It was a crisp, clear winter day with a steady breeze from the
south-west. A light dusting of snow lay on the freshly frozen ground
at Bergen Point, N.J. as the carriage rolled to a stop dropping off
the stately gentleman and a trunk.
Fresh from a morning of opening gifts with family and a grand
Christmas dinner, William Abner Eddy was about to spend a couple of
hours engaging in his favorite pastime. A series of four large kites
and a reel of heavy line came out of the trunk. Following some
quick, well practised assembly, the kites were launched one after
the other in a train formation, lifting into the winter sky.
William A. Eddy was on holiday from his work at the New York
Herald newspaper where he was a senior accountant and journalist.
He must have been an odd sight to any passers-by on that December
25, 1896. Tall, mustached, and dressed in a dark bowler hat, with a
scarf, gloves and long dark coat, Eddy looked more like someone on
his way to an important social engagement than a kite enthusiast and
keen observer of the weather.
As the early winter sky turned to dusk, Eddy hauled in his kites
and neatly re-packed them. He turned the carriage and headed for
home. Entering the prosperous brick home at 32 East 3rd Street, he
greeted his family and briefly excused himself to make some notes on
the flight characteristics of the new train design he had been
testing. A short while later joining the family around the fire,
Eddy, a devoted family man, turned his attention to his wife and
children and the events of the holiday.
William Abner Eddy - the Early Years
Born in New York on January 28, 1850 to H. J. Eddy and his wife
Amanda (Doubleday), William Abner was raised in a well-to-do family.
His father encouraged him to have an interest in science. H.J. also
taught young Abner to actively keep notes of the phenomena he
observed while taking part in various pastimes.
As with many boys of his age, Eddy built and flew kites partly as
play and partly to learn about the environment. In 1865, at the age
of 15, he tied a lantern to the tail of a hexagonal kite and sent it
up a great distance creating some excitement in his neighborhood as
the blue light of the lens created wonder on a warm summer evening.
Flat hexagonal and 'barn-door' type kites were the predominant
type of kite flown in the 1860's and Eddy became skilled in building
and flying them. All of these kites required tails of varying length
to fly in a stable manner in a variety of wind conditions.
Eddy attended the University of Chicago where he was trained as
an accountant. Following graduation, he returned to the metropolitan
New York area to work in his new profession. Early on in his career
he was employed by the New York Herald, a major and highly respected
newspaper of the day.
On April 21, 1887 at the age of 37 he married Cynthia S. Huggins
and settled in Bayonne, New Jersey. Bayonne was a quiet residential
area, close to Eddy's work in New York. Here, William Abner and
Cynthia immediately began to raise a family. He used the ferry to
travel back and forth to the newspaper in the city from his home in
The Lure of the Kiteline
Early in his family and professional life, Eddy returned to his
fascination with kites. This time he brought to his pastime the
precision and determination of an adult. As well, he utilized his
skills with note taking and problem solving to constantly improve
his kite design.
All around the world during the era of the late 1800's, kites
were being employed in new ways to push the understandings of wind,
weather and principles of flight. It was a pursuit which afforded
Eddy the opportunity to engage his mind in an area of personal
interest. At work at the Herald, he was continually exposed to the
news of many scientific advancements. Eddy was able to move in
circles that permitted him to meet and dialogue with prominent
individuals who were developing new understandings of how things
worked and who were actively increasing the body of scientific
Devoting as much spare time as he could outside of his work as
well as his duties as a father and husband, Eddy delved deeply into
the design, construction, and flight characteristics of kites. He
made constant notes and improvements as he tried out modifications.
At first, he used the kite form that he was most familiar with, the
hexagonal kite with tail.
Eddy worked at increasing the heights achieved by his kites by
training them together in series. This was the traditional train
form (all linked directly off of a common flying line) that was
common for the time and is still used by many recreational
others using this method of training kites together, Eddy found that
kites with tails could be troublesome when flown in this manner. He
began to speculate on other methods of training kites which would be
An Era of Kites as Tools for Science
In 1883, Douglas Archibald in England began a new era of
scientific kite flying by fastening anemometers to his kite wire to
register total wind movements on dial-type instruments. Archibald
was able to obtain differential measures of wind velocity at heights
up to 1200 feet.
By 1885 kites were being used in the United States to start
measuring events in lower atmosphere. Alexander McAdie of the
fledgling US Weather Bureau began the 'modern' work of scientific
kite flying by repeating Franklin's experiments on Blue Hill near
Boston, Mass. using an electrometer. The work of both men was
detailed in newspapers shortly after the events. As well, in 1886,
the journal Nature published detailed accounts of
Archibald's work including the construction of the kites employed in
All of this came to Eddy's attention. He noted that Archibald was
using another common form of kite, the diamond shaped kite.
