The print mocks the protagonist’s faith in the new technology of steam-powered transport. It satirizes new steam-powered railroads and carriages which moved at speeds that seemed either exciting or foolishly dangerous to people used to horse-drawn carriages. The idea of riding these vehicles is mocked as a “flight of intellect,” as preposterous as flying through the air on a motorized vehicle. The potential for a boiler explosion in the early steam-powered vehicles also gave some observers pause, alluded to in the labels on the rocket in this print stating “Warranted not to burst” and “Quick & Speed’s Safety Patent.”
This particular version of The Flight of Intellect was published in Philadelphia and is likely based on the first version lithographed in London around 1830 by George Edward Madeley and published by Charles Tilt. This American version is almost identical to the Madeley and Tilt one in Yale University’s Lewis Walpole Library, with a slightly different face, the addition of the cigarette, and more smoke and steam emitted by the rocket in the American version. The image of Mr. Golightly riding his rocket must have been popular, because it was redrawn and republished in variations by American and German publishers. Indeed, Donnely also published a related print of Mr. Golightly laden with supplies and heading west for the California Gold Rush, one of which is in the collection of the Library of Congress. That is the only other Donnely print we have been able to find reference to in a public collection and we have found no other example of the Donnely version of The Flight of Intellect.
Subtitle, lower margin: Portrait of Mr. Golightly experimenting on M’rss Quicks ‘n Speeds new patent high pressure Steam Riding Rocket.
Full publication information: “A. Donnely No. 9 Walnut Street Phiad’a Publisher.”
“Mr. Golightly, Bound to California.” Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96515939/ (25 July 2018).
“The flight of intellect [graphic].” Yale University Library Digital Collections. http://hdl.handle.net/10079/digcoll/975492 (25 July 2018).
Wutz, Michael. “Industrialized Consciousness.” Weber State University. http://faculty.weber.edu/mwutz/Toolbox/TTT_IndustrializedConsciousness.htm (25 July 2018).