Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company

Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company


Curtiss Jenny Airplane

 The Charlie & Charlie Aviation Company was established sometime around 1920 by Lieutenant Paul Robinson of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, formerly of Brookline, Mass.  His airplane was a Curtis Jenny which had a logo painted on the sides. 

     In the autumn of 1920, Lt. Robinson donated his services to the Caledonian – Record newspaper of St. Johnsbury, Vermont, to assist with announcing the results of the 1920 Presidential election.  It was reported that on November 3rd he would fly his airplane at a low altitude over the towns located in the counties of Essex, Caledonia, and Orleans, with a colored circle painted on the bottom wings.  Citizens would know by the color which candidate had been elected President.   A black circle would mean that Democratic candidate Governor James M. Cox, won, and a red circle would mean that Republican Senator Warren G. Harding won.  The St. Johnsbury Caledonian reported in part, “The color scheme is best suited to the eye and carries no political significance”.  

     This was a time before the instant-up-to-the-minute media coverage that we’re used to today, and a time before people had radios in their homes.    


     On Saturday, October 30, 1920, Lt. Robinson gave a stunt flying exhibition over St. Johnsbury in celebration of “Merchant’s Day” in view of 10,000 spectators.   A friend identified as “Al” Martin accompanied him on the flight.

     In reference to the performance, the Caledonian – Record reported in part, “Pilot Robinson came up over the valley shortly after three o’clock and circled over the town for a few moments before he commenced his exhibition.  The first thing on the program was a spiral dive, followed by three loops in succession.  His catalogue of stunts is a large one and he executed them all much to the enjoyment of the huge throng below.  At times he flew so low that both men could be seen plainly with the naked eye while at other times he soared so high that his plane was almost lost from view.”   


     St. Johnsbury Caledonian, “Airplane To Give Winner Of Election”, October 27, 1920. 

     Caledonian – Record, “Aviator Thrills 10,000 People With Stunts”, November 1, 1920 




Two Connecticut Men Invent A Glider – 1909

Two Connecticut Men Invent A Glider – 1909

By Jim Ignasher

     “Darius was clearly of the opinion, that the sky was also man’s dominion.”  A line from the poem, Darius Green and His flying Machine, by John Trobridge, 1869.

     Darius Green was a mythical boy who built his own flying machine, yet he may have been the inspiration for two young inventors from Hartford, Connecticut, to do the same.  Ruben Bassett, and Arvid Carlson, both 18, had been friends since childhood, and as Ruben told a reporter of the Hartford Courant, “We have always been making something or other, but we never finished anything.  We started to make an automobile once, and we built some boats, trying to see how small we could make a boat and still have it carry anyone.”  It therefore seemed logical that after trying their hand at auto and boat building, that an aircraft of some sort would come next.

     They began building their aircraft in early April of 1909 in the basement of Ruben’s home at 1273 Main Street.  The design consisted of two wings, each twenty feet long and four feet wide, framed with ribs of spruce wood and covered with white cambric cloth.  The wings were set about four feet apart, one atop the other, with wires and struts to support them.  A spruce and cambric-cloth rudder was attached to the rear of the craft.  Despite its size, the entire machine reportedly weighed only 40 pounds.   

     The aircraft didn’t have a motor, and was actually what one might refer to as a “hang-glider” today.  There was no place for a pilot to sit.  The aviator would simply hold on from underneath for the duration of the flight.

     The glider had been built in sections which were then brought to the Hartford Electric Light Company where both men were employed.  The management had agreed to allow them use of a work area where the glider could be fully assembled.  By mid-May it was ready for its inaugural flight.  

     In the early morning hours of May 16, the men maneuvered their glider through the sleeping streets of Hartford and up to Prospect Hill.  On their way they encountered a policeman who inquired as to what they were up to, but not being one to stand in the way of aeronautical progress, the officer allowed them to continue on their way.  Once atop the hill they waited for a good breeze, but only the faintest movement of air could be detected.  Undaunted, Ruben decided to test their invention anyway, and after a running start he leaped into the air.  A gentle wind caught the wings, and lifted him to about fifteen feet as he sailed for a distance of approximately seventy feet before landing back on terra firma. Unfortunately one of the wings struck the ground and the glider flipped over thereby breaking one of the spruce ribs and putting a halt to any further experiments.  

     This was reported to be the first glider flight to ever take place in Hartford, but unfortunately the entire event was only witnessed by a handful of people, two of which included milkmen who’s stopped their horse-drawn wagons and delayed their deliveries to watch.   

     On May 23, after making repairs to their glider, the men once again brought it to Prospect Hill for another test-flight.  This time members of the press were present.  Unfortunately that flight ended like the first.  Despite the setback, the inventors vowed to continue their experiments after repairs were made.

     Meanwhile, both Bassett and Carlson were granted a few days off by their employer, the Hartford Electric Light Company, to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with the Wright brothers. 

     What ultimately became of the glider is unknown, but two years later Ruben Bassett made the news with another invention that he called the “water cycle”, which was in effect a human powered craft designed to be ridden upon the water.  On May 23, 1911, he demonstrated his invention on the Connecticut River  about 150 feet upriver from the dock of the Hartford & New York Transportation Company.  At first the “water-cycle” appeared to be a success, until it suddenly flipped over.  After being towed to shore Bassett made a second attempt with the same results.  It was reported that the cause of the mishaps was due to the center of gravity being offset by the operator’s positioning on the craft.        


     Hartford Courant, “An Aeroplane In Hartford”, May 17, 1909, page 6.

     Hartford Courant, “Young Aeronauts Try A Glider”, May 24, 1909, page 7.      

     Hartford Courant, “Water Cycle Has Lots To Learn”, May 22, 1911, page 10.          

Harry N. Atwood Cross Country Flight Records – 1911

Harry N. Atwood Cross Country Flight Record – 1911

     Harry N. Atwood, (1883 – 1967)

     The following article appeared in The Washington Times, June 30, 1911, page 10.  


Aviator Harry Atwood

     NEW LONDON, June 30. – Harry N. Atwood, the boy aviator, with a passenger, made a flight of 107 miles in order to witness the Harvard-Yale rowing regatta today.

     Leaving the Harvard aviation field at Squantum Mass., at 7:05, he crossed the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut and arrived at his destination at 9:10 o’clock.

     With weather conditions ideal all the way, he covered the 107 miles in 125 minutes, an average of a fraction over 51:56 miles an hour.

     Atwood broke the American record for a single flight across country, and established a world’s mark for passenger carrying flight across country.     

     One hundred thousand visitors who jammed into New London and were ready to leave for the race course, forgot all about college rooting and cheered themselves hoarse when Atwood circled twice around the Groton monument, directly across the Thames River from the New Haven Railroad station,  passed over the big drawbridge, and flew over the two-mile course at a speed which the waiting oarsmen at Red Top and Gales ferry envied.

     The Yale and Harvard crews for the moment turned loose all their enthusiasm and cheered the daring aviator.

     Secretary of the Navy Meyer and party aboard the Untied States dispatch boat Dolphin applauded Atwood wildly and the great fleet of yachts on both sides of the race course tied down their whistles and fired salute after salute from their cannon.

     After passing the Dolphin, Atwood picked out the west bank of the river for a landing place.  He volplaned from a height of 1,000 feet in two magnificent sweeps and landed lightly on the ground in Riverside park to the south of the drawbridge.


     Atwood would break his own record thirty days later when he flew from Boston to New York, a distance of 139 miles.  This trip received much more attention by the press than the one to New London.   

Click on image to enlarge.

A vintage postcard view of Harry N. Atwood and his airplane.


Early Burlington Vermont Airport Articles

Early Burlington Vermont Airport Articles 

     The Burlington (Vermont) International Airport had is beginnings in 1919 with the U. S. Government seeking a suitable place for an airfield.   The airport was officially dedicated on September 22, 1921.

     Click on images to enlarge.

The Bare (Vermont) Daily Times
April 28, 1919

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Bare (Vermont) Daily Times on May 18, 1920.

Airplanes Went From Boston To Burlington In One Hour, 49 Minutes

     Burlington, May 18. – Two airplanes arrived at Fort Ethan Allen yesterday afternoon in record breaking time from Boston.  One plane was piloted by Col. Grennan, chief of the air service of the New England division, and the other by Colonel G. C. Brant of new York City.  Both planes left Boston at 3:30 yesterday afternoon.  Colonel Grennan, who arrived five minutes ahead of Colonel Brant, made the trip in one hour and 49 minutes, which is believed to be a record for this flight.  His average speed was 110 miles per hour.

      Colonel Brant made a detour on the way to fly over the town of Groton, where he is acquainted.  The machines used were Dehaviland planes equipped with Liberty motors.  The trip is one of several which the officers are making in New England for the purpose of promoting airplane landing fields for the coming season.  Burlington has been considered as a very important location for a landing field and various locations here will be inspected during the officer’s visit.



Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia)
August 11, 1920

The Bare Daily Times
(Bare, Vermont)
August 12, 1920

The Caledonian Record
(St. Johnsbury, Vt.)
September 20, 1921

     Also see Early Postcard Views of Burlington Airport

Bridgeport’s Aerodrome – 1911


    Bridgeport’s Aerodrome, as it was called, began as a trotting park for horses in 1887.   The following newspaper article appeared in The Sun, (N.Y.),  on October 21, 1887.


