Smithsonian Collections Online: Evolution of Flight, 1784-1991

Black Wings "Black Wings - Series VI: Misc. Photographs Mounted Photos (2)." African Americans in Aviation. Gale. Smithsonian Collections Online.
Product Category
Primary Sources
More than 1 million
Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet

Humanity from 30,000 feet.

From the hot air balloons of yesteryear to the commercial airline carriers of today, mankind has always been fascinated by the concept of flight. Public interest in aviation peaked during the twentieth century, leading to rapid development of its corresponding technology. From this period of fervent focus emerged the celebrated pioneers of aviation: Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes, Wiley Post, Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and many others who forever changed the way humans interact with the world. Their theories, feats, and record-breaking efforts are all captured in Evolution of Flight, 1784-1991.

Drawing from the treasure trove of images, diaries, correspondence, scrapbooks, government documents, and other primary source materials available within the National Air and Space Museum Archives, the National Air and Space Museum Library, the Smithsonian Archives, and Smithsonian Libraries, this newest collection in the Smithsonian Collections Online series offers unparalleled insight into the era of aviation and its lasting impact on today’s society with content that spans more than two centuries, from 1784 to 1991.

The Evolution of Flight sketches the lives and contributions of aviation’s pioneers, scientists, promoters, businessmen, barnstormers, racers, designers and manufacturers, and the aerial aces spanning World War I to Iraq and all the wars in between, revealing the personal—and often hidden—aspects of humankind’s conquest of the skies. Together, these materials provide a complete and compelling resource for students and scholars of a number of disciplines.

Topics include:

  • Early flight ·
  • Air races
  • The evolution of aerial weaponry ·
  • Navigational technology
  • Long-distance flights ·
  • Engines and propulsion
  • The Cold War aviation race ·
  • Inventions
  • The fighter pilot ·
  • Training programs
  • Landmark altitude ·
  • Zeppelin travel
  • Germany's WWII jet program ·
  • America's current high-tech air fleet

Look Inside

Additional Details

Subjects Covered
  • African American Studies
  • European Studies
  • Gender and Women's Studies
  • Science and Technology
  • U.S. History
  • American/United States Studies/Civilization
Term Frequency

Researchers can now easily see the frequency of search terms within sets of content to begin identifying central themes and assessing how individuals, events, and ideas interacted and developed over time.

Term Clusters

By grouping commonly occurring themes, this tool reveals hidden connections to search terms — helping scholars shape their research and integrate diverse content with relevant information.


Integrate content from complementary primary source products in one intuitive environment to enable users to make never-before-possible research connections.

Reviews & Testimonials

“For academic institutions offering classes on World’s Fairs or programs related to the history of aviation, the material is ideal. The collection may also be suitable for select school libraries.”

Library Journal, September 2015