Archibald's diamonds, however, were 'true' diamond shape, much like
those used by another scientific explorer Arthur Batat of France. In
addition, they were flat and required a tail to keep them stable
The final impetus for Eddy's serious interest in kites came in
1887 when he learned of the work of Woodbridge Davis who was
developing maneuverable kites for the purposes of life-saving. Eddy
spoke numerous times with Davis and was inspired by the growing
utility of kites for a number of purposes in both science and
Eddy's Personal Pursuit of an Efficient Kite Design
Also around this time (just prior to 1890), Eddy heard of a kite
built and flown by the natives of the large island of Java in
Malaysia. The kite was described as "bouyant" in that it seemed to
fly due to its own design and did not rely on the drag of a tail to
keep it directed properly into the wind. Having no exact
measurements to go on, but understanding the general nature of
diamond kites, Eddy began working with modifications of the shape to
produce a diamond kite that would successfully fly without the tails
which created so many problems when kites were placed in train.
It is likely that during the period from 1890 to 1892 Eddy worked
with both his developing version of the diamond kite that would
ultimately bear his name and with the hexagonal kite which was so
familiar to him. Indeed, his own writings in journal articles
(particularly in the Scientific American and the Century Magazine)
chronicled flights with both the hexagonal kites and diamond kites
during this period.
Continuing to experiment with kite trains, Eddy tried out a new
form of linking the kites together. Eddy wrote of this experience
thus: "In the summer of 1890. while experimenting with hexagon tail
kites at Bergen Point, I found that the best tandem system was not
to fasten one kite to the back of another, but to give each kite its
individual string and allow it to branch upward from a main line." [Eddy - Scientific American - Sept. 15, 1894]
Throughout 1890 and 1891, he became convinced of the efficiency
of this method of flying in train by using a separate line for each
kite, and then attaching them one by one to the main line. [Hart
Attempting to document his preference for the independent train'
method, he once again reviewed results with the diamond shaped kite
that he was modifying as he gained more experience with them.
Switching to diamond kites with tails in 1891, he tested them using
the traditional train method (hooked back to back) at Bergen Point,
N.J. and verified that this type of train created some stability and
lift difficulties and did not work as well as the independent train
method he was now committed to. [Eddy - SA - Sept. 15, 1894]
On May 9, 1891, by now convinced of the superiority of the
expanded, independent train method, Eddy sought to achieve elevation
to some serious heights with his kite train. Using a method of
triangulation that is an accurate way to measure kite altitude, he
successfully documented the raising of a train of five hexagonal
kites with tails to an estimated 4000-6000 feet. [Hart -120]
Eliminating the Kite Tail and the Search for Stability in Kite
Since the tails were troublesome in flight in any train
configuration, Eddy began working to develop a tailless kite that
would not tangle in train lines. He moved his attention again to the
diamond shaped kite that he had been working with to modify and
improve its flight characteristics.
He noted that a bow in the cross spar of the kite tended to make
the breezes spill more uniformly off the sides of the longeron. He
tinkered with the concept of how much to bow the cross spar to
achieve the best stability. By 1892 all of his diamond shaped kites
incorporated that bow as a standard design feature.
In 1892 Eddy read that some Chinese kite builders in Washington,
DC cut small holes into the sails of their kites to steady the
movement in flight. He then began to experiment with perforated
sails in an attempt to improve the steadiness of his own kites. "He
found that if a kite-shaped hole is made at the crossing of the
sticks (Fig.62 - 122) the kite is not only thereby rendered much
more stable in strong winds, but also has a tendency to continue to
move in any direction in which it has once been made to travel by
pulls on the line, etc." [Hart - 123]
Pursuing Scientific Data Using a Kite:
Inspired by the use of the kite as a scientific tool, Eddy began
to couple his work with kite design with the use of simple
On February 4, 1891 he attached a "...minimum thermometer to
several of these tailless kites flown tandem and took mid-air
temperature from kites....".[Rotch - 318]
Recording the data Eddy wrote a paper that reached the attention
of the American Meteorological Society, in which he recommended the
use of kites to gather temperature and other information "...and
proposed to obtain in this way data for forecasting the weather." [Rotch
- 318] He also experimented extensively with atmospheric electricity
drawn from kite sustained wire making records of his observations
with this phenomena as well. Eddy stated that in 1892 his "...first
electric spark was drawn from a copper wire festooned to the
kite-line and connected with a tinfoil-coated rectangular collector
suspended aloft on the kite-cable." He went on to note that "...I
find that the sparks cause an unpleasant sting." [Eddy - Century
Magazine - 1897]
It was these scientific pursuits, and the improvements in his own
kite design that would lead later to an invitation to work with the
staff of the American Meteorological Society.
