Charles B. Whittlesey’s Airship – 1908

Charles B. Whittlesey’s Airship – 1908

 

     In or about August of 1908, Charles B. Whittlesey Jr., Age 9, of Hartford, Connecticut, saw plans for building a dirigible airship in a Sunday newspaper.  The plans didn’t seem too complicated, so he brought the matter to his father, Charles Sr., who was superintendent of the Hartford Rubber Works.  Mr. Whittlesey liked the idea of building a scale-model airship, and figured it would be good publicity for the rubber company. 

     After enlisting the help of several workers, construction was begun in a vacant area of the factory.  The finished airship had a cigar shaped gas bag that was eight-and-a-half feet long, and eighteen inches in diameter, made of “Indian Mull” and covered with rubber cement.  It could hold fourteen cubic feet of gas. 

     A framework was suspended beneath the gas-bag which held a small battery operated “Rex” motor that drove a four inch wide, three-blade wooden propeller 300 revolutions per minute.         

     The entire airship weighed slightly less than four pounds.

     When completed, the airship was named the “Hartford 1”. 

     Initial testing was done in November of 1908, and several successful flights were made in the back lot of the factory.  The gas bag wasn’t large enough to lift the ship to any great height, and the ship lacked a rudder, but Mr. Whittlesey could see the potential and planned to make improvements on the initial design.   

     The Hartford 1 was presented to Charles Jr. on his birthday, November 24, 1908. 

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, “The First Airship Made In Hartford”, November 24, 1908.       

The Aerial Construction Company Of Hartford – 1911

The Aerial Construction Company Of Hartford – 1911

     The Aerial Construction Company of Hartford, Connecticut, was established in September of 1911 for the purpose of building a commercial airship of German design that could carry passengers.  The business office was located at 212 Asylum Street, Room 10, in Hartford.

     The company started with $50,000 in capital.

     The officers of the company were listed as: President, F. W. Dart; Vice-President, F. W. Stickle; Treasurer, F. C. Billings; Secretary, H. Franklin Wells; managing Director, Joseph K. Kopacka, all of Hartford.

     The company’s Chief Engineer was listed as John Twardus of Germany, who was known for his work in aeronautics.   

     The company announced plans to begin construction of its first airship, to be named “The Hartford Flyer”, as soon as possible.  The Hartford Flyer  would have a 135 foot long cigar-shaped gas-bag with a car situated underneath capable of carrying seven passengers and a pilot. The ship would be powered by a 75 h.p. motor capable of driving it through the air at forty to fifty miles per hour.

     It is unknown if this airship was completed.  

     Source:

     Hartford Courant, “A New Commercial Airship”, September 19, 1911

Harvard University Aeronautical Society – Harvard 1

Harvard University Aeronautical Society – Harvard 1

Vintage postcard view of a

Curtiss Airplane

      The Harvard University Aeronautical Society was established in November of 1909 with 250 charter members.  In 1910 the society constructed its own airplane, a Curtiss style biplane called the “Harvard 1”.  It was the first airplane to be owned by any college or university in America.  

     The following newspaper articles relate to the “Harvard 1”  

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     The following newspaper article appeared in The Caucasian, (Shreveport, La.), on January 25, 1910.   

     HARVARD TO BUILD AN AEROPLANE

     All the materials and accessories necessary to the construction of a first class, full size aeroplane have been ordered by the Harvard University Aeronautical Society.  J. V. Martin, director of the organization, has been authorized to make such purchases as he may deem necessary to build a two passenger biplane.  Plans of the machine have already been completed.  When it comes time to manufacture the various parts needed in the construction of the aeroplane the work will be done by undergraduates in the Harvard engineering and scientific departments, and the assembling of the machine will also be under their charge.    

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     By June of 1910 the Harvard 1 was ready for testing.  The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Bridgeport, Ct.), on June 14, 1910.

HARVARD’S AEROPLANE HAS TRIAL FLIGHT ON SOLDIERS FIELD TODAY

     Boston, June 14 – Harvard’s new aeroplane, the first flying machine owned by any college in America, went for the first time under its own power in a series of engine testing feats on Soldiers Field today.  The Harvard I, as it has named, did not leave the ground, and the attempt to fly will not be made until tomorrow morning, when if the weather is propitious, the machine will have further tests.

     In the trials this morning the aeroplane simply covered the length of the field four times on the rubber-tired wheels with which it is equipped for starting purposes.  The engine proved able to drive the propeller at 1,200 revolutions per minute and to develop in the propeller a thrust of 190 pounds.

     The aeroplane developed speed quicker than an automobile and within 100 yards was going at about 20 miles per hour.

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     The following article appeared in The Washington Times, (Washington D.C.),  on July 11, 1910.

HARVARD AEROPLANE MAKES TWO FLIGHTS

     Boston, July 11 – Harvard aeroplane No. 1 made two fairly successful flights on Soldiers Field today.  In the first the machine traveled fifty yards.  Fifteen minutes later the machine went an estimated distance of 150 yards.  During the first flight an altitude of four or five feet was attained and in the second flight about eight feet.

     When descending from the second flight the machine landed on the left rear wheel, breaking it and disabling the machine for further use today.  It was operated by J. B. martin.  the Harvard Aeronautical Association has announced that it will build another machine of the passenger-carrying type.  

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     The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Bridgeport, Ct.), on July 12, 1910, page 4. 

     HARVARD AEROPLANE IS AGAIN SMASHED

     Boston, Mass., July 12 – Harvard aeronauts today are busily engaged patching up their aeroplane Harvard I which has again been smashed after twice getting off the ground in the first flights of its erratic career.  In the latest attempt the flier covered 100 yards at about five to eight feet from the ground.  The was preceded by a trip of 50 yards. 

