Weird Airplanes

Weird airplanes from the early days of aviation.

1. The Multiplan (1908)

multiplan

The Multiplan (from the French for “multiple levels”) was a bizarre airplane designed and invented by the Marquis d’Ecquevilly. This bizarre contraption has the dubious distinction of being the plane with the most wings.

The poor pilot was supposed to stand in the remarkably exposed, just above the engine. Lift was to be provided by more than 12 wings.

Bucking the trend which saw most early plane manufacturers adopt a 2 or 4 wing design, d’Ecquevilly seems to have been obsessed with solving the problem of flight by simply adding more wings. Pictured below, is his 1908 model featuring upwards of 40 wings.

multiplan3

multiplan2

Needless to say, there is no record that this truly bizarre aircraft ever flew.

 

2. The Givaudon (1908)

GivaudonAt the opposite end of the spectrum from the many-winged Multiplan, was this circular plane which had no conventional wings. Lift was provided by fins positioned inside two large tubes at the front and back of the aircraft, mounted on the body framework. Judging from the picture it appears that the direction of travel was to be controlled by shifting the angle of the engine, located in the middle of the front “drum” and at the same time changing the angle of the wings contained within the cylinder.

This was a spectacularly impractical way to fly and even if flight could be achieved (I have not found any source which confirms that this contraption ever flew) it is unlikely that the pilot could have maintained any stability.

3. The Balloon/Plane Hybrid (1910)

This design attempted to combine the best of both the dirigible and the airplane, but their love child was a dismal failure.

mixte

It featured a full sized dirgible mounted on top of a biplane type design. Designed by Cesar, an early French aviation pioneer, this beast was called the Le biplan mixte,  meaning the “mixed biplane” – which indeed it was; as it mixed a lighter than air dirigible with a heavier than air airplane.

 

The result was an ungainly Frankenstein monster, hobbled together from two types of air craft that should never be mixed; the aviation equivalent of oil and water.

 

The machine probably did fly, mainly because anything will fly if you attach a big enough helium balloon to it.

 


These bizarre airplanes certainly seem ridiculous; and with the benefit of hindsight gained from over a century of advances in aviation technology, it may seem obvious that these experiments were doomed to fail. However we must not forget the debt that we owe these aviation pioneers who dared to challenge the skies with little more than their imaginations.

 

The Greatest Show on Earth

the greatest show on earth

Wild Animals at the Circus

 

A 1901 poster advertising a show by the Barnum and Bailey Circus, billed as the Greatest Show on Earth. The circus was especially popular in the early 1900s and toured all over the United States and Europe. This poster is promoting a show in France and is letting people know the amazing and rare “wild” animals that they will to see at the circus, including a colossal living hippopotamus, a giant monkey, and all kinds of other exotic animals from the distant corners of the world.

Now that documentaries on television and photos in National Geographic have made the rare animals of jungles and deserts familiar sights, it is difficult to remember the sense of wonder and amazement that circus goers of that era would have felt when they came face to face with a gigantic hippo or mysterious and strangely humanoid monkey. For them, these sights were incredibly exotic, mysterious and wondrously new. Sometimes I wish that we could recapture the sense of wonder that existed when the world was just a little newer and a lot less well known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Infamous Showman  and Hoaxter Phineas Taylor Barnum

The Infamous Showman and Hoaxter Phineas Taylor Barnum

Barnum and Bailey’s Circus was created  in 1875 when the infamous PT Barnum, the greatest showman and huckster who ever lived, invested in an already existing circus. It was he who famously coined the phrase, there is a sucker born every minute and he brazenly put that theory into practice in his show business enterprises, once famously labeling the Exit as “This Way to the Egress,” leading thousands of not-so-erudite ticket holders to rush out expecting to see a wonderful egress.

 

In 1907 the Ringling Brothers purchased the Barnum and Bailey Circus and after several changes in corporate ownership it is still going, though nothing will ever match the golden age of circus posters from the early 1900s.

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