A Visit to the Chicago World's Fair - 1893
In 1893 Eddy's work with the New York Herald took him to Chicago
to attend the immensely important World's Columbian Exposition. This
World's Fair, held between May and October of 1893, had the theme of
celebrating the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by
Nominally a celebration of Columbus' voyages to the New World 400
years prior, the Exposition was in fact a reflection and celebration
of American culture and society--for fun, edification, and
profit--and a blueprint for life in modern America. It was an event
that was of crucial importance to journalists for it held a vast
collection of international exhibitions of arts, industries,
manufactures, and the products of the soil, mine, and seas from
around the world.
The fair was so important an event for the times that paid tours
of the construction of the massive expo were conducted from 1891 on
to the opening of the fair itself. New concepts in construction and
displays of culture and the arts had the world's attention focussed
on Chicago long before the opening of the event by President Grover
Cleveland on May 1, 1893.
Eddy travelled from New York to Chicago via train in a journey
that took 26 hours. He, along with 27.5 million other visitors,
spent considerable time exploring the array of sights and exhibits.
Admission to the grounds was 50 cents.
Wonders abounded at the Chicago fair. The newly invented Ferris
Wheel, Chicago's new transportation system - the elevated railway,
and ...most of all, the Columbian Exposition was a spectacle for the
emerging technology that would power and transform the coming new
century--electricity." [Judith Adams] Eddy spent several days at the
fair and took notes for a series of articles to be published in his
As with most world's fairs, there were areas of amusement and
diversion which entertained while showing glimpses into areas of
life and culture not normally experienced. Once such area was the
international bazaar which provided a wide array of native handiwork
from distant nations. Many of these crafts were quite new and exotic
to the visitors to the fair. The nations of the Pacific archipelago
of Indonesia were represented in the bazaar and typical Malaysian
items were available for sale.
Eddy spent some time in the Javanese village where he saw in the
stalls of the vendors, kites of the Java variety he had heard about
some time earlier. This provided him with an opportunity to have an
actual specimen to analyze once he returned to New York.
Perfecting the Eddy Diamond Kite
Eddy found that his own kite was very similar in principle to the
genuine Javanese kite from Malay. However, its size and the
materials from which it was constructed differed considerably. Some
of these differences were due to the available materials while
others were due to the applications which Eddy intended for his
The Javanese kite was small, light in weight and made of low
quality silk with a split bamboo frame. The kite was bowed with a
definite curved dihedral face and when flown was quite stable in its
flight attitude. It's dimensions were the same on all sides making
it a virtual square' flown with one point at the top.
This Malay kite was not designed for the applications that Eddy
was interested in: -high altitude flight and considerable lifting
capability, however he was very interested in the bowed structure
and proportional dimensions.
Studying the Javanese kite and its characteristics carefully,
Eddy applied his knowledge of the diamond form and the dihedral bow
which he had evolved and made some further modifications. He also
received suggestions from a friend, Charles Flanders of New York,
who had considerable experience in flying and adapting such kites
which had been imported by an Indonesian merchant from Malay to Cape
Town, South Africa, where Flanders had been stationed with his work.
Thus began the final evolution of his design to the diamond Malay
shape and form that is now generally known as the Eddy Diamond
Eddy built many of the kites in varying sizes to determine their
lifting and altitude capabilities. His work came to the attention of
other explorers of the lower atmosphere and established him as one
of the pioneers of the era.
Invitation to Demonstrate the Eddy Kite in Scientific
Applications at the Blue Hill Observatory, Boston, Mass.
Early in the spring of 1894 Eddy was contacted by Lawrence Rotch,
the Director of the private Blue Hill Observatory near Boston,
Massachusets to bring his kites and expertise to the observatory
during the summer of 1894.
Arriving in late July of 1894, Eddy met with the staff of the
meteorological station and determined how best to assist them with
their work in measuring the temperature, wind velocities and other
characteristics of the lower atmosphere.
The Blue Hill Observatory was already using kites of the
hexagonal variety, with tails, to take temperature readings of the
air at different elevations. The staff, led by technician H. H.
Clayton had considerable experience in building and flying the
hexagonal kites and were keenly aware of the difficulties of
achieving high altitudes for measurement of temperature with the
hexagonal kites and their 'tumultuous tails'.
In addition, they were anxious to lift a new instrument developed
by the MM Richard of an instrumentation company in Paris, France.
Known as the Richard Thermograph, the instrument was
designed to obtain simultaneous records at the level of the kite and
at the ground station from which to study the differences of both
temperature and humidity with altitude.
instrument was of sufficient weight that it required a train of
kites to lift it to considerable altitude. It was considered too
expensive to be risked in flight on the observatory's hexagonal
kites that often tangled their tails when flown in train.
The conferences among the scientists gathered at Blue Hill
determined that the instrument should be lightened by replacing some
brass framing components with much lighter aluminum and then to lift
them with the Eddy diamond kites flown in train, without tails.
Clayton arranged for the milling to be done to adjust the overall
weight of the instrument and Eddy demonstrated his kites for the
staff of the observatory. The final weight of the redesigned
Thermograph was brought down to two and one quarter pounds.
