A Hand In Early Flight

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  • This short article concerns Albert Speiden, an architect from Manassas, Virginia, who played various roles in the work of Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Pierpont Langley.
  • After studying law and architecture, Speiden was employed as a draftsman in the United States Patent Office, where he met Secretary Langley. Speiden was assigned to assist him in developing patent drawings for unmanned aerodromes, and the drawings document two early record-breaking airplanes, Aerodromes No. 5 and No. 6, that were flown in 1896.
  • The article states that shortly after Speiden worked on the aerodrome patent drawings, Secretary Langley asked him to design plans for a laboratory in the new Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and to develop plans for renovation of the northeast tower of the Smithsonian Institution Building the following year.


  • Langley, S. P (Samuel Pierpont) 1834-1906
  • Speiden, Albert d.1933
  • United States Patent Office
  • Smithsonian Institution Building Towers
  • Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • Langley Aerodrome


Smithsonian History Bibliography


One photograph accompanies the article.

Contained within

Word from the Junction Vol. 24, Issue 1 (Newsletter)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


April 2006


  • Design
  • Architecture
  • Architects
  • Aerodrome
  • Secretaries
  • Langley Aerodrome Tests
  • Architecture--Design and plans

Physical description

Number of pages: 1; Page number: 6

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