     Bridgeport, Oct. 20. – The Bridgeport Driving Club are holding their first annual meeting at the trotting park in this city, and the attendance is sufficient to warrant the successful carrying out of a project which has for some time been in contemplation by the club.  The refusal of the title to 100 acres of ground in West Stratford, close to the tracks of the New York and New Haven Railroad has been secured, and the plan is to establish a first-class park for trotting and for fair purposes.  The Bridgeport Driving Club is composed mostly of members of the Seaside Club, an organization of 500 of the wealthy and representative men of the city, and if negotiations are closed the scheme will be carried out in a way that is creditable to the club and the city.     



Vintage postcard view of a
Curtiss Airplane

     According to newspaper sources of the day, the trotting park came to be known as Nutmeg Park.  In early 1911 it was purchased by Christopher J. Lake who wanted to turn it into an air field with the intention of promoting technological advances in aviation.  It was his hope that inventors would use the field to experiment with their newly designed aircraft and thus make Bridgeport an important center for aviation development.      

     On March 4, 1911, the Norwich Bulletin announced that the Bridgeport Aerodrome would open in May of that year.  Under the heading of “Condensed Telegrams” the announcement read: “Announcement was made that the Bridgeport Aerodrome will be formally opened in May with a three days’ aviation meeting under the direction of Glenn H. Curtiss.”  

     Plans for converting and improving the former trotting park advanced rapidly.   Mr. Lake planned for a grand opening celebration in the form of an airshow which was originally scheduled for May 18, 19, and 20.  (The dates were later changed to May 11, 12, and 13.)  Such aerial exhibitions were a rarity for the time.  The Boston-Harvard Aero Meet, the first of its kind in America, had been held only a year earlier, and had proven quite successful, and drew large crowds.

     The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on March 23, 1911.  



Bridgeport Aerodrome Ad – 1911

     Thomas T. Tuttle, of New York, personal representative of Glenn H. Curtis, the aviator announced this morning that the first aviation meet to be held in Connecticut will be held here on May 18, 19, and 20 under the personal direction of Mr. Curtiss.  Mr. Tuttle was accompanied by Mr. Christopher J. Lake who announced that he had arranged to have the meets held at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, formerly Nutmeg Driving Park.  Mr. Lake, who is perfecting a flying machine of his own, is the owner of the field.

     Mr. Curtiss will be accompanied by James McCurdy and Lincoln Beachey, the celebrated airmen, and the event will be open to all who desire to enter.

     A number of organizations including the Aero Club of Connecticut, the Automobile Club of Bridgeport, the Board of Trade, the Businessmen’s Association, the Manufacturers’ Association, will be asked to co-operate in making the event a success.  The members of the Aero Club will be invited to take charge of the field and the recording of all events.

     Mr. Tuttle said: “The Bridgeport meet will be the first that  Mr. Curtiss will appear at in the east this Spring.  he will bring his new type of machine, recently developed at San Diego, Cal., and we also hope to have the “Hudson Flyer”.  the latter is the machine in which Mr. Curtiss flew from Albany to New York last June.

     “Mr. McCurdy is the man who was the fourth to fly in the United States.  For a long time he was associated with Mr. Curtiss, Lieut. Selfridge, Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, and F. W. Baldwin in aeronautic experiments with stations at Hammonsport, N.Y., and Baddek, N.S.  He has been a flyer since 1898 and is the holder of the endurance and long distance records of Canada as well as being president of the Aero Club of Canada.  McCurdy is the first man who ever sent a wireless telegram from a flying machine.

     “Beachy recently made his debut on the Pacific Coast as a flying machine man.  For years he was interested in aeronautics and was known as a balloonist.  Last week he established a record by remaining in the air for 18 hours, an average of 2 1/2 hours a day.

     “The Bridgeport Aerodrome is a far better field for an aeroplane course than Belmont Park and excels any spot in the North and East for aeroplane purposes.

     “The international course, 31-10 miles to the lap can be had here without going over trees or buildings.  Thi8s cannot be said even of the celebrated course at Rheims, France.    

     “The field is on the road from new York to Boston and there is ample parking space near the field.  There is seating capacity for about 6,000 at the field and this will be increased to take care of the crowds.  There will be special train arrangements made to bring people from other cities in the state and New York.  Wind checks will be issued on all days there are no flights.”

     Mr. C. J. Lake did not care to say whether he will have any surprise for the public when asked if he may enter one of his machines in the flying contests.  


     In May of 1911, The Mr. Thomas T. Tuttle mentioned in the above article, was hired by Mr. Lake to be the first general manager of the new aerodrome.    

     In April of 1911 it was announced that two more aviation celebrities would be attending the air show at the grand opening of the aerodrome.  They were, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson, the navy’s first, and at that time, only, aviator, and U.S. Army Lieutenant James E. Fickel, the first man to fire a rife at targets from a moving airplane.  The dates of the event were also moved forward to May 11, 12, and 13.     

    The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on May 9, 1911.  


Carnival if Flying by Curtiss Aviators This Week Will Mark Opening of First Permanent Aerodrome in Country

     Today, Bridgeport began to come into its own as the center of aviation in America during the current week.    

Click on image to enlarge.

     Things are humming over at the Bridgeport Aerodrome, (formerly Nutmeg Park), where a big force of workmen are busy putting on the finishing touches preparatory to the great aviation carnival of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, when Glenn Curtiss, James McCurdy and Lincoln Beachy, three of America’s foremost flyers will be the attraction, with Lt. Ellyson, the navy’s aeronautic expert, and Lieut. Fickel, the army’s aviator.

     Oscar Roesen, and electrical engineer and wireless expert, will arrive in Bridgeport tomorrow with the wireless equipment with which he expects to break the world’s record for sending messages from an aeroplane.  It is also likely that the first of the aeroplanes will arrive tomorrow.

     Today an aviator of national repute entered into negotiations with C. J. Lake, owner of the Aerodrome, for a five year lease of a hangar or aeroplane shed upon the field, intending to make the Bridgeport Aerodrome the base of all his experimental work and machine repairing and construction.

     Other aviators are likely to follow suit and Bridgewater bids fair to become the center of experimental aviation in America.

     Two hundred trees have been taken off the field in clearing it for use as an Aerodrome.  Yesterday an immense bonfire that almost approached the magnitude of a conflagration was made of the debris cleared off the field.

     To safeguard the people who come on foot, a special road has been constructed leading to the field , and traveling its entire circumference, for automobiles.  There is another road for pedestrians and thus the danger of accidents in the throngs which are sure to flock to the field has been averted.

     New seats accommodating 1,400 have been added to the already been added to the already capacious grandstand so that its total seating capacity now is several thousand.  In addition there is parking space for thousands of automobiles and standing room for a multitude.   

     Word is being received from a number of cities of the intending automobile runs and excursion crowds on the trains, and it is believed that the multitudes on the field,  the hundreds of automobiles and exciting features attendant upon such big gatherings will be a great attraction of the meet.    

     Experts declare that the Bridgeport Aerodrome, built through the enterprise of Christopher J. Lake, is the finest in the country, surpassing the aviation fields at Belmont Park and Mineola.

     The Belmont park field is handicapped by the fact that the nearest machine shop is two miles distant, a big trundle for a disabled aeroplane.  At the Bridgeport Aerodrome, the machine shop is right on the field; furthermore it is equipped to handle and repair all makes of aeroplanes, a feature true of no other shop of its kind.

     Aviators who have flown abroad declare that the Bridgeport Aerodrome is superior even to the famous field at Rheims, France, the scene of the great international flights.  The Rheims field is heavily encumbered with trees, “the graveyards of aviators.”  The Bridgeport field is notably free from these encumbrances and will be still further cleared, the work going forward steadily.

     By making separate roads for automobiles and pedestrians, Mr. lake has effectively solved the problem of handling immense crowds without the danger of frequent accidents.  Furthermore, ample parking space for automobiles has been provided the entire circumference of the grounds, and the machines will afford ideal vantage points from which to watch the flights.

     Pedestrians will be able to make use of the grand stand to great advantage, or of the standing room, all of which commands views of the start and finish, the most exciting and spectacular periods of the flights.

     As there will be from six to twelve flights daily, inter-spread with wireless telegraph experiments, target shooting with rifles, bomb-throwing from aeroplanes and other feats and spectacles, the crowds will be kept on edge from start to finish.  The aerial show each day will occupy about two hours and a half.

     The principal hangars of aeroplane sheds are located at the eastern end of the field.  As the prevailing winds in fair weather are west, it is most likely that the aeroplanes will start at the eastern end of the field from directly in front of the hangars and will fly directly across, furnishing beautiful views to the side lines on ascent and descent.

     After the exhibitions, the gates to the aeroplane fields will be opened, and the crowds will be allowed to inspect the machines at close range.            



Bridgeport Airport Dedication – 1929

  On July 5-6, 1929, the Bridgeport Aerodrome was re-dedicated as Bridgeport Airport, even though it is in the neighboring town of Stratford.  By 1934, it was also being referred to as Mollison Field in honor of famous aviator Jim Mollison who made an emergency crash-landing there on July 23, 1933.  On that date, Mr. Mollison and his wife were on their way from Wales to New York when their de Havilland Seafarer ran low on fuel.  After several aborted attempts to land at the airport, the plane was set down in a marshlands area where the Housatonic River empties into Long Island Sound.  Mr. and Mrs. Mollison were not seriously injured.        

