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Langley’s Flights


This ornament commemorates Samuel P. Langley’s attempts at manned flight on the Potomac River. Great inventions are born from prior failures.  In 1896 Samuel P. Langley catapulted an unmanned heavier-than-air craft from the top of a houseboat anchored in the Potomac River.  It flew for about 3/4 of a mile.  Impressed with his efforts, in 1898 the Smithsonian Institute granted him $50,000 and $20,000 to develop a piloted airplane.  This he called an Aerodrome.  A 50-horsepower internal combustion engine was built specifically for the project.  In the fall of 1903 Langley made two attempts to fly the machine with Charles M. Manley as the test pilot.  These tests were conducted in the Potomac River near the Wide Water Railroad Station.  Unfortunately, they were unsuccessful, the craft crashing into the water upon takeoff.  The Wright brothers successfully flew and landed their craft just three months later.  Though ridiculed for his failure to produce a manned craft capable of sustained flight and controlled landing, Samuel P. Langley was later recognized by the naming of an aircraft carrier and an Air Force base in his honor.  One of Langley’s aerodromes is on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

3 in stock



These ornaments are created annually and represent Stafford’s historically significant people, places and events. They are ~ 2.5 inch ovals and made of 24K gold-layered brass by artisans in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Additional information

Dimensions 4 × 4 × 1 in
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