     As the ship was making good speed towards the bleechers it collapsed, landing on the left rear wheel and straining a wire.  In a subsequently attempted flight, this wire snapped.  The Harvard Aeronautical Club proposes to begin working on a passenger ship within a week. The latter craft, together with the Harvard I, will compete in the aero meet this coming September at the stadium.

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     (The aero meet referred to was the famous Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910.)

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     The following article appeared in the New York Tribune, August 27, 1910, page 4.

WIND DAMAGES AEROPLANES

     Boston, Aug. 26 – The two flying machines now assembled on the aviation field at Atlantic, where, from September 3 to 13, is to be held the Harvard-Boston Aero Meet, were almost carried off to-day by a gale of wind during a heavy rainstorm. The machines – the Harvard I aeroplane and the Pfitzner monoplane – were stripped clear of the their covering, and the monoplane lost its wings.

     H. F. Kearney, an aviator, of Missouri, who is to fly the Pfitzner monoplane, had expected to make his first flight on the Atlantic field to-day, but the storm forced him to abandon the attempt. 

     Cromwell Dixon, in his dirigible airship, declares that on Tuesday he is going to try to fly from Boston to Plymouth, more than forty miles, landing as near Plymouth Rock as possible.  later he intends to retrace Paul revere’s historic ride through Middlesex County towns , to circle Bunker Hill Monument and to maneuver over the navy yard at Charlestown and over vessels in the harbor, dropping imitation bombs.

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     Other Sources:

     The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, “Harvard Men To Build Biplane”, February 26, 1910, page 6.

The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910

The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910

   

Vintage postcard view of a
Curtiss Airplane

     The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910 was the first international air-meet of its kind ever held in the United States, and became an aviation record setting event.  Some newspapers touted it as “the greatest meet of its kind ever held in America”, and it was, for it eclipsed the first international aviation meet that was held in Reims, France, the year before.  

     Although it was advertised as the “Harvard-Boston Aero Meet”, the event was actually held on a 500 acre tract of land on the Squantum Peninsula in the neighboring town of Quincy, but some newspapers reported the location as being in “Boston”, “Squantum”, “Atlantic”, or “Soldiers Field”.

     The air meet was originally scheduled to be held from September 3rd thru September 13, but was so successful that it was extended for two additional days.  Preparations had been made months before the start, with advertising and promotion, vendors, and the construction of grandstands capable of seating 150,000 people, and parking areas which could accommodate up to 10,000 automobiles.

     The event came about through the efforts of the Aero Club of New England and the Harvard Aeronautical Society of Harvard University.   

     The following newspaper article which appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Bridgeport, CT.), on May 24, 1910, indicates that during the early planning stages there was some disagreement between the various aero clubs across the country.     

     INSURGENTS WILL NOW HOLD RIVAL AVIATION MEETS

     New York, May 24. – When the board of governors of the Aero Club of America meets this afternoon to decide formally upon a place for holding the international aviation contest and to award the contract for financing the meet, it is not likely that representatives of the various aero clubs throughout America will be present following the split which has resulted in the foundation of a rival aero club.  The split will probably be followed by new complications in the patent suits of the Wright Brothers which were thought to have ended when the Aero Club of America recently recognized the validity of the Wrights patents and agreed that no aviation meet should be held in America unless it consed (newspaper word/spelling) by the Wright company.  

     The clubs which were formally affiliated with the Aero Club of America and which have now broken away to form the American Aeronautic Association are the aero organizations of Indianapolis, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Harvard, Illinois, Washington and Buffalo.  The Aero Club of America declares that the association of out-of-town clubs will in no way affect the international aviation meet to be held in October, plans for which will be completed this afternoon.

     The insurgents say they will in their turn hold such aviation meetings as they see fit.  This will surely be followed by legal complications for the Wright company would immediately seek to enjoin any meeting held without license.  If the courts uphold the validity of the Wright patents as some have done heretofore, opposition would be useless.

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     An unrelated dispute arose between two of America’s top aviators, Glenn Curtiss and Charles Hamilton, which was reported in the New York Tribune, on August 2, 1910, page 2.

HARVARD MEET IN DANGER   

Aero Club Can’t Settle Dispute Between Curtis And Hamilton

Both Men Prove Obstinate

Hamilton Still Without License, And Curtis Insists He Stick To Old Agreement

     Aviators have highly sensitive organisms, and when they fall out there is not much use in a third party trying to reconcile them.

     Curtiss and Hamilton have not smiled when speaking of each other for several weeks now.

     “You can’t fly at Harvard in any machine other than the one I make at Hammondsport,” says Curtiss to the bull-headed younger man.

     “I won’t fly anywhere unless in a machine not made by Curtiss,” replies Hamilton to one and all.

     And then the third party, the national council of the Aero Club of America, tried to calm the breezes and invent some means whereby both aviators could make money while utilizing the same sky.

     The council met at 3 p.m. yesterday and worked hard until 7 o’clock.  It was decided that that body could sanction only an aeromatic show that was open to any licensed and duly qualified aviator.

     The action settled the right of Hamilton to fly at Harvard, without of course, involving the council concerning the alleged contract existing between Curtiss and Hamilton, which Curtiss maintains, binds Hamilton to fly the former’s type of machine for a stated period.

     Although Hamilton has not yet been “licensed” by the Aero Club, no doubt is prevalent of his ability to qualify.  It would, in fact, be a serious undertaking for any aviator in America to duplicate the things that Hamilton  might well be expected to do while proving that he knew how to be a pilot.

