WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22,1905.


  1. In accordance with your verbal instructions, I have to submit the following report of the performance of the photographic apparatus for use with kites submitted for the inspection of the Department by Mr. George R. Lawrence and associates of the George R. Lawrence Company, Photographers, of Chicago, Ill.

  2. The purpose for which this apparatus is designed is the taking of photographs, from altitudes, the camera being suspended by kites, (in case there is no wind a small captive balloon can be used; no balloon was presented for test, however), and the shutter being operated by electricity from the ground. This device, if working properly, can take photographs of forts, etc., showing locations of hidden guns, and other similar features. If successfully used off Santiago, it would probably have revealed at once the presence and exact location of Spanish ships within the harbor.

  3. The problem to be solved appears to present itself in two distinct phases, the first being purely mechanical and relating to the means adopted to raise the camera to the proper height, point it in the proper direction, and there hold it with sufficient steadiness to enable a clear and distinct photograph of the desired object to be taken. The second phase, having raised the camera to the proper height


    and hold it steadily, pointed in the right direction, is purely photographic, and involves the actual taking of the picture.

  4. The kites used are of a familiar form, as shown in Figure 1, attached hereto. The light silk cordage shown is arranged in proper lengths, and comes together at a point, which, for the upper kite, is attached to the end of a string but light cord.

    In Fig. 2, a is the first kite attached to the cord b. c is the second kite attached to a short line d, which in turn is attached to the main line b, at e. A light bamboo, f, about six feet long, arranged as shown, keeps the second kite clear of the main line. The third kite, g, is similarly arranged. It is best to so arrange the kites that each one flies at a less angle from the vertical than the one above it, as they thus pull better and keep clear of the main line more readily.

  5. Just below the point where the short line of the lowest kite joins the main line, h, Fig.2, the camera is hung, and from that point down an insulated wire kite line is used.

    Figure 3.

  6. Heretofore, in kite photography, the great problem has been to hold the camera without swaying to and fro, and in absolute steadiness, for long enough to take a photograph. This is accomplished in this case by the apparatus shown in Fig. 3. A tripod of very light wooden strips, as shown, is hung to the kite line by a swivel clamp, a, so that it may be turned freely in azimuth to point the camera in any desired direction. A ring, b, is so fixed that it may be turned


    about the tripod in azimuth as desired, and clamped in position by the clamps, c, in the legs of the tripod. An arm e, secured to the ring b, and held by a guide,d, is so swung that, when the clamp, f, is secured to the kite line, the camera will point in the desired direction, the tripod being held by it at a proper angle in azimuth with the horizontal direction of the kite line.

  7. The pointing of the camera in the proper direction in the horizontal plane being thus assured, the next problem is to hold the tripod, in spite of the swaying of the kites, so that the floor of the camera shall remain steadily in the horizontal plane, and in the same point in space for long enough to enable a photograph to be taken. To do this three bamboo poles are fitted, shipped in the floor of the tripod, as shown, g. These are about fifteen feet long, and on the end of each is a weight of a few ounces of lead, h. From the outer end of each of these a fine silk cord about one hundred and twenty feet long, i, runs down until the three meet directly under the tripod, and in common support a weight of about two or three pounds of lead, j. This arrangement thus creates a pendulum of great length, by means of very small weights, and because of it the inertia of the system causes the camera to remain steady in space in spite of any ordinary swaying of the kites.

  8. In Fig.3, k is the camera, which is a very light and simple affair; and l is the lens, the shutter of which is operated by the electro-magnets m, by current from a battery on the ground, through the wire n.


  9. The camera lens is of fixed focus, and is so arranged that, when the camera is horizontal, the image transmitted to the film is of the area shown between lines b and c in Fig. 4. The angle of the lens is so wide in this particular that the field includes everything from a few hundred yards in front of the camera (depending of course upon its height above the ground) to the visible horizon. With this great scope in the vertical plane, the lens is also equally wide angle in the horizontal plane. With the camera held at the northeast corner of the top of the Washington Monument, Mr. Lawrence on two plates only, included in a panoramic view of this city everything from the Fort Myer end of the Georgetown Bridge, around through the North, to include the east end of the Anacostia Bridge over the Eastern Branch. This same photograph also included most of the temporary buildings of the Railway exhibit in the Monument grounds and thence to the horizon.

