Go Fly A Kite!
Many people can recall a childhood memory of going outside to take advantage of a sunny, breezy day that was simply perfect to go fly a kite. Kite-flying seems like a quaint past-time, but these air acrobats have done some serious work in their day. Supposedly, founding father Ben Franklin flew a kite and discovered electricity. Later, in the 18th and 19th Centuries the U.S. Weather Service used kites to raise instruments for atmospheric experiments.
What does a kite have to do with The Niagara Falls? Well, it was a kite that carried the lead wire across the 800-foot chasm that allowed us to build the world's first railroad suspension bridge. And get this - in 1822 a schoolmaster named George Peacock used a pair of kites to pull a carriage at speeds up to twenty miles per hour. Go Fly a Kite…indeed.
Contributor Gianofer Fields explores the lofty history of kites with the help of Cait Dallas, Lead Interpreter at Old World Wisconsin’s German Farm site. While we often think of kites as playthings, Fields discovers through history that they were not always about fun and games.
Gianofer Fields studies material culture at UW-Madison and is the curator of "It's a Material World" - a project funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.
Original air date: 05/17/14