Remembering Lawrence Hargrave

Author’s pre-print version

Tim Sherratt, ‘Remembering Lawrence Hargrave’, in Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber (editors), Yesterday’s Tomorrows: The Powerhouse Museum and its precursors, 1880-2005, Powerhouse Museum in association with UNSW Press, Sydney 2005, pp. 174-185.


Hargrave's models on display, 1919.
Remembering Lawrence Hargrave – Hargrave’s models on display, 1919.

In 1962 William Hudson Shaw, a Qantas executive, knocked at the door of a cottage in the seaside village of Walmer, Kent. Shaw was in the grip of an obsession – a ‘labour of love’ to document the ‘true story’ of Australian aeronautical pioneer Lawrence Hargrave.1 This quest had brought Shaw to the home of Helen Gray, Hargrave’s eldest daughter, his beloved ‘Nellie’. Now into her 80s, Helen Gray remained firmly protective of her father’s memory, yet strangely ambivalent about his achievements. Nonetheless, through Hudson Shaw’s visit and the correspondence that followed, the two became friends and collaborators. ‘I feel so grateful that you have such great interest in L.H. [and] his work’, the elderly woman wrote in 1963, ‘what a difference it has made to my life that you appeared at the right time’.2 The biographer gained insight into the personal life of his subject, and the daughter was relieved of the burden of defending her father against the ill-formed judgments of history.

Yesterday's Tomorrows
Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Helen Gray entrusted her new friend with a number of her father’s papers and artefacts. These Shaw transferred to the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, which, under director J L Willis, was ‘endeavouring to collect under one roof, all the Hargrave relics’.3 Lawrence Hargrave had himself donated nine of his monoplane models to the museum in 1891. However, ten years later, his offer of a large collection of models, apparatus and photographs, constituting a ‘continuous record’ of his experimental activities, was carelessly let slip by the director Richard Baker.4 These models finally found a home at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, where most were destroyed by bombing during World War II. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences retrieved the remnants in 1960, followed shortly after by Hargrave’s journals and drawings from England, as well as Helen Gray’s mementos. ‘Mr Willis’ Hargrave collection … is now of some consequence’, Hudson Shaw wrote to Helen Gray in 1963.5

With the return of the models to Sydney it seemed that Hargrave’s legacy had arrived home – a circle had been closed. ‘My thoughts turned back’, Helen Gray remarked, ‘to when L.H. first offered them to the T[echnological] M[useum] …very long ago’.6 The collected models and documents were finally arranged for public display in the Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Court, opened by the museum on 8 December 1967. Helen Gray did not live to see the completion of ‘Mr Willis’s new gallery’, but she was able to observe and enjoy the reawakening of public interest in her father’s achievements: in 1965, Lawrence Hargrave had been commemorated on a stamp, and the following year he joined Kingsford Smith as one of the faces on the new $20 note.7 ‘I am sure you will agree that this is the greatest compliment that has been paid to your Father to date’, Shaw wrote, ‘and if indeed you now need any endorsement of his place in Australian history his inclusion with such great historical figures as Macarthur, Farrer, Greenway, Lawson and Kingsford-Smith is endorsement enough’.8 Helen Gray died a few months later in April 1966. Her father’s memory at last seemed secure.

A want of patriotism

‘The further you delve into the records it seems to me the worse the Museum looks’, remarked J L Willis to Hudson Shaw in 1966. Shaw was trying to document the convoluted series of events that had allowed Hargrave’s models to be lost to Australia for almost 50 years. Although the museum ultimately prevailed in ‘the fight for the models’, the casualties were severe. More than 70 models left Australia in 1910; only 16 returned. ‘Wherever the blame lies’, Willis added, ‘the loss of so much precious material is heart-breaking’.9

In 1901, the needs of a growing family forced Lawrence Hargrave ‘to curtail the lavish expenditure of time and labour’ that he had, for more than 17 years, ‘freely given for the advancement of the art of flying’.10 In the hope that others would continue his work, he proposed to donate his collection of models and apparatus to the Technological Museum. Included were engines of various sorts, ‘soaring machines’ and models demonstrating ‘the mechanics of animal locomotion’. ‘Any other man who takes the matter up would be saved a huge amount of useless labour if he could see my results in their consecutive order’, he explained.11 He offered the collection on the condition that it be given ‘suitable well-lighted accommodation’ in ‘strong carefully made glass cases’.12 Richard Baker, the museum’s director, replied that his institution had no more money for show cases, and suggested instead that Hargrave might wish to update the existing display of his earlier models. It was a half-hearted effort that even managed to misspell the inventor’s name.13 Instead of seeking to maintain his goodwill, Hargrave’s resentment was allowed to fester.

