Alberto Santos-Dumont / An Historic Aviator’s Museum and Archives

alberto santos dumont

If you ask any Brazilian who was the world’s first true aviator, the person who invented the airplane, the name you’ll likely hear, and chances are it may be the first time you’ve heard it, is fellow Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont. There is even a city in Brazil named Santo Dumont. Interestingly enough, there’s plenty of evidence to back up all the accomplishments enjoyed by this very unique inventor and aviator.

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Alberto Santos-Dumont flying in 1909

The Santos-Dumont Archives and Artifacts

Those traveling to Brazil will want to consider stopping by a museum that’s off the beaten path.  At the museum you’ll find a lot of documentation and inventions by Santos-Dumont that may fascinate you.

The museum is located at the Casa de Santos-Dumont in the city of Petropolis near Rio de Janeiro. The home is also referred to as “Encantada“. The address is Rua do Encanto, 22 Petrópolis – RJ 25685-081

The small three story home was built on the side of a hill in 1918 and served as the summer home of Alberto Santos-Dumont and today is filled with the evidence of his stunning achievements.

Alberto Santos-Dumont

Alberto Santos-Dumont was born in Brazil to a father who owned and operated a very successful coffee plantation. The young Santos-Dumont grew fascinated with the plantation machinery as well as with the locomotives that his father owned and utilized to transport his coffee beans to market. This fascination about mechanics and transportation science in general would be the basis of  Santos-Dumont’s future experimentation.

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Santos-Durant rounding the Eiffel Tower to thousands of onlookers

When the elder Dumont was dying in the latter 1800′s, he urged his son to move to France. At that time Paris France was in many ways one of Europe’s major centers for science and technology. Santos-Dumont devoted his early years in Paris to the study of chemistry, physics, astronomy and mechanics.

The young Alberto, because of his inheritance, had the time and wherewithal to experiment with his theories of manned flight. Those theories at that time meant balloon flight. Lighter than air flight had been used and experimented with for decades and even centuries previously however there was one aspect that needed to be overcome.

Controlling Balloon Flight

Dumont had the opinion that manned flight would be as common someday as the horse and buggy was at that time. The challenge however was inventing lighter than air flight that could be controlled. At that time a balloon whether manned or not  was at the mercy of the prevailing winds. Dumont’s dream was to harness control of balloon flight where man could use it for everyday activities. Leave your home on your balloon and return later. That was the dream of Santos-Dumont and he successfully demonstrated that it could be attained.

Santo’s Dumont’s Airships

In the course of his early life, Alberto Santos-Dumont had several types of airships/balloons built by professional constructors. One of his finest accomplishments with his lighter than air balloons was essentially what you would say was a dirigible.

On October 19th,1901, Alberto Santos-Dumont rounded the Eiffel Tower in Paris France with his No. 6 hydrogen gas airship to the rousing cheers of the locals. He went on in this flight to capture the  De la Meurthe prize.  To win this prize of 50,000 francs, a pilot of any type of aircraft had to fly from the chateau at the Parc de Saint-Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back in just 30 minutes or less in total time. The roundtrip route covered 6.8 miles. You could only hope to do this by having complete control of the airship.

Even though there were some mishaps, Santos-Dumont captured the prize with a flight that lasted only 29 minutes and 30 seconds. By the time this contest was won the purse which over time grew to 125,000 francs. The crowd was so large at the Eiffel Tower that people packed the bridges that crossed the Seine to get a better view.  Santos-Dumont’s No. 6 airship was similar to his No. 5 which had crashed on the roof of the Trocadero Hotel but a bit larger. The No.6, which was finished after only about a month after the crash of No. 5,  was 72 feet and 2 inches in length.

See out Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The First American Aviator and the Controversy

Some of the Finest Western Aircraft Museums

On our Western Trips site you may enjoy our article The F-15 First Responder

One of the best books you can find regarding the life and achievements of Alberto Santos-Dumont is… Wings Of Madness, Alberto Santos-Dumont And The Invention Of Flight by author Paul Hoffman. Another good book is…The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont by author Victoria Griffith.

The First Flight of a Heavier than Air Aircraft

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Alberto Santos-Dumont’s first balloon

Dumonts aircraftt was called the 14-bis, also known as the Oiseau de Proie. On October 23rd, 1906 Alberto Santos-Dumont made history. This witnessed and documented flight was the first successful “unaided take-off”  heavier than air flight.