On August 4, 1894, using the favorable winds of the day, five
Eddy bow diamond kites flying in train (with a total sail area of
nine square metres) lifted the Thermograph to a height of 1,500
feet. Measurements were taken and recorded at this height and at the
ground with the sophisticated device and the kites were safely
returned with the instrument to Eddy and the technicians on the
ground. [Rotch - 318 and Eddy-The Scientific American, Sept. 15,
Eddy and the staff of the Observatory built a good number of very
large kites (8 feet high) during his time there in the summer of
1894. The kite sails were made from a variety of materials including
light manila paper (unvarnished or varnished to protect it from wet
weather) and cotton poplin cloth from Boston suppliers for windy
days. The frames were generally made of high quality spruce to
ensure that they would stand the variations in wind velocity that
occurred at different levels of flight and at different times during
extended flights to measure air temperatures.
Flying to these heights required the development of large kite
reel systems to manage the lengths of heavy line and the extreme
pull of the kites while in flight.
||It is not known exactly how long Eddy stayed at Blue Hill in the
summer of 1894, but his work had tremendous immediate and positive
impact upon the credibility of the center's data. A scientific
milestone in meteorology in America was achieved on that day. The
staff of the observatory were delighted with the performance of the
kites and embraced them as a new tool to be employed in their quest
for scientific data.
Return to Family and Work in Bayonne
Returning to home and work in late August, Eddy did not stop
experimenting with his kites. During the Fall of 1894 he continued
to test with large numbers of kites in train, flying as many as
eighteen from one line. [Hart - 121]
As any experienced kite flyer can attest, not everything will
always go well with kite flights! Eddy experienced some break away
situations with his kite trains. Some were rather spectacular and
caused Eddy to have to chase and attempt to retrieve the kites. In
one of the break away flights, Eddy notes that the train drifted
"... across the water from Bayonne, NJ over Staten Island to New
York Bay trailing its line over buildings and houses to the
amazement of hundreds of people." "After two kites had come down,
the remaining six were caught on a telegraph line, from which Eddy
rescued them after having given chase first on a ferry and then on a
train." [Hart - 122]
All the while Eddy was gaining more flight experience with the
kite design and continued to perfect both the construction of the
kites and the train method he preferred.
In addition, Eddy took considerable notes on the effects of
electrical impulses that were felt on the kite lines in certain high
altitude flight conditions. He speculated in one of his later
scientific articles that perhaps this energy could be harnessed for
useful purposes if it could be sustained and managed.
First Aerial Photograph in the Western Hemisphere
The lifting capability of Eddy's designs inspired him to engage
in an attempt to take photos from aloft with a camera suspended
below one of the kites. On May 30, 1895, Eddy took the first mid-air
kite photograph in Western Hemisphere.
He obtained the first aerial pictures in the Western World,
lifting a 9x9 cm. format camera, using a train of his dihedral
During the month of August of 1896 he gained other good results
using an early model of a KODAK camera lifted at a height of about
The " T " shaped Eddy' s camera suspension, was made by wooden
sticks attached to the kite line. Using this device he was able to
ensure a perfect parallelism of the camera to the ground and obtain
Eddy continued to photograph from kites for a number of years.
Using a train of three kites on May 9, 1897, Eddy took 24 images
from various heights between 390 and 420 meters.
Eddy experimented with a number of shutter release techniques and
contributed much to the knowledge of the emerging technique of kite
aerial photography ranking up there with the original pioneer aerial
kite photographer, M. Arthur Batat who seven years prior took the
first aerial photograph from a kite-lifted camera in Labruguiere,
France, on June 20, 1888.
He published his experiences and the potential for use of kite
aerial photography in the journal The Century Magazine.
[May-October, 1897] In an article written in this prestigious
magazine of the era, Eddy envisioned the application of kite aerial
photography to military intelligence. He carefully detailed how a
camera mounted on a kite might permit the Navy to view beyond the
horizon line and get advance information on ships of other navies
operating in a region.
Back to the Blue Hill Observatory
Returning to Blue Hill in the Summer of 1895, again at the
invitation of Lawrence Rotch, Director, Eddy continued to assist the
staff in the raising of recording instruments with his kite trains.
He also worked with H.H. Clayton to train staff in the construction
of the kites since some were invariably destroyed by mishaps and
strong winds during their flights.
While at the Observatory and in Boston, Eddy took a number of
photographs to demonstrate to the staff the utility of kite aerial
photography and for his own purposes.
One of these occasions lead to another adventure. While
attempting to photograph the Boston Common, Eddy attracted a fair
crowd who were interested in his equipment and what he was doing. As
often is the case, someone in the crowd with best intentions jumped
in to assist in the assembly of the kite train. This was a mistake.
