From the New Yorker:
Since most of his gliders were captured in NYC, I wonder if any member of the Friends of the Origami Center of America had his glider make its way into Harry Everett Smith's collection by launching it off a building.Smith, who died in 1991, was, according to his friends, always collecting things, and his groups of objects would constantly morph: because he moved frequently, bits and pieces would be lost from one long-term hotel stay to another.
Smith’s paper-airplane collection was one of the oddest of his many odd collections. (Among other things, he also accumulated string figures and Ukrainian Easter eggs.) Most of the paper airplanes were found in the streets and buildings of New York. (The map below plots the locations). Smith was “always, always, always looking” for new airplanes, one friend said: “He would run out in front of the cabs to get them, you know, before they got run over. I remember one time we saw one in the air and he was just running everywhere trying to figure out where it was going to be. He was just, like, out of his mind, completely. He couldn’t believe that he’d seen one. Someone, I guess, shot it from an upstairs building.” It’s not clear how many airplanes Smith collected in total; he would flatten them for storage, and friends recall seeing boxes and boxes of them. Smith’s “spiritual wife,” the Beat muse Rosebud Feliu Pettet, estimated that there were “multiple” boxes, “more than two, less than fifty.” Friends recall that Smith donated the bulk of his paper-airplane collection to the Smithsonian in the eighties. The museum sent a box containing two hundred and fifty-one planes, which he picked up between 1961 and 1983, to the Anthology Film Archive in 1994, at the request of the director of Smith’s personal archive, but it’s unclear what happened to the rest. The photos in this slide show are taken from a new collection, by J & L Books and the Anthology Film Archives, that contains images of all the airplanes in the surviving box.
The “samples,” as Smith called the planes, are delightfully varied. The papers are intriguing—scraps and junk mail bear the fingerprints of history, in fonts, colors, and patterns. But what reportedly attracted Smith was the variety of constructions. A friend recalled him observing that there were trends in the designs, ways of folding that would become prevalent and then disappear, only to have a resurgence years later. An airplane could also be a manifestation of its creator’s past—in addition to finding planes in the street,
Read the article in its entirety at the New Yorker.
My favorite part of the article:
I remember one time we saw one in the air and he was just running everywhere trying to figure out where it was going to be. He was just, like, out of his mind, completely. He couldn’t believe that he’d seen one. Someone, I guess, shot it from an upstairs building.”Related: