French exploration of the Sahara with early aircraft

[Algeria and Sahara]. [Photographs of French Air Force presence in North Africa].

Algeria, ca. 1917.

147 albumen and silver gelatin print photographs, mounted on loose cardstock (recto and verso). Some with inked captions in contemporary hand. Included is a typewritten military communication, also laid down on two sides of cardstock.


Over one hundred photographs of French exploration of the Sahara by airplane and automobile in the first decade of flight, set against the backdrop of WWI, the first years of aviation, the Kaocen revolt, and French colonization of Algeria.

Thirty-two aerial photographs show not only towns and oases of the M'zab region of Saharan Algeria such as El Guerrara and Melika, but likely the landmarks by which early pilots were learning to navigate in vast tracts of desert; other photographs feature the Farman F.41 biplane, briefly in use in French North Africa in 1917. The goal to traverse the Sahara was not without dangers: two disasters appear in the record. One is a plane crash, shown in four photographs of a group of men inspecting the wreckage of a downed plane, possibly one of the Farman F.41s, though its state makes identification difficult. The second involves an altercation with local Tuareg people, with whom the French were at war at the time, in the midst of the larger conflict of WWI. The skirmish is described in a typed military communique. Addressed from the Gouvernement General de l'Algerie, 19th Corps d'Armee, Territoire du Sud, Territoire des Oasis, it reads: "Le commandant Militaire fait part aux Troupes du Territoire de la mort glorieuse due Personnel de l'Aviation Saharienne parti de Ouargla en reconnaissance automobile sure In-Salah le 27 Janvier [...] A leur arrivée dans les gorges d'Ain-Guettara; le Ier Février, les deux automobiles sont tombées dans une embuscade tendue par un rezzou de 80 Touaregs dissidents. Après une lutte héroique et après avoir épuisé toutes ses munitions, la petite troupe a été anéantie. Ce sont les premières victimes de la pénétration automobile et aérienne au Sahara [...] L'Escadrille Saharienne nouse aidera un jour à les venger".

Altogether, the collection provides a unique window into a series of historical moments: early aviation, exploration of the Sahara, French colonialism in Algeria, the Tuareg resistance, and the First World War.

A touch of wear, otherwise well preserved.

Stock Code: BN#60750 Tags: , , , ,