As Eddy himself describes it, one "...kite came loose at a point
where ...a careless knot, tied by a well-meaning spectator... ...
had been made in an effort to assist." As a result, "...the camera
and runaway kites were rescued with great difficulty in the presence
of a large crowd, in Beacon Street." [Eddy - Century Magazine - May,
Eddy Kites and Meteorology
There is no disputing the impact that Eddy kites had in assisting
the scientific measurements of the lower atmosphere. However, their
impact and use was rather short lived due to other technological
advancements in the development of kites with lifting power.
In Australia, the work of noted kite pioneer Lawrence Hargrave
with the rectangular box kite would eventually eclipse Eddy's kite
as the ultimate lifting platform for lower atmosphere measuring
By August of 1895, while the Eddy kites were still being
regularly employed at Blue Hill, "...there was first used the
cellular or box kite invented by Lawrence Hargrave, of Sydney, New
South Wales, which was built from a description published shortly
before." [Rotch - 319]
Due to its heavy lifting capability and rugged design, the
Hargrave's box kite quickly went on to become the kite of choice for
the fledgling U. S. Weather Bureau. The use of Eddy kites was
significantly diminished at this point.
By 1898 the success of both the Blue Hill Observatory and the use
of kites to gather new weather data led to the establishment of 17
weather stations across the United States which took meteorological
readings using kite-borne instruments to gather data.
However, Eddy kites were still occasionally used when conditions
were favorable. On May 5, 1910 at Mount Weather, Va. (one of the
Bureau's stations), a train of ten Eddy bows reached an altitude of
23,385 ft. This altitude record stood for a number of years. [Hart -
The network of Weather Bureau stations using kites continued to
grow into the 1930s when finally airplanes came into common use to
gather data at altitude and kites were generally phased out for this
Eddy, the Frequent Flyer, Continues His Kite Work
Although there is no record of Eddy returning to Blue Hill for
work with the observatory or the Weather Bureau, it is clear that he
continued to fly kites, explore aerial photography, write articles
on his work, and keep in touch with other kite pioneers and
innovators of the era.
In a pun on some modern terminology, there is strong evidence
that Eddy was a frequent flyer" of kites after his contributions to
the Weather Bureau.
He writes of the following experiences with kites:
||September 1895 - flew kites in the waters between New
Jersey and Manhattan Island with Woodbridge Davis, the
well-known inventor of a kite-borne life-saving system that was
designed to carry messengers and equipment over bodies of water
from ship to ship or from land to ships. The kites were anchored
by buoys with keels that kept enough tension on the line to
ensure that the kite remained aloft and could be guided to a
ship in distress. Davis was interested in testing the capability
of Eddy's kites for his application.
||Oct. 24, 1896 - flew kites from the roof of a building in
Jersey City, NJ at night (...in darkness...) sending out colored
clear-glass lanterns above the North River, during the great
naval parade on that evening. [Eddy - Century Magazine - May,
||Oct. 31, 1896 - raised camera on a kite over Broadway,
New York to take pictures of "... the great sound-money parade
..." (This parade was organized by the U.S. government and banks
to promote the concept of the stability of U. S. currency after
a depression had created wide-spread concerns about the
stability of the U.S. currency system.) [Eddy - Century Magazine
- May, 1897]
||Dec. 5, 1896 -working with Dr. William H. Mitchell and
Henry L. Allen, Eddy used three of his kites to an altitude of
one thousand feet to test the capability of using kites as a
method of permitting telephone conversations to span distances
where telephone wires were not currently strung. A thin electric
wire was carried on a reel and attached to a "plummet lantern"
which served as a weight to drop the line to the distant Dr.
Mitchell who then carried on telephone conversations with Allen
and Eddy back at the base of the tethered kite. Eddy wrote: "The
voice of Dr. Mitchell came to me over the wire and was heard in
the telephone with great clearness; and conversation was
continued until nearly midnight, when the kites and wire were
all drawn in." Eddy went on to detail that: "No battery was used
in telephoning, the weak currents from magnets in each telephone
operating the line with the probable assistance of earth and
atmospheric currents, as shown by the clearness with which
sounds were heard." Again, Eddy speculated on the military
applications of such a communications system to aid a besieged
fortress to communicate with the outside world. [Eddy - Century
Magazine - May, 1897]
||Eddy also extensively wrote descriptions of flying in varying
wind conditions and in varying seasons including winter, the
mark of a person truly dedicated to kite flying as a passion.
Eddy continued to keep in touch with scientific developments,
particularly those related to the use of kites as a tool in
scientific endeavor. In December 1901, following newspaper accounts
of Guglielmo Marconi's attempts to send a wireless signal across the
Atlantic, Eddy sent detailed correspondence to Marconi's base camp
in St. Johns, Newfoundland with advice on how to send up a train of
Baden-Powell type kites to achieve enough height on the trailing
aerial wire that Marconi was using to receive the signal. The
correspondence was written on the date that Marconi achieved his
success and likely was of no assistance to Marconi in any of his
ventures. [Halifax Herald, Dec. 13, 1901]
Roots and Ownership of the Diamond Kite Design
Eddy openly acknowledged that the roots of his preferred diamond
kite design were not entirely his own creation. In two separate
letters, written in 1895 to James Means an industrialist from
Boston, Eddy refers to the "Malay Kite" and notes both its
similarity and differences to his diamond shaped kite.