  10. The lens which does this work is used with an unusually wide open stop, and in order to get a picture that is clear around the edges, a film is used instead of a plate, and is supported on a concave pad (a, Fig.5), carefully shaped so that every point on its surface will be in focus with the proper part of the lens. An extremely wide lens and stop may thus be successfully used. All the work shown during these tests was done with this style of lens.


  11. Mr. Lawrence showed photographs taken in this way in which houses could be distinguished as such at a distance stated to be twelve miles from the point of ascension. He claims that, if desired, the details of these buildings could be brought out by the use of a narrow angle, telescopic lens, of less field but considerable magnifying power. He did not have such a lens with during these tests. There seems no reason to doubt that he could do what he promises in this particular, however.

  12. While I did not weigh his apparatus, I consider it extremely light, as I readily lifted tripod, outriggers, camera, weights, etc., when ready for use, in my left hand. I should say it did not exceed ten to fifteen pounds. When not in use, kites, tripod, etc., may all be disassembled and carried in a canvas roll, very light, not more than twelve feet in length, and very easily handled. The outfit as thus made up for transportation would then include:-
    1. Canvas roll, containing kites, rods, tripod parts, etc.
    2. Case containing camera and films.
    3. Firing battery.
    4. Kite line reel and frame.
    5. Small box, with tools, etc.
    I should say that three or four men could easily carry the whole kit continuously.

  13. The first effort made by Mr. Lawrence to exhibit his device was on shore, on the field south of the house of the Inspector of Ordnance in Charge of the Naval Proving Ground at Indian Head, and was conducted in the presence of General


    Creely and Major Russell, of the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army; Commander J.M. Robinson, Lieuts. C.F. Hughes and S.S. Robinson, of the Bureau of Equipment; Captain Seaton Schroeder and Lieutenant E.T. Constien, of the Office Naval Intelligence; Lieutenant Commander F.L. Chapin, of the Bureau of Navigation; and the writer.

  14. Mr. Lawrence there attempted to use some new kites, which proved to be not properly balanced, and after he had gotten the kites right, the wind form the southward, was very light and full of flaws, so that it was barely able, with three kites, to lift the camera.

  15. Fifteen or twenty minutes suffices to unpack and prepare the apparatus. With a proper breeze and properly adjusted kites, the apparatus is very quickly gotten aloft.

  16. Fig. 6 shows the general plan of operation on shore, a being a tree, fence post, or other solid object to which the reel can be attached. The kites are then sent up quickly one after the other, all lines being properly cut to length, and fitted with snap hooks. The kites being in air, a small metal snatch block, d, is put on the wire at the reel, and by running along with this wire is hauled down until the cord (the point of attachment of the camera) is reached. The tripod, with the camera mounted in place ready for use, is then set on the ground under the point where it is to be attached, its swivel is attached to the kite line, the tripod is slued around until the lens points in the proper direction and secured there by the outrigger to the kite line,


    and then by running back with the snatch block towards the reel, the tripod is allowed to rise in the air. Pendulum lines and shutter operating wire are cleared as they rise. When the camera is high enough, the shutter is snapped, and by over-running the wire again, as shown described, the camera may be brought down, the film changed and another plate exposed. In this trial, time was taken, as about two and one half minutes form one exposure to the next.

  17. Rain squalls and light winds full of flaws greatly hampered this test.

  18. Three exposures were made, with the following results:-
    First. Pendulum lines were fouled, and the camera was not steady. Picture was badly blurred and of no value.

    Second. Electric shutter did not operate; no exposure.

    Third: Same as second.

  19. It was pointed out to Mr. Lawrence that his method of operating, while practicable ashore, could not be employed on the deck of a ship. He therefore spent several days, both at Indian Head, and on the tugs between Washington and Indian Head, experimenting with new methods.