Obviously there is some controversy if we compare this flight to that of the Wright brothers in 1903, three years before Santos-Dumont’s European feat.

The European group formed in 1905 that was to list aviation records and activities at that time stipulated that the aircraft that would achieve this first flight distinction would have to be able to take off unaided. In other words the aircraft would have to take off by it’s own power. The Wrights contended that their 1903 Flyer had unassisted take offs and had sustained flights three years before Santos-Dumont.

The aeronautical group, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, suggested that both flights, the 1903 Wright Flyer and the 1906 Santos-Dumont 14-bis were both unaided flights however the Wright brothers performed theirs three years prior to Santos-Dumont.

alberto santos dumont

Artwork about the aviation experiments of Alberto Santos-Dumont

Regardless of the decision of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, most Brazilians will tell you that the first successful heavier than air flight was performed by their countryman Alberto Santos-Dumont.

There is no question that Santos-Dumont was an extraordinary individual who was responsible for some of the significant feats in early aeronautics.

Although you may never have heard of Albert Santos-Dumont, if your travels take you to Brazil, and in particular the city of Petropolis, a stop at Santos-Dumont’s former summer home, Casa de Santos-Dumont, would be well worth your while.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)

Visit the Famous Bat Towers of Dr. Charles Campbell

At one time the world had 14 Bat Towers. Seven of these were built in Italy. Today, there are only a few remaining that you can view. One is in Florida and two are in Texas. This article is about why and how these old towers were built, how they operated, the man who designed them and where in the U.S. you can still see them. If your travels take you anywhere near where the surviving Bat Towers are located you may want to add a stop there to your trip planner.

The story of the Bat Towers designed by Dr. Charles Campbell is quite unique and quite interesting. It’s a story about a medical doctor who devised a plan to fight one of the most feared diseases of his era, malaria.

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Sugarloaf Key, Florida-Perky’s Bat Tower

Bat Towers Built to Help Fight Against Malaria

Dr. Charles Campbell worked as a city bacteriologist in San Antonio Texas around the turn of the twentieth century. Dr. Campbell was a physician who began experimenting with ways to eradicate malaria which accounted for millions of deaths worldwide annually. This was a natural thing for the doctor to do since he personally treated the malarial sick and knew that the disease was carried by mosquitoes. The question was, how do we cut down on malarial carrying mosquitoes.

The Bat Towers, also referred to as Malaria-Eradicating Guano Producing Bat Roosts, were designed and built to be a deluxe bat house that the bats would continue to come back to so they could feast on the mosquitoes. The towers were usually built in wet areas where mosquitoes were most prevalent.

See the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower

Also named Perky’s Bat Tower, the structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Even though the local county commissioners at the time thought the bat tower plan was laughable they allowed it to be built.

The tower was built in 1929 by Richter Clyde Perky, a fish lodge owner with plans purchased by a  from Dr. Campbell. The tower was pretty well built as it survived several hurricanes. The purpose of this particular thirty foot tall tower was to help control the mosquito problem in the Lower Keys. Perky was also a real estate developer and the mosquito problem, and trying to get it under control, was a major issue for the success of his developments. Probably the biggest problem for tourists at that time in the Lower Keys was the mosquito problem.

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The Bat Roost in Comfort Texas

Perky’s Bat Tower is definitely off the beaten path. The traveler who enjoys adventure will find this somewhat awkward yet very unique historic structure well worth a stop at. The bat tower, which is free to visit, is located just ff Hwy 1. When driving south on Hwy 1 take a right hand turn on Bat Tower Road toward the airport.

Comfort Texas Bat Tower

The Comfort Texas Bat Tower is located off of FM473 East of IH10 on the Albert Steves Property. The name of this bat tower on the banks of the Guadalupe River is the  “Hygieostatic Bat Roost” This is about thirty miles from San Antonio. You can see the tower from the road.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

 Visit Fredericksburg Texas

Touring the Texas Hill Country

 Orange Texas Bat Tower

This bat tower is located at the Shangri-La Gardens in Orange Texas. Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center comprising 252 acres is a world-class venue which is an excellent trip stop for the entire family. Orange Texas is on the border with Louisiana about 110 miles east of Houston.

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Dr. Charles Campbell

How Effective Were Dr. Campbells Bat Towers?

