Samuel P. Langley Collection, 1891-1914 (bulk 1891-1900)


Collection Item Summary:

This collection includes information about Langley and his colleagues, as well as evidence of Langley's work. The collection includes biographies of Langley and assistant Charles Manly, newspaper clippings, correspondence (Langley's, J.E. Watkins', and miscellaneous), manuscripts regarding Langley's planes, photographs and drawings, work requisitions for the aerodrome, a sketchbook, specifications and measurements for Langley's experiments, the "Langley Memoirs on Mechanical Flight" and the Langley "Waste Books."

Collection Item Long Description:


  • Langley Aerodrome No 5 (1895-96)
  • Aeronautics
  • Langley Aerodrome Family
  • Periodicals

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Restrictions & Rights

No restrictions on access


Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906


  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Manly, Charles Matthews 1876-1927
  • Watkins, J. Elfreth (John Elfreth) 1852-1903

Physical description

0.90 cubic feet (2 legal document boxes) (1 flatbox)


  • 1891
  • 1891-1914
  • bulk 1891-1900
  • 1903-1916
  • Pre-1903


Samuel Langley (1834-1906) was an aviation pioneer and early Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. As a youth, Langley studied civil engineering and pursued this as a career until 1864, when his interest in astronomy led him to positions at the Harvard Observatory, the Naval Academy, the Western University of Pennsylvania and the Allegheny Observatory. In 1887 he became Secretary of the Smithsonian, and spent the following years in construction and tests of aircraft. On May 6, 1896, he launched his Aerodrome No. 5, which weighed 26 pounds with a span of 12.5 feet and flew nearly 3/4 of a mile powered with a 1hp steam engine. This flight surpassed by more than ten times the best efforts of any predecessor. In 1903, at the request of the Board of Ordnance and Fortification of the United States he built another aerodrome; however, the launching attempts failed. In addition to his scientific experiments, Dr. Langley's writings include "Experiments in Aerodynamics" and "The Internal Work of the Wind," and the "Langley Memoirs on Mechanical Flight," published posthumously.

Repository Loc.

National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division, MRC 322, Washington, DC, 20560


  • Correspondence
  • Collection descriptions
  • Records
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Drawings
  • Publications

Local number


Finding Aids

Online Finding Aid

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