National Geographic : 1958 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine casually left about as if the brothers had just gone out for lunch in the middle of some experiment in aerodynamics. On a sawhorse rests a primitive 6-foot wooden wind tunnel, and over on a workbench, near a heap of worn-out bicycle tires, lies an airfoil rib in cross section. Here and there are deployed many of the original tools and machines the stubborn dreamers used to make their first plane. No question about their authenticity: Orville Wright himself helped Mr. Ford track them down and assemble them in this unpretentious memorial to a historic exploit.* In a cabinet I saw a copy of a letter Wilbur had written the Smithsonian Institution in 1899, asking for some of their scientific papers and explaining why he wanted them. The phrasing, I thought, was wonderfully cool, confident, and matter-of-fact: "Dear Sirs: I have been interested in the problem of mechanical and human flight ever since as a boy I constructed a number of bats of various sizes after the style of Cayley's and Penaud's machines. My observations since have only convinced me more firmly that human flight is possible and practicable. It is only a question of knowledge and skill just as in all acrobatic feats." Tintyper Uses Four Cameras in One I spent nearly a fortnight at Dearborn, rambling about and poking my head into odd corners of the village and museum. There was always something doing. I missed the wandering ballad singer who, in the summer, is likely to pop up with his guitar on the Suwanee's deck (page 127) or on the shady green. But I enjoyed looking in on the pot ter, smiling to himself over his twirling wheel; the glass blower bent before his torch like a votary before the sacred fire, drawing raspberry-hot tubes across the flame; and the rather philosophic tintyper. Correctly attired in frock coat and top hat, I sat for my portrait one afternoon in Mr. Irwin Clark's studio (page 125). Disappear ing under a velvet hood after stern orders for me to look at the tin birdie, Mr. Clark fiddled with his wet plates. The camera's four lenses stared at me like the muzzle of a Bofors anti aircraft gun. Somewhat muffled, Mr. Clark's voice rolled on. "This tintyping is more of an art than a science. Can t use light meters-the emul sion's so slow it hasn't any rating at all. The chemicals in it seem to work one way on one day and entirely differently the next. That's why I cover myself by taking four shots at once, with varying exposures." "Snapshot" Lasts for 22 Seconds Rigid, growing more sternly Victorian by the second, I held the pose. Ten seconds, 15, 20, 22. Mr. Clark emerged. "A horrible form of photography, really. A step backward in quality from the ambrotype and the daguerreotype. But people in the 1880's wanted something cheap and quick, and this was it. Drop by later, and I'll have your pictures all mounted." I thanked him and made my way over to the Owl Night Lunch Wagon for a revitalizing Coke. From there I drifted next door into the Waterford General Store, Elias A. Brown, Propr. (page 96). Here I could browse among bustles, bowlers, boots, and fancy cravats, heft a good wooden rake or pitchfork, look at the latest in corncob pipes, buy a few jawbreakers and some rock candy, and admire the great two-wheeled grinder for Arbuckle's Ariosa Coffee. My favorite among the store's elegant ad vertisements was a large poster for Kirk's Flake White Soap. It depicted a grimy tramp penning a testimonial that read: "I used your soap two years ago and have not used any other since." Usually, toward the end of any day spent in the village, I would return to the Ford Museum for an hour or two of leisurely ex ploring. I recommend the procedure. This (Continued on page 121) * See "Fifty Years of Flight," 31 historic photo graphs, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, December, 1953. Independence Hall Beckons Visitors to the Ford Museum No builder's plan survives of Philadelphia's historic meetinghouse, where American Revolu tionary leaders voted to break with Great Britain. So Mr. Ford, determined to reproduce the hall accurately to the last nail hole, dispatched engineers and draftsmen to survey it inch by inch. When they discovered a window out of line or a column off center and corrected the errors, Mr. Ford sternly decreed, "Put the mistakes back in." Behind this tower now extend the vast display rooms of the museum-14 acres of prize-packed floor space covering fine arts, household arts, agriculture, manufacturing, power, and transportation. Kodachrome by National Geographic Photographer Neal P. Davis © N.G .S .