Continuing my little research project to see how often inventions profiled in Popular Science pan out over the years, I’ve just received this copy of the July 1896 issue.

Wow. Looks more like a newspaper than what we would think of as a magazine, and a low-budget one at that. Something like a high school newspaper.

But, amazingly enough, it’s still recognizably the same magazine I write for today. Same entertaining mix of articles about science and technology, peppered with ads for gizmos and remedies.

My favorite article of the bunch is the one called “Prof. Langley’s Flying Machine.” No byline given, though the entire issue is copyright 1896 by Benj. Lillard. Perhaps he wrote all 32 pages?

“The daily press has recently contained accounts of a very successful trial of the model of an aerodrome or so-called ‘flying machine,’ invented by Prof. S. P. Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. As is well known Prof. Langley has been quietly studying the problem of aerial navigation for some time. His present machine is only a model, though a very large one. No less an authority than Alexander Graham Bell has given his signature to the statement that ‘No one could have witnessed these experiments without being convinced that the practibility of mechanical flight had been demonstrated.’ Prof. Langley, in giving details of the aerodrome, says that it needs no gas to lift it, and that the power is derived from a steam engine through the means of propellers.”

The steam-powered aerodrome weighed 24 pounds, according to the article, had a wing span of 14 feet, was made of steel, and flew for about half a mile.

The man was on the right track, seven years before the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight, and Alexander Graham Bell thought it would change the world. “Bell inclines to the idea that within five years this invention will have absolutely changed the face of warfare, will have made armies unnecessary and battle ships so much useless junk.”

Check out the Wikipedia entry on Samuel Pierpont Langley.