Most research on the project will tell you that, in it’s entire existence, not one bat ever roosted in the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower. There’s a story that Perky even sent someone to Cuba to try to bring their bats back to Florida. Perky also put bait in the tower with an unknown bait (obtained from Dr. Campbell) but this also didn’t work because a storm washed away the box. In the meantime Dr. Campbell had passed away and the bait formula was not obtainable.  Campbell reportedly sold the bait for $500 per box.

As a result, mosquitoes continued to rule on Sugarloaf Key and did indeed continue to bother the endeavors of Richter Clyde Perky.

Regardless of the results of Dr. Charles Campbell’s Bat Towers during the early part of the nineteenth century, the surviving bat towers that are largely off the beaten path offer a very unique trip into history.

If your travels take you to the Florida Keys, Comfort Texas or Orange Texas, a short stop at any of these three gives you a glimpse of one man’s experiment to help eradicate malaria.

(Article copyright Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)

The National Ranching Heritage Center / A Texas Treasure

If you want to learn more about Texas ranching and pioneer life on the western frontier, a visit to the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock Texas is where you what you want to add to your Texas trip planner. The National Ranching Heritage Center is a magnificent museum that is well maintained and extremely informative. If you love Texas pioneer history then this venue is a must stop. This is one of the best Lubbock attractions you’ll entirely enjoy.

ranching museum lubbock texas

National Ranching Heritage Center, Lubbock, Texas

The National Ranching Heritage Center was dedicated in 1976 however the planning, the securing of financial resources and the gathering of  western, ranch and pioneer exhibits including historic structures took place over the prior decade.

What to See

Located on the north boundary of the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock, this amazing western museum comprising thirty acres features about fifty buildings that include a schoolhouse, barns, and very well preserved houses, etc. There are thirty-eight ranch structures. Each of them have been authentically and historically restored and furnished. Many of the ranch buildings are from history’s most important ranches.  The buildings date from the late 1800′s to the mid twentieth century. The homesteads on display date from the time that the panhandle of Texas was settled and it’s pretty easy to appreciate what these settlers went through when you visit.

The photo below is the Hedwig’s Hill Dogtrot House that was originally built in Mason County Texas near the Llano River. This house was built as two log cabins under a common roof separated by a breezeway called a dogtrot. This architecture was very common on the frontier.

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Hedwig’s Hill Dogtrot House

Also at the museum is a large collection of western art and ranching artifacts. You’ll also view nearly 200 vintage and antique firearms and about 1,000 pairs of spurs.

The National Ranching Heritage Center hosts several events throughout the year. Included is a chuck wagon dinner and a concert during the spring. During the summer are fiddle dances and an event named “Candlelight at the Ranch” in December. As an interesting side note, Texas rancher Charles Goodnight was credited with developing the first chuck wagon. Goodnight reportedly built his chuck wagon using a Civil War surplus Studebaker wagon.

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El Capote Cabin

The National Ranching Heritage Center sponsors the Junior Rough Riders, a membership organization for youths. Some of the programs that are part of the membership are coloring contests, summer youth classes, children’s library, Heritage Halloween and Ranch Day.

As of this writing, the National Ranching Heritage Center is open seven days a week. M-Sat 10A-5P. Sun 1-5P. The Historical Park closes at 4P every day. The National Ranching Heritage Center is located at 3121 4th St., at the north boundary of the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock Texas.

The Ranches of the Texas Panhandle

It is quite appropriate that a large ranching museum is located in Lubbock Texas. It just so happens that some of the largest and more famous ranches in our country were in the Texas Panhandle area of the state.

Among these would be the XIT and the JA. The XIT, established during the early 1880′s, and the money paid for it by investors financed the building of the Texas State Capital Building in Austin. That same building, constructed of local pink granite, is still today the state capital building of Texas.

The JA Ranch was established by veteran rancher Charles Goodnight and John Adair. The ranch was centered in the Palo Duro Canyon area of the Panhandle. Goodnight is often referred to as the Father of the Texas Panhandle.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Famous Ranches of Old Texas

Cattle Drives and Cowboys / What It Was Really Like

On our Western Trips site you might enjoy our article and visit to the Panhandle Plains Museum in Canyon, Texas.

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Los Corralito’s historic structure

Historic Frontier Structures

As mentioned above, the National Ranching Heritage Center exhibits dozens of historic buildings and structures. This makes it one of the most unique of Lubbock attractions.

