Alberto Santos-Dumont 1873-1932

Born Cabangu, Brazil


Mankind’s fascination with flight – though centuries old – was especially great at the turn of the century. Although Orville and Wilbur Wright would make history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in December 1903, it was Paris, France, where the greatest number of aviation pioneers resided during this period. Prominent among this group was Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian who is credited as the first to achieve heaver-than-air flight before a large public audience. Santos-Dumont traveled across the Atlantic in 1902 to encourage the development and funding of an aviation competition at the upcoming Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. During his two weeks in the United States, he visited with a host of politicians, scientists, and potential investors, including President Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and Smithsonian secretary Samuel Langley, whose own experiments with flight had likewise become an obsession. It was during this trip that he visited Ben-Yusuf’s studio.

Platinum print, 1902
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress