I love that seen in Mary Poppins when they Sing, Let's go Fly a Kite. Last Thursday I posted some of the games from the 19th century then I stumbled on this great little book about Kites, making them and flying them. The variety is very interesting, so I've put a link at the bottom of this post to the source in Google books.
Several years ago the story was current in Kennebec County, Maine, of a boy who succeeded in launching into the air a twelve-foot kite, was borne across a large brook and set down so frightened that he let the kite go.
n 1895 the western papers reported that a citizen of Winona, in exploiting a huge kite, was, by a gust of wind, jerked two hundred feet up in the air, then let down and ducked in the river.
But Ben Franklin did better than this; for once, while bathing, he caused his kite to draw him across the river, thus saving himself the exertion of paddling and kicking.
The taste of the American boy does not usually run into such vagaries as the foregoing. He wants a kite that will operate in the same easy round, in its turn, with his base ball, his sled, his skates and his bow and arrow. There are several forms of these boys' kites which are easy to make and jolly to fly.
In making a kite there are three essentials,— strength, lightness and balance. The first two of these depend on the construction of the frame. Small tubes of thin steel, and also of aluminum, have been tried for this purpose, but have not given so good results as spruce wood. Next to this in strength, lightness and elasticity is whitewood, then straight-grained white pine. For small kites, strips of split bamboo will do very well; but they bend too easily if long. For bow kites or other curving forms, black ash or oak basket strips and split bamboo are good. Split rattan will not often prove satisfactory, because of its twist and its lack of uniform elasticity.
In selecting the material for a frame, care should be taken that the sticks are straight, with grain running in the direction of the length of the stick, and that the wood is thoroughly dry.
For a kite three feet long and two and a half feet wide, the sticks should be in the form of a slightly flattened square, not so thick as a common lead pencil,— that is, they should be less than half an inch wide and a quarter of an inch thick. The corners should not be rounded, but may be rubbed slightly to remove the sharpness.
The newspapers now made are not strong enough for kite coverings; thin, tough manila being the only cheap paper which is suitable. Bond paper, nainsook muslin and tracing cloth are also good; but the cheapest of them is more than twice as costly as manila paper. Tissue paper makes a good covering for kites not over three feet in length,—if they can be kept away from all bushes and stubble, which would rend them into tatter* in short order.
Very thin Chinese silk makes one of the best coverings for flying in brisk winds, which hold it in place; but in light winds (when the covering is properly loose) the fulness is given to sliding from one side to the other, thus destroying the balance of the kite.
To prepare a kite for flying in wet weather, cloth coverings should be varnished, and paper ones should be saturated with melted parafline wax brushed on lightly and evenly. The paper in these should be folded from back to front,— the reverse of the folding of the margin for fair-weather flyers. Oiled silk is also good. These treatments, by closing the spaces between the threads, prevent the wind from passing through the covering, so that the lifting power of the kite is increased; but, because of the added weight, the kite will not ascend as readily in light winds. Only paper and the thinnest silk are light enough for small kites; but a four-foot kite would bear a nainsook muslin or a thin silesia in a fresh and steady wind.
The color of kite coverings is worth considering. Black is the color most easily distinguished at all heights. The changes of color in the sky are quite curious.
Dark blue, in a cloudy sky, appears black, but regains its color partially in sunshiny spaces.
Cherry red against a blue sky is usually surrounded by its complementary color in the form of fringes extending from its edges. The color darkens at great heights, but at a certain angle to the sun-rays it shows to the eye its real color.
Light green becomes invisible at a less height than pale blue.
A paper kite covering which had received one application of a butt stain —which proved insuflioient to saturate the paper — showed a soiled green tint in the sunshine.
Source: Kites: How to Make and How to Fly Them ©1897