Flights, Dreams and the Imagination

Human beings have been intrigued by flight since ancient times. Myths and legends about heroes flying across the sky abound. The first flying machines—balloons in the eighteenth century, followed by airplanes in the early twentieth century fuelled our fascination. In the early 1900s, newspaper articles, often full of illustrations and printed in great quantity, allowed millions of Europeans and North Americans, including Canadians, to follow the exploits of pioneer aviators step by step. Exhibitions, air shows and record-breaking flying feats invited phenomenal response.

In Canada, the year 1910 marked a turning point in aviation. The first air shows in the country, in Montreal and Toronto, drew tens of thousands of people, all wanting to see pilots in action. Aviators performed all across Canada, from large cities to small towns. Their demonstrations were sometimes part of agricultural exhibitions, and their acts were often considered to be the highlight. In many cases, the pilots came from abroad—from France, Belgium or the United States.

A historic moment: the first piloted flight in history, 21 November 1783. <i>Le livre d'Or de la Conquête de l'Air,</i> 1909, p. 18-19.
Lincoln Beachey's Curtiss Pusher R, Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 1914.<br /> (CAVM 1483)
James J. Ward's Curtiss Pusher R <em>Shooting Star</em> shown at the Canadian Industrial Exhibition in Winnipeg, Manitoba, July 1912.<br /> (CAVM 14020)
<em>Come Fly With Me.</em> Painting by Robert W. Bradford.<br /> (AS0041.001)