     Curtiss was appointed by the club some time ago to “observe Mr. Hamilton for three flights,” so the officials might be guided in giving him a license.  Curtiss has requested that the club waive the triple observation and issue the license any way.

     All this then points to the probability that if Hamilton does not fly at the Harvard aeronautic meet, September 3 to 13, it will not be because he is short on qualification.

     But it does not lessen the strain on a lot of persons as to whether Curtiss and Hamilton will fly at Harvard together or separately, or whether Harvard will have any aeronautical meet.  The action of the council yesterday doesn’t help Curtiss or Hamilton to attain equilibrium.  It is said by Curtiss’s manager, J. S. Fanciulli, who is also secretary of the executive committee of the council, that Curtiss will not fly at Harvard if the aero club of that learned institution consents to Hamilton’s appearance in a machine not named for his principal.      

     Hamilton said last night after the conference that he would not go to Harvard or take any steps leading toward Harvard unless he was invited – he might add, urged.

     It is all most unsatisfactory and befuddled to many interested enthusiasts.

     Israel Ludlow was Hamilton’s attorney at the meeting yesterday.  Fanciulli was invited to retire temporarily as secretary, but was commended in a resolution later.

     It is said he will be retained by the council in that capacity, and will also manage the making of exhibition contracts for Curtiss.

     “I am at a loss to explain the action of the National Council of the Aero Club of America,” said President A. Lawrence Rotch of the Harvard Aeronautical Club, when told to-night at his summer home in Northeast Harbor, Me., of the council’s step in deciding to withhold sanction of the Harvard aviation meet in September unless the entry of Charles K. Hamilton is accepted.  

     President Rotch declined to say whether or not the meet would be held regardless of the official sanction, saying it was a matter for the directors to consider.

     Adams D. Claflin, manager of the meet, denied that any one had been barred from competing.  he added: “Hamilton can fly if he wants to.  I can assign no reason for the action of the national council.” 

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     Apparently all matters were settled for the aero meet took place as scheduled, and Charles Hamilton and Glenn Cutriss participated.        

     Initially balloons of all types were going to be allowed to participate in the aero meet, and plans were in the works for constructing a hydrogen plant, however, in mid-August it was announced that balloons would not be allowed so as not to detract from the airplane flying contests.  

Vintage postcard image of Boston Light

     The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet drew the world’s top airmen of the day.  One particular incentive was a $10,000 cash prize offered by the Boston Globe newspaper for the fastest flight by “any kind of flying machine from Soldiers Field to Boston Light” and back, without stopping.   The distance from the airfield to the light was reported to be a little more than 12 miles which meant an aircraft had to cover almost 25 miles.  This might seem mundane in today’s world, but aviation technology was still in its infancy in 1910, and a pilot had to be confident of his abilities and his machine to attempt such a “long distance” water crossing.  And besides the fame that would go to the winner, ten-thousand dollars was a fortune.   This contest was open to anyone, and contenders were welcome to try their best efforts each day of the meet 12 noon and 7 p.m.   Furthermore, a contestant would be allowed to fly the course as many times as they dared.         

Curtiss Airplane

     In addition to the Globe’s prize money, cash prizes totaling $50,000 were to be awarded to the winners of other contests which included “duration flights” to see who could stay in the air the longest; bomb dropping contests, where points would be scored for accuracy; “get away” contests, to see who take off in the shortest distance; and “accuracy in landing”, to see who could land closest to a designated spot on the field.  These contests were open to all types of mechanical aircraft.

     On August 20, 1910, the New York Tribune reported in part: “No aviation meet held in this country, and probably none yet held in the world, has had such a representative list of foremost aviators as is assured the Harvard-Boston Aero Meet according to the list of entrants to date, announced to-night.  The entry list is international and includes seventeen individual aviators and eleven types of air navigating machines.  The latter embrace the three principal standard types – the monoplane, biplane, and triplane.  It will be the first time the latter type has been exhibited in this country. ”    

      The entrants to date, with their respective types of airship, are as follows: 

     Walter Brookins and Arthur Johnstone, Wirght biplane. (This should read Ralph Johnstone, not Arhtur.)

     M. Didier Masson, Vendome aeroplane.

     A. V. Roe, Roe triplane. (Mr. Roe’s full name was Alliott Vernon Roe.)

     C. Graham-White, Farman biplane and Bleriot monoplane.

     William M. Hillard, Herring-Burgess biplane.  

     J. M. Allias, Harvard biplane.

     Dr. W. W. Christmas, Christmas biplane. ( Full name William W. Christmas, 1865-1960)

     John G. Stratton, Burgess-Curtiss aeroplane.

     Horace F. Kearney, Pfitzner aeroplane

     Greeley S. Curtiss, Bleriot monoplane,

     Ernest P. Lincoln, Clifford B. Harmon, Captain Thomas Baldwin and Jacques De Lesseps.

     For the purposes of exhibition only, Cromwell Dixon also will appear in a dirigible balloon.

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A vintage postcard view of a Bleriot monoplane.

     As the aviators arrived in Boston in preparation for the meet, their aircraft were secured in tents at the airfield.  On August 26 disaster struck for two of them when a severe storm came through the area and severely damaged two planes; the Harvard I, belonging to the Harvard Aero Club, and the Pfitzner monoplane owned by Horace Kearney.  Both aircraft had their canvas skins shredded and the wings from Kearney’s monoplane were pulled away. 

     Meanwhile, aeronaut Cromwell Dixon, stated to the press that on Tuesday, August 30, he planned to fly his dirigible airship from Boston to Plymouth, Massachusetts, a distance of more than forty miles, and landing as close to  Plymouth Rock as possible.  He then planned to retrace Paul Revere’s historic ride via the air, and circle the Bunker Hill Monument before continuing out over Boston Harbor where he would drop imitation bombs on naval vessels. 