For the next eight years Hargrave searched for a home that would provide his creations with the care and attention they deserved. The University of Sydney baulked at the cost of cases; the University of Liverpool only wanted the ‘principal things’; the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain promised to keep his ‘generous offer in mind’; and while the Smithsonian was more enthusiastic, it could do nothing for two or three years until its new building was complete.14 ‘I once more lay myself open to be snubbed’, an exasperated Hargrave informed readers of the Daily Telegraph in September 1909. Offering the people of Sydney ‘no less than 13 tons measurement of models and apparatus’, he declared, ‘I cannot lay these models on the curbstone, neither can I build a hall to hold them’.15 As options dwindled, Hargrave repeated the offer to H W L Moedebeck, a respected German colleague. On the 13 January 1910 a cable arrived from Moedebeck: ‘Accepted’.16 Within a few weeks the models were on their way to the Deutsches Museum.

‘It is a regrettable thing’, noted the Sydney Morning Herald in 1915, and ‘indeed something of a disgrace’ that the government of NSW could find no room for Hargrave’s models.17 In the years following his death, the ‘indifference’ of museum authorities was taken as a sign of the ‘open ridicule’ with which the people of Sydney greeted Hargrave’s endeavours.18 He was treated as a ‘crackpot’, writers claimed, a ‘crazy kite flier’.19 When Hargrave had tried to donate his models to the museum, the Bulletin explained in 1940, he was ‘dismissed as a crank’.20 The fate of the models reflected Hargrave’s status as a neglected visionary.

But as Richard Baker was ever eager to point out, the models actually were accepted by the museum late in 1909. Even as Hargrave was putting his case before the Germans, the wheels of government were slowly turning in his favour. Did he receive the news too late, or had the embittered inventor simply given up any hope that the museum would ever meet his requirements? Hargrave believed that his first offer in 1901 had been ‘declined with scorn’, and in November 1909 wrote to a friend in England that the local authorities were ‘mean + ignorant and not at all likely to offer suitable accommodation’.21 Such niggardly nonsense seemed in contrast with the enthusiasm of the Germans, who had ‘nobly’ stepped in to solve ‘an old man’s dilemma’.22 In any case, wherever they were, the models would at last be accessible to all interested members of the public. ‘If there is anything in the world of universal interest, it is “Flying”‘, Hargrave explained to the editor of the British Aeronautical Journal, ‘and that art must not be checked in any way by keeping people in ignorance of what others have done, tried, or failed to do’.23

Baker viewed the matter rather differently, and lost no opportunity to defend his museum and the people of Sydney against any accusation of prejudice. Inside the case displaying the earlier monoplane models, Baker arranged photographic copies of official correspondence which, he argued, ‘conclusively prove … that the New South Wales Government did accept Hargrave’s offer’. In spite of this, Baker maintained, Hargrave ‘was persuaded by the German Government to send his models to Germany’.24 Baker recounted these events a number of times, both in public and private.25 The details became more elaborate with time and the telling, and Hargrave’s actions appeared more questionable. As critics returned again and again to the museum’s supposed failure, Baker, like Hargrave, became mired in bitterness. In 1940, some 30 years after the event, Baker described his ‘personal and official connection’ with Hargrave as ‘the only and most unhappy incident of my scientific career’.26

Baker portrayed Hargrave’s actions as a personal betrayal. He had no doubt that the inventor knew of the government’s intentions and claimed to have discussed developments with him personally. News that the models had instead been ‘dispatched to Germany’ thus caused him ‘great surprise, shock and indignation’. ‘I cut his friendship after that’, Baker explained to Mrs J Hamilton-Marshall, though there is little evidence that such a friendship ever existed.27 But the idea that Hargrave had been ‘persuaded’ by the Germans hinted at an even greater disloyalty. Mrs Hamilton-Marshall informed Baker that two Germans had visited Hargrave and convinced him that if the models were given to their government ‘they would be open to the world’. ‘How they must have gone round the corner to laugh’, Baker replied, ‘Germany was a closed book and a closed country and Lawrence Hargraves [sic] should have known it’.28 The two mysterious Germans featured in Baker’s later accounts, and in the 1940 version they were said to have paid for the dispatch of the models ‘in English gold’.29 According to Baker, Hargrave had given the Germans exactly what they were after, displaying ‘a want of patriotism almost unbelievable in an Australian’.30

Even those who blamed the museum for the loss of the models were wary of Germany’s motives. Hargrave’s research, it was claimed, contributed to the country’s aerial power in the early years of World War I. What was perceived as the calculating nature of the Germans’ generosity encouraged a belief that the models remained Australia’s possessions by right. As World War II neared its end, J F Meehan wrote to Arthur Calwell suggesting that the models now be retrieved. ‘Other nations today are tearing from Germany every item looted from their particular country’, he argued, ‘if we have any national pride in the achievements of our own people, we should insist on this material being restored to Australia’.31 The Illawarra Historical Society similarly called for the models to be returned to their ‘rightful owners, the people of Australia’.32 The Commonwealth government pursued the matter, but American administrators quashed their hopes. The models were a gift, not loot – Australia had no claim. It was only through the generosity of the Deutsches Museum that the surviving models were finally returned in 1960.33

