It was a quiet afternoon a few days ago. My phone rang and I heard a raspy voice of an elderly patron. I heard him passionately telling me a story that he was in his 90s, he is retired for many years, his hobby is building model planes, and someone at a Washington DC museum gave him my phone number … I could not understand him at all. I heard some words like “airplane … U of M … early 30s … Lanier” in the conversation.
I finally figured out what this was about when he gave me the spelling of the word “Vacuplane” for the third time. I searched our digital collections by the keyword and found a dozen or so historical images and several newspaper clippings on the subject right away. I knew the University of Miami had an aviation training program in the past, but I did not know our students even built airplanes. Please see the image above with a note “Aviation courses at UM began in 1929 and ended in 1931. During that time students in Aviation built the Lanier XL-3 Vacuplane. It flew.” (It looks amazing!)
I copied the pictures and some diagrams of the plane and mailed them to the patron. I spent more time than I normally do for the request, because I enjoyed looking this up for myself. I wonder if the patron will give me a picture of the model he is going to create.