     Cromwell Dixon was born July 9, 1892, and by the age of 14 had built his own airship.  In September of 1910, at 18,  he was one of America’s youngest aviators.  He died in an aviation accident on October 2, 1911, in Spokane, Washington.  

Souvenir Postcard View of A. V. Roe’s Triplane

     One aircraft that drew a great deal of attention was a tri-plane belonging to aviator A. V. Roe, (Alliott V. Roe, 1877-1958), which was the first of its kind seen in America. It was reported that his competitors were anxious to see how it would perform against their biplanes and monoplanes. 

     It also was announced that there would be a woman aviator taking part in the meet, 21-year-old Miss Emily T. Willard, of Melrose, Massachusetts, sister of well known aviator Charles F. Willard, hailed by the press to be one of America’s most daring aviators. 

     By September 1st the number of aviators registered to compete in the aero meet had risen to twenty-two.  The following in an excerpt of an article that appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune, (Utah), on September 2, 1910, page 10.       

    “ When the contest committee closed the entries at noon, twenty-two aviators and thirteen different makes of aeroplanes had been registered.  Among the latest to file their applications were Stanley Y. Beach, who will be seen in a Bleriot equipped with a gyroscope for securing stability – the first of its kind: H. Rietmann, with a helicopter, also the only one of its kind: H. A. Connors, with a Connors biplane; Augustus Post, with a Curtiss biplane, and John W. Wilson, who will be seen in a unique man-propelled monoplane.”          

A Vintage Souvenir Postcard of
Claude Grahame-White’s Bleriot monoplane

     The evening before the aero meet was to begin, English aviator Claude Grahame-White made a practice flight around the airfield.  The following morning, people began to gather at the field before sunrise to be sure they obtained prime viewing locations.  Not wanting to disappoint the early risers, Grahame-White started his aircraft and took off to make a six mile flight circling the field, thus unofficially opening the meet.       

      The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Conn.), reported in part; “Grahame-White left the ground within five minutes after his machine was run out of the tent which had sheltered it.  He flew three times around the course marked out on the field.  The first lap was made in 2:16.75 official time.  The second lap was completed in 2:17.75.”

     The flight was made at an average height of between 150 and 200 feet, and took a total time of 7 minutes and 1.60 seconds.        

     Later in the day the first accident occurred when Clifford B. Harmon’s biplane sank into soft dirt during take-off.  Some of the wet dirt stuck to the wheels of the plane, upsetting the aircraft’s aerodynamics and causing it to crash into a marsh from an altitude of forty feet.  Although the plane was damaged, Harmon was not hurt.    

     About noon time a drizzling rain began to fall sending some of the crowds home, but those that chose to remain got to see Claude Grahame-White make another three-lap flight around the field.  The five and a quarter mile flight was accomplished in 6 minutes and 5 seconds, which was the best speed of the day.        

     At 6:30 p.m., Glenn H. Curtiss made some practice flights in his airplane.

    Among the spectators on opening day was John Trowbridge, the Cambridge, Massachusetts author who in 1869 penned the famous poem, “Darius Green and His Flying Machine”.  It was reported that despite his writings, he’d never seen a flying machine, and took great interest in the aircraft.        

    On September 4, Claude Grahame-White took first place in all five classes.  He also gave several exhibition flights where he performed hazardous aerobatics.  On one flight he carried as a passenger a Miss Campbell of New York.  With Miss Campbell aboard he circled the field twice and then performed a 200 foot aerial slide pulling out a mere ten feet from the ground before coming down to land.     

     It was reported that the best time of the day (around the airfield) was made by Grahame -White.  This time he covered 5 and 1/4 miles in six minutes, one second with a Bleriot airplane.

     White’s distance record of the day was 45 miles 617 feet, on which trip he was in the air for one hour and 15 minutes, 7 seconds.

     On that same day, Charles F. Willard took Miss Eleanor Ladd of Boston on a flight.  She worked for a Boston newspaper, and was reportedly the first newspaper women in America to fly in an airplane.

     Apparently it wasn’t until September 7th, five days into the meet, that any of the airmen attempted to win the coveted $10,000 cash prize offered by the Boston Globe.  The following details were reported in the Burlington Weekly Free Press, (Vermont), on September 8th. 

     “On September 7th Claude Grahame White became the first competitor to try for the Boston Globe’s 10,000 prize money by flying to Boston Light and back in his Belriot monoplane.  The established course required two trips to the light and back as well as some twists and turns which brought the total miles to be covered to 33.  Grahame-White accomplished this in 40 minutes 1 and 3/5 seconds which set the mark for all other contestants to beat.    

     While passing over the water toward the light at an altitude of 1,000 feet, three U.S. Navy torpedo boats, Stringham, MacDonough, and Bailey, gave chase, but couldn’t keep up with the speed of the airplane.   

     Meanwhile Glenn Curtiss flew his aircraft over a one-and-three-quarter-mile course in six minutes and 29 3/5 seconds.  He also beat Graham-White’s score in the “landing accuracy” event when he came down within 68 feet 10 inches of the mark, besting his rival by 100 feet.” 

Claude Grahame-White’s Curtiss Airplane

     On September 8th, Alliott V. Roe took off in his triplane and circled the field once before his aircraft was hit by a strong gust of wind and crashed near the grandstand from an altitude of about twenty-five feet.  As he was assisted from the wreckage he declared that he wasn’t seriously hurt, but the triplane had to be removed in sections.

