FHB Vanity Fair

Frank Hedges Butler

Frank Hedges Butler (1855 - 1928)

Frank Hedges Butler, a balloonist and pioneer of flying, was born in London on 17 December 1855. He died in 1928. The son of a wine merchant, and one of the first persons in England to own a motor-car, he became the first Hon. Treasurer of the Royal Automobile Club. In September 1901 he made an ascent in a balloon "The City of York" from Crystal Palace in London, accompanied by his daughter Vera and the Hon. Charles Rolls (later of Rolls-Royce). While flying over Sidcup, Vera suggested the formation of an Aero Club and so the Aero Club of the United Kingdom was founded, which in 1910 became the Royal Aero Club. Frank Hedges Butler was the author of a number of books including: "Fifty years of travel by land, water and air".

Miss Vera Butler

Miss Vera Butler

Frank Hedges Butler Albums

There are 20 Hedges Butler Albums in the Royal Aero Club Collection. These contain press cuttings, letters, documents, aviation-related sheet music and photographs dealing with aviation paraphernalia and aerial vehicles such as kites, balloons, airships, early gliders and aeroplanes, as well as flying training, etc. The earliest of the press cuttings is dated 1756.

These albums provide a unique overview of the early days of aviation, not only in the United Kingdom but also in Europe and world-wide. Their pages chronicle the history of flying as a leisure activity, as a competitive sport, as a new military force, and in later albums, as a commercial venture.

The Hedges Butler albums include private letters and telegrams between many of the early aviators and scientists that have never been published. They also include extraordinary news and feature articles published in newspapers and magazines that have not seen the light of day for many decades.

For example there are articles on: how to pilot an aeroplane; the pioneering flights of many early aviators; the unfortunate accidents that befell some of them; competitive events and social events related to aviation.

The albums themselves are available for viewing by prior appointment in the Reading Room run by the Archive and Library of the Royal Air Force Museum, Grahame Park Way, Hendon, London NW9 5LL. Click here for the Reading Room Opening Hours.

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