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Spotlight Tours: Additional Information

Fred Olds

Fred Olds was the father of this museum. As a journalist in the 1880s and 1890s, he wrote newspaper stories about North Carolina’s history. Olds asked readers to bring him their artifacts from the state’s past. He amassed nearly 300 objects that became the basis for the Hall of History (now the North Carolina Museum of History), which opened in 1902. For the next 32 years, Olds ran the museum. He visited every county in the state at least three times and collected almost 30,000 artifacts. Some of his prized items (such as the bottle belonging to Blackbeard) are probably not authentic. Others (such as the “box of rocks”) seem downright strange today. But Fred Olds collected many genuine historical treasures and interested thousands of people in the state’s history. His legacy lives on at the North Carolina Museum of History.

Bensen B-8M Gyro-Copter

Raleigh’s Igor Bensen invented the B-8M Gyro-Copter, a small one- or two-seat aircraft, in the early 1950s. Bensen came to the United States from his native Russia and in 1953 started Bensen Aircraft Corporation in Raleigh. Between 1957 and 1987, his company sold about 10,000 Gyro-Copters in kit form, to be put together at home. The B-8M on exhibit was assembled from a kit in 1973. Igor Bensen died in 2000.

Rogallo Hang Glider

While living on the Outer Banks, not far from the site of the Wright brothers’ first flight, NASA engineer Francis Rogallo developed the flexible wing, which gave birth to the modern hang glider. The “Rogallo Wing” earned him the title Father of Hang Gliding. Before his design, kite wings were rigid, heavy, expensive, and too dangerous to be used for recreational gliding. Rogallo, a California native, continued hang gliding until he was 80 years old. He never had an injury in the air, but once another hang glider crashed into him while he was on the ground. He died in 2009 at the age of 97.

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