Arctic(?) Mail Kite

Updated April 2013

Back in 2006, Bob of ("Charmayne and Bob") sent me a photo of an interesting white kite they had seen at the World Kite Museum in Long Beach, Washington, USA.

Bob has recently sent me this newer photo with text accompanying the exhibit explaining it's supposed origin and purpose.

Their display sign reads as follows:

Paul Garber created this modified three-cell Conyne kite to be used aboard sea vessels to support a messenger container. An airplane flying by trailing a grapnel would snatch the line of the container, thereby securing it. The containers were used to carry maps, reports and other documents to and from war headquarters.

Here's what Bob has to say about the kite and his attempts to research it further:

The information we have comes from the kite museum in Long Beach Washington. They have a pair of the kites, it looks like they used to belong to a now deceased kite maker from Seattle as one of the kites has his name and address on it. I'm told his plans were given to Drachen when he passed away several years ago. Another possible source might be Meg Albers. I believe she and Margo Brown did things with Paul Garber in his later years.

The history on this kite seems quite vague, it's like another one we worked on. While looking for a kite for the Fano Classics for antenna lifter we saw a kite at this same museum with a makers mark of J R Edmunds Wray Colorado, According to the relatives of JR the kites were made in the late 40s for the Navy. So after several measurement trips (the museum is 3 hours one way from our home) we built the kite took it to Fano only to see a German friend of ours flying the same kite, his however was made by Seyfang Labs. The kites are absolutely identical in every way???

Webmaster's update

In April 2013 I dug through my copies of documents from the Paul Garber collection that I used to create the bulk of this website. I was able to find three references to a "Kite-Elevated Mail Transfer System" that I had overlooked before. The most interesting is this graphic Garber prepared to describe the process:

The other two references were in a summary of his many projects for the Navy. I reproduce the relevant paragraphs below:

                                      20 November 1945
Subj:  Special Projects Unit - duties of Head, termination
       status of.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Project   Device       Contractor    Description, Disposition,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - etc.- - - - - - -


22. 5-AK-1   Kite-Elevated  Naval Air-   After work in which Unit Head
             Mail Transfer  craft        had been engaged was proven
             System         Factory,     practical, the supervision
                            Phila.,Pa.   of production and further
                                         use was assumed by office of
                                         Equipment & Materials.
                                         Majority of experimental
                                         equipment left at NATC,
                                         Patuxent River, Md. Some
                                         parts obtained for use in 

24. 5-AK-3   Kite-Elevated  Incompleted  Development of equipment
             Mail Transfer  Project      and method completed to
             Suspension                  point believed practical.
                                         Successfully elevated three
                                         times from boat. Grapnel
                                         (contracted for by Research
                                         Sec.) has not yet effected
                                         contract; believed necessary
                                         to modify grapnel before it
                                         is practical. Complete set
                                         of suspension equipment avail-
                                         able for use at any time.
                                         Suggest that this set be
                                         assigned to custody of Unit
                                         Head, to be maintained avail-
                                         able for further use, and
                                         that he also be permitted to
                                         have made in SDD shop a
                                         grapnel embodying his latest
                                         ideas. If construction and
                                         test warrant further con-
                                         sideration this grapnel or
                                         its successor type, be recog-
                                         nized under project 5-AK-4.