  20. When he stated he was ready, I proceeded with him in a tug to the river below the city, intending to make an ascension while running the tug on the comparatively straight reach from just below the city to Fort Washington and return. I could only secure the use of the tug for two hours, so haste had to be made, which was rendered more imperative


    by the fact that the wind was blowing down the river. It was therefore rendered so light by the motion of the tugs that their entire work had to be done on the way back, in something less than an hour.

  21. The worked was therefore hampered by the following disadvantageous circumstances:-
    1. Only a little over three quarters of an hour was available.
    2. Wind was not very strong even when steaming into it.
    3. Winding of Channel and passing vessels, by rendering maneuvering of tug necessary, made successful work very difficult.
    4. The operating platform, on the stern of the tug, being only about three or four feet above the water, allowed very little drift in which to start kites, clear tripod and weight of water, etc. The slightest dip of the kites, due to a shift of helm of tug, change of speed, or flaw in the wind, endangered camera in landing, or dipped pendulum weight in river.

    Figure 7.

  22. Mr. Lawrence, for this work, has done away with the separate wire for operating the shutter, using the wire (double) by which the kites were held, with connections to the shutter at the upper end, and through the reel to the battery at the lower. Also, to keep the pendulum bob out of the water, he had rigged the apparatus shown in Fig. 7. He had the three cords, d, reeled on an ordinary fisherman's reel, and as the camera rose, he unreeled them. They were all foul on the reel


    though, and caused great delay. When he has paid out their full length, he hooked on the weight, a, and to it the fine line b, and also bent the block c to the kite wire, with b rove through it. With the line b still on the reel, he paid out as the camera continued to rise, thus keeping the weight a clear of the water.

  23. By the time all this had been done, we had neared the mouth of the Eastern Branch, and extreme haste was necessary. The shutter was accordingly snapped. The wind was so light however, that the weight was constantly dipping in the water, and little hope of a good picture was entertained.

  24. It was then necessary to hurriedly get the gear in to prevent its loss. Everything went foul, and the weight dragged in the water so heavily that the back of the camera was broken and light admitted to the interior. This ended the experiment.

  25. There are appended photographs taken by Mr. Lawrence, at various times other than the official tests described in this report.


  26. Mr. Lawrence proposes to make the following modifications in his apparatus:-
    1. Fit an automatic reel in the tripod that, when the camera is sent up, will slowly unreel the pendulum lines, thus keeping the weight clear of the water.
    2. Fit an attachment to the above by which snapping the shutter will cause it to reel the weight up close to the tripod, thus doing away with all trouble about fouling these lines in hauling down.
    3. Get power reel for handling kite line aboard ship.

  27. It is my opinion that:-
    1. Mr. Lawrence has a device which if working properly, would be of great value under certain circumstances, as at Santiago, for instance.
    2. He has worked out the photographic details, lens, etc., with great skill, and it is efficient, under the restrictions as to light, etc., inherent in all photographic apparatus.
    3. He has devised a means whereby the camera can be steadily held in the air, and the desired object, if not too small, held in the field.
    4. He had not experimented from aboard ship, and his gear was not the best possible for that work.
    5. His minor details had not been sufficiently well cared for to enable him to pass a successful test.
    6. He met with many unfavorable circumstances which he could hardly be expected to foresee, but which I am


      confident he could overcome by time and experience.

    7. He has made considerable progress towards a desirable object, but not enough to justify the Department in any expenditures in regard to the matter.

  28. I therefore recommend as follows:-
    1. That the matter be turned over to the Bureau having cognizance of the matter for further investigation.
    2. That Mr. Lawrence be invited to perfect the details of this apparatus.
    3. That, should he so desire, he then be permitted to report to the Commander-in-Chief of the North Atlantic Fleet for further experiment, from a ship where he will be reasonable distance from the water where he can secure steadiness of course, freedom of maneuvering and enough wind. This test should include, as far as possible, the photographing of such objects as would be desired in time of war.

Very Respectfully,

L. H. Chandler,

Lieutenant, U.S. Navy

The Chief of Bureau of Ordnance.

[ National Archives Record Group 74 ]