All her life, Barbara Sellers gave much thought to flight.
“Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated with aviation,” she recalled. “I would just stare up at the airplanes flying over and wonder how they flew.”
It runs in the family.
Her grandfather, Matthew B. Sellers, was the inventor of the retractable landing gear in 1908 and took Kentucky’s first powered flight that year.
“I have never obtained a pilot’s license, as I am more interested in the mechanics behind how these planes fly,” she said. “I mean, can you imagine what my grandfather would think if he were to see the new 747 taking off with 252,000 pounds of thrust, with each of the four engines producing 63,000 pounds each?”
Sellers, who is the author of “A Moment in Time,” a book about her grandfather, and “My Mother’s Watercolors” which explores her mother’s work as an artist and her experience with colon cancer, has recently released the book “The Technical Writings of Matthew B. Sellers — Aviation Pioneer/Technical Editor Aeronautics Magazine 1908-1915,” which further explores her grandfather’s aviation career.
She said the book makes use of many of the artifacts about her grandfather that are now in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
“I, with the help of the Smithsonian, found 60 articles he wrote for this magazine,” she said. “They were poorly scanned and I was not allowed to photograph the originals, as they were in bad shape. I edited them as best as I could to put them in this book.”
Sellers said the book is very technical. “You would have to really be into aviation to understand it,” she said, noting she has learned as she wrote, particularly as she spent six years on her first book, which she said was missing the technical articles he wrote for Aeronautics Magazine.
“I have often been asked about his articles and finally decided to do the research to find them,” she said. “I have worked for the last year searching for all of them and with the help of the Smithsonian, I found all of them.”
She said seeing exhibits about her grandfather in the Smithsonian has been very emotional.
“I have been there many times and each time I find myself crying as I am standing by one of his engines,” she said. “Crying because I never knew him, and yet still feel he is with me all the time. I know he sees what I have accomplished in honor of him and is proud of me. I am always out there not just because of the Smithsonian, but both my parents are inurned at Arlington National Cemetery and it gives me a chance to visit their site at the Columbarium.”
Sellers said her employer, Grainger Industrial Supply, matched the profits of her last book 3 to 1 with proceeds going to charity. This book is different.
“This book is $20 and that is what it cost me to have it printed up here in Chicago per book,” she said.
“I had to do spiral bound for two reasons: it kept the cost down and it is easier to read. What was most important to me was to share with the public these wonderful articles he wrote without charging a lot for the book. So all I am getting out of this is pure satisfaction that I did this in memory of my grandfather.”
Sellers said she will donate several of the books to area organizations, including the Olive Hill Historical Society and the Aviation Museum of Kentucky.
Barbara Sellers will have a book signing for “The Technical Writings of Matthew B. Sellers — Aviation Pioneer/Technical Editor Aeronautics Magazine 1908-1915” from noon to 2 p.m. today at Larry Carroll’s Flashback Framing Gallery in Olive Hill and on Saturday at the office of Robin Webb before and after the Grayson Memory Days parade. For more information, visit matthewbsellers.com.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.