Where did Hargrave’s loyalties lie? He was a free-trader, a New South Welshman, an Australian, a Briton, who accepted with pride a medal from Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and sought vice-regal permission to wear it in public.34 But he was also a pioneer, an inventor, a thinker and a dreamer, who was inspired in his work ‘by the thought of the great benefit artificial flight would be to our proud and scattered species by bringing about a knowledge of one another, and so dispelling the dark clouds of prejudice which keep us at enmity’.35

Hudson Shaw observed the tension between Hargrave the idealist, who foresaw an end to national conflict, and Hargrave the realist, who volunteered for battery duty and farewelled his only son, Geoffrey, to war.36 Hargrave understood the irony only too well. Responding in 1915 to criticism of a plan to use the German Concordia Club as a hospital for wounded soldiers, Hargrave insisted ‘it shows a mean and petty spirit if we refuse a figurative drop of water from the foe’.37 His letter to the Daily Telegraph is pasted in his journal. Next to it he wrote: ‘Geoffrey Lewis Hargrave killed in action on the morning of May 24th – about the time I was prompted to write this letter’.38 Geoffrey, who shared his father’s passion for engineering, was killed at Gallipoli. Other than a received letter and an index of expenditure, Hargrave’s journal ends at this point. He died of peritonitis six weeks later on 6 July.

‘I have always regretted Lawrence Hargrave’s action in this matter’, Richard Baker wrote to the Royal Society of Arts, seeking to correct their account of the museum’s ‘indifference’ towards the models, ‘and I am afraid a writer at the time accounted for his death in the words “but I know that the German bullet that killed his only son, killed Lawrence Hargraves” [sic]’.39

A prophet without honour

D M Dow, a publicity officer in the Prime Minister’s Department, was inspired. In December 1923, an article in the Argus lauded Lawrence Hargrave as the man who made the ‘air age’ possible.40 What particularly impressed Dow was the claim that, in August 1884, one of Hargrave’s monoplane models had become ‘the first inanimate thing to fly with its own power’. Dow wrote excitedly to the controller of civil aviation, suggesting that the 40th anniversary of this ‘great event’ be commemorated by an aerial display, in which Australian aviators would pay ‘homage to the memory of the Australian who made aviation possible’. In Hargrave’s home town of Sydney, he thought, fliers might ‘drop wreaths from the air over his grave’.41 Sadly, such a colourful, if risky, tableau was never to be enacted-Dow’s scheme failed to ignite official interest. But this was not the only attempt to have the inventor admitted to the pantheon of Australian greats. In 1915, obituary writers proclaimed Hargrave to be a ‘prophet without honour’, an ‘unappreciated genius’.42 For the past century, familiar reminders of his ‘forgotten’ status have introduced efforts to memorialise Hargrave’s achievements.

The museum’s Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Court benefited from one of these earlier efforts, inheriting its commemorative function and more than £1200 from a fund established in 1920 by the NSW Section of the Australian Aero Club.43 Colonel Oswald Watt, a much-honoured aviator, argued that celebrations surrounding Ross Smith’s ‘epoch-making’ flight from England to Australia provided an opportune moment to recognise Hargrave, the ‘father of flying’. A suitable memorial would assist in ‘perpetuating the memory’ of this ‘pioneer of aviation’, who had persevered against ‘prejudice, disbelief and apathy’.44 Watt launched the fund with a donation of 50 guineas, but though a good number of worthy citizens followed his example, the proposed monument was never built.45 Watt drowned in 1921, and was duly honoured with his very own memorial.46 Ross Smith was killed the following year as he prepared for another airborne adventure. With so many dashing, young aviators risking their lives to push the limits of their art, the claims of the inventor, with his models and kites, might have seemed less pressing.

