Photographs of the World's First Aircraft Carrier

On November 14, 1910, Eugene Ely became the first pilot to successfully launch a plane from a stationary ship. The Curtiss pusher airplane, one of the first models in the world to be built in any significant quantity, flew for two miles before Ely landed on a beach. Using the same aircraft, Ely landed on the USS Pennsylvania on January 18, 1911, while the ship was anchored at the San Francisco waterfront. He had to use a braking system made of ropes and sandbags, but he was able to quickly turn around and take off once again, proving that ideas proposed in Clement Ader's 1909 L'Aviation Militaire could work.

These rare photographs of the USS Birmingham, an armored cruiser considered to be the world's first aircraft carrier, were recently resurfaced by TechEBlog. The Birmingham, which launched on May 29, 1907, was commissioned several times before being used to patrol the northeast coast of the United States after the American entrance into World War I. On June 14, 1917, she escorted the first American troops to France and then was used as an escort between the British Isles, Gibraltar, and France. After several more trips that included tours of the eastern Mediterranean, Central America, and South America, the USS Birmingham was decommissioned on December 1, 1923, and sold for scrap seven years later.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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