     William Hillard then made a similar flight circling the field at about thirty-five feet in the air without incident.

     Ralph Johnstone, Walter Brookins, and Claude Grahame-White, competed for the altitude record. 

     Wilbur Wright announced that his aircraft would not be participating in the speed contests, stating that his airplanes were built more for better fuel economy,  carrying ability, and durability.    

     Augustus Post made several short flights in his Curtiss biplane.

     On September 9, Claude Grahame-White was piloting his Farman biplane when he crashed while attempting to land, crumpling the right wing and damaging the chassis.  Grahame-White, however, was not hurt.  The accident was due to the aircraft being caught in a strong gust of wind.

     The accident occurred at the end of a duration flight contest.  Ralph Johnstone was forced to land during the same contest when the motor of his Wright biplane began to misfire.  At the time Grahame-White had his accident, he had exceeded Johnstone’s time by four minutes, and would have stayed up longer, but was signaled to land by Mr. McDonald, his manager, due to the wind building up.    

     Grahame-White had flown 33 miles and 1,420 feet, compared to Johnstone’s 28 miles, 4,557 feet.     

     Grahame-White already held the world’s record for distance required for take-offs;  20 feet 9 inches.  Prior to the accident he’d tried to beat his own record but was unsuccessful.  He did, however, manage a low score of 26 feet 11 inches which put him in first place for that competition at the aero meet.    

     September 9th was also Governor’s Day at the meet, and Massachusetts Governor Eben S. Draper was on hand with several of his staff.

     Apparently contestants were given points based on their performance in various contests. By the end of the day the following rankings were reported: 

     Bomb Dropping Contest: Claude Grahame-White, 75 points; Glenn H. Curtiss, 25, Charles F. Willard, 13.    

     The standing of the contestants in the other four events in which points were awarded were as follows:  Claude Grahame-White, 30.5 points; Ralph Johnstone, 17; Walter Brookins, 10: Charles F. Willard, 7: Glenn H. Curtiss, 6.5.

     On September 10, Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss competed in the bomb dropping contest by dropping bombs at a mock-up of a battleship.  Curtiss flew his new biplane dubbed “The Flying Fish”.

     Walter Brookins attempted to best his own altitude record of 6,160 feet but was unable to do so.  He did however set a record for airplanes equipped with skids instead of wheels when he landed his biplane 12 feet 1 inch from a given point on the ground in the accuracy contest.   

     Ralph Johnstone set a new duration record by remaining in the air two hours, three minutes, and 5.25 seconds, covering 62 miles and 3,756 feet.  

     On September 12th it was reported that one world’s record and two American records had been broken.  Ralph Johnson set two new records, one in accuracy landing, and the other in distance.  He remained airborne for 3 hours, 4 minutes, and 44 seconds, which broke Clifford Harmon’s record of 1 hour and 58 minutes.  Johnstone’s flight covered 97 miles and 4,466 feet, breaking Harmon’s old record of 90 miles.  Upon landing Johnstone came down almost on top of the designated mark on the field setting a new world’s record.   

     Claude Grahame-White flew twice to Boston Light in his Belroit monoplane covering a distance of 33 miles in 34 minutes.

     What was mentioned as “a feature of slightly less interest” involved a flight made by Charles F. Willard who took along army lieutenant Jacob E. Finkel, a rifle sharpshooter.  As Willard circled the airfield, Finkel fired shots from the airplane at targets on the ground, hitting them more often than not.  The “experiment” was considered “highly satisfactory”.        

     On the final day of the meet, it was determined that the overall champion was Claude Grahame-White.  He’d not only won the $10,000 crash prize from the Boston Globe, but also won first place in four other events, and second place in three others, earning an additional $22,000 dollars.   

     As to Grahame-White’s victory,  the Norwich Bulletin reported in part: (that Glenn Curtis had) “secured a fast motor for his Hudson river flier too late to contest White’s rights to the Globe $10,000 prize, has challenged the Englishman to a match race, the latter to use the Bleriot with which he won the prize.” 

     Ralph Johnston won three first prizes and one second prize for at total of $5,000 in winnings.  Johnston would be killed a few weeks later in a plane crash in Denver, Colorado, on November 17, 1910.  

     Walter Brookins won two first place prizes and one second, earning himself $4,250.

     Glenn Curtiss won the second place prize for speed and took home $2,000.

     Charles Willard won $50 for second place in take-offs. 

     Clifford Harmon of New York reportedly won “all the amateur prizes” but there was no mention of what the amounted to in prize money.

    Although regular prize competition for all events had been closed on the last day, the meet had been so popular that it was decided to allow it to continue for an additional two days. 

     The following day, September 14, a bomb dropping contest from an altitude of 1,800 feet was held, and trophy’s were awarded the winners.

     Two more Boston aero meets were held at the same airfield, one in 1911, and the other in 1912. It was at the 1912 aero meet that well known aviator Harriet Quimby, and William Willard, the event’s organizer, were killed.    

     Sources:

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Conn.) “Insurgents Will Now Hold Rival Aviation Meets”, May 24, 1910, page 8

     New York Tribune, “Harvard Meet In Danger”, August 2, 1910, page 2.

     Vermont Phoenix, “Globes $10,000 Prize”, August 5, 1910, page 3.

     New York Tribune, “No Balloons At Aero Meet”, August 18, 1910, page 3.

     New York Tribune, “Leading Aviators Enter”, August 20, 1910, page 3.

     New York Tribune, “Wind damages Aeroplanes”, August 27, 1910, page 4.

     The Calumet News, (Calumet, Mich.), “Big Aviation Meet In Boston”, September 1, 1910.

