Transportation Murals from the U.S. Capitol: Birth of Aviation

Birth of Aviation, Frieze of American History in the U.S. Capitol. Image – Architect of the Capitol


The U.S. Capitol has a number of murals and many feature aspects of transportation.  This mural depicts The Birth of Aviation. (See our earlier story on another mural, “Canal and Locks“.)

From the Architect of the Capitol:

The first flight at Kitty Hawk (December 17, 1903) is depicted, with Orville Wright in the Flyer, which has just left the ground, and Wilbur running alongside to steady the wing. In the background stand Leonardo da Vinci, Samuel Pierpont Langley, and Octave Chanute; each holds a model of his earlier design for a flying machine. An eagle with an olive branch in its talons emphasizes this flight as a great American achievement and closes this last scene.

The central east-west corridor is referred to as the Great Experiment Hall because it chronicles in 16 murals the legislative milestones of three centuries, from the signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1629 to the enactment of woman suffrage in 1920. Thirty-two vignettes complementing the historical scenes are painted at the sides of the murals. In the ceiling 16 medallion portraits are painted in chronological order, and quotations appear above the 16 doorways. The corridor was dedicated in 1982, not long before artist Allyn Cox’s death. Cliff Young, Cox’s assistant, then began to refine details of Cox’s sketches for the third corridor, but he died in 1986 before beginning to paint.