     According to a 1934 U.S. Department of Commerce – Bureau of Air Commerce publication, Bridgeport Airport had grown to include two gravel runways, one (N/S) being 2,800 feet long, and the other, (E/W), being 2,600 feet long.  The airport also has 24-hour facilities, and a rotating 24-inch beacon light.   

     In 1972 the Bridgeport Airport was re-dedicated the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport.   



First U.S. Navy Airship – 1915

     The following newspaper article appeared in the New York Tribune on April 21, 1915, page 5.



     Lowest is $29,876 and Highest $200,000 for Construction of Dirigibles.

     Washington, April 20. – Four firms to-day competed in the bidding for the construction of the first dirigible airships for the United States navy.  The bids disclosed a wide divergence.  The lowest was $29,876, or $58,552 for two dirigibles, while the highest was $200,000 for a single aircraft.

     The dirigible will be neither impressive or large.  Their principal function will be to furnish training for pilots and to serve as a basis for investigation of the workability of dirigibles in maneuvers.  The Secretary of the Navy’s memorandum issued today said:

     “The Office of Aeronautics considers that the dirigible is to be the kingfisher of the submarine.  The aeroplane, rapidly scouting the seas off our harbors and around our fleet, discovers the enemy’s submarines lying in wait for innocent merchant ships, or attempting to creep up on our fighting ships.”    

     “The dirigible from the shore station or from the dirigible ships of the fleet, thus warned by the aeroplane scouts, proceed to the attack of the submarines, dropping on them heavy bombs fitted with fuses to explode on hitting or after sinking to a certain depth”

     The general specifications required that the dirigibles should be of the non-rigid type, 175 feet long, 50 feet high, and 36 feet wide, with a useful load of about 2,000 pounds.  It is specified that they have a speed of twenty-five miles an hour, and be capable of rising 3,000 feet without disposing of ballast.

     The following bids were received: Stanley Yale Beach, New York – One machine, $29, 876; two machines, $58,552.  American Dirigible Balloon Syndicate, Inc., New York – One machine, $41,000; one machine (larger), $45,000.  The Connecticut Aircraft Company, New Haven – One machine, $45,636.25; two machines, $82,215.12.  The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio, – One machine, $200,000.

     The last bid is subject to a reduction which will make the total cost to the government equal to the cost of the machine to the Goodyear Tore and Rubber Company plus 50 per cent.        


    History has shown that the contact was awarded to the Connecticut Aircraft Company.  The first dirigible ordered was designed to carry eight men, four of whom would serve as crew, and the other four as student observers.  The ship would be 175 feet long, 55 feet high, and would have a gas capacity of 110,00 cubic feet.  It could achieve a speed of 25 mph and operate for two hours in the air – longer if fewer men were aboard. 

     Source: New York Tribune, “Airship For Navy Ordered As Trail- Dirigible to Cost $46,000 And Will Be Used To Train Men”, May 15, 1915

Arthur Gould’s Vision Of The Future – 1926


Originally published in Your Smithfield Magazine, February – 2013

By Jim Ignasher 

      Airplane illustrationThere was a time when the sound of an airplane motor buzzing overhead automatically caused one to look skyward, and Arthur Gould did just that whenever one passed over his farm on Ridge Road.  Not only would he study the aircraft for signs of needed repairs, but he would listen for indications the engine might be in need of fixing, or perhaps was low on fuel. His hopes rose one afternoon when a small plane circled several times at low altitude as if it might land, but disappointment set in when it veered away.  

     “Well,’ Gould likely thought, ‘Maybe he didn’t need anything today, but now that he knows I’m here, perhaps he’ll be back.”

      Sometimes it takes awhile for an idea to catch on.  At the dawn of the 20th Century, there were some who felt the automobile was nothing more than a passing fad for rich people, but Henry Ford predicted a time when it would become an indispensable means of travel.  When the Wright brothers flew the first airplane in 1903, few saw its practical applications, but the brothers believed a day would come when airplanes would travel sixty-miles per hour!  Where would we be today if not for forward thinkers?   

      Arthur C. Gould of Smithfield was a forward thinker who possessed an entrepreneurial spirit.  Born in 1865, he was a successful farmer, blacksmith, and wood worker; owned a prosperous ice business, and even dabbled in real estate. However, of all his economic ventures, the most innovative was his idea to open a business called “Flyers Haven” in August of 1926.  

     Flyers Haven was an “aircraft repair and service station”; perhaps the first and only business of its kind in New England; or at least in Rhode Island.  Basically, it was a place for passing airplanes to land for fuel or repairs much like a service station for automobiles.  Gould wasn’t trying to establish an airport, just a place for aircraft to make a quick stop if need be. 

     It was a novel idea for the time for the airplane was still relatively new, but Gould envisioned a day when they would dot the skies, and establishments such as his would be a welcome sight for those low on fuel much like a gas station along a highway is for a motorist.

      The 1920s was an exciting decade for aviation development.  Newspapers constantly ran stories of aircraft altitude, speed, and distance records being set and broken. It was also the era of a new breed of pilots known as “Barnstormers”; mostly ex World War I military pilots who found themselves out of work, and missing the action when war ended.  They would travel the countryside giving daring aerial exhibitions and offer rides to those willing to pay.  It was also a time when the first commercial airlines were being developed, and an international race was on to see who would be the first to fly non-stop across the Atlantic.   

      Yet just because they flew, didn’t mean that airplanes were any more mechanically reliable than the automobiles of the day.  Although configured differently, both car and aircraft utilized oil-dripping, temperamental engines that required frequent maintenance and adjustments.  Gould knew first-hand about automobiles, for many years earlier he owned what he claimed to be the first car in Smithfield; a one cylinder Knox, produced by the long defunct Knox Automobile Company of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The Knox engine was dubbed the “porcupine” or “hedgehog” by many mechanics due to the many wires and other projections poking out of it.  While owning the only car in town, Gould discovered that it was difficult for a motorist who found himself stranded to locate things like gasoline and tires.  Recalling his experiences, he considered what it must be like for a modern aviator.   

      Thus an idea was born as Gould realized that airplanes, like cars, needed to re-fuel and be repaired.  An automobile with mechanical trouble could just coast to a stop at the side of the road, but the problem for an aviator in trouble was finding a safe place to land.  In the 1920s, airports, or more accurately, airfields, were few and far between, leaving many pilots to their own devices when it came to emergency landings.  Grassy fields could conceal hidden hazards such as logs, holes, or barbed wire fences, and landing on a tree lined road, or worse, one lined with telephone poles, carried even more risks.  Even if the pilot negotiated a safe landing, there was the formidable task of locating the high octane gas necessary for flight.  What Gould offered the troubled flyer was a full-service safe-haven.   

     Opening such a business required lots of elbow room, and Gould had it on his twenty-seven acre farm located between Douglas Pike and Ridge Road, behind present-day La Perche Elementary School.  The site was relatively flat and open.  It already had had an ice pond that could accommodate seaplane landings, and a barn that contained a blacksmith forge, a machine shop, and a wood-working shop.  All he needed to do was install a tank for aviation fuel.  

     To let passing airplanes know that he was open for business, Gould painted a large sign on the roof of his ice house that read, “Airplanes welcome to my farm, A.C. Gould”.  Although the letters were three feet tall, Gould realized they might be hard to read from high altitudes, so he created even larger signs in his meadow using white lime.  In lettering that was fifteen feet long Gould wrote, “A.C. Gould Farm Landing Field”, and “Aviation Gas”.  He also laid out a four-hundred foot long compass that pointed due north to aid any pilots who were just looking for directions.

    Gould received further advertising when a reporter from the Providence Journal went to his farm to interview him about his new enterprise.  He hadn’t had any customers as of yet, but he remained hopeful as he recalled the small plane which had circled his farm several times at a low altitude before flying off.  It was his hope that the pilot would tell others, who would then mark the location on their Department of Commerce maps.    

     Flyer’s Haven was not an airport, nor was it meant to be.  It was simply a place for a pilot to stop, re-fuel, check the oil, and be on his way.  Gould’s idea was a good one, and unique enough to be written about in the New York Times, but it seems he didn’t make much money from it. Perhaps as a man who looked towards the future, he was just a little too ahead of his time.  He passed away less that three years later on March 12, 1929 at the age of 63.


First Hydro-Airplane Manufactured In Rhode Island – 1915

     First Hydro Plane Manufactured In Rhode Island

January – 1915

     On January 25, 1915, it was announced in the Providence Journal newspaper that the Providence firm of B. Stephens & Sons at Fields Point had constructed a new type of “hydro-aeroplane” which they would begin initial trials with the following week.   

     A lot rested with the success of this project as representatives of three foreign governments were interested in purchasing these planes. 

     “For the past six months,” the Journal article stated, “the firm has been quietly at work in carrying out the ideas of construction evolved by its senior member, who has long been identified with the boat-building business, and who has recently become interested in science of aviation.” 

     The motor utilized for the project was the “Ashmusen type” produced by the Taft-Pierce Company of Woonsocket, R.I., capable of delivering 105 horsepower.   It was said to be “of the horizontal opposed type”, with an eight-and-a-half foot diameter propeller, that would spin at 900 to 1,000 revolutions per minute. 