     The Salt Lake Tribune, (Utah), “Twenty-two Aviators In Harvard-Boston Meet”, September 2, 1910, page 10.

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Conn.) , “English Aviator Makes Six Mile Flight In Boston”, September 3, 1910, page 2.

     Los Angeles Herald, “Big Flock Of Men-Birds Flies At Harvard Field”, September 4, 1910.

     The Bemidji Pioneer, (Minn.) “Aeroplane Cuts Capers”, September 6, 1910.

     The Washington Times, (Wash. D.C.), “Current Tumbles Amateur Aviator”, September 8, 1910, Last Edition, page 4.

     Burlington Weekly Free Press, “English Airman Flies To Light”, September 8, 1910, page 12.

     The Topeka State Journal, (Kansas), “Wrecks his Machine”, September 8, 1910, page 3.  

     New York Tribune, “Smash At Aero Meet”, September 10, 1910, page 4.

     Los Angeles Herald, “Big Aeroplane At Boston Falls In A Heap On Aviation Field”, September 10, 1910, page 13.

     New York Tribune, “New Endurance Record”, September 11, 1910, page 7.

     Los Angeles Herald, “Johnstone Sets Three New Records”, September 13, 1910, page 6.

     Palestine Daily Herald, (Palestine, TX.), “Records Crumble”, September 13, 1910.   

     San Francisco Call, “English Aviator Wins Blue Ribbon”, September 14, 1910, page 1.

     Norwich Bulletin, (Conn.) “Continue For Two Days”, September 14, 1910.

Off Revere Beach, MA – June 6, 1907

Off Revere Beach, Massachusetts – June 6, 1907  

     The following article appeared in The Sun, a now defunct New York newspaper, on June 7, 1907.  It tells of a flight over Boston made by famous aeronaut Lincoln Beachey that ended with his unintentional landing in the water one mile off shore from Revere Beach.  Beachey’s “flying machine” was constructed with a motor and a balloon, and was not an airplane.   

SAILS THE AIR OVER BOSTON

     Aeronaut Beachey Finally Is Fished Out Of The Water Off Revere Beach

     Boston, June 6, – After an exciting trip over greater Boston, Lincoln Beachey of San Francisco dropped with is flying machine into the water between Nahant and revere Beach late this afternoon and was rescued by four boats which had been chasing his disabled air craft for half an hour.

     He made his flight from an amusement place at Revere Beach to Boston Common and back, as he had promised, but many times on the way he was in danger.  Twice his motor broke down; once shortly after he had crossed the Mystic River, and again after he had got back into midair after a descent at Winthrop for temporary repairs.

     The second time he was carried several miles in the direction of Boston Light.  Then he got temporary control of the machine again and sailed over Nahant, and finally, a mile off Revere Beach, he dropped into the water.  The boats which had started after him when he was seen wabbling in the air above Winthrop soon reached him and fifteen minutes later had him and his airship on shore.

     On the way to the Commons he circled his airship twice around the State dome and dropped a message for Gov. Guild.  The Governor and most of the legislators crowded the balconies and sidewalks about the State House as the airship sailed over them.  There were 50,000 persons on the Common when the airship descended near the Soldiers Monument.        

Herring-Burgess Flying Fish Aeroplane – 1910

Herring – Burgess “Flying Fish” Aeroplane – 1910

     The Herring-Burgess company produced airplanes in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the early 1900s.  Their Flying Fish aircraft was reported to be the first airplane to fly in New England.  It was known for the eight “fins” attached to the upper wing for better stability. 

     Some sources say the Flying Fish made its maiden flight on April 17, 1910, but an article which appeared in the New York Tribune indicates its first flight took place weeks earlier on March 1st.  (See the following newspaper articles below.)  

*****

New Style Flier

Herring and Burgess Have a Successful Trial at Marblehead

     Boston, March 1 – A. M. Herring and W. Starling Burgess launched today at Marblehead a new heavier-than-air flying machine.  Its first trip was said to be successful.

     It is an aeroplane, frankly intended to avoid the Wright patents. Instead of the balancing planes, over which the Wrights are suing, this machine has a leg of mutton arrangement on top of the plane.  This is made to work automatically so that as the machine swerves, the fin will be buoyed up by the air and bring the mechanism back to a lateral balance.

     New York Tribune, March 2, 1910, page 2 

********

Aeroplane Makes Flights

     Newburyport, Mass., April 17, – Over the marshes of Plum Island the Herring-Burgess aeroplane “Flying Fish”, made three successful flights to-day.  Arthur M. Herring of Hammondsport, N. Y. piloted the machine in the first flight.  After alighting easily at the river edge after a 250-yeards run, the craft was turned over to W. Sterling Burgess, who made two short flights.

     The Salt Lake Tribune, (Utah), April 18, 1910, page 7  

********

Fins Used To Maintain Equilibrium

      Marblehead, mass., May 21 – “I hope to flight through the air faster than any American has yet flown, including the Wright brothers,”  is the statement made by W. Starling Burgess, the millionaire yacht designer of this town who has been making flights with his partner, A. M. Herring, the former partner of Glenn Curtiss in their new bi-plane of their own design at Plum Island the past few days.  “I hope to travel a half mile in the air and by hour in this machine,”  says Mr. Burgess.  “Within a week I expect to  travel a half mile in the air and by the end of the month I expect to travel miles distance in the air at a stretch.”  

     Associated with Mr. Burgess and Mr. herring are Norman Prince, a well known young Boston millionaire, and Professor J. V. Martin, manager of the Harvard Aeronautical Society.  Mr. Martin has made flights in many French airships.