But it was Hargrave himself who had moved to stymie earlier plans to win him tribute. In 1909, when the newly formed Aerial League of Australia professed its aim ‘to secure best recognition for Australian efforts’, Hargrave understood that he was intended to be the major beneficiary. What was needed was not ‘recognition’, he argued fiercely, but dedication and ideas. ‘If my old work gives you a lead in any direction’, he declared, improve upon it’.47 Hargrave also remained wary of the ‘scorn and ridicule’ that he felt had greeted his early efforts.48 Public plaudits and self-congratulation would only open the way for further envy and derision. ‘You cannot read Australian sentiment as I can’, he warned the secretary of the Aerial League, ‘You cannot understand the bed-rock feelings of Sydney people to one who has lived among them for 42 years and yet is not of them’.49

Perhaps the ageing inventor was also uncertain of his supposed success. For all his models and experiments, he had not built an aircraft capable of manned flight. Even as the Aerial League was looking to him for inspiration, Hargrave was wondering how ‘at the age of 59, with slow and crystallized methods ingrained in me, and somewhat maimed’ he could continue to contribute to the unfolding revolution.50 His ideas had won him praise, but little money, and he was increasingly unable to meet the financial needs of his family. In 1910 Hargrave drafted an advertisement for publication overseas, which offered the benefits of his ‘considerable technical constructive ability’. Lawrence Hargrave, the ad announced, ‘wants to know if his services are of value to anyone, and if so, what is their value’. Hargrave’s success was contained in the possibilities of flight, in the dreams and ambitions of others. What kind of success was this? ‘Mum has lost all faith in me as an engineer owing to my long list of failures’, he admitted in a letter to Nellie.51

Hargrave’s feeling of isolation from the people of Sydney was mirrored within his own family. Only Nellie (Helen) and Geoff seemed to understand the significance of their father’s obsession. Hudson Shaw surmised that ‘family bitterness and division’ had left a shadow on Helen Gray’s memories. She was ‘inclined to have an inferiority complex with regard to her Father’, he wrote to Helen’s daughter Grizel Gray, ‘she has allowed the negative aspects of his life … to almost push out the picture of the real Lawrence Hargrave’.52 Until Shaw’s arrival at her doorstep, Helen Gray had refused to cooperate with biographers, and had sought to prevent publication by ‘various journalists who had never seen him’.53

On 3 August 1940, local boy scouts flew box-kites in tribute to Hargrave as a memorial was unveiled on Bald Hill, overlooking the beach at Stanwell Park where the inventor had conducted many of his experiments. Hargrave had died during World War I, fearful that his legacy might be turned solely to destructive ends. By August 1940, with the Battle of Britain in its early stages, the horror of war in the air was becoming all too familiar. ‘We are here in respect to the memory of this man’, proclaimed the governor, Lord Wakehurst, dedicating the memorial, ‘and to show what Australia has given towards gaining mastery of the air and winning the war’.54

But the memorial on Bald Hill was due less to the thanks of a grateful nation than to the enthusiasm of the Bulli Shire Council, which was keen to promote the local connections of the man ‘on whose models the modern aeroplane is patterned’.55 Although stung by the ‘indifference’ of the people of Sydney, Hargrave had been adopted by citizens to the south. The Wollongong region has proudly associated itself with the inventor’s memory and achievements, although, in 1963, the ‘tragic’ siting of a toilet block next to the Bald Hill memorial seemed to hint at a certain lack of respect – ‘It looks like a monument itself’, commented one observer.56 Local tourism authorities now boldly declare Stanwell Park to be ‘the birthplace of flight’, and kids with kites are a feature of an annual festival celebrating their neglected pioneer. A documentary pushing Hargrave’s claim to recognition opened Wollongong’s ‘Innovation Week 2004′. The director hoped the film would ‘help re-educate a nation’, while the general manager of the Wollongong Image Campaign claimed that Hargrave’s work ‘was historical validation that Wollongong had always been an innovative city’.57

The Lawrence Hargrave Memorial Court was closed in the early 1980s as the museum prepared its move to the Powerhouse. Most of the models were placed in storage, much to the annoyance of Hudson Shaw, who accused the museum of ‘hiding the collection and denying the public an opportunity to view a significant part of Australia’s heritage’.58 In 1994, as enthusiasts planned a re-enactment to commemorate the centenary of Hargrave’s famous kite ascent, the $20 note was replaced – the inventor’s familiar grey-bearded visage disappeared from public view. Once more it seemed the prophet was to be stripped of his honour, once more to be ‘forgotten’, neglected and unrecognised. According to a recent ABC television program, Hargrave has been ‘left out of the history books’.59 For over a hundred years, Hargrave has been commemorated most powerfully by admissions of ignorance and neglect. For someone to whom the idea of ‘recognition’ was problematic, it is perhaps appropriate that Lawrence Hargrave is most often remembered as a man too often forgotten.

