The Maxim flying machine, 1894.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
An impression of the aeroplane isolated from its background by an artist. Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916) designed and built a flying machine in 1893-1894. He had previously found fame by inventing the machine gun. It was the largest aeroplane to lift off briefly from the ground in the 19th century, having a 104-foot wingspan and weighing 8000 lbs. Powered by two 180 hp steam engines to drive propellers, the biplane was launched from a broad gauge railway track. Maxim did numerous trials on this aeroplane at Baldwin's Park, Bexleyheath, Kent, where on 31st July 1894 it briefly took to the air before crashing.