Among those featured in this article is the Hedwig’s Hill Dogtrot House explained above.

Also shown in a photo above is the El Capote Cabin.from the period 1836 to 1845. This was the period of the Republic of Texas. This cabin was located in what is now Guadalupe County, Texas. Construction material included winged elm logs chinked with mud from a nearby stream bed. The roof material was hand split pecan shakes and the floor of the cabin was compacted earth which was very common in that period and in that locale. This architecture was very prevalent in early frontier cabins.

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One area of the National Ranching Heritage Center

The Los Corralito’s structure shown above was a fortified home from Zapata County Texas. The structure is distinctive with it’s 33 inch thick walls, one door and no windows and six gun ports for defense.

It’s thought that Los Corralito’s rancho might have been the earliest rancho in Texas with standing structures. The walls of this defensive building were made of cut sandstone along with mud and mortar. The term los corralito’s in Spanish means “little corrals“.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)


Barrio de Analco and America’s Oldest House

Santa Fe New Mexico and America’s Oldest House

Santa Fe New Mexico was officially settled in the year 1610. Santa Fe served as the Spanish capital of Nuevo Mexico, the present day state of New Mexico.

oldest house in america

Oldest house in the U.S.

When you visit Santa Fe be sure to take a short stroll up the Old Santa Fe Trail from the Plaza area to De Vargas Street. The adobe structure located just east of the Old Santa Fe Trail is recognized as the oldest house in the United States.

There is a bit of controversy regarding this distinguished title however the owners of the structure located at 215 East De Vargas Street are duly recognized by the city of Santa Fe. The structure was reportedly built in 1646 and has been standing on this site through Spanish, Mexican and United States rule. The other two structures in the United States which claim a similar title are the Gonzalez-Alvarez House in St. Augustine Florida and the Fairbanks House in Dedham Massachusetts.

It’s interesting visiting this house to understand how people lived in this part of North America during the 1600′s. You’ll see some unique artifacts and photos. The structure demonstrates authentic old adobe architecture which is much different than the new adobe structures you see today.

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Oldest Church in the U.S., San Miguel, Santa Fe, NM

Barrio de Analco

San Miguel Chapel, often known as the oldest church in the country, is the key site of the Barrio de Analco National Historic Landmark District.

The Santa Fe neighborhood known as the Barrio de Analco which is centered around the San Miguel church, was established in the early seventeenth century.


The Barrio de Analco represented an active working class neighborhood of Spanish Colonial Heritage. The district contains numerous examples of Spanish-Pueblo architecture, characterized by the adobe construction indigenous to the Southwest.

The area where the oldest house is located is also one of the oldest neighborhood in Santa Fe, Barrio de Analco. Barrio de Analco is just south of the Santa Fe River and was established in about 1620.

san miguel mission santa fe new mexicoBarrio de Analco is a well known Santa Fe Historic District and is home to several other significant structures including the oldest church in America, the Chapel of San Miguel. This chapel is recognized as the oldest continuously occupied church in the U.S. built in 1626.San Miguel chapel in its present form goes back to 1710. The mission church has undergone structural and design changes over the many decades since.

Sunday mass is still held at the Chapel of San Miguel for those wishing for a full experience of the building’s past.

Also at 132 East De Vargas Street is the Gregorio Crespin House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gregorio Crespin House was built in 1720 and is now used for various community events.

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Barrio de Analco, Santa Fe, NM

The barrio settled by Mexican Indians and as mentioned above is just south of the Santa Fe River and thus south of the Plaza area.The Mexican Indians came northward with the Conquistadors.

San Miguel mission was severely damaged during the Pueblo Revolt and was repaired and rebuilt during the early 1700′s.

The Barrio de Analco served as a buffer for any Pueblo Indian attack coming from the south. As it turned, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was successful from the Pueblo Indian standpoint. The Spaniards were driven out of Nuevo Mexico for some twelve years finally returning successfully in 1692.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Very Unique New Mexico Spanish Mission Church

Santa Fe’s Indian Market

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve / Worth the Visit

A very good book about old Santa Fe, it’s history and growth is Old Santa Fe by author James J. Raciti. You may also want to look for the book The Centuries of Santa Fe by author Paul Horgan.