Knowledge without words

‘Come boys’, Hargrave exhorted in 1907, ‘make things that fly’.60 In person, Hargrave was a man of few words, well aware of his inadequacies as a teacher. Replying to a request to deliver a lecture before a group of engineers, Hargrave demurred, ‘I think I am a mechanic. You call me an authority. I know I am not a lecturer’.61 He was, as he explained to a journalist, ‘very slow at conveying information’.62 And yet he would happily invite the public to inspect his workshop, and spend a Saturday afternoon showing a group of school boys how to ‘make and fly cellular kites’.63 Information flowed more easily when he was surrounded by his models. Hargrave looked on his models, one colleague remarked, ‘as his very soul’s work’.64 Here were his ideas, here were his mistakes – visible to any young person who might learn and improve. Offering up his life’s work to the people of Sydney, Hargrave explained that the models conveyed ‘knowledge without words’.65

Hargrave refused to patent his work, on grounds both of principle and practicality. ‘Even if I had patented’, he wrote to George Crossland Taylor, ‘there was no possibility of collecting revenue from the users of my invention’.66 The life of a patentee, he wrote elsewhere, was spent ‘in a ceaseless war with infringers’. Any ‘loot’ was merely ‘squandered’ – ‘broadcast among shoals of sharks’.67 More importantly, patents served to ‘block progress’ by taxing future development. ‘When man ceases to invent his doom is sealed’, Hargrave warned, ‘he must sink to brute level’.68

Competition unhindered by artificial barriers offered the only true guarantee of progress. For Hargrave this was not merely an economic doctrine, but a law of nature. His opposition to patents and his support of free trade stemmed from his commitment to social darwinism. In 1903, Hargrave wrote to the newspapers criticising plans for old-age pensions as a ‘hopeless attempt to alter by legislation the eternal law of the survival of the fittest’. Individual misfortune, he argued, should be borne ‘English fashion in silence’, until by using ‘our inborn energy we push again and again to the front’.69 Hargrave’s belief in competition led him to oppose all attempts at ‘protection’, from the prohibition of drugs and alcohol to the White Australia policy.70 ‘Races’ were, after all, only the products of isolation and would ‘disappear as the facilities of travel increase’.71 Competition bred individual character and national strength. ‘Throw down our artificial barriers’, he proclaimed, ‘admit all and everything in free competition; if we have not the strength to hold our own and advance in civilization we are a superfluity’.72

The models were Hargrave’s gift to competition, to the progress of civilisation. Whether they were in Munich, Washington or Sydney, as long as they were available to inquiring minds, they would spark further ideas and inventions. However, when the surviving models returned from Germany in 1960, they spoke not of the future but the past. Instead of inspiring young minds to ‘make things that fly’, the models were offered as a long-overdue memorial to ‘one of Australia’s great aeronautical pioneers’.73 This shift in meaning of course reflected dramatic developments in aeronautics itself – the days of timber and fabric were long gone. But the museum which welcomed them home had also changed. In 1891, Hargrave’s monoplane models were gratefully accepted by an institution with close ties to technical education. A decade later, Baker’s careless rejection came as he sought to develop the museum’s own research activities, while, in the 1960s, it was the collections that J L Willis was working to expand.74 The significance of the models varied according to the museum’s aims and emphases.

In 1966, Hudson Shaw was worried that Hargrave’s original intentions were being ignored. The inventor was concerned, Shaw explained to Willis, ‘that the models should be … visible for all to see that they might learn how they were constructed and operated’. Damage and deterioration had made this impossible, he claimed, so that ‘even an Engineer might be surprised that they worked at all’.75 This was an ‘old argument in Museums’, Willis replied, whether to preserve or restore. In this case technical clarity was deemed less important than maintaining the models ‘exactly as when Hargrave last touched them’.76 The models were a record of the man, rather than a repository of ideas.

The meaning of the models began to shift once again as they lay in storage in the late 1980s. The museum initiated a program to collect and document examples of Australian innovation – from the stump-jump plough to the Hills hoist and beyond.77 Successful innovators, according to the museum, were those able to protect their ideas, and to develop and market their product. Walter Hume, for example, Hargrave’s contemporary, used his idea for a new casting process for concrete pipes to create one of Australia’s largest manufacturing companies. By 1939 they held over 500 patents.78 Amidst this catalogue of Australian innovation, Hargrave seems an ill-fit – almost a case study of how not to succeed. He sought no patents, and was driven not by the needs of the market but his own standards of perfection and progress. In a world which seeks to harness innovation to economic growth, where ‘free-trade’ agreements reinforce protection of intellectual property, the lessons contained within the models remain difficult to discern.

The Powerhouse Museum marked the centenary of powered flight, in December 2003, with the opening of a new exhibition- ‘Lawrence Hargrave: Australia’s pioneer aviator’.79 A hundred years earlier Hargrave had learnt of the Wright brothers’ success while suffering from a bout of typhoid (his health never fully recovered). But whatever doubts there might be about the nature of Hargrave’s achievements can be resolved by focusing on his place in the lineage of aviation. Whatever his frustrations or disappointments, there is no doubt that he hastened the development of manned flight. For all the ‘scorn and ridicule’, he was right. And to make certain of the point, biographers and enthusiasts continue their quest to prove a connection with the Wright brothers’ design. In the models we can see the foundations of flight, the evidence of Hargrave’s place in history.

