Steppes Hill Farm Antiques Newsletter #99 - November 2019

Farman III Biplane Silver Pin Cushion

The Farman III, aircraft designed, built, and first flown by the French aviator Henri Farman in 1909.

In the early spring of 1909, Farman, the son of English parents living in France, ordered a new airplane from the French aeronautical pioneer Gabriel Voisin. Having earned enormous fame by completing the first circular flight of 1 km (0.6 mile) and the first cross-country flight in an earlier Voisin machine (Voisin-Farman I), Farman specified his own modifications on the new aircraft. For reasons that are unclear, Voisin sold the finished machine ordered by Farman to the English aviator J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon. Farman, together with his brother Maurice Farman, responded by building an improved aircraft for himself.

Having recognized the critical importance of lateral control as a result of his observation of the Wright brothers, Farman rejected the Voisin reliance on inherent lateral stability in favour of “down-only” ailerons mounted on the trailing edge of the wings. Three Farman III aircraft flew during the Reims Competition (Aug. 22–29, 1909), the first organized international air competition. Flying the original airplane of this type, Farman won the Grand Prix of the meet with a flight of 180 km (112 miles) in just over 3 hours; the Prix des Passagers, for a flight with the pilot and two passengers; and second place in the altitude competition. Reims marked the beginning of a distinguished career for the aircraft. For the two years after this competition, the Farman III was the most sought-after biplane in the world.

Henry Farman's first aircraft had been bought from the Voisin brothers in 1907. Soon after his first flights Farman began to modify and improve the design of the aircraft, which was known as either the Farman I or Voisin-Farman I. During 1908 Farman re-covered the aircraft with 'Continental' rubberized fabric and added the side-curtains, and it was re-designated the Farman I-bis. Following the Wilbur-Wright piloted flying demonstrations at Le Mans in August 1908, Farman fitted ailerons to the aircraft.

The Voisin brothers built another aircraft, to be called the Farman II, incorporating refinements of the design to Farman's specification. Voisin later sold this aircraft to J.T.C.Moore-Brabazon. Brabazon subsequently exported the aircraft to England, where it became known as the Bird of Passage. This episode angered Farman, and caused him to sever his association with Voisin in early 1909 and start aircraft construction for himself.

The Farman III was, like the Voisin, an equal-span pusher biplane with a single forward elevator and biplane tail surfaces carried on booms. Farman's design eliminated the covered nacelle for the pilot which also carried the elevator in the Voisin: instead the elevator was mounted on two pairs of converging booms. Lateral control was effected by ailerons on both upper and lower wings. The undercarriage also differed considerably, replacing the pair of wheels with a pair of skids each carrying a pair of wheels sprung using bungee cord and restrained by radius rods.

As first flown in April 1909 the aircraft had vertical fixed surfaces carrying twin rudders on their trailing edges and very broad-chord ailerons. The airframe was made of wood, mainly ash, with members joined using aluminium sockets. Wing and tail surfaces were covered with a single fabric surface, with the ribs and two spars enclosed in pockets. The fixed vertical surfaces had been removed and the ailerons replaced with smaller ones by the time the aircraft appeared at Reims in August. The original engine was a 50 hp (37 kW) 4-cylinder inline water-cooled Vivinus. Farman replaced the engine with the new and more reliable 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome Omega rotary engine while the aircraft was at the Grande Semaine d'Aviation at Reims, and the new engine's reliability contributed towards his success there. The aircraft had been entered with the Vivinus engine, and the last-minute engine replacement caused some of his competitors to try to get him disqualified. Production aircraft were fitted with a variety of engines, including the Gnome and the E.N.V. water-cooled V-8 engine. In 1910 the design was modified by adding an elevator to the upper tailplane surface.

The Farman III had enormous influence on European aircraft design, especially in England. Drawings and details of the aircraft were published in England by Flight, and it was so widely imitated that its layout became referred to as the "Farman Type". Among these aircraft are the Bristol Boxkite, the Short S.27 and the Howard Wright 1910 Biplane. The Bristol aircraft was so similar to Farman's design that he considered legal action.

Farman was rewarded by commercial success, and many examples of the type were sold.

Featured Item

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me............

"Five Gold Rings!"

A modern cased silver gilt Surprise Christmas Box containing five "Gold" Rings. One from a series of 12 Boxes designed and made by Stuart Devlin as a limited edition of 100 pieces between the years 1970-1981. Each box representing a gift from the famous song/carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas". London 1974. No 44. Complete with original box and certificate.

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Rare Victorian Novelty Silver Fan Vinaigrette Fine George III Fully Hallmarked 18 carat Gold Vinaigrette Pair Mid 18th Century Silver Wine Labels - Cyder & Seiges Edwardian Novelty Silver Rhinoceros Pin Cushion
Large Victorian Silver Prince of Wales's Hospital Fund Stamp Vesta Case Early 20th Century 18 carat Gold Propelling Pencil set with diamonds and a cabochon ruby Victorian Parcel Gilt Silver Aesthetic Engraved Scent Bottle - Kate Greenaway Victorian Silver & Enamel Vesta Case - Clare College Cambridge

Once again I am pleased to be able to update the site this month with over 30 new items of stock and some highlights include; a rare Victorian Novelty Silver Fan Vinaigrette, a fine George III Fully Hallmarked 18 carat Gold Vinaigrette, a rare pair of Mid 18th Century Silver Wine Labels for Cyder & Seiges, an extremely rare Edwardian Novelty Silver Rhinoceros Pin Cushion, a large Victorian Silver Prince of Wales's Hospital Fund Stamp Vesta Case, a fine early 20th Century 18 carat Gold Propelling Pencil set with diamonds and a cabochon ruby by Tiffany & Co, a good Victorian Parcel Gilt Silver Aesthetic Engraved Scent Bottle and a Victorian Silver & Enamel Vesta Case depicting the Coat of Arms of Clare College Cambridge.


I do hope that you will find this Newsletter informative and helpful and will allow us send it to you on a regular basis. I would welcome any feedback you may have, both positive and negative.

David W.A. Buck.
Steppes Hill Farm Antiques


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