     The new hydroplane had a 33-foot wingspan, with the lower wing being shorter than the upper.  The exterior of the boat was finished in African mahogany, and the inside with cedar covered with marine glue and canvas.  Four watertight bulkheads lined the interior, making the boat, “practically unsinkable”.  The hull was “double concaved” to give it less resistance as it moved across the water.  Shelby seamless tubing was used throughout, with cold-rolled steel fittings.  The fuel tanks could hold 80 gallons, giving the craft a flight time of over nine hours. 

   Control of the aircraft was done with a steering wheel likened to that of an automobile.  Foot pedals worked the elevators.    

Source: Providence Journal, “Local Firm Makes Hydro-Aeroplane”, January 25, 1915, Pg. 12


Joe Seymour – First Aeroplane Flight In New England?

Joe Seymour – First Aeroplane Flight In New England?

By Jim Ignasher


     On June 24, 1910, The Providence Journal reported, “Joe Seymour, in a private test at Narragansett Park last evening, accomplished the first successful aeroplane flight ever made in New England.” Narragansett Park, a.k.a. Narragansett Trotting Park, was a race track that once existed between present-day Park Avenue, that Gansett Avenue, and Spectacle Pond, in Cranston, Rhode Island. Seymour accomplished his feat in a Curtis bi-plane.

     There is some debate as to this actually being the first airplane flight in New England.  There seems to be mounting evidence that Gustave Whitehead flew an airplane in Connecticut in 1901, two years before the Wright Brothers.  And a recently discovered (Woonsocket) Evening Call article dated April 23, 1910, described the flight, and subsequent crash, of Greely S. Curtis at Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  While Seymour’s flight may not have been the first in New England, it might have been the first for Rhode Island. 

     Mr. Seymour had arrived at the park earlier in the day in preparation for an exhibition he was to give. However, mechanical difficulties prevented him from flying until it was nearly dark.  Not wanting to disappoint the two-hundred or so spectators who had gathered, he decided to make a test flight once around the park, but never climbing above an altitude of 200 feet. 

     According to the Providence Journal, “He maintained this altitude for about 200 feet and then descended easily, bringing the craft to a stop at almost the exact spot from which it had been started.”

     Seymour may also have been the first to wreck an airplane in Rhode Island. The following morning it was reported, “Joseph Seymour, the aviator, was severely hurt, and his Curtis aeroplane badly wrecked at Narragansett Park late yesterday afternoon, when the machine going 30 miles an hour, crashed into a post hidden in the grass, while Seymour was attempting to alight.”    

     After wrecking, Seymour contacted the Herring Aeroplane Factory in Massachusetts, and ordered two replacement propellers.  Oddly enough, they just happened to have two in stock that would fit his aircraft.  This was good news, for otherwise they would have had to be custom made – out of wood – which would take considerable time. 

     Such early flights were still considered newsworthy for 1910.  On the day Seymour crashed his plane, it was reported that a man named William Hilliard had flown a Burgess bi-plane for a distance of three miles while maintaining an altitude of just seventy-five feet in Newburyport, Massachusetts. 

    From Rhode Island, Mr. Seymour went to Garden City, Long Island, where he took part in another air exhibition in July.  Unfortunately, bad luck followed him there and he crashed again while making an in-flight turn.  The following September, Seymour’s plane was nearly hit in mid-air by another aircraft while flying at yet another exhibition.

Update February 14, 2017

     An article that appeared in the New York Tribune on March 2, 1910 stated that A. M. Herring and W. Starling Burgess, of the Herring-Burgess company, made a successful flight at Marblehead, Massachusetts, the day before.    


Providence Journal, “Aviator Soars In Air In Night Flight Here”, June 24, 1910, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Seymour, In Biplane Crashes Into Post.”, June 25, 1910, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Rushes Aeroplane Repairs”, June 26, 1910, Pg. 2

New York Times, “Aeroplane Hits Post”, June 25, 1910

New York Times, “Three-Mile Flight In Five Minutes”, June 25, 1910

New York Times, “Seymour Machine Wrecked”, July 28, 1910

(Woonsocket) Evening Call, “Airship Damaged”, April 23, 1910, Pg.1

New York Tribune, “New Style Flier – Herring And Burgess Have A Successful Trial At Marblehead”, March 2, 1910

First “Air Wedding” In Vermont – 1927

First “Air Wedding” In Vermont – 1927

     What was reported to be the “first marriage in an airplane on record in the State of Vermont” occurred on August 25, 1927.  On that day, Miss Violet Sadie Branch of South Royalton, and Mr. Kenneth Dickerman of Randolph took off in an airplane piloted by Paul Schill from the Milton Airdrome.  Also aboard was the Rev. S. Rowe from the Congregational Church in Milton, who began the ceremony once the plane had reached 2,800 feet.  At that time the motor was shut off and the plane allowed to glide as the happy couple exchanged their vows.  The entire event took just eight minutes.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Couple Married In Plane Flying Over Town Of Milton, Vt.”, August 26, 1927, Pg. 2 

Airplane Used To Feed Birds – 1931

Aircraft Used To Feed Birds – Woonsocket, R.I. – 1931

     In February of 1931 it was reported that members of the Woonsocket Sportsman’s Club of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had employed an airplane pilot to fly over nearby woodlands and drop feed for game birds due to food shortages created by extreme winter weather over the previous six weeks.  Although such things had been tried in other states, it was believed this was a first for Rhode Island, and possibly New England.  

     The aircraft flown belonged to Woonsocket Airways Inc., piloted by Lieutenant Paul L. Smith, based at the now defunct Woonsocket Airport.  The plane made two trips during which 400 pounds of feed were dropped. 

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Plane Used To Feed Wild Birds In This Section”, February 14, 1931, Pg. 1

First Airplane Built In Norwich, CT. – 1910

     The following newspaper article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on July 19, 1910.



Triplanes Constructed by Messrs Stebbins and Gaynet Will Be Tried Out In October – Practically Completed Now – Will Lift, It Is Estimated, 1,200 Pounds having 25-30 Horse Power Motor – Built at Sachem Park In The Past Three Months.  


     The people of this city and the public in general who go to Sachem Park today will have an opportunity to see an aeroplane, the first practical flying machine to be brought to completion in Norwich. 

     In a little shed just north of St. Mary’s Cemetery this bird of the air stands with its snow wings poised ready for flight at the word of its creators.

     Back in 1908, William H. Stebbins and Louis Geynet began to have visions of flying through the air.  They began to study the science of aeronautics, they worked out theories , and finally they evolved a tiny model aeroplane, the forerunner of the full-grown machine they have today at their workshop at the park.

     Built In Three Months

     These young men, who are well known in Norwich and are both of a mechanical bent and inventive turn of mind, attended the big airship shows in Boston and New York, inspected to the minutest details their workings, watched the aviators at their flights, and finally in February of this year, they set up a workshop where they might build a machine of their own.  In spite of the difficulty and expense of procuring the materials, and other obstacles that came up  in their way in April, Messrs Geynet and Stebbins were ready to start.  Working themselves at every opportunity and employing several assistants during the large part of the succeeding three months , the men who are to essay that most difficult art, aviation, now have every rib in place, every cable taut, and as far as the machine itself is concerned are ready for flight today. 

To Have Tent Made

     It is a rough country, however, about Sachem Park, for airship flights, and the chances of mishap in case of an enforced descent are too numerous to be risked.  So Messrs Stebbins and Geynet are to have a special aeroplane tent made, and with this portable house they will be able to move to any suitable aviation grounds they may decide upon.  The tent will not be received before a month and as some preliminary ground trials are necessary to enable the aviators to learn how to control and manage their craft, Messrs Stebbins and Geynet state they do not expect to attempt a flight before October 1.

Triplane Type

Click on image to enlarge.


     In building their aeroplane, the Norwich men made a departure from the usual design, making their machine a triplane, instead of the biplane or monoplane type, that is to say it has three planes, one above the other, for the supporting surface in the air instead of the customary two or one.  The aeroplane’s spread, or its total width, is 24 feet.  The planes lap over each other , the topmost being 24 feet long by 7 feet wide, the middle 20 feet by 6 feet, and the undermost 16 by 5.  The planes are ribbed, with two-piece, laminated ribs of Oregon spruce, covered with special aeroplane fine-woven varnished linen fabric, air and moisture proof.  The planes are somwwhat curved upward to better catch the air.  Aluminum joints are used wherever possible to secure additional lightness and the machine is strongly braced and trussed with special galvanized twisted aeroplane cable, which has a breaking strength of 500 pounds to the inch.

25-30 Horsepower Motor

     The motive power will be furnished by a 25-30 horsepower Cameron aviation motor, weighing 200 pounds, seated upon a maple frame.  The seat for the operator is located just in front of the engine.  The steering apparatus is known as the auto-control, and is not far different from the steering gear of the automobile.  The balancing and elevating device in the front is worked by a steering wheel, while the tail ruder is controlled by a foot, the steering planes being so adjusted as to keep the craft stable and on an even keel.

     Three sizes of propellers will be owned by Messrs Geynet and Stebbins: six, seven, and 7 1/2 feet.  The motor turns up about 200 pounds thrust and 1,200 revolutions per minute, which will send the craft along at the speed of an express train.

Lifting Power 1,200 Pounds

     The three planes provide a lifting area of 400 square feet, which should lift about 1,200 pounds, the designers figure from what other planes have done.  The whole machine, without the operator, weighs 650 pounds.  The balance of lifting power, 550 pounds, therefore should provide for the operator, a passenger, gasoline, and other supplies, and still the craft should be within carrying capacity.