     The Herring-Burgess biplane is about the same size and somewhat like the Herring-Curtis machine, and much smaller than the Wright brothers machine.  One of the features of the machine is entirely different from any other machine and designed especially to avoid litigation with the Wrights.  To prevent it from tipping over it has eight overhead fins or sails, four near the center and two on each end.  They are shaped like a leg-o-mutton sail and are believed by Mr. Burgess to be a great improvement over all other devices to prevent tipping. Another feature is the use of skids or runners instead of wheels for making a rise into the air from the ground.  There are three of these, shaped like snow skids and have steel runners like an ordinary child’s sled. Mr. Burgess believes this to be a great improvement over the small wheel.  The machine complete weighs 408 pounds.  It is built of laminated spruce and is claimed to be stronger than any machine yet built.  It is 26 feet 8 inches wide and 29 feet long.  The control is by the right hand and right foot, and steering is done by a horizontal wheel with the left hand.  It has a 4-cylinder, 29 horsepower engine capable of developing 30-horsepower.

     The radiator is very light, being honeycombed.  Messrs Herring and Burgess have spend three years of experimenting with it.  The curves of the planes are different from the Herring – Curtiss machine and the angles of the wings steeper, with will allow the machine to rise earlier.  It will lift going at the rate of 26 miles an hour, while the Herring-Curtiss lifted at 37 miles an hour.  The wings are of strong silk, treated with celluloid and are airtight and gastight.  The skids allow a much more graceful landing than the wheel would.  As they slide along like skis, the jar will be broken.       

     “Of course,”  says Mr. Burgess, “the chief feature of this machine over all others of the series of fins overhead by which the operator can keep the machine from tipping.  These are an entirely new thing and are not used on any other machine.  I expect they will correct many of the present evils of flying.  We will make straight flights at first. We will not attempt any turns until later.”

     The machine is called the Flying Fish.  She is the first aeroplane to make any flights in New England.  

     The Daily Missoulian, (Montana), May 22, 1910

     The Flying Fish was later involved in three accidents during test flights at Plum Island, Massachusetts. The first occurred in late June, and the second about three weeks later on July 9, 1910, when Hungarian military aviator Lt. Alexander Pfitzner made a crash landing.  The plane was repaired, but crashed again on August 4, 1910, when William Bowman wrecked and was seriously injured. 

The Zodiac Dirigible Airship Company – 1910

The Zodiac Dirigible Airship Company – 1910 

 

Early c. 1910 postcard view of a Zodiac airship manufactured in France.

     The Zodiac Dirigible Airship Company was a business venture started by Rhode Island businessman Stuart Davis in 1910.  The idea was to establish an airship ferry service between Hazard’s Beach in Newport and Scarborough Beach in Narragansett, a distance of about eleven miles.  The city of Newport is located on the east side of Narragansett Bay, and the town of Narragansett is on the western shore.  In the early 1900s the only way to cross Narragansett Bay was by boat, for the Jamestown and Newport bridges did not exist.     

     The new airship company was incorporated to serve the needs of wealthy citizens who might wish to travel across Narragansett Bay by air rather than by boat.  The famous Narragansett Pier, located not far from Scarborough Beach, was a very popular resort area for the wealthy at that time, especially during the summer season.  Another popular destination was the now defunct Rocky Point Park, located on Narragansett Bay in Warwick, R.I.  It was also anticipated that excursions could be made to that destination as well.     

     The name Zodiac Dirigible Balloon Company was derived from the Zodiac balloons then being produced in France.  The Rhode Island company was incorporated in New York City.

     Mr. Davis announced his plans for an airship ferry service in June of 1910 which was exciting news for Rhode Island’s summer colonies.   On July 4th, Davis’s first Zodiac balloon arrived in New York from France aboard the steamship George Washington.  From there it was brought to Rhode Island to be assembled.  When completed, the airship would be 100 feet long, contain about 20,000 cubic feet of gas, and capable of carrying up to six passengers.  Being a dirigible meant that the balloon had no interior metal framework like a Zeppelin.  Therefore it would only fly on calm days. 

     The trip between Narragansett and Newport was estimated to take about an hour or less, and it was anticipated that the airship would make three or four trips per day.  While no rate fees had yet been established, it was reported that it would cost about five-hundred dollars to charter the aircraft for an entire afternoon – a great deal of money for the time.       

     Davis hoped that flight operations would begin by August, but in the meantime  preparations for housing the airship were being made at Scarborough where the company’s Rhode Island headquarters would be located.  The San Francisco Call reported on July 6th that the structure presently under construction would be 112 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 50 feet high.  When completed, it would reportedly be the first (commercial) airship station in America.  If successful, Davis’s venture would also be the first commercial airline in the country.  Plans for a second station in Newport were also underway.

     On July 31st, Davis’s airship, the Zodiac IV,  as it was now named, arrived in Narragansett to begin making test flights.  It was further reported that a second airship, the Zodiac III, was expected to arrive within the next seven to ten days and it too would begin test flights. Once the test flights were completed the airship(s) would begin passenger service. 

     Unfortunately, the test flights did not go well, and the whole venture was scrapped.   

     Sources:

      The Tacoma Times, (Wash.), “Airship Line Planned”, June 17, 1910 

     Daily capital Journal, (Salem, Ore.) “Flying Machine Service”, June 17, 1910

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Conn.), “Dirigible For Newport Class”, July 6, 1910 

     San Francisco Call, “Newport To Have Aerial Ferry Line”, July 6, 1910 

     Alexandria Gazette, (Alexandria, D.C.), “Dirigible Airship Line”, July 7, 1910 

     New York Tribune, “Newport’s Airship On Hand”, July 25, 1910

     The Times Dispatch, (Richmond, Va.) “Narragansett Has Airship”, August 1, 1910

     History Bytes: Airships In Newport, Newport Historical Society, R.I.