However, the detailed work, dimensions and size of Eddy's kites
were unique to him. He had reached the measurements and proportions
by much experimentation, detailed observation and dedicated
innovation until he achieved a stable flying kite.
Eddy acknowledged that a properly made kite of his design had an
astounding stable flight wind range of from 4 to 50 mph. Variations
in materials for framing and sails allowed for different weights for
different winds and different lifting expectations for the kites.
On August 1, 1898 Eddy filed an application to patent his "Eddy
Kite". On March 27, 1900, Patent no. 646375 outlining and certifying
the characteristics of the kite design and the intellectual,
manufacturing and distribution property rights to William Abner Eddy
was approved by the U.S. Patent Office.
In 1909 at the age of 59, William Abner Eddy died in his home
town of Bayonne, New Jersey.
The Eddy Diamond Kite - Construction Details
Building an historic replica of an Eddy kite can be a real
challenge. It is not easy to find plans for a true Eddy kite. Often
the proportions shown in plans qualify it to be called a diamond'
kite, but many of the plans will not lead to a true Eddy kite.
||True Eddy kites have four essential features:
||The cross spar is one solid piece which is bowed to provide a
dihedral effect on the front of the kite. They do not have a
dihedral fitting on the cross spar.
||Eddy kites have a very loose sail. The sail is so loose towards
the rear of the kite that it folds back on each side of the
longeron. This forms a loose billowing scoop on each trailing edge
of the sail which helps stabilize the kite.
||The proportions of the kite are precise and are laid out as
follows: - the longeron is equal in length to the cross spar and
the bowed cross spar meets the longeron no more than 1/5 of the
way back from the front of the kite (the minimum intersection
point is 1/6 the length of X).
||There is no tail on the kite.
The essentials proportions for the kite shape are critical if your
kite is to be a "true Eddy" and fly without tails. Substitute your own dimensions for the letters on the
simplified diagram at the right and the proportions will always be
An excellent plan can be found in Maxwell Eden's The
Magnificent Book of Kites: Explorations in Design, Construction,
Enjoyment and Flight (Pages 98-109). One of the plans is for a
true Eddy kite complete with spruce frame and bowed cross spar. Other
variations, which are not true Eddy's, are also interesting to build
and fly very well without a tail. Eden also deals thoroughly with the
matter of dimensions for a true Eddy kite which will assist the purist
to build one.
A slight variation on the Eddy design, called a Conover Eddy',
that will provide a very practical version to build, is found in a
design that is clearly laid out in Margaret Greger's wonderful book More Kites for Everyone. On pages 18-19 she details a
simple plan that will definitely fly if you carefully follow the
instructions. It can be made with a paper, plastic or ripstop sail and
ordinary wooden dowels which are readily available. Margaret has even
devised an ingenious device to create the proper dihedral bow in the
cross spar of the kite, eliminating the need for a plastic or metal
A very nice plan, generally true to Eddy's balanced proportions, is
also available on the Internet through TMR's Kite Site of
Life . The kite plan is by Peter DeJong. It does
employ a dihedral fitting (not true to Eddy's design concept), but it
flies very well. Details are provided on a simple way to make your own
dihedral fitting using brass or aluminum tubing which is usually
readily available in most home building centers.
Some Observations by the Author
The Eddy diamond kite appears to be one of the most recognizable
kite form shapes in the modern western world. Whenever a commercial is
shown on television or an advertisement in a popular magazine shows an
image of a kite, it is invariably an Eddy diamond kite. When I conduct
a workshop with children in elementary or secondary school, or with a
group of adults who are not experienced kiters, I ask them to quickly
sketch a picture of a kite. Virtually always the shape drawn is that
of the Eddy diamond kite.
Eddy-type kites enjoyed widespread distribution as a children's
toys from shortly after the time the patent was granted up until the
late 1940's. Packaged kite kits were available in stores. Consisting
of a sleeve of instructions with a printed paper sail and two spruce
spars enclosed, they retailed for anywhere from ten to twenty-five
cents in the United States and Canada. They disappeared from the scene
in the late 1950's and were later replaced by plastic sail kites in
new delta' forms in the mid-1960's.
The fact that thousands of children were introduced to kite flying
through this kit and some interaction with a parent or older brother
or sister and the "apparent" ease of making such kites has made the
diamond kite shape the most prominent kite icon in western culture.
