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Curator's Choice Video Collection

Cradle of Aviation Museum Historian and Curator, Josh Stoff, curates interesting short YouTube videos and provides commentary.

Virtual Museum Home > Curator's Choice > Otto Lilienthal’s ‘First Film’

Otto Lilienthal’s ‘First Film’

YouTube Channel: Johannes Hogebrink, posted Feb 19, 2016

Germany’s Otto Lilienthal was the first person to experiment with man-carrying gliders between 1891 and his death in a glider in 1896. Although his flights were quite short, they proved that flight was possible by man and reading of his experiments had no small influence on the Wright brother's desire to fly.

On Long Island, William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the New York Journal, purchased a glider from Lilienthal and had it flown from the bluffs near his Sands Point home in order to create headlines for his newspaper. The original Hearst/Lilienthal glider is now on exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum and an accurate replica can be seen in the museum’s ‘Dream of Wings’ gallery.

Lilienthal’s flights were well documented photographically but as they occurred at the dawn of motion pictures there is no film. However, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, a ‘movie’ of a Lilienthal flight has been created from the many excellent photos available. This is the closest we will ever come to witnessing the first flights by man on film.

So the next time you are in the museum, have a look at the frail Lilienthal glider. Can you imagine jumping off a hilltop in one?