Go Fly A Kite!

Photo WG2 smallHi, Winnie Griggs here. According to my ‘National Day Of…” calendar, yesterday was National Kite Flying Day (wonder why this falls in February rather than March?). And, since I was already looking into kites for a book I’m working on, I thought the timing was great for me to share a little of what I found out.

KITE HISTORY
Exact dates are not available but the first written account found of kite flying occurred around 200 B.C. And it’s safe to say they were actually around much earlier. But would it surprise you to know that the first kites were not originally created for recreational purposes? Though most scholars believe kites originated in China there is some evidence that suggest that it might have actually originated in the South Pacific Island region—these were used as a fishing implements. The Chinese, on the other hand, developed theirs for military purposes.

In the 7th century Buddhist monks introduced kites to Japan. They were originally used there to ward off evil spirits and insure abundant harvests. But kite flying soon became popular there for recreational pleasure.

At the end of the 13th century, Marco Polo brought stories of kites to Europe. And in the 16th and 17th centuries, sailors brought kites back to Europe from a number of Asian countries. At first Europeans considered kites little more than curiosities. Then in the 18th and 19th century scientists began using them as vehicles for research – probably the most well known of these experimenters was Benjamin Franklin. But there were many others – Alexander Wilson, Sir George Caley, Lawrence Hargrave Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers among them.

As flight became more commonplace, using kites for military or scientific purposes faded from popularity and recreational and competitive enthusiasts took over. Over the years, larger and more powerful kites were designed and several out-of-the-box uses were developed, such as pulling sleds and buggies over not only land but water and ice as well.

boy and kite

 

Now for some FUN FACTS

  • The smallest kite in the world that will actually fly is 5mm high (for those of us not up on the metric system, that’s approx .2 inches)
  • The longest kite in the world to fly is 1,034 meters (or 3,394 feet)
  • The greatest quantity of kites to fly on one line is 11,284
  • The record for how long a kite stayed up in one flight is 180 hours
  • The fastest recorded speed of a kite is over 120 mph
  • When building the suspension bridge over the turbulent Niagra River in 1848, the problem of establishing the first line across it was solved by a young boy who flew a kite across the chasm.
  • Kite flying is one of the fastest growing sports in the world
  • There is at least one Kite Festival every weekend year round in some part of the world.
  • Over 50 million kites are sold in the US annually
  • Kites are flown by more adults than children

So now it’s your turn.  Did any of these tidbits surprise you?  Have you ever flown a kite?  Do you have any special memories or fun stories involving kites?

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Cheryl St.John: 19th Century Dollhouses

Little girls have enjoyed playing house throughout the years, and doll houses have always been a favorite.

R. Bliss Manufacturing Company of Pawtucket,  Rhode Island made doll houses in the late nineteenth century. Rufus Bliss started out making wooden screws

and clamps for piano and cabinet makers, and later adopted modern technology to produce inexpensive miniature houses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made of wood and lithographed paper, the houses were affordable for middle-class parents to purchase for their children. Bliss printed its name on the lithographed bricks or wood either on the front or back of the house.

 

Designed in the Victorian style, the houses were simple in their construction, with no embellishments like working windows or shutters. All the trimmings were in the lovely lithographs.

 

The house opened to expose two to

four rooms. Larger models had an attic as well. Firehouses, garages and stables were also popular.

 

Bliss houses are highly collectable and can be seen in museums across the country. Occasionally one comes up for sale on ebay. There is a company making reproductions, which are lovely.

 

 

The house at the right measures 18x12x20 This one would go for about $1,400 today.

 

Did you have a dollhouse when you were a girl? I had a colorful metal one.