Harry Everett Smith the Paper Airplane Collector
Harry Everett Smith was an extraordinary collector. Amongst other collections, the oddest one was the paper airplane collection. The collection started forming at 1961 and not finished until 1983. Smith collected everything off the streets of New York City. A remarkable notice was that Smith was jotting down the date and location where he found the paper airplane. Oftentimes he also added the time of day and weather conditions. The map below depicts the locations where the artifacts were found.
“He would run out in front of the cabs to get them, you know, before they got run over.” a friend of his recalls. “I remember one time we saw one in the air and he was just running everywhere trying to figure out where it was going to be. […] Someone, I guess, shot it from an upstairs building“.
The collection comprises of 251 paper airplanes which is currently stored at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. Andrew Lampert and John Klacsmann, archivists amongst other pursuits, edited a book covering all 251 paper airplanes. In fact, the photographer was a New York City native and a Guggenheim Fellow Jason Fulford. The outcome is wonderful.
Harry Everett Smith
Harry Everett Smith was a filmmaker, painter, and a self-taught anthropologist. However, at least for me, he was a collector. Apart from the paper airplane collection Smith was also an immense collector of out-of-print commercial 78 rpm recordings regarding American Folk Music. Furthermore, he has also collected string figures, paper airplanes, Seminole textiles, and Ukrainian Easter eggs.
Harry Everett Smith was originally from Portland, Oregon. He lived both in San Francisco in the forties and in the New York City from the fifties onward. Apart from his diverse collections, Smith had produced numerous films (several being experimental) and several recording projects the most important being the Anthology of American Folk Music. In this article the incredible paper airplanes are depicted. The result is impressive. Enjoy.