In May 1908, Hargrave eagerly awaited the visit of the United States’ ‘Great White Fleet’. He admired America’s inventive abilities and commitment to competition, and imagined the fleet to be well-endowed with budding engineers-bright, young men keen to pursue recent developments in aeronautics. Hargrave issued an invitation to the fleet, unpacked as many of his models as could be displayed within his workshop, and waited.80 No one came; ‘not even a boy’, he wrote to his American colleague, Octave Chanute.81

How should we remember Lawrence Hargrave? Is he waiting still, surrounded by his models, for us to grant him fulfilment? Does his life gain meaning only through our attempts to win him widespread recognition? Perhaps it shows more respect to leave him waiting and anxious – his passions still burning, his conflicts unresolved. Surrounded by his models, ‘his very soul’s work’, Hargrave is more than a link in the chain of progress. The models may no longer educate young engineers, but they do speak of determination and creativity. Knowledge without words – the museum holds the evidence of a remarkable man and his hopes. Dreams, too, can fly.


  1. W H Shaw to Margaret Hudson, 6 December 1963, and to Roger A Dane, 21 January 1964, W H Shaw papers, National Library of Australia: MS 5661. []
  2. Helen Gray to W H Shaw, 25 March and 13 November 1963 [incorrectly dated 1962], Shaw papers. []
  3. Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Annual report for 1963, Government Printer, Sydney, 1964, p 6. []
  4. L Hargrave to the Registrar, University of Sydney, 15 October 1905, Hargrave papers, Powerhouse Museum Archives (PMA): P3321, folder no 130, vol 4, p 298. []
  5. W H Shaw to Helen Gray, 28 November 1963, Shaw papers. []
  6. Helen Gray to W H Shaw, 13 November 1963 [incorrectly dated 1962], Shaw papers. []
  7. Helen Gray to W H Shaw, 13 November 1963 [incorrectly dated 1962], Shaw papers. []
  8. W H Shaw to Helen Gray, 21 January 1966, Shaw papers. []
  9. J L Willis to W H Shaw, 20 July 1966, Shaw papers. []
  10. L Hargrave to J L Bruce, 19 January 1901, Hargrave papers: folder no 89, vol 4, pp 221/222. []
  11. L Hargrave to J L Bruce, 19 January 1901, Hargrave papers: folder no 89, vol 4, pp 221/222. []
  12. L Hargrave to Curator, Technological Museum, 18 February 1901, PMA: MRS 202, 1901/156. []
  13. R T Baker to L Hargrave [addressed to ‘L. Hargreave’], 8 March 1901, Hargrave papers: folder no 90, vol 4, pp 223/224; also in PMA: MRS 4, vol 16, p 602. []
  14. Registrar, University of Sydney, to L Hargrave, 6 March 1906, Hargrave papers: folder no 135, vol 4, pp 303/304; G C Taylor to L Hargrave, 3 August 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 170, vol 4, pp 363/364; Honorary Secretary, Aeronautical Society of Great Britain, to L Hargrave 26 May 1906, Hargrave papers: folder no 138, vol 4, pp 309/310; O Chanute to L Hargrave, 22 October 1906, Hargrave papers: folder no 140, vol 4, pp 313/314; Hargrave summarises his efforts to find a home for the models in a letter to the proprietors of the Daily Telegraph, 5 November 1907, Hargrave papers: folder no 145, vol 4, pp 323/324. []
  15. Daily Telegraph, 21 September 1909, p 5 []
  16. L Hargrave to H W L Moedebeck, 5 December 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 184, vol 4, pp 388/389; Cable from H W L Moedebeck to L Hargrave, 13 January 1910, Hargrave papers: folder no 185, vol 4, pp 390/391. []
  17. Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1915, p 12 []
  18. Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1915, p 12; ‘Unappreciated genius’, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 July 1915, p 10; E J Hart, ‘A prophet unhonoured’, Daily Telegraph, 3 March 1923, p 13. []
  19. Stanley Brogden, ‘Taking the air in Europe’, Aircraft, 38 (2), 1959, p 44; Norman Ellison, ‘Hargraveana home again’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1963, p 11. []
  20. Bulletin, 14 August 1940, p 9. []
  21. L Hargrave to O Chanute, 29 November 1906, Hargrave papers: folder no 139, vol 4, pp 311/312; Hargrave to G C Taylor, 8 November 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 175, vol 4, pp 373/374. []
  22. L Hargrave to T O’B Hubbard, 17 May 1910, Hargrave papers: folder no 190, vol 4, pp 400/401. []
