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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mr. Golightly’s Steam Riding Rocket, c1840s: Tigwissel Tuesdays #30

Above, The Flight of Intellect. Portrait of Mr. Golightly experimenting on Messrs Quick and Speeds’ new patent high pressure Steam Riding Rocket. By artist George Edward Madeley, and published by Charles Tilt, most sources estimate this cartoon to have originally been published circa 1830.

Some web sources, though — such as the blog site Voyages Extraordinaires, Scientific Romances in a Bygone Age, which is following its own path covering Victorian Science, similar to our own Tigwissel Tuesdays but not as concentrated on cartoons — propound that “Mr. Golightly” was an actual person, Charles Golightly. According to the afore-mentioned website (which, by the way, has color versions of the above and below cartoons), “In 1841, the English Mr. Golightly took out the patent for an aerial steam rocket, intended for personal aeronautic use.” If true, then obviously the usual “circa 1830″ date given for the above cartoon, is a decade too early.

However, I have serious doubts concerning the veracity of Charles Golightly having been real. While some people are named “Golightly”, the odds of someone by that name having patented a fantasy personal rocket in 1841, is highly unlikely. The name smacks of satire. Plus, my own guess at the date before I’d seen others’, was late 1820s to 1830s, based on what I’ve seen from that period. My own searches (limited to the incomplete resources of the internet) have not found any references to “Golightly” combined with “rocket”, other than cartoon references. None of the sites propounding that Charles Golightly was real, offer where that information came from. As we here at Tigwissel Tuesdays know, our own namesake character has been the subject of misinformation for decades, due to one person making an unsubstantiated statement, followed by a great many who, not bothering to do research themselves, simply repeated that misinformation, until it became a widely repeated “fact”.

But one of the biggest doubts, is raised by the British publication Picture Magazine, which reprinted the above cartoon in 1893, and from whose pages I scanned this image. Click on the image, to see what Picture Magazine had to say about it: “This is one of the innumerable skits which appeared at the time of the introduction of Railways, and is specially directed against Stephenson’s first locomotive, ‘The Rocket’.” Robert Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive was built in 1829.

Click on the above & below pictures, to view the cartoons in detail, and read their captions.

This image of a man riding a rocket, was copied numerous times by other cartoonists, some of whom acknowledged the original source. Each of the cartoons below, come from the Library of Congress website. Each of these, involve Mr. Golightly as a gold prospecter, using his rocket to race to the California gold fields, in the Gold Rush of 1849. Clicking on the titles of the titles of these cartoons, will take you to the Library of Congress site for that picture. Clicking on the pictures here, will enlarge them.

Below, Mr. Golightly, Bound to California. His words — difficult to make out even in the enlarged view, are, “I wish Jemima could see me now, goin through the Firmament like a streak of greased lightnin on a Telegraph wire; I guess she’d feel a sorter vexed that she didn’t pack up her fixins and go long — When I get to Californy I’ll let others do the diggins while I do the swappins!”

Above, close-up of Mr. Golightly, from the top left of the below 1849 broadsheet cartoon, The Way They Go To California, by artist Nathaniel Currier.

Below, from the Oakland Museum of California, we find another Nathaniel Currier broadsheet cartoon — Grand Patent India-Rubber Air Line Railway to California.

A group of “passengers” are shown, sitting upon a rubber band, which apparently stretches all the way from West to East Coast. While behind them, a worker chops at the East Coast end, to send the passengers on their way to California! In the distance, top left of the cartoon, we see Mr. Golightly making his own way to California.

Lead Passenger: “It looks awful foggy ahead, yet I think I see something shiney at the other end. Bless me he is cutting away. When it goes, I hope it won’t jerk my head off.”

Next Passenger: “If that chap don’t mind his eye, I’ll larn him.”

Third Passenger: “Hold on tight, he is going to cut…”

Fourth Passenger: “O Lord deliver us from evil!”

Sixth Passenger: “Och! Teddy darlint don’t ye feel quare to be sthraddlin a sthring?”

Fifth Passenger: “Faix an I do, Judy; but howld on tight as we’ll sthraddle the lumps of gould ferment the whole pack of thim.”

Seventh Passenger: “Who’s Afraid, I ain’t.”

Eight Passenger: “What a peeples! What a peeples!”

Worker, Cutting: “One, two, three, four and five, off they go all alive.”

The Museum of California website lists what the text along the bottom says.

Finally, after writing above, I found this posting about the Mr. Golightly cartoons, at, where author Ron Miller has not only posted three additional Golightly cartoons than we have here (plus some alternate hand-colored versions), but, raises further doubts about the questionable existence of a “Charles Golightly”. It frankly sounds to me that the 1841 British patent, was entered as a prank by someone familiar with the earliest cartoon versions.

Next week, more up-to-the century (or older) comic scientific developments, from Tigwissel Tuesdays!

Doug Wheeler


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2 Responses to “Mr. Golightly’s Steam Riding Rocket, c1840s: Tigwissel Tuesdays #30”

  1. Frank H. Winter Says:

    See my article, Frank H. Winter, “The Golightly Mystery,” Journal of the British Interplanetary Society—Pioneering Space, Vol. 34, April 1996, pp. 170-176

  2. Doug Says:


    I’m going to be doing a follow-up post on Golightly, as a few months after my first post on him, I happened across a reprinting of the “Flight of Intellect” cartoon, inside a dated American publication from the early 1830s, definitively shooting down those who had (hopefully) advocated Golightly was a real person, who filed patent in the 1840s.

    Your article of two decades ago, likely already shot it down, using the same piece of evidence, or something else.

    Is your article online somewhere? I would love to include a link pointing towards it, when I do my Golightly follow-up.

    Doug Wheeler

I.T.C.H is looking forward to your thoughts. Please, no flame. Thanks!