Image for article titled 11 Gorgeous Collectible Cards of Flying Machines From Over a Century Ago

Image: Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group (Getty Images)

While most of the cards featured flying machines from the 19th century and early 20th, there was one card that featured a brave soul from the 17th century.


Besnier, a single-named French locksmith, was apparently obsessed with building different building flying machines, and the card above shows Besnier’s attempt at flight in 1678. A book from 1907 described the contraption this way:

He laid over each shoulder a rod, provided at each end with a collapsible right-angled aeroplanes. With every upward movement the planes flapped together, and, with every downward movement, formed a wide soaring surface.

But Besnier obviously couldn’t take off like a bird in this thing. It worked more like a glider, allowing him to, “fly from any lofty point in any desired direction.”

One aspect of this illustration that you don’t fully appreciate unless you look at other drawings from the time is that Besnier’s feet are attached to the back of each rod through ropes.

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