The reality is that an Eddy diamond kite is demanding to build in
its adherence to form and proportions if it is to fly well and not
result in frustration for the flyer. Eddy developed and refined his
diamond kite concept long before he applied for and received his
Maxwell Eden speculates that Eddy did not apply for his patent
sooner since he may have felt that the kite was only a derivative of a
form that already existed, and because he had input from a number of
people in its improvement and final form. This premise seems highly
probable. He does not appear to have gained much financial benefit
from his work.
Eddy clearly made an impact on a world that was excited by the
growth of knowledge in science and technology at the close of the 19th
Century. The noted historian Clive Hart states that Eddy's work to
refine and apply the dihedral in kite design "...constituted the first
genuine advance in western kite-design since the development of the
diamond shape in Renaissance times." [Hart - 120]
Eddy has lasting appeal to kite flyers everywhere largely due to
his dedication to the pursuit of a better type of kite, his use of the
kite for aerial photography and scientific research, as well as his
obvious and thorough love of kite flying.
The outline of Eddy's life and accomplishments in this article are
still a work in progress. There are a number of areas in the life of
William Abner Eddy that need more research and can only be outlined if
more materials emerge. I have based this version on a complete
analysis of source material, printed books, and resource information
available to me at this time. All are thoroughly listed in the
bibliography that follows. Every effort was made to verify dates,
chronology and facts from multiple documents. Where conflicts arose
and original source materials were available, the data provided by the
source material was determined to be most valid. Any suggestions or
further sources of information will be most gratefully received them
William Abner Eddy, the man who placed "diamonds in the sky" - the
impact of his work can still be seen at every kite festival that
occurs around the world to this day.
About the Author
Bob White is a kite enthusiast who builds and flies
kites in Canada.
He may be reached via e-mail or via regular postal
mail at: 10406 Lakeshore Road West, Port Colborne, ON, Canada L3K 5V4
Appreciation and Special Thanks:
American Meteorological Society, 45 Beacon Street, Boston MA
Very special appreciation is extended to Ellen Doon, Research Assistant,
for her kindness and patience in extracting the articles pertaining to
Eddy's work from the vast set of documents in the collection housed at the
AMS. Ellen's cooperation and efforts helped greatly in providing missing
documentary evidence and leads for further research on the work of W. A.
Thanks to Melissa Weston, Executive Officer, for her aid in securing high
quality photographic copies of original photographs of the Blue Hill
Observatory, Eddy kites and kite reels, at the time of Mr. Eddy's work
with the AMS staff at Blue Hill.
Bayonne, N. J. Public Library
Adele Puccio, Senior Librarian, and her staff of the for copies of the
City Directories of Bayonne, N. J. which helped to place a geographical
context on Eddy's area of residence in the city and the places where he
flew kites in the Bayonne area.
Drachen Foundation: Kite Archives, Science & Culture, 1905 Queen
Anne Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109-2549 Scott Skinner, Ali
Fujino and Elizabeth Snodgrass for the provision of copies of
correspondence documents available at the Foundation's Archives which
related to Eddy's kites and work. A special thank you to Scott Skinner for
his early encouragement of the task of researching Eddy's work. His words
provided motivation over the long period of research on this kite pioneer.
Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, 155 Yonge Street,
Toronto, ON, Canada.
The staff in the rare documents archives for their assistance in the
retrieval of rare books and papers on Eddy's work, which are now both out
of print and out of general circulation.
William Abner Eddy
Barnhart, Clarence L. The New Century Cyclopedia of Names. New
York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc. 1955.
_________. Encyclopedia Americana - International Edition. Vol.
16, 466. Danbury, Connecticut: Americana Corporation. 1980. (ISBN
_________. World Who's Who in Science: A Biographical Dictionary of
Notable Scientists from Antiquity to the Present. 1st Edition, 1968
(Library of Congress: 68-56149)
Brumitt, Wyatt. Kites. New York: Golden Press. 1978.
Dolan, Edward F. Jr. The Complete Beginner's Guide to Making and
Flying Kites. Garden City, New York. Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1977.
Downer, Marion. Kites: How to Make and Fly Them. New York: Lothrop,
Lee and Shepard Co., Inc. 1959.
Eden, Maxwell. The Magnificent Book of Kites: Explorations in Design,
Construction, Enjoyment and Flight. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal
Publishers, Inc. 1998.
Greger, Margaret. Kites for Everyone. 1425 Marshall, Richland,
Washington, 99352. 1984.
Greger, Margaret. More Kites for Everyone.
Hart, Clive. Kites - An Historical Survey. New York: Frederick A.
Hosking, Wayne. Kites. New York, N.Y.: Friedman/Fairfax
Hunt. L. L. 25 Kites That Fly. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Lloyd, Ambrose; Mitchell, Charles and Thomas, Nicolette. Making and
Flying Kites. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. 1977.
Lloyd, Ambrose and Thomas, Nicolette. Kites and Kite Flying. London: Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd. 1978.