A Santa Fe Visit Offers a Trip Back Into History

When you visit Santa Fe be certain to add the Barrio de Analco area and the Oldest House in America to your trip planner. It’s an opportunity to see the type of architecture during the very first years of Santa Fe’s existence. Be sure to take your camera along for some excellent pictures. The Barrio de Analco Historic District is a perfect embellishment to the history of Santa Fe.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

The Resting Place of the Heroes of the Alamo / San Antonio

Just a few blocks off the popular River Walk in San Antonio Texas is the beautiful and historic San Fernando Cathedral. With the formation of the Diocese of San Antonio in 1874, the church was designated a cathedral. The cathedral is still active and received a visit by the pope in 1987.

Historical Facts Regarding the Building and Renovation of San Fernando Cathedral

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San Fernando Cathedral, San Antonio, TX

The San Fernando Cathedral was built by settlers from the Canary Islands, who arrived in the area in 1731, after they were granted land and title by King Philip V of Spain.The San Fernando cathedral is also very near to the Alamo. The cornerstone of the existing  structure was laid in 1738. The Alamo was also built in the early 1700′s and was given the name Mission San Antonio de Valero.

The Gothic design at the front of the San Fernando Cathedral was finished around the year 1868. This was the time that the church underwent a large renovation. It is said that much of the original church from about 1749 remains as the sanctuary area around the altar. San Fernando Cathedral has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating cathedral in the United States and the oldest structure in Texas.

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Altar area of San Fernando Cathedral

A Very Historical Site

San Fernando Cathedral, then a church, witnessed plenty of history including the War for Mexican Independence and then not long after that the War for Texas Independence. Quite a lot of history in what was at that time the largest settlement in Texas.

San Fernando Cathedral sits on what is said to be the center of San Antonio. At one time all distances in Texas were measured from the dome of the then church.

images of alamo heroesThe Heroes of the Alamo

When you visit San Antonio Texas a stop at San Fernando Cathedral is a must. The cathedral is a beautiful structure as you can see from the photos in this article. Along with the cathedrals rich history and beautiful architecture is a very unique story that involves the Texas defenders from the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. In fact the church actually played a part in the battle of the Alamo. It was from the cathedral’s tower that Santa Ana raised a blood red flag to signal the Alamo defenders that no quarter would be given. It’s also been said that Santa Ana also used the cathedral as a lookout post.

Just inside the front entrance of San Fernando Cathedral is a small coffin that most people believe holds the remains of the Alamo defenders. History tells us that after the Alamo was finally seized by the Mexican Army and Texan survivors were rounded up, Santa Ana ordered the prisoners executed and their bodies burned.

The story of what happened to the ashes of the defenders is not without some controversy.

What is Known About the Defender’s Ashes

By the 1800′s the missionaries at the Alamo had left and the former mission essentially became a military compound. In fact the name “El Alamo” came from the soldiers who occupied it. The name comes from the cottonwood trees that surrounded it.

The siege of the Alamo began on February 23, 1836. The battle lasted for thirteen days.

A detail was sent to San Antonio about a year after the battle to recover the remains of the Alamo defenders.

It is said that the bodies were burned at three different locations all relatively near the front of the Alamo.

One story is that the ashes were collected and put in a wooden box and taken to San Fernando Cathedral for a memorial. After the memorial the box was buried at the site of the largest fire.

Another version of events say that the ashes were collected and taken to San Fernando and buried near the altar.

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Crypt allegedly holding the ashes of the Alamo defenders at San Fernando Cathedral

Historians are not in total agreement as to whether the ashes in the crypt are indeed those of the Alamo defenders. Supposedly bits of uniform were said to be found in the ashes and it’s generally believed that no Alamo defenders wore uniforms of any kind.

Today, the ashes are in a stone crypt at the cathedral’s front entrance. Whether the ashes in this crypt are those of the Alamo’s garrison will only be answered by some type of scientific testing.

You may also enjoy our Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Explore Western Art in San Antonio Texas

The Guenther House and Historic Pioneer Flour Mill / San Antonio

san fernando cathedral san antonio texas

Another view of San Fernando Cathedral

San Antonio Texas is one of the top tourist destinations in the U.S. Visiting San Antonio allows you to take in the many historic sites and structures in what was once the largest settlement in Texas. Other great family attractions include SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

San Antonio is also home to several other historic Spanish missions in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. This large historical park which was established in 1978 preserves four of the five missions built in San Antonio Texas.  When visiting this National Park you’ll be able to follow guided tours of the churches and grounds by very knowledgeable park rangers.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 TripsIntoHistory)