     The aeroplane is of a height that will permit it to be rolled out of the one-story workshop, built expressly for the machine with swinging doors, and fully equipped with electric motor, machinery and tools.  Three pneumatic tired wheels support the machine.  There is also a skid with springs on the underside which will break the force of the landing in a descent, and in case of a wheel being broken, protect the plane.

Hartford Aviator Commends Their Work        

     There have been many visitors at the aviation workshop of Messrs Stebbins and Geynet, and all who have seen the product of their time, brains and money, praise it highly, especially cheering to the designers being the encouragement given them by a Hartford aviator who recently saw their machine.  He commended their energy and enterprise and saw no reason why they should not be successful in the air.  Their plans have been long considered and carefully laid, and Stebbins and Geynet, aviators, are deserving of success.


     The following newspaper article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on August 30, 1910.


     Builders of Triplane Will Make Another Try With Present Engine After New Tires Are Received.

     Four big aeroplane propellers designed by Stebbins and Geynet of this city, and built under their supervision at their  shop at Sachem Park, are displayed in Preston Bros. window.  The heavy wooden blades that will drive through the air the first aeroplane built in Norwich and the first triplane in America, attract much attention from passersby.  All of the propellers are laminated, the first being walnut and mahogany of the Wright type, with a 52 inch pitch.  The second is of mahogany and ash, of the Curtis type, with a 6 foot pitch.  The other two are mahogany and walnut of the Chauviere (Paris) type, and of 4 feet pitch.  They are true screw propellers. 

     Stebbins and Geynet have not yet used their latest and largest propeller and they plan to give it a trail shortly with their present engine.  If the new propeller gives them sufficient thrust, they believe that the purchase of a new motor may not be necessary.

     At the present time they are waiting for pneumatic tired wheels, these parts of the machine having been damaged in their recent ground trial at Sachem Park.  The wheels are expected here from Hartford at any time.  The big aeroplane tent has been completed for some time so that Stebbins and Geynet will be all ready for their exhibition next week.


     The following newspaper article appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on September 9, 1910.


Stebbins and Geynet Have Sold Power Plant Of Their Aeroplane

And Will Order A New One 

     Stebbins and Geynet have sold this week the 30 horsepower Cameron engine which they had on exhibition with their aeroplane at the fair grounds.  They shipped it to the purchaser in Pennsylvania on Thursday evening.  This morning about 12:30 o’clock they passed through Franklin Square with their aeroplane on the way from the fair grounds to Sachem Park, where they built and keep the machine.  This morning they expect to leave to attend the aviation meeting at Boston, where they will decide on a new motor, to be of 50 horsepower.  They do not expect to have the aeroplane ready for flight until late in the fall or early spring largely due to the time, thirty to sixty days, required for the shipment of first class motors.

     There was a gratifying interest shown in their machine at the fair and their exhibition was a success.






Boston Kite Flying Experiments – 1890s

Boston Kite Flying Experiments of the 1890s

     Kite flying experiments intended to further the study of meteorology and aeronautics, as well as influence possible designs for future flying machines, were conducted in the 1890s at the Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, Massachusetts.  The program was administered by the Boston Aeronautical Society, an organization that was founded in the spring of 1895.  The society initially consisted of about twenty members, each considered an expert in their field of research. 

     The mission of the society was to encourage experiments with aerial “machines”, (not necessarily mechanical) and to collect and disseminate knowledge relating to solving the problems of aerial navigation, for it was still a time when manned mechanical flight had not yet been perfected.

     In April of 1896 it was announced that the society had decided to include in its mission the encouragement of research and development of kite design.  As an incentive, the society offered monetary prizes for kites that could perform in certain ways.   

     The kites used in the Blue Hills experiments weren’t toys, but large, well designed, scientific instruments meant to fly at high altitudes to gather atmospheric readings.  On July 4, 1896, it was stated in the Evening Star, a Washington D. C. newspaper, “The Boston Aeronautical Society holds that the kite is a scientific instrument of value, and worthy the attention of those who take an interest in scientific equipment.”

      Some of the kite experiments resulted in kite-altitude records being set. On July 21, 1896, what was described as a “flight of kites” was sent up from the Blue Hills Observatory.  The kites were strung together in tandem, and the uppermost kite soared to the record breaking height of 7,200 feet above sea level according to the altimeter device which had been attached to the string below it.  The observatory, it was said, is situated at 625 feet above sea level.

     During another flight the string connected to the kites broke while they were 2,000 feet in the air, sending them and the attached instruments sailing off and out of sight.  They were later recovered three miles away from their starting point. 

     On August 1st a new kite-altitude record was achieved when a string of kites reached 7,333 feet.   The event was witnessed by fifty members of the Appalachian Club. 

     Not long afterward, a new altitude record of 7,441 feet was established.    

This illustration of William Eddy’s kite configuration as he photographed Boston from above appeared in newspapers of the day.

     One man who came to Boston to participate in the Blue Hills kite experiments was William Abner Eddy, (1850-1909), of Bayonne, New Jersey.  Eddy was the inventor of the “Eddy Kite”; a some-what diamond shaped kite of large proportions which lacked a tail. 

     In August of 1896, Eddy arrived with twenty-two of his kites with the intention of taking aerial photographs of Boston by suspending a camera in the air and working the shutter remotely from the ground.  Mr. Eddy was already credited with taking the first aerial kite photograph in the United States in Bayonne, N.J., on May 30, 1895. 

     Eddy began his photographic trials over Boston on Monday, August 24, from the roof of the post office building, and continued them throughout the week.  The first picture was taken from an altitude of 400 feet, the second at 700 feet, and the next four at 500 feet.

     On August 25, as Eddy was attempting to take his seventh aerial picture over the city, the string to the kites broke, sending all nine kites and his camera crashing to the street, but it was reported that it did not appear that the camera was too badly damaged, or the film compromised.     

     When all of the film plates were later developed, it was found that Mr. Eddy had captured some great aerial views of the Boston Common area, Beacon Street, Commonwealth Avenue, Tremont and Washington Streets, and the Charles River.  Some were taken from an altitude of 1,500 feet.       

     The kites Mr. Eddy employed for the project measured seven feet in diameter and between four to eight were flown at the same time depending on the wind. 

     Besides his camera, Mr. Eddy also attached a self-registering thermometer to record temperatures at different altitudes above the city to be compared with temperatures above the Blue Hills Observatory from kites being flown there during the same time.      

     In the autumn of 1896 further kite experiments were conducted at the Blue Hills Observatory to gather meteorological data.  In these experiments, nine kites attached by piano wire and carrying meteorological instruments reportedly rose to nearly 9,000 feet. 

     One newspaper, The Austin Weekly Statesman, described the process: “The kites were three in number, all of them on this occasion of the Eddy pattern, two of them being at the end of the line and the third some hundreds of feet below.  The kites were of large size, two of them being six feet in their largest dimension, and the third one a monster of nine feet, presenting some 65 square feet of surface to the wind.  This varied from 18 to 31 miles per hour at the surface, and the pull of the wire which held the kites mounted at times to upwards of 125 pounds.” 


     Courier Democrat, (Langdon, N.D.), “Taken From A Kite – Ingenious Method Of Taking Photographs”, August 1, 1895

     Evening Star, (Washington, D. C.), “Kites And Science”, July 4, 1896 

     The Topeka State Journal, (Topeka, Kansas), “Cloud Tourists – Aeronauts Will Hold A Unique Convention In Boston”, July 18, 1896

     The Topeka State Journal, “New Kite Record”, July 25, 1896  

     The Herald, (Los Angeles, CA.), “Great Kite Flying”, August 2, 1896

     The Evening Times, (Washington, D.C.), “Photos From The Sky”, August 24, 1896

     The Sun, (New York, N.Y.), “Eddy’s Kite String Broke”, August 26, 1896

     The Roanoke Daily Times, (Roanoke, VA.), “Kite Photograph Of Boston”, August 27, 1896 

     Waterbury Democrat, (Waterbury, Ct.), “Mid-Air Photographs”, August 28, 1896 

     The Austin Weekly Statesman, (Austin, TX.), “High Kite Flying In Boston”, October 1, 1896  

     The Chicago Eagle, (No Headline), October 31, 1896


First Public Air Trips In Vermont – 1919

First Public Air Trips In Vermont -1919

     The following newspaper article appeared in the Middlebury Register, of Middlebury, Vermont, on August 8, 1919. 


     Interest in aviation in this section has been developing at rapid strides but the best exhibition yet seen is expected to be afforded at the Addison County Fair when Lieut. John J. Lynch of Rutland will qualify here as the first public carrier of air passengers.

     Mr. Lynch, who for a month past has been making almost daily flights from Rutland and carrying a number of passengers on short trips which are said to have cost a dollar a minute, is the foremost aviator now in Vermont, and he has a particular interest in providing a good exhibition here as just prior to his enlistment in the army he was a student at Middlebury College.

     Secretary F. C. Dyer of the Fair management announced with a great deal of elation this week that he had succeeded in procuring Mr. Lynch and that if conditions are favorable he would do “all the stunt flying” that he learned in the army, and in addition would take up passengers.  It will be the first appearance of an army aviator at any Vermont fair, and added to the other entertainment attractions will doubtless bring out a large crowd for the four days of fair week.

