In the Mu­seum

Air & Space Smithsonian - - Front Page - EVE­LYN WAY KENDALL’S

Bal­loons ev­ery­where

pas­sion for bal­loon­ing may have been inspired by her fa­ther’s 1921 en­counter with a trio of U.S. Navy aero­nauts who had to be res­cued af­ter land­ing deep in the On­tario wilder­ness. Kendall’s fa­ther, a su­per­in­ten­dent with the Cana­dian Na­tional Rail­ways, helped res­cue the three bal­loon­ists, who had been caught in a storm and car­ried deep into the wild low­lands around Hud­son Bay. One can imag­ine his daugh­ter on va­ca­tion in Paris a year or so later, walk­ing past an an­tiques shop and spy­ing in the win­dow an 18th cen­tury snuff­box or nee­dle case dec­o­rated with a bal­loon and, remembering her fa­ther’s role in a bal­loon ad­ven­ture, suc­cumb­ing to temp­ta­tion. In any case, she had dis­cov­ered a rich col­lect­ing field.

The sight of the first bal­loons ris­ing above the Paris skyline in 1783 had gen­er­ated an un­prece­dented wave of ex­cite­ment that swept across Europe. Tens of thou­sands of spec­ta­tors crowded the streets of Paris, Lon­don, and other Euro­pean cities to catch a glimpse of hu­man be­ings in flight. Peo­ple flocked to print shops to ob­tain im­ages of the col­or­ful bal­loons and the men and women who flew them.

In the early 1920s, Eve­lyn Kendall (1893–1979), the Cana­dian-born wife of Bos­ton-based textile man­u­fac­turer Henry Plimp­ton Kendall, be­gan to search an­tique shops and auc­tion cat­a­logues on two con­ti­nents for items com­mem­o­rat­ing the birth of flight. She spent 40 years build­ing one of the largest, most di­verse and com­pre­hen­sive pri­vate col­lec­tions of ob­jects and im­ages doc­u­ment­ing the birth of the air age. The trea­sures of the col­lec­tion in­clude oil and wa­ter­color paint­ings of bal­loon flights in Europe, Amer­ica, and Ja­pan. More than 400 his­toric prints and hand-painted en­grav­ings de­pict early flights. Eigh­teenth cen­tury nee­dle cases, snuff­boxes, match safes, card cases, jew­elry, clocks, wall­pa­per, ce­ramic items, and sheet mu­sic, all dec­o­rated with im­ages of bal­loons, tes­tify to the sense of awe and won­der ex­pe­ri­enced by those who wit­nessed the first hu­man be­ings ris­ing into the air. There are del­i­cately painted fans cre­ated in Paris be­fore the French Revo­lu­tion. A col­or­ful hat­box cov­ered in wall­pa­per com­mem­o­rates a bal­loon flight from Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1835. A large oil paint­ing shows the Union Army Bal­loon Corps camp on the Vir­ginia penin­sula in 1862. Rare books and scrap­books filled with news­pa­per clip­pings chron­i­cle the history of bal­loon­ing from the 1780s to the 1890s.

Af­ter a year of ne­go­ti­a­tions and vis­its to a won­der­ful archive in Sharon, Mas­sachusetts, where the col­lec­tion was stored, the Kendall col­lec­tion ar­rived at the Mu­seum’s Steven F. Ud­var-hazy Cen­ter in Vir­ginia on July 25, 2014. The col­lec­tion comes to the Mu­seum through the gen­eros­ity of the Nor­folk Char­i­ta­ble Trust, which also sup­ported ship­ping, pro­cess­ing, and con­ser­va­tion costs.

The Ken­dalls were col­lec­tors with broad and di­verse in­ter­ests. They pre­sented their col­lec­tion of early South­ern maps, prints, and manuscripts to the Univer­sity of South Carolina. The pair spent decades fill­ing en­tire stor­age fa­cil­i­ties with whal­ing equip­ment, art, and mem­o­ra­bilia, all of which went to the New Bed­ford Whal­ing Mu­seum. Eve­lyn Kendall do­nated her col­lec­tion of an­tique cos­tumes and fab­rics to the Royal On­tario Mu­seum.

Mu­seum staff are cat­a­loging and con­serv­ing the Eve­lyn Way Kendall Bal­loon­ing and Early Avi­a­tion Col­lec­tion, most of which has never been ex­hib­ited to the public. Plans for ex­hi­bi­tion of the col­lec­tion and for its pre­sen­ta­tion on the Web are un­der way.

Eve­lyn Way Kendall (left) col­lected some 1,000 items, in­clud­ing a fan il­lus­trat­ing J.A.C. Charles’ first hy­dro­gen bal­loon (cen­ter) and the Mont­golfier hot-air bal­loon that as­cended from Ver­sailles in 1783.

The watch case (far left) shows the flight of a Mont­golfier ho­tair bal­loon. The 18th cen­tury box (left) is dec­o­rated with an im­age of J.A.C. Charles and M.N. Roberts ris­ing above the Paris skyline in the first gas bal­loon to carry hu­mans aloft, on De­cem­ber 1, 1783.

Cu­ra­tor Tom Crouch holds a rare hat­box cel­e­brat­ing the 1835 Ohio flight of Richard Clay­ton.

In this poster, a crowd cheers the Lon­don as­cent of the Royal Sultan, flown by Charles Pater­nos­ter on Au­gust 7, 1854.

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