Gilbert Totten Woglom
The Kite Inventor
Spouse(s): Rachel Boyce Waring
Family tree: Gilbert Totten Woglom 1840-1918
Illustrations from Our Ancestors
"This was the man who suprised all New York by his wonderful aerial flag raising (through kite flying), at the dedication of the big Washington Memorial Arch, May 4th, 1895 - a huge American flag being suspended in midair, without visible means of support. He studied [sic] science of kite flying has since been enthusiastically taken up by learned professors interested in atmospheric physics. Commanders of ocean vessels are considering its adoption as a means of communication with the shore in case of accident, etc. Mr. Woglom calls his kites "Para Kites," Greek para meaning 'beyond;' hence a para kite, beyond a kite or toy. A feature of this scientific kite flying is the aerial support of self-recording instruments for atmospheric currents, gales, weather data, etc., beside supporting heavier articles, such as flags, cameras, steamship safety lines, messages, etc. Thus, a simple toy, through his study, has become an important benefactor that has attracted public attention. Naturally, his Para Kites are differently constructed from the boyish playtoy, though based upon its principal features. Since the 1776 war Mr. Woglom is the fourth of his name to win public distinction being therefore entitled to this personal sketch requested by many distinct branches of the family.
"Gilbert Totten Woglom, born May 21, 1840, in New York city, was so named for his second cousin, Gilbert Totten, for whom Tottenville, S. I. [Staten Island], was named. Mr. Woglom was graduated from the College of the City of New York, 1858; going before the mast as all his ancestors had done, became a second officer, but in 1862 resigned, through uneasiness of his passengers' safety on his vessel. His proclamed forebodings proved prophetic, for on the vessel's next trip, it was burned. He entered the jewelry trade in 1863, being founder (1877) of the now famed Jewelers' League of New York and of the Jewelers' & Tradesmen's Co., 1886. Both business organizations have elected him president several times. He married Rachel, daughter of Jarvis Waring, of Yonkers, N. Y. No children."
Source: Bangs, Charlotte R. Woglom (Charlotte Rebecca Woglom). Our Ancestors. Brooklyn, N. Y.: Press of the Kings County Journal, 1896.
Gilbert used trains of kites to lift an 8" x10" glass plate camera to make high quality aerial photographs some years prior to the invention of the airplane and practical airships.
Parakites Published in 1896
Gilbert Totten Woglom. In 1896. G T. Woglom published a book which described how, on 4 May 1895, he trailed a 10-ft (3-m) American Old Glory flag at 1,000ft (300m) above the military and civil ceremonies during the dedication of the Washington Memorial Arch in New York City (Fig. 3). Woglom set up a train of Parakites from the Judson Memorial Tower to carry the heavy flag aloft and was widely praised for his clever gesture.
Newspaper reports quoted the number of kites variously as three, four, six and eight, but all agreed that Woglom stole the day with his spectacle; and none more so than Woglom himself in his book Parakites which, even eighty years after publication, and although written in quaint terminology, remains a classic reference to the Japanese, Malay, Chinese and Eddy types. It is worth recording that Woglom was the first to publish any reference to the aerofoil shape of the bowed two-stick kite.
He called it the 'Twin concedes' - each as the inner side of that third of an egg shell which might be sawed off lengthwise from an egg'. Woglom was drawing attention to the sail curvature of the lower section of the kite which, as we shall see, is an important factor in its performance (Fig. 4) Woglom's train of kites used separate lines. each connected to the lower line at a point sufficiently well extended from the bridle to avoid fouling the kite below The method has advantages in that each kite on the train is then free to oscillate, or head in any direction without directly affecting the others The alternative means of linking lines, directly through each bridle from one kite top to the next and so on, is best limited to the rigid, centre-stick, modern Rogallo design. So in many ways, as kite-train flyer, flag lifter and author of the first general book on kites in the English language, Gilbert Totten Woglom deserves all the thanks that kite flyers of the present day can heap upon him. Woglom was not, however, the first to produce technical reports...
Source: Moulton, Ron. Kites. London : Pelham Books Ltd., 1978.
Woglom, Gilbert Totten. Parakites: A Treatise on the Making and Flying of Tailless Kites for Scientific Purposes and for Recreation. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, London; 1896. xiv, 91 p. front., illus., plates. 26 cm.