National Air and Space Museum Archives

Robert H. Botts Air-ship Collection

Summary
Collection ID:
NASM.XXXX.0621
Dates:
1902-1904
bulk 1980-1981
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
0.1 Cubic feet
2 folders
Repository:
This collection consists of six black and white photographs of Professor Robert H. Botts (initially known as Barnet Botts) and his air-ship [Botts (R. H.) 1904 Flying Machine] as well as copies of contemporary news accounts and biographical information compiled by donor Dr. William L. Thompson, M.D.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection consists of six black and white print photographs taken by William L. Thompson, Senior, of Botts and his air-ship [Botts (R. H.) 1904 Flying Machine] as well as copies of contemporary news accounts (1902-1904) and biographical information compiled in 1981 by donor Dr. William Lewis Thompson, Jr. (1909-1998), and a copy of Susan D. Cole's book
Richmond—Windows to the Past
(Wildcat Canyon Books, Richmond, California, 1980).

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is divided into two folders, Photographs and Documents; the contents of each are presented in original order.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Barnet Botts (1857-1918) was born in Indiana on August 22, 1857, but after being orphaned at a young age he was sent to live with an uncle in Paso Robles, California. In 1894, Botts wrote a paper entitled "Botts' Air-ship, the Problem of Aerial Navigation," in which he explained the workings of his proposed air-ship and sought to secure financial aid to build it. During the winter of 1900, Botts, who was now identifying himself as Professor Robert H. Botts, moved to Richmond, California. Following this move, he secured at least two patents relating to the steam engine he designed to be used on his air-ship, and he built a model of his air-ship which was displayed in Richmond and San Francisco. In February 1902, he announced that he was going to build two air-ships by summer for a scientific expedition to the North Pole. Each air-ship was to carry four persons and their scientific equipment. In March of that year, Botts began selling shares in his World's Aerial Navigation and Construction Company of Richmond. Eventually enough money was raised to build a proper hangar/workshop and work began in earnest on the air-ship. In May, Botts gave a successful demonstration of the engine. However, on the day of the trial flight, which occurred sometime in 1902-1903, the flying machine was demolished when a gust of wind caught it and smashed in on the steep slopes below the launching hill. According to contemporary sources, Botts was devastated by the destruction and returned to Paso Robles, where he resided until his death.
Photographer William Lewis Thompson (1869-1929) was a mechanic and neighbor of Botts in Richmond, California, and father of the donor.

Administration
Author
Patti Williams, 2001; revised by Melissa A. N. Keiser, 2022.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
William L. Thompson, MD, gift, 1981, NASM.XXXX.0621
Processing Information
Arranged and described by Patti Williams, 2001; revised and encoded by Melissa A. N. Keiser, 2022.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
No restrictions on access
Preferred Citation
Robert H. Botts Air-ship Collection, Acc. NASM.XXXX.0621, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Aeronautics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics -- 1903-1916 Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Airplanes -- California Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
NASMRefDesk@si.edu