    

Charles Duryea’s Skycycle – 1893

Charles Duryea’s Skycycle – 1893

The Duryea "Skycycle" - 1893 Illustration - Phillipsburg Herald, April 13, 1893

The Duryea “Skycycle” – 1893

Illustration – Phillipsburg Herald, April 13, 1893

     Charles Edward Duryea (1861-1938) was an inventor in Springfield, Massachusetts, who was best known for building the first ever gasoline powered automobile -the Duryea – in 1898.  However, one of his lesser known inventions was his “Skycycle” – a human powered flying machine produced in 1893.

     The Skycycle consisted of a framework with canvas wings that measured about thirty feet from tip to tip.  A propeller mounted in the front was driven by a set of bicycle-type pedals operated by the pilot.  Steering was accomplished via a rudder mounted aft of the pilot, which could be turned by a set of handlebars.

     It was reported that the machine was “extremely simple” and “not costly to build”.  However, it is unknown if any of Duryea’s Skycycles were actually completed.

     Source:

     Phillipsburg Herald, (Philipsburg, Kansas), “The Skycycle”, “A Massachusetts Yankee Thinks He Can Soar Aloft”, April 13, 1893

A Plan To Make Bobsleds Fly – 1910

A Plan To Make Bobsleds Fly – 1910

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner on November 22, 1910.  (Williams College is in Williamstown, Massachusetts.)

    Would Make Bobsleds Fly

Williams Students Will Fix Aeroplanes To Sides Of Long Crafts

     Boston, Nov. 22 – Leo Stevens the aeronaut, is enthusiastic over a plan of H. P. Shearman, president of the Williams College Aeronautical Society, to attach wings to bobsleds and so teach students to fly.  

     There are some beautiful coasts several miles in length in the Berkshire Hills.  Mr. Shearman’s idea it to attach an aeroplane with flexible wings – a typical biplane minus the engine – to a bobsled, from which the planes can be controlled by the usual levers.

     “We shall take the sled to the top of a long hill and coast down,” said Shearman.  “Any one who has ever coasted in the Berkshires knows how fast we are likely to travel.  As soon as we are traveling about a mile a minute we shall tilt up the planes and the sled will leave the ground.  Then by manipulating the planes the sled can be kept a foot or so above the snow, just skimming the ground, until the bottom of the hill is reached.”

     “In this way the fellows in our society can learn how to handle the planes, and gain practical experience without undergoing the risk of operating a real aeroplane with an engine to propel it.”

Morok Aeroplane – Vermont State Fair – 1912

Morok Aeroplane – Vermont State Fair – 1912

The Bennington Evening Banner September 13, 1912

The Bennington Evening Banner

September 13, 1912

     In 1912 it was advertised in several Vermont newspapers that the “Morok Aeroplane”, flown by “Morok himself”, would appear at the Vermont State Fair in White River Junction, September 17 through the 20th.   

     “Morok” was Charles F. Morok, of 914 Eastern Parkway, New York City, also known as Lord Charles F. Morok, but this was only his professional name.  His was born Frank Van den Meersshe, or Meersche, or Merrsche, in Antwerp, Belgum, about 1877. (His name has been found to be spelled three different ways in newspapers and magazines.)

     Before entering the field of aviation in 1909, Mr. Morok was known as a dare-devil bicyclist and automobile stunt driver.

      In 1909 Mr. Morok reportedly flew over Rutland, Vermont, at an altitude of 3,000 feet.  

Middlebury Register September 6, 1912

Middlebury Register

September 6, 1912

     Mr. Morok owned an aircraft manufacturing company in Manhattan known as the Morok Aviation Company, (also referred to in the press as the Lord Morok Aeroplane Company), of which John W. Barry was the Director, and A. M. Moses the Treasurer.   

     Although there is some confusion on this issue, it seems the company may have produced aircraft of both the monoplane and biplane type.  The number of planes produced is unclear.    

    As stated, Charles Morok and his aeroplane were scheduled to appear at the Vermont State Fair beginning September 17th.  He’d also been scheduled to appear at the Caledonia County Fair in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, from September 10 through the 13th.   unfortunately, he never made it to either event.  On July 7th he contracted Typhoid Fever, and fought the disease until August 25th when he passed away at the age of 35.  He was survived by his wife, Natahlie, and is buried in Holy Trinity Cemetery in New York City.     

      Furthermore, an accident involving a Morok airplane occurred at an flying exhibition in Colonial Beach, Virginia, on August 21, 1912.  It’s unknown if this was the plane that was scheduled to be flown at the Vermont State Fair, or a different one, as Mr. Morok was ill with Typhoid Fever at this time.  The aircraft struck a fence and was completely wrecked, and the pilot, Joseph Richter, was injured.    

     Charles Morok was also scheduled to represent Belgium at the International Aviation Race at Chicago, scheduled for September 9th, 1912.

     Sources:

     Middlebury Register, Vermont State Fair Advertisement, September 6, 1912

     The Bennington Evening Banner, Vermont State Fair Advertisement, September 13, 1912

     Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “Typhoid Kills Airman”, August 26, 1912

     www.earlyaviators.com

     Alexandria Gazette, (Virginia), “Biplane Wrecked”, August 21, 1912, Page 4  

     Aero And Hydro (Magazine) 1912, Volume 4, Page 522

     Further reading: New York Times, “Morok’s Aeroplane Interrupts Toilet”, December 27, 1910 

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