BI sends me a little silverplated model of an early 20th century bi-plane. She asked if it's worth keeping and polishing? I love all things aeronautic, since my brother won the International Glider Pilot’s award for the highest and longest flight some years ago.
In 1836, a hot air balloon broke records by flying 500 miles from London to Germany in less than 20 hours. As of the date 1783, no human had gazed down on the earth, and if a human tried, mythologically speaking, we failed. Consider Icarus, Mephistopheles, and the Valkyries. The great early photographer Felix Nadar took the first known aerial photograph from the basket of a hot air balloon over Paris in 1858. Poet and pilot Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “the aeroplane will become a tool, like a plough.” After the first successful flight in the early 20th century, Le Corbusier wrote, from the Bauhaus, that flying would offer the modern world “a new standard of measurement” and thus it came to pass, including the standard of the destruction of cities such as Dresden and Hiroshima – by plane.
Thus I found BI’s little plane mentioned in the September 4, 1919 issue of Flight magazine of England. Notice the plaque proudly stating “Makers Rogers Bros. Farnham Royal Slough,” with the stamp 185. In this magazine the Rogers Brothers premiered their unique tribute to pilots who had grown attached to their WWI flying machines, offering scale models “made of metal, heavily silverplated and strong.” Although the models could be fitted with ashtrays, the Rogers would make any plane for you, if you kindly send drawings. In fact, here’s where the story gets interesting: BI writes me that she and her husband in 1958 had a friend who had mounted this little plane on the hood of his Rolls Royce, and gave this to BI’s husband when he sold his Rolls. In 1919, Mr. Rogers suggested to his clients that they use his model planes as mascots, on real scale planes and cars.
The Rogers Tabloid Series included the Avro, the B.E., the Blackburn Kangaroo, the Bristol Scout (Fighter, and Mono), the D.H., the F.E., the Handley Page, the Henry and Maurice Forman, the Martinsyde F., The Nieuport 27, the R.E., the S.P.A.D., the Short, the Vickers Vimy, and the Sopwith Pup, Carmel, Strutter, Triplane, Snipe, and Dolphin.
Mr. Rogers the inventor of these toys for former pilots (perhaps the first aeronautical boy-toys), was formerly in construction with the aeronautics firms of Bleriot, Fairey, Martinsyde, Sopwith, and Whitehead.
The growth in flight enthusiasts was, in the early 20th century remarkable, considering Rogers was engaged in making model planes of WWI only 16 years after Orville and Wilbur’s successful flight. In fact, this December, we celebrate the 115-year anniversary of the Kitty Hawk success.
You might ask why a British model toy plane maker was the first to pioneer such boy-toys. In 1910, The Smithsonian refused to display Orville Wright's successful 1903 plane. Apparently, the U.S. aeronautical engineering community questioned whose shoulders the Wright brothers stood upon to calculate THEIR engineering of the first plane. Thus, Orville sent his original 1903 machine to the British National Museum, specifically the Science Museum of London. Later, the Smithsonian instead showed the alleged first “man-carrying” machine, the Langley, also of 1903, re-engineered and flown by Glenn H. Curtiss in 1914. This was, at the time, a huge controversy, throwing into question the moniker of THE “pioneer” of aeronautical flight. Britain witnessed American ingenuity in flight before the U.S. could, and the British Aeronautic industry didn’t look back.
BI, although your little model of a Sopwith Camel 1919, holds this entire narrative, I wasn't able to find a value for such a one as sold. However, I was able to find a vintage Biplane trophy replica 1908 Flyer’s Club Loving Cup in silverplate offered for $500. In fact, BI’s plane had been living in her garage, when recently her son discovered it, and asked for it, as he has just become a commercial pilot. He’ll keep your little plane, and polish it, lovingly! Not only that Rogers would be thrilled with both the growth of aeronautics since he made the first airplane silver-plated boy-toy in 1919, 16 years after the Wright Brothers famous flight, and your son’s great achievement as a pilot of those huge planes Mr Rogers may never have imagined,
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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