S.F.Cody & Kites


These pages are about a man and his kite, who caused a great senstion
as he became the first englishman to fly.

 Samuel Franklin Cody

The history of Samuel Franklin Cody is still riddled with many irregularities and discrepancies. Much has been written about him and his life which later turned out to be untrue .It is not that lies have been told about him its just that the writers haven’t known the full details about the subject. It is possible that every written detail about Cody is filled with many mistakes. One person may say that in 1895 Cody was in such a place another person may say no he was there in 1896. It must be said that the details about his kites are very thorough especially when it comes down to his building plans. His most well known kite is called the Ware Kite,(Duplex-Kite, Extended, B-Type, Storm Type, Mk. III) which belongs to his Man lifting System. All enthusiasts know about the Man Lifting System.
Let us start at the beginning.
Cody was born on the 6.3.1861 in Davenport Iowa, USA.His name was probably Franklin Cowdery.Cowdery is a name common to the Southwest of England. Some say that Cody had Irish ancestors although this has not been proved. Cody married Maud Maria Lee in Pennsylvania in 1880.They both toured the land with a Wild West show. One myth has it that Maud died after jumping from a kite with a parachute,or that she lost her nerves after
being in battle with the Indians. What is most probable is that she recieved a bang on the head and had to be admitted to an asylumn. What is true is the fact that Cody travelled to England wheve he met a woman called Lela King. Maud went or stayed in America, later she inherited a few Kites, Newspaper cuttings and a few trophy`s that Cody had won. The child was born in Basel and was named Vivian. Unfortunatley during the First World War he died in an airplane crash.
Cody traveled through Europe with his Wild West show .He did unusual things like race a horse against a bicycle. Cody also wrote many pieces for the theatre. The most famous was called ‘ The Nugget’. In this piece there were many gunfights, which the public enjoyed a great deal. One can relate some of the pieces to his past.
Most of the pictures show his military experiments. There are also some pictures taken before the great fire. These pictures are owned by the kite foundation. Some of his kites were used for the purpose of advertising, mainly for his theater pieces.
In the Patrick-Alexander-Institute in Bath, Cody made contact with the Royal Navy, which led to interest in his Man Lifting System. In 1904 Cody crossed the English Channel using a boat pulled by a kite he also took part in many competitions regarding the development o the kite. At the same time, the Army also took a very serious interest in his Man Lifting System. He was invited to Aldershot to explain and display his system. The result being a contract to supply and be chief constructor of his developments. The contract also included food and straw for his horse, which Cody insisted upon. His main priority was to develop a system that could lift a basket to a height of 1000 feet so that the enemy could be observed.
Cody also built special kites for the purpose of sending signals these were called ‘
Compound kites’.
These tests took place around the Isle of Wight and later in the Mediterranean Sea.
Interest in kites died down after the first Airships came onto the scene. The tests by Cody and the Military in Aldershot were for the purpose of developing a free flying aircraft, it so came about that an Airship was developed (Nulli-Secundus) and then after that came an aircraft called the Bi-Plane. This aircraft was developed by using a kite, which resembled a Glider that was pulled into the air using ropes, and then released.
The Glider called The Flying Cathedral looked like a version the Wright Brothers Glider. The Wright Brothers version was very small compared to the giant version of Cody’s, which had a wingspan of over 50 feet.
After a long Summer (1908) with many tests came the highlight for Cody. On 16.10.1908 he was responsible for the first motor driven flight (Army Airplane No 1) in Great Britain. Unfortunately he made this flight without the knowledge and permission of the Army. Worse was to come not only did he crash the aircraft, his contract with the Military was ended due to abusing and damaging State owned property.The link between Cody's kites and his aeroplanes is the Motor kite.
From this point on Cody’s interests revolved around the development of free flying aircraft .In 1912 with an airplane which he built himself he won a Military competition. The aircraft that he used was actually put together from two separate aircraft that had previously crashed. In 1913 Cody built an airplane, which could take off and land on water. This machine was built for the purpose of taking part in race around England. Although the airplane never actually took off from water it was very good at taking off from the ground.

On 07.08.1913
Cody and a passenger were killed when his water plane literally broke up in mid flight.
A large collection of Cody’s work was auctioned off by Sotheby’s and is now owned by the Kite foundation. Here one can order pictures and building plans of his work.
The pictures used on this page are owned by the Kite Foundation.

The pictures used on this Page are owned by the Drachen Foundation.
Written by Paul Chapman


More Wind for Cody