4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

What's the history of the paper airplane?

Dear Wise One:

Can you tell me the history of the paper airplane? I know the first airplanes and gliders were glorified box kites. I also am aware that sheet paper has been around for centuries. When did someone fold up a sheet and toss it at a teacher? Did it look like the Wright Flyer or the sleek delta fighter jet we all made in second grade?

-- John Neumann, Houston, Texas

The first flying paper was indeed a Chinese kite, about 2000 years ago. It was the French in the 1870s who made the first paper toys based on the idea of flight: paper and feather ornithopters, fanciful helicopters, balloons, and eventually airships. They were printed on sheets of heavy paper intended to be cut out and assembled. French toy makers also offered one of the first models of the Wrights' plane in 1908. But if we're talking about the popular homemade toy, the teacher tormentor, -- the classic seven-fold dart paper airplane-- there's no clear history. First references go back to about 1910; they were well known to kids by 1915 or so. And by 1930, Jack Northrop was using them to experiment with designs for flying wings. If some early ancestor made and flew a dart, it would probably have been a Muslim, not a descendant of the Asian style of paper folding. Chinese and Japanese forms were primarily artistic or symbolic. Arabic forms were used to explore principles of mathematics and geometry. So I guess it's historically correct if you're fond of sailing paper airplanes at your math teacher's head.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Fernando Tatis, Jr. puts aside “childish things” like World Series rings, signs lucrative 14-year contract with Padres

A Dream Deferred
Next Article

Southeast San Diego storytelling

Parker Edison, Hemisphere, Monarch, Rob $tone, E.N. Young

Dear Wise One:

Can you tell me the history of the paper airplane? I know the first airplanes and gliders were glorified box kites. I also am aware that sheet paper has been around for centuries. When did someone fold up a sheet and toss it at a teacher? Did it look like the Wright Flyer or the sleek delta fighter jet we all made in second grade?

-- John Neumann, Houston, Texas

The first flying paper was indeed a Chinese kite, about 2000 years ago. It was the French in the 1870s who made the first paper toys based on the idea of flight: paper and feather ornithopters, fanciful helicopters, balloons, and eventually airships. They were printed on sheets of heavy paper intended to be cut out and assembled. French toy makers also offered one of the first models of the Wrights' plane in 1908. But if we're talking about the popular homemade toy, the teacher tormentor, -- the classic seven-fold dart paper airplane-- there's no clear history. First references go back to about 1910; they were well known to kids by 1915 or so. And by 1930, Jack Northrop was using them to experiment with designs for flying wings. If some early ancestor made and flew a dart, it would probably have been a Muslim, not a descendant of the Asian style of paper folding. Chinese and Japanese forms were primarily artistic or symbolic. Arabic forms were used to explore principles of mathematics and geometry. So I guess it's historically correct if you're fond of sailing paper airplanes at your math teacher's head.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

How live music will survive in San Diego

Federal loans, banding together, outdoor parking lots, restaurant food
Next Article

Biden orders resumption of “border barrier” construction, “to protect vulnerable immigrants.”

Safety First
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close