     The rapid multiplication of automobiles in the country will make it possible for a larger number of farmers to attend than ever before and from the talk at the big farm meeting at the Government Farm last Tuesday it appeared that practically everyone in the county as well as many outsiders were planning on fair week as their next holiday.  The presence of Lynch and his plane will make it possible for any farmer to stay at the fair up to within about two minutes of milking time and then speed home in the air, if he has a dollar a minute to spare.

     Hortonia Man Will Buy Airplane   

     Lieut. Lynch made a number of flights at Meehan’s Park, Lake Dunmore, last Sunday and had a narrow escape from injuring himself and the machine while making one of his landings at the field.  Because of the size of the field, Lynch was obliged to have five men assist him in stopping the machine.  On this occasion two of the men fell, while another missed his hold on the fast moving plane, and the other two were able to do little toward holding it as it swung around toward the pavilion.  It was diverted, however, so that it did not strike the building, but ran into a fence where, however, there was little damage. 

     One of Lynch’s passengers on Sunday was Edward C. McGoff of Rutland, construction foreman for the Hortonia Power Company, who is planning on a purchase of a small flying machine to take him around to the various plants of the Hortonia Company, covering practically the entire state. This probably will constitute the first commercial use of a flying machine in Vermont.      


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”  


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


     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.    


     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.


     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.


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


     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.  


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


     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.


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


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


     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.


     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.     


     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.


     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.


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.” 


     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.


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.    


     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.

Almenia Rice And Her Human-Lifting Kite – 1902

Almenia Rice And Her Human-Lifting Kite – 1902

A newspaper illustration of Almenia Rice soaring over Boston in her kite – 1902

     Little is known about Almenia Rice other than she was married to Daniel Rice, Jr., and both were circus performers; he a clown, she a tight rope walker, trapeze artist, and balloonist/aeronaut.  What made her famous was her claim in 1902 to have made ascensions over the city of Boston in a kite capable of lifting a human being. 

     The story first appeared in several newspapers around the country as early as December of 1901, and then in various magazine articles, beginning in 1902, and was still being referenced as late as 1977.  What became of the Rice’s and their kite us unknown. 

     The idea of kites capable of lifting a human being was being researched in earnest in the 1890s primarily by the military as an alternative to balloons as a way to observe enemy troop movements.  The advent of the airplane and mechanized flight led to the discontinuation of this program.  However, in 1901-02, before the Wright brothers had made their historic flight, there were still those hoping to perfect this form of aerial ascent.   

     The kite used by Mrs. Rice was built by her husband sometime in 1901, and christened the “Dan Rice Junior”  It was built with a wooden frame covered by canvas, 14 feet tall, 14 feet wide, and open in the middle, with a 5 foot long bar on which Mrs. Rice stood upon while making her flights.  The first test-flight was reportedly made in October of 1901 from the roof of a hotel at 144 Tremont Street, across from the Boston Common.  Subsequent ascensions were also made there.  

     In an article that appeared in a magazine known as the Current Opinion, Mrs. Rice described what took place during the testing phase of their research: “Next we attached weight to the kite – 50, 100, and then 125 pounds.  It carried all of these easily.  Several times the kite broke its line, but instead of collapsing and pitching down zig-zag as most kites do, it floated away like a balloon and settled down as lightly as a bird.”     

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Plymouth Tribune, (Plymouth, Ind.) on February 13, 1902.  (For those not familiar with New England, Boston is sometimes referred to as “The Hub”.)  


Plucky Woman Views The Hub From A Kite

     Boston, Feb. 11 – Supported 500 feet in the air by a kite, a daring little Boston woman has taken a birds-eye view of the Hub.

     Mrs. Rice enjoys the distinction of being the first woman in the world to navigate the air with a kite as a craft.  The man who built the kite – her husband – knew full well the sustaining power of this instrument, he says he felt no thrill when he launched her forth from the roof of the building at 144 Tremont Street.  The woman lay prone in a frail wooden frame, buoyed up by a few square yards of canvas, floating horizontally and guided only by a slender cord, with her husband at the windlass far below.   

     “It was just like flying,” said Mrs. Rice after the feat had been accomplished.  “Never in my life have I experienced so delightful a sensation as that when the big kite went up above the streets and buildings of Boston.”

     “The kite went upward just as easily and evenly as a bird takes flight.  That’s all I can compare my trip – a bird’s flight and nothing else.  There was no jerking, no terrible rushes to take one’s breath away, just a push over the edge of the building, a sinking sensation for a moment, and then a delightful gliding through space with the creatures of the air.”

     During the proceedings Mrs. Rice’s life actually hung on the cord by which the kite was flown.  Had the kite “string” broken she would have been hurled to her death on the pavement of house tops.


     As to being hurled to her death, one account related how Mrs. Rice took the precaution of wearing a parachute.


     The following newspaper article appeared in the Willmar Tribune, (Wilmar, Minn.), on July 9, 1902. 


How A Boston Lady Won This Title, By Which She Is Known Among Her Friends 

     To mount into the air upon on of the bars forming the frame of a huge kite is a feat which would seem too perilous to be undertaken, and yet it has recently been done by a woman, Mrs. Almenia Rice, of Boston, has the unique distinction of being the first to use a kite as an aerial vehicle, says the Metropolitan Magazine.  What is more, this daring woman enjoyed the experience so keenly that she declares her intention of making this her chief pastime in the future.  The kite upon which she made her venturesome flight was built for her by her husband, Mr. Dan Rice, Jr.

     “I’ve never had such a delightful sensation” declared she, “as I experienced when my kite was given its freedom and I rose gently into the air.  The ascent was made gradually and evenly as a bird wings in flight.  There was no jerking, no terrible breath-taking rush, but just a delightful glide into space, away from the noise of the city into the mystery of the ether.

     “people said I was foolhardy when they first learned of my intention to take the trip, and they declared that one experience would satisfy me, for if I ever reached earth alive I would be content to live in the lower regions with the rest of mortals.  Before the kite was set free I though possibly public opinion for once was correct, for I am naturally a little fearsome of the unknown and untried, but once well on my way upward I knew that my life on earth would, in the future, be miserable unless I could occasionally take my kite and fly away from the dull level of the city.” 

     Mrs. Rice says that when Santos-Dumont crosses the ocean in his airship she will meet him above the clouds in her strange vehicle.  She has already been up 200 feet above the business districts of Boston, and in the depth of winter, without experiencing any discomfort, so that she feels confident that she can go upward to a height of 3,000 feet in summer time without any danger.

     Mrs. Rice’s monster kite has wooden strips running from the top to the bottom, 14 feet in length; the little bar at the bottom on which she stands measures five feet in length.  The two big white wings for the sides of the kite are 14 feet long.  The line is three-eighths-inch bell rope, made of Italian flax, and will withstand a strain of 1,000 pounds.

     dressed as a boy, so as to attract as little attention as possible, Mrs. Rice made her first ascent from the top of a building in Boston. She has made balloon ascensions, walked a tight wire far above the ground, and swung trapezes, “but the kite sensation was not at all like these,” she says.  

     “As I walk up the wire the earth seems to fall away from me and a feeling of weakness comes over me.  When you go up in a balloon it is quite the same feeling of the earth falling away from you, but as I went up with the kite the sensation was different altogether.  There was no shock, no nervous tremor, but just a peculiarly delightful sensation of flying.  As I rose above the mist and fog of the city, Flying along through the sky, I felt that I could float on forever in happy forgetfulness of all below.” 



     The Plymouth Tribune, (Weekly Edition) “Soared High Over Boston”, February 13, 1902

     Willmar Tribune, “The Woman Who Flew”, July 9, 1902

     Current Opinion – A Magazine of Record and review, Vol. 32,  January to June, 1902, page 607

     Pearson’s Magazine, Vol. 15, January to June, 1903, Page 114.

     Cassell’s Magazine, Vol. 24, December 1901 to May 1902, page 606

     Library of Congress, “Letter From Alexander Graham Bell To Samuel P. Langley”, February 15, 1902.   

     Kitelines Magazine, “Person-Lifting Kites”, Summer, 1977

First Balloon Ascension In Massachusetts – 1821

First Balloon Ascension In Massachusetts – 1821

     The earliest known balloon ascension to take place in the state of Massachusetts occurred on September 3, 1821, from the Washington Gardens on Treemont Street in Boston.  The pilot was a well known aeronaut by the name of Louis Charles Guille, who had begun making balloon ascensions in New Jersey in 1818.  The balloon landed on Ten Hills Farm in Somerville, a town just to the north of Boston.   

     Not only was this flight the first of its kind in the Bay State, but it also triggered what might be the first lawsuit involving a balloon.  Ten Hills Farm was owned at the time by a man named Swan, who sued Aeronaut Guille for damage to his vegetable crops. 

     The facts of the case were stated in a newspaper article which appeared in the New Ulm Review, (a Minnesota newspaper), on December 21, 1910, as part of an article about the potential liability attached to air travelers who may inadvertently cause damage to private property on the ground.  The case involving Louis Charles Guille was cited as a president even though it had occurred 89 years earlier.     

     The article stated in part:

    ” The facts are there stated as follows: Guille ascended in a balloon in the vicinity of Swan’s garden and descended into his garden.  When he descended, his body was hanging out of the car of the balloon in a very perilous situation, and he called to a person at work in Swan’s field to help him in a voice audible to the pursuing crowd.  After the balloon descended it dragged along over potatoes and radishes about thirty feet, when Guille was taken out.  The balloon was carried to a barn at the farther end of the premises.