Morgan, Paul and Helen. The Book of Kites: The Complete Guide to
Choosing Making and Flying Kites. Toronto, ON, Canada: Stoddart
Publishing Co. Ltd. 1992.
Mouvier, Jean-Paul. Kites! New York: Franklin Watts, Inc. 1974.
Pelham, David. The Penguin Book of Kites. New York: Viking
Penguin, Inc. 1987.
Rowlands, Jim. One-Hour Kites. New York: St. Martin's Press. 1989.
Tyrrell, Susan. Kites - The Gentle Art of High Flying. Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday & Company Inc. 1978.
Wiley, Jack. The Kite Building and Kite Flying Handbook. Blue
Ridge Summit, Pa. Tab Books, Inc. 1984.
Yolen, Jane. World on a String: The Story of Kites. Cleveland and
New York: The World Publishing Company. 1968.
Yolen, Will. The Complete Book of Kites and Kite Flying. New York:
Simon & Schuster. 1976.
Journals, Periodicals and Published Papers:
Clayton, H.Helm. "The Aerial Thermograph." Scientific American, Sept. 15,
1894 (p 170).
Clayton H. Helm. "Scientific Kite-Flying at Blue Hill." Reprinted from
The Boston Commonwealth, May 9, 1896.
Clayton H. Helm. "Meteorological Records Obtained in the Upper Air By
Means of Kites." American Meteorological Journal, Vol. 11 (1895): 297-303.
Conover, John H. "The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory", Boston:
American Meteorological Society, 1990.
Eddy, William A.. (with Pictures by George Wright) "Photographing From
Kites: Including Accounts of the First Photographing from Kites and of the
First Telephoning and Telegraphing through a Line Held by Kites. " The
Century Magazine. The Century Co., New York, May-October 1897.
Eddy, William A.. "The Eddy Malay Tailless Kite." Scientific American,
Sept. 15, 1894 (p 169).
Eddy, William A. "Method of Construction of the [Eddy Tailless] Kite."
Scientific American, Sept 15, 1894 (pp 169-170).
Fergusson, S. P. "Progress of Experiments with Kites During 1897-1898 at
Blue Hill Observatory." (Reprinted from the Scientific American Supplement,
No. 1209, 1899.)
Fergusson, S. P. "The Early Use of Wire in Kite Flying." Monthly Weather
Review. Vol. 25 (April 1897).
Fergusson, S. P. "Appendix B: Exploration of the Air by Means of Kites:
I. Kites and Instruments." Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard
College, XLII, Part I (1897), pp41-67. Bound with "II - Tables of Kite
Records", and "III - Discussion by H. H. Clayton".
Fergusson, S. P. "Kite Experiments at the Blue Hill Meteorological
Observatory." Monthly Weather Review, (September, 1896): 1-5.
Rotch, Abbot Lawrence. "The Exploration of Free Air by Means of Kites at
Blue Hill Observatory." The Smithsonian Report for 1897. Washington, D.C.
Rotch, Abbot Lawrence. "The Use of Kites to Obtain Meteorological Records
in the Upper Air at Blue Hill Observatory, U.S.A. (Reprinted from the
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Vol. XXIII, NO. 103,
Waldo, Frank. "The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory." (Reprinted from
Popular Science Monthly, July 1901).
________. "Kites of the Weather Bureau." Scientific American, Nov. 6,
________. "A Folding Malay Kite." Scientific American, January 23, 1897
________. "New Jersey Man Gives Some Pointers on Kites and Wireless
Telegraphy." Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Halifax Herald. Dec. 13, 1901 (p.10).
(Report of correspondence from W.A. Eddy to Guglielmo Marconi written on
Dec. 12, 1901 the very day of Marconi's successful kite-assisted reception
in St. Johns, Newfoundland, of a wireless transmission from Cornwall,
England. The correspondence related to the flying of kites in tandem train
to achieve the heights necessary to lift a wireless aerial to receive a
trans-Atlantic signal. It is highly unlikely that the correspondence reached
time to be of assistance to him.)
From the archives of the Drachen Foundation:
- January 3, 1895: Correspondence from W. A. Eddy to James Means of
Boston, MA. regarding an article written by Eddy in the New York Herald in
1894 and an article written by Means in the Aeronautical Annual of 1895.
- December 17, 1895: Correspondence from W. A. Eddy to James Means
regarding the Eddy kite design favoured for winds above six miles per
- December 20, 1895: W. A. Eddy to James Means regarding follow-up
questions on the bridling of the kite detailed in the Dec. 17, 1895
correspondence and matters surrounding a boxpleat' placed in the face of
the sail of the kite.
- January 6, 1896: W. A. Eddy to James Means regarding clarification of
aspects of the drawings of the kite design and directions to have the
drawings made proportional for preparation as engraver's drawings.
©Copyright - October 1999 - All rights reserved.
No further publication or reproduction by any means,
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