  23. L Hargrave to T O’B Hubbard, 7 March 1910, Hargrave papers: folder no 187, vol 4, pp 394/395. []
  24. Technological Museum: Annual Report 1919, Department of Public Instruction, Sydney, 1920, p 4. []
  25. For example, see: Daily Telegraph, 8 July 1915, p 10; R T Baker to the Secretary, Royal Society of the Arts, 25 January 1916, Powerhouse Archives, MRS 4, vol 40, pp 257-258; ‘The Air Age – Hargraves and Australia’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January 1924, p 7; Bulletin, 28 August 1940, p 9. []
  26. Bulletin, 28 August 1940, p 9. []
  27. Bulletin, 28 August 1940, p 9; R T Baker to Mrs J Hamilton-Marshall, 5 January 1920, PMA: MRS 4, vol 45, p 598. []
  28. R T Baker to Mrs J Hamilton-Marshall, 5 January 1920, PMA: MRS 4, vol 45, p 598. []
  29. Bulletin, 28 August 1940, p 9. []
  30. R T Baker to Mrs J Hamilton-Marshall, 5 January 1920, PMA: MRS 4, vol 45, p 598. []
  31. J F Meehan to A Calwell, Minister for Information, National Archives of Australia (NAA): A1067, IC/46/33/5/2. []
  32. A P Fleming, Honorary Secretary, Illawarra Historical Society, to J B Chifley, 16 January 1946, NAA: A461, M370/1/1. []
  33. ‘Report on visit to Munich re Lawrence Hargreaves aircraft models’, 4 November 1946, Australian Reparations Plant and Stores Team, Australian Military Mission, Berlin, NAA: A461, M370/1/1. The events surrounding the return of the models are described briefly in W Hudson Shaw and Olaf Ruhen, Lawrence Hargrave: aviation pioneer, inventor and explorer, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1988, pp 184-5; and in more detail in chapter 25, ‘The models’, of Shaw’s unpublished manuscript, Shaw papers. For the involvement of the Department of External Affairs, see NAA: A1838, 29/1/3/13. []
  34. See journal entry dated 10 November 1910, Hargrave papers: folder no 194, vol 4, pp 408/409; and L Hargrave to Lord Chelmsford, 21 November 1910, Hargrave papers: folder no 195, vol 4, pp 410/412. According to some biographers, he rejected the medal or returned it at the onset of war, but in the 1960s the medal appeared to be in the possession of his daughters, see Margaret Hudson to W H Shaw, 26 September 1963, Shaw papers. []
  35. L Hargrave to H W L Moedebeck, 23 February 1910, Hargrave papers: folder no 187, vol 4, pp 394/395. []
  36. W H Shaw, Lawrence Hargrave, unpublished manuscript, p 323, Shaw papers. []
  37. Daily Telegraph, 26 May 1915, p 8. []
  38. Hargrave papers: folder no 223, vol 4, pp 463/464. Geoffrey’s service record reveals that the family was given the wrong date-he was actually killed on 4 May. The 24 May appears to be the date that his death was first officially recorded, see NAA: B2455, HARGRAVE G L. []
  39. R T Baker to Secretary, Royal Society of the Arts, 25 January 1916, PMA: MRS 4, vol 40, pp 257-8. []
  40. E Dwyer Gray, ‘The air age-man who made it possible’, Argus, 29 December 1923, p 8. []
  41. D M Dow to Lieut Col H C Brinsmead, 2 January 1923, NAA: A705, 115/1/50. []
  42. Argus, 7 July 1915, p 8; Sydney Morning Herald, 10 July 1915, p 10. []
  43. ‘Order from the Commissioner of Dormant Funds’, 10 July 1964, copy attached to letter from J L Willis to W H Shaw, 31 July 1967, Shaw papers. []
  44. Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February 1920, p 12. See also: ‘A public appeal’, Sea, Land and Air, 2 (22), 1920, pp 663-4. []
  45. Sea, Land and Air published lists of contributors to the fund, see, for example: 2(23), 1920, p 755; 2 (24), 1920, p 815. []
  46. Edward J Hart, ‘The late Colonel Walter Oswald Watt’, Aircraft, vol 2, 20 June 1921, pp 222-28; ‘The Oswald Watt Memorial’, Aircraft, 3, 30 April 1922, pp 47-8. []
  47. L Hargrave to the Aerial League of Australia, 22 April 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 165, 4, pp 353/354. []
  48. L Hargrave to J L Rosenbaum, 16 June 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 167, 4, pp 357/358. []
  49. L Hargrave to G A Taylor, 29 August 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 169, vol 4, pp 361/362. Taylor had praised Hargrave’s achievements at a public meeting to encourage Australian aircraft development, see: Sydney Morning Herald, 28 August 1909, p 14. []