     When the balloon descended more than 200 persons broke into Swan’s garden through the fences and came on his properties, beating down his vegtables and flowers.  The damage done by Guille with his balloon was about $15, but the crowd did much more.  The plaintiff’s damage in all amounted to $90.

     It was contended before the justice that Guille was answerable only for the damage done by himself and not for the damage done by the crowd.  The justice was of the opinion, and so instructed the jury, that the defendant was answerable for all the damage done to the plaintiff.  The jury accordingly found a verdict for him for $90, on which the judgement was given and for costs.”     

     The sum of ninety-dollars was a significant amount of money in 1821.  Guille appealed, but the decision was upheld.  The court ruled in part that Guille was a trespasser, (although not intentionally), and that his shouts for help “induced the crowd to follow him”, which in turn made him liable.  


     New York Tribune, “New Laws For Air Travel Soon To Be Broached”, October 24, 1909, page 3.  

     New Ulm Review, (Minnesota), “Air Trespassing May Be Costly”, December 21, 1910      

     Massachusetts Aviation Historical Society,

     Book: “North Jersey Legacies: Hidden History From The Gateway To The Skylands”, by Gordon Bond, The History Press, 2012

The Connecticut Aero Club – 1910

The Connecticut Aero Club – 1910

     The Connecticut Aero Club was an organization that was established in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 28, 1910, with the objective of promoting aerial navigation and aeronautical sports. 

     There were five committees formed within the club: the Contest Committee, Law Committee, Auditing Committee, Membership Committee, and the Consulting Engineers Committee.

     The club was begun with 32 charter members, and quickly grew.  Research did not uncover any newspaper articles about the club past April of 1912.    

     The charter members of the Connecticut Aero Club were as follows:

     President: A. Holland Forbes, of Fairfield

     Vice President: William C. Beers, of New Haven

     2nd Vice President: Alton Farrel, of Ansonia

     3rd Vice President: Clarence E. Whitney, of Hartford

     Secretary: Gregory S. Bryon, of Bridgeport

     Treasurer: Arthur H. Day, of New Haven    

Other Charter Members Included:

Edward W. Beach – Waterbury

Robert A. Beers

General Henry A. Bishop

Nathaniel W. Bishop

Frank V. Chappell – New London

Richard Crane III – Bridgeport

Edson F. Gallaudet – Norwich

John W. Green – Danbury

W. Harry Green – Danbury

Maxwell S. Hart – New Britain

Clarence Hooker

Samuel E. Hoyt – New Haven

A. J. Lake

T. H. MacDonald – New Haven

Hiram P. Maxim – Hartford

Phelps Montgomery – New Haven

Herbert H. Pease – New Britain

Andrew L. Riker – Bridgeport

Clarence G. Spalding – New Haven

Henry B. Stoddard – Bridgeport

Edward L. Uhl

Arthur Watson

D. Fairchild Wheeler – Bridgeport

Walter Wheeler

Two Names Missing


     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Bridgeport, Conn.), “A Holland Forbes Heads New State Aero Club That Is Founded In New Haven”, December 29, 1910  

     Norwich Bulletin, (Norwich, Conn.), “Connecticut Aero Club”, December 30, 1910, page 5.  


First Woman To Fly An Airplane In Rhode Island – 1912

First Woman To Fly An Airplane In Rhode Island – 1912

     The following article appeared in The Sun, a now defunct New York newspaper, on September 3, 1912.  This paper discontinued publication in 1916.


     With Beachey She Amuses 100,000 People At Providence

     Providence, R. I., Sept. 2 – Lincoln Beachey was the principal performer this afternoon at an aviation meet held at Narragansett Park over the old racetrack.  Beachey  in a biplane performed stunts never before witnesses in this state.  Miss Ruth Bancroft Law, the first woman to fly in Rhode Island, went up in a biplane and for ten minutes entertained the 100,000 spectators.  It was Miss Law’s first flight alone.

     Samuel A. Libbey made a triple parachute jump from a balloon, landing about two miles from the park.

     The meet was held by the Rhode Island Aviation Association and Beachey’s performances included spiral glides and maneuvers in the air the brought the crowd to its feet.  He dropped several chalk bombs.  Of the forty minutes of actual flying at the meet Beachey was in the air a half hour.


Post Card View Of The Former Narragansett Park in R.I.

     Ruth Bancroft Law was a famous aviator of whom much has been written, and can be found elsewhere on the Internet.



Connecticut Passenger Seaplane Service – 1921

Connecticut Passenger Seaplane Service – 1921

     What was proposed as a “tentative plan” for a seaplane passenger service for Connecticut was to be, “the first established passenger service by seaplane in New England”.   

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Evening World, a now defunct New York newspaper, on July 12, 1921. 


     Plans To Make Trips Between New London And Hartford

     New London, Conn., July 12 – Within a short time an air line service of seaplanes will be established between New London and Hartford by Hartford insurance officials and some New London men.  The tentative plan calls for trips from New London at 8 a.m., arriving at Hartford at 8:50 by way of Saybrook and the Connecticut River.  The return trips will be made daily, leaving Hartford at 5 and arriving at New London at 5:50 p.m.

     The Aeromarine Engineering and Sales Corporation will put the flying boat into operation and, if the service demands, an increased schedule will be made up for another seaplane.  The HS-3 type, six-passenger boat, will be used.  This will be the first established passenger service by seaplane in New England.

     Several Hartford insurance men own summer cottages near beaches between Newport and New Haven, and the plan is to drop off passengers at their summer cottages.

     It will cut the automobile time down at least one hour.


     The Aeromarine Engineering and Sales Corporation, or “Aeromarine Airways” was a company with six seaplanes which had been successfully operating a passenger airline service from Florida to Cuba since January, 1921.  

     One of their airplanes was named the Ponce de Leon.    

     Source: Shippers Advocate (Magazine), “Aeromarine Airways” by Jack Binns, July-August, 1921, page 306.     

Ballooning For Lost Sounds – 1894

Ballooning For Lost Sounds – 1894

     The following newspaper article appeared in the Washington Standard, (Olympia, Washington), on May 18, 1894.   It is unclear what results, if any, were learned from this experiment, which appears to be the first ever of its kind. 


Uncle Sam’s Aeronaut Will Find Out What Ails Boston’s Fog Horns

New York World

     Thomas S. Baldwin, the aeronaut and gymnast, connected with the ballooning department of the signal service and war departments, has been ordered to Boston, where he will conduct a series of interesting and important experiments in aeronautics.  Vessels approaching Boston can be heard through their fog horns 15 miles out at sea, but when within three miles off shore the sound of the fog horn whistle is absolutely lost.  The question is, where does the sound go?

     It is proposed to investigate the upper atmosphere at a distance of 3,000 feet in the hopes of ascertaining whether the sounds from the whistles and fog horns do not go upward, as Mr. Baldwin believes such sounds do.  A monster balloon will be anchored to a government vessel, and will be allowed to ascend to any required distance by means of a wire cable worked by steam.  The vessel will cruse about off Boston and neighboring points to a distance of 10 or 15 miles, and sounds will be made from whistles and horns.  When within three or four miles of shore it is believed that the aeronaut in the balloon can ascertain whether the sound in getting lost ascends.

     In the coil of wire that is attached to the balloon is a telephone wire, by means of which Baldwin will communicate with officials on board the ship.  Major Livermore, of the government service with his staff, will assist the aeronaut in his work, which will probably occupy some months, and perhaps a year.  After these experiments are concluded, Baldwin will turn his attention to experiments in war ballooning, for the benefit of the War Department.



Herring-Burgess Flying Fish Aeroplane – 1910

Click on image to enlarge.

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-yards 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 April, 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. 

Newburyport, MA. April 22, 1910

Newburyport, MA. – July 9, 1910

Nweburyport, MA. – August 4, 1910

Massachusetts Volunteer Balloon Corps – 1909

Massachusetts Volunteer Balloon Corps – 1909


     The following newspaper article appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune, (Utah), on August 15, 1909, page 20.  It is unclear if the Massachusetts Volunteer Balloon Corps ever came to fruition.   


Bay State Is To Have Volunteer Balloon Corps

     BOSTON, Aug. 14. – Massachusetts is to have the first “volunteer balloon corps” in the world, according to the announcement made today by Charles J. Glidden, the well known aeronaut and automobilist who is now making plans for organizing the aeronautic corps this fall.  Recognition from the state militia will be sought.

     The volunteer corps will consist of men of prominence, who are interested in aeronautics, and will be made up of two divisions, pilot and meteorological.  The pilot division will include the leading balloonists now making ascensions in Massachusetts for pleasure.  Those who have been invited to join the meteorological are Prof. W. Pickering, and Prof. A. Lawrence Rotch of Harvard, Prof. David Todd of Amherst, and Prof. Helm Clayton, formerly of the Blue Hill Observatory.


Aerial Lodge, No. 1, A. F. & A. M. – 1909

Aerial Lodge, No. 1, A. F. & A. M. – 1909


     On Tuesday, September 16, 1909, the balloon “Massachusetts” made an ascension from Pittsfield, Mass., and while more than 7,000 feet in the air became the first balloon in aviation history to have a Masonic meeting conducted in its basket.   The Massachusetts was owned by the Aero Club of New England.

     The following article appeared in the Essex County Herald, (of Guildhall, Vermont) on September 24, 1909. 

