Handkerchief bearing impresion of Henson's aeroplane design, 1842.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
In 1842, William Henson (1805-1888) patented a steam-powered aircraft design which incorporated a movable rudder and elevator control surfaces, and a cabin for carrying pasengers. Although the 'Ariel' never actually flew, there is no doubt that its design conditioned much of the thinking of the early aviation pioneers, and laid the foundations for the modern monoplane. Henson and his partner, John Stringfellow, planned to set up an airfreight company, the 'aerial Steam Transit Company' to transport goods around the world. The image on this handkerchief shows the machine as Henson wished to see it - operating in all parts of the world.