John Murphy’s Aeroplane, Bridgeport, Connecticut – 1911
Little information is known about this project.
In June of 1911 it was announced in the Norwich Bulletin that John Murphy, of 279 Brook Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut, was in the process of building an “aeroplane” at the factory of Topping & Kerr, at 44 Union Square.
The aircraft was described as “huge” and when completed would be capable of carrying four people. The number of occupants was significant because “aeroplanes” of this era generally carried only one or two persons.
The aircraft was said to contain a number of “unique features” all of which had been patented in the United States, and other countries where patient treaties are recognized. It was felt that the new aircraft, which was to be powered by two 75-horse-power engines, would beat existing records for speed, size, safety, and endurance.
Funding for the project was arranged by Congressman James H. McDermott of Chicago.
In 1911 there was a standing offer of $50,000 in prize money from newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst that would be given to the first aviator to make a transcontinental flight across America in less than thirty days from start to finish. It didn’t matter if the pilot flew from east to west, or west to east. Mr. Murphy hoped to use his aircraft to fly from New York to San Francisco to claim the money, which was a massive sum in 1911.
On July 16, 1911, Mr. Murphy brought sections of his Murphy-McDermott, Curtis style, aeroplane to what became known as the “Aeroplane Field” on Milford Turnpike in the town of Milford, Connecticut, for further testing and assembly. (Some parts had yet to be manufactured and delivered.) Numerous spectators made their way the area to watch. Several tents had been erected to house he and his assistants, and another to serve as a hangar. Although many showed up to see what was going on, no flight tests were made.
On August 12, 1911, it was announced that a large force of workmen would begin to assemble what was now termed the McDermott-Murphy Aeroplane at the aviation field in Milford. The public was welcome to come and observe and inspect the machine, and workmen were advised to answer any questions about the assembly process.
Instructions to get to the field were posted in the newspaper as follows: “…leave the trolley car at Beard’s Corner and take Beach Road. Signs point to the aviation field which is very easy to find.”
The outcome of Mr. Murphy’s project is unknown, but more research is needed. However, he wasn’t the first to make a transcontinental flight across America. That honor belongs to Carlbraith Perry Rodgers, who made the trip from September 17, 1911, to November 5, 1911.
Norwich Bulletin, “Big Aeroplane” – “Being Constructed In Bridgeport Backed By Unlimited Capital”, June 20, 1911, Page 4
The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Crowds Watch Aero tests In Milford”, July 17, 1911
The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Assembling Of Big Aeroplane Starts Monday”, August 12, 1911.
Wikipedia-Carlbraith Perry Rodgers