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Got the juice?



Intrepid inventors and pioneers in aviation broke boundaries and pushed flight forward. But along with their smarts and grit, they had help: money. Other people's money.

We've recently re-discovered dozens of aircraft instruments in our collections. Research revealed that some of them are solely used to supply power to other instruments

Everything relies on something

for their juice.

Bank loans, venture capital, crowdfunding, financian, bargaining and borrowing. 

There are many ways people find money to fund their passions and power their dreams. But not everything comes equally to everyone.


This exhibit explores the power supply to American aviators, inventors, and plane instruments in history,

and thinks about the currents of capital available for people in America today.

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Igor Sikorsky invented the modern helicopter with other people's money.

Igor Sikorsky was a Russian aviation inventor who immigrated to the United States in 1919 fleeing the Russian Revolution. In 1939, with pioneering designs, he built and flew the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300, the first practical helicopter. Three years later, he modified the design to become the Sikorsky R-4, the world's first mass-produced helicopter.

But before he did that, he gained crucial experience first as an airplane inventor, on low funds.

For his first plane built in America, Sikorsky gathered a few thousand dollars of initial capital from small subscriptions, supplemented by $5,000 from famous composer and pianist Sergei Rachmoninoff. 

He also benefited from the free donated labor of his men: most of the men who built his airplane were volunteer Russians. At one point, they worked for 20 hours a week without pay. 

After the first test flight of this first airplane, the S-29A, he needed replacement parts. Sikorsky called together a meeting of his subscribers, locked them in a room and told them they would be released when they promised $2,500 to rebuild the plane. And it was rebuilt. 

Top: Igor Sikorsky, undated. Credit: National Air and Space Museum.

Bottom :Sikorsky's men working on an aircraft, 1923. Credit: US-Ukraine Business Council.



3 Micamold capacitors

3 small black, battery-shaped capacitors. A capacitor is a device for storing electrical energy, consisting of two conductors in close proximity and insulated from each other. Used with equipment in 1940's and 50's. A small thing to power something greater.


Credit: Donor unknown, Instruments Collection, College Park Aviation Museum




Bessie Coleman was sponsored by a newspaper publisher.

Bessie Coleman was the first Black American woman to earn her pilot's license. Inspired by the tales of Black aviators during World War I, she applied to flight schools across the country. No school would take her because she was both Black and a woman. While working in Chicago, she met Robert Abbot, publisher of the Black newspaper The Chicago Defender. He learned of her aviation dreams and told her to go to France to get her license. Working a second job to earn money and taught herself French, and received the rest of the money needed from The Chicago Defender and Black banker Jesse Binga. 

Through their support, she made it to France, was accepted by a flight school there, earned her license in 1921, and returned to America to become a famous barnstormer (stunt pilot) and inspiration to many.

Top: Bessie Coleman in 1923. Credit: George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images vis Wikimedia (public domain).

Bottom : Bessie Coleman and her plane, a Curtiss Jenny, 1922. Credit: Miriam Matthews Photograph Collection, UCLA Library Digital Collections (public domain).


Power supply modulator unit

King Radio Corp. KS-501A aircraft power supply modulator unit

In a beige metal box, a power supply for a navcom (navigation communications) unit. A power supply is a device that converts one voltage to another more convenient voltage while delivering power. Not to be confused with a power source, it relies on the power of incoming electricity. It converts, rather than generates. 


Credit: Donor unknown, Instruments Collection, College Park Aviation Museum




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