  50. L Hargrave to G C Taylor, 19 May 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 165, vol 4, pp 353/354. []
  51. Quoted in Shaw and Ruhen, p 148. []
  52. W H Shaw to Grizel Gray, 11 June 1963, Shaw papers. []
  53. Helen Gray to Charles Gibbs-Smith, undated, Shaw papers. See also Helen Gray to W H Shaw, 13 November 1963 [incorrectly dated 1962], Shaw papers. []
  54. Illawarra Mercury, 9 August 1940, p 8. []
  55. W H Mitchell, Shire Clerk, Bulli Shire Council, to HP Lazzarini, NAA: A461, U370/1/8. []
  56. Sun-Herald, 13 October 1963, p 25. []
  57. Illawarra Mercury, 3 May 2004, p 4. []
  58. Sydney Morning Herald, 7 July 1990, p 3. []
  59. ‘Hargrave’s kite’, Rewind, ABC TV, 15 August 2004, produced by Simon Target. Transcript available online at <>. []
  60. Daily Telegraph, 20 May 1907, p 5. []
  61. Daily Telegraph, 20 May 1907, p 5. []
  62. L Hargrave to Harold Burston, 28 March 1911, Hargrave papers: folder no 201, vol 4, pp 423/424. []
  63. Letter to Roy Patterson and ‘other boys at Bourke St Public School’, 12 February 1901, Hargrave papers. []
  64. ‘Notes by Lieut. A Worsfold, Assistant Superintendent Aeroplane Repair Section, Thames-Ditton, Surrey, 8/1/20′, NAA: A705, 115/1/50. []
  65. Daily Telegraph, 21 September 1909, p. 5. []
  66. L Hargrave to G C Taylor, 2 December 1909, Hargrave papers: folder no 183, vol 4, pp 386/387. []
  67. L Hargrave to Illustrirte Aeronautische Mittheilungen, 28 June 1903, Hargrave papers: folder no 113, vol 4. []
  68. Undated notes [circa 1898], Hargrave papers: folder no 45, vol 4, pp 145-146. []
  69. L Hargrave to Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 1903, attached to letter from L Hargrave to Bruce Smith, 26 February 1903, Hargrave papers: folder no 110, vol 4, pp 263-264. []
  70. For example on the prohibition of opium see: L Hargrave to Daily Telegraph, 9 June 1905, Hargrave papers: folder no 128, 4, pp 293-294; L Hargrave to Daily Telegraph, 1 January 1906, Hargrave papers: folder no 131, vol 4, pp 299-300. []
  71. L Hargrave [using the pseudonym ‘Singapore’] to Daily Telegraph, 27 October 1907, Hargrave papers: folder no 144, vol 4, pp 321/322. []
  72. L Hargrave to Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald, 14 February 1903, attached to letter from L Hargrave to Bruce Smith, 26 February 1903, Hargrave papers: folder no 110, vol 4, pp 263/264. []
  73. Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences: Annual Report for the year ended 31 December, 1967, Government Printer, Sydney, 1968, p 6. []
  74. J L Willis, From palace to Powerhouse: the first hundred years of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, unpublished manuscript, 1982, pp 110, 217. []
  75. W H Shaw to J L Willis, 25 August 1966, Shaw papers. []
  76. J L Willis to W H Shaw, 2 September 1966, Shaw papers. []
  77. Robert Renew, Making it: innovation and success in Australia’s industries, Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, 1993. []
  78. Renew, pp 43-4. []
  79. Sydney Morning Herald, 17 December 2003, supplement, p 3. []
  80. L Hargrave to the Consul for the United States of America, 14 May 1908, Hargrave papers: folder no 154, vol 4, pp 337/338. []
  81. L Hargrave to O Chanute, 27 August 1908, Hargrave papers: folder no 154, vol 4, pp 337/338. []

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Tim Sherratt Written by:

I'm a historian and hacker who researches the possibilities and politics of digital cultural collections.


  1. Virginio Tonini
    February 5, 2010

    Vorrei sapere perchè viene scritto che Geoffrey Lewis Hargrave, fù ucciso il giorno 4 oppure il 24 Maggio 1915 , in una azione bellica, a Gallipoli ( Lecce ) Italia. Ci deve essere un errore in quanto l’ Italia entrò in guerra il 24 Maggio 1915 , ma a Gallipoli non vi fù mai dei combattimenti per tutta la durata della guerra. Sinceramente vostro
    Virginio Tonini – un appassionato di storia dell’ aviazione

  2. January 16, 2013

    Great article by @wragge on Lawrence Hargrave’s struggles to preserve his flying models and his aeronautical legacy:

  3. Lawrence J.Hargrave
    January 16, 2013

    I am very proud of my great great uncle.

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