonardo da Vinci invented the first paper plane, or, at least experimented with them. A discussion of the evidence (or rfather lack of evidence) in relation to this assertion is set out on my page 'Was Leonardo da Vinci a Paperfolder?'

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The Paper Dart / The Arrow - 1864 onwards

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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1867

In 1867 a patent was issued in Great Britain to Butler and Edwards for a steam powered aeroplane based on the Paper Dart. The details below are taken from 'Progress in Flying Machines' by O Chanute, published in New York by M N Forney, the Foreword to which is dated January 1894.

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The Cut and Fold Model Aeroplane - 1886 onwards

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1894

'Progress in Flying Machines' by O Chanute, published in New York by M N Forney, the Foreword to which is dated January 1894, contains other mentions of paper darts and experimental paper aeroplanes.

From page 16

From pages 73 and 74

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Also in 1894 an article on 'Paper Birds', which were really bird shaped paper gliders, weighted with pins, was published in the Scientific American Supplement vol 37 on pages 15184/5. It was reprinted from an article in the New York Sun.

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The Swallow - 1917 onwards

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1924

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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1939

'El Mundo de Papel' by Dr Nemesio Montero, which was published by G Miranda in Edicions Infancia in Valladolid in 1939, contained a design called 'El aeroplano' which is a hybrid between the Swallow and Cut and Fold Model Aeroplane designs.

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1940

'At Home Tonight' by Herbert McKay, which was published by Oxford University Press in London, New York and Toronto in 1940, contains a chapter on 'Parlour Science' which includes a discussion of the effect of air pressure on falling objects, particularly paper and cardboard sheets, and 'A very elegant glider'.

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1956

Harbin's Aeroplane appears in 'Paper Magic' by Robert Harbin, which was published by Oldbourne in London in 1956. The text does not give any instruction for launching this plane and it may have been intended to be a static model.

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1957

The 1957 Rupert Annual contained instructions for making 'Rupert's Paper Glider'.

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1962

The 1962 Rupert Annual contained instructions for folding 'A Paper Glider'.

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