     “Aerial Lodge, No. 1, F. & A. M., was formed last Thursday afternoon in the balloon Massachusetts at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, it being the first meeting of the kind ever held, and the lodge was conducted with all Masonic observances possible under the conditions.  The balloon ascended from Pittsfield, and the Masonic ceremony was the chief feature of a short but most interesting aerial journey.  This item has a peculiar interest to our readers in Essex County, inasmuch as Jay B. Benton, formerly of Guildhall, is senior warden of the new lodge.”  

     The following article appeared in the Evening Star, (Washington, D. C. ), on September 25, 1909, page 3.   

     “The latest in the way of novelty is the institution of a Masonic lodge in a balloon more than a mile in the air.  This happened at or near Pittsfield, Mass., recently, when Aerial Lodge A. F. & A. M., was instituted in the balloon Massachusetts at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, this being the first meeting of the kind ever held.

     The lodge was conducted with all Masonic observances possible under the conditions.  J. J. Van Valkenburg of South Framingham was worshipful master; Jay B. Benton of Winchester was senior warden, and Charles J. Glidden of Boston junior warden.

     The Masonic ceremony was the chief feature of a short but most interesting aerial journey, the details of which were recounted when the party descended at Greenfield, Mass., after considerable difficulty in getting the huge gas bag and its numerous trappings out of the forest.

     The start was made in the afternoon at 2:05 o’clock from the grounds of the Aero Club of New England, at Pittsfield.  At the highest point recorded, 7, 200 feet, the Masonic ceremony took place.”  

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.   


      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.


Joseph A. Zinno And The Olympian – 1976

Joseph A. Zinno And The Olympian – 1976

New England’s First Human Powered Airplane

     Note: As of this writing the Quonset Air Museum in Rhode Island is currently closed, and its future is uncertain.  All artifacts have been placed in storage.      


Remains of the tail section of the Olympian; the first human-powered airplane to fly in America.
Click on image to enlarge.

       There was an interesting display at the Quonset Air Museum that included a rare artifact relating to New England’s aviation history – a portion of the tail section of the Olympian; all that remains of the first human powered aircraft to fly in America.

   The story of the Olympian began in the 1960s, when an English businessman announced that he would award a large cash prize to the first person who could fly a completely human-powered aircraft in a figure-eight around two pylons set a half-mile apart.  As of 1974 the prize money was still unclaimed.

     Enter Joseph A. Zinno of North Providence, Rhode Island, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who served in three wars.  He became intrigued with the idea of human-powered flight, and after careful study, decided to build his own human-powered airplane.  The result was the Olympian, constructed in a former World War II aircraft hangar at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.          

      The Olympian represented 7,000 man-hours of careful labor.  It  consisted mostly of balsa wood covered with a clear light plastic. The aircraft was 21 feet long, had a wingspan of 78 feet, 6 inches, weighed 150 pounds, and a propeller powered by bicycle components.

     The Federal Aviation Administration issued the Olympian tail number N1ZB.

   On April 16, 1976, the Olympian made its maiden flight before a small group of reporters at Quonset Point.  The first three attempts to leave the ground were unsuccessful, but on the forth try the Olympian rose 12 inches off the ground and flew for 77 feet.  This short but historic flight made Joseph Zinno the first American to fly a human-powered aircraft.

     Throughout the rest of the spring and summer of 1976, Zinno conducted further tests. Come winter, the Olympian was stored in a hangar at Quonset Point, suspended from the ceiling by cables to prevent damage. Unfortunately, one of the suspension cables broke lose causing the ship to crash on the cement floor below. The plane was a total loss, and today, only the tail portion is believed to have survived. 

     The tail remnant was later put on display at the Quonset Air Museum, along with the flight suit worn by Zinno on his historic flight, as well as photographs of the event.   

     Mr. Zinno had been planning to build another human-powered aircraft when the prize money was finally claimed by a California man in 1977.

     For his efforts and contribution to aviation history, Mr. Zinno was inducted into the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame in November, 2006.

     To see photographs, and read more detailed and biographical information about Mr. Zinno, see  then click on “Hosting Client Links”. 


     Popular Science magazine, “Man Powered Aircraft”, July, 1976, page 47 

     Biography of “Lt. Col. Joseph A. Zinno, USAF (Ret.), Air transport Pilot- World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Aviation Pioneer, Artist, Architectual/Industrial Designer” for website

     Providence Journal, “The Man Who Could Fly – R.I. native was first American to fly in a human-powered plane”, November 18, 2006, Section D

     Astronautics and Aeronautics 1976 – A Chronology, Page 79.  (A publication of NASA.)    



A Most Unusual Air Battle Over Boston – 1936

Originally published in The Smithfield Times magazine, August, 2015.

 A Most Unusual Air Battle Over Boston

 By Jim Ignasher

       “Lady, please,” the policeman begged, “all I want is your name and address for my report. Then I promise I’ll leave you alone.”

     “Just give me a gun!” Was all she would say. “Just give me a gun!”

     The patrolman was growing weary of the young woman’s refusal to answer his questions, but showed patience by reminding himself that she was obviously ill. One reason he loved his job was because of the unending variety of situations he encountered, and this one was certainly different. Looking at the woman, he wondered why someone so pretty would do what she did. There had to be more to the story, but whatever it was, she wasn’t telling.

     The date was May 22, 1936. The setting was the Boston Airport. (Today known as Logan Airport.) Earlier in the day the woman had arrived at the hangar belonging to Intercity Airlines and asked to take a one hour observation flight over the city. She had taken several such flights in the past and always with the same handsome young pilot whom she requested again. However, that pilot, she was told, was unavailable that day, and was asked by the operations officer if she would consider flying with someone else. After some hesitation she agreed, and the job fell to Charles W. Sutherland.  

     Almost from the start something about the woman made Sutherland uncomfortable, but he couldn’t say exactly what that “something” was. She was attractive and well dressed, wearing a white linen skirt under a finely tailored blue coat. Her hair and makeup were perfect. Maybe that was it; she looked more like she was ready for an important date than someone who wanted to go flying.

     They climbed into an open-cockpit bi-plane, of the type commonly seen in old World War I movies. The seats were in tandem. While Sutherland took the front seat where the pilot’s controls were located, the woman sat in the rear. There was a rearview mirror, similar to those in an automobile, mounted above the front cockpit which allowed Sutherland to periodically glance back at his passenger as he went though the pre-flight safety check. Although Sutherland’s gut told him something wasn’t right, the woman’s demeanor seemed normal.

     Flying in such open aircraft generally required a leather helmet and goggles. The helmet kept the wind from pulling at ones hair and offered minimal protection in an accident, while the goggles protected ones eyes from wind and grit. The woman seemed reluctant to don the headgear, and Sutherland wondered if it was because of her stylish hair-do, but finally and carefully, she put it on.

     Seeing that the woman was settled in, Sutherland started the engine and taxied out to the runway. The weather was clear and seasonable and he hoped the flight would be nothing more than routine. The takeoff and rise to altitude went smoothly, and in a few minutes he leveled the plane at 10,000 feet and began a long lazy circle over Boston Harbor that would take them around the city and back to the airport.

     Things appeared to be going well, and the pilot began to wonder if his fears had been unfounded. Periodically glancing in the rearview mirror, he saw that the lady seemed to be enjoying the flight, but then she suddenly unfastened her seatbelt and begin shifting around in her seat. At one point she leaned way out of the cockpit to peer over the side. Sutherland turned to ask if she was alright and she nodded, but didn’t smile. To him, it appeared as if she was trying to make up her mind about something – was she going to jump? Sutherland couldn’t take the chance. He put the plane into a steep dive with the intent of returning to the airport, but as the plane descended the woman’s behavior became more erratic.

     At 1,500 feet she suddenly pulled off her helmet and goggles and tossed them overboard, letting her thick brown hair billow in the slipstream. Then she tried to climb out of the airplane! As she put one leg over the side Sutherland knew he had to act quickly. Unfastening his own safety belt, he stood up, reached back, and grabbed her by the only thing her could – her hair.   He then used his brawn to pull her back into her seat, but by this point she was intent on finishing what she’d come to do. She fought back, hitting, scratching, swearing, and biting, but Sutherland held tight.

     There he was, standing up in the airplane roughly 2,000 feet over the city, with one hand on the control stick and the other gripping the woman’s hair, struggling to keep the ship steady as he searched for the airport. Strong winds coming in off the ocean buffeted and rocked the plane making the situation all the more difficult, for it wouldn’t take much to toss both of them into space.    

     The battle against life and death raged for the next fifteen minutes over the skies of Boston. There was no way for Sutherland to call for help, and there was nothing anyone could do even if there had been. He was on his own, trapped in the sky struggling with a deranged woman who could at any moment bring both of them hurtling to their deaths.

     She screamed and swore at Sutherland, calling him every name in the book, and a few that hadn’t been invented yet, all the while trying every move she could think of to get him to let go. The question was; did she want to kill herself more than Sutherland wanted to save her?

     She flailed and twisted. Sutherland locked his arm and continued to hold tight. Every time he brought the plane closer to the ground she would cause him to jerk back on the controls and regain altitude. As the low flying plane passed erratically over the city, people on the ground thought it was some sort of publicity stunt, but for what they weren’t sure.    

   The battle continued, and both participants grew tired. Sutherland still held firm, but his arm was cramping. He could feel his strength ebbing and wondered how much longer he could hold on. Then an idea came to him. He swung the plane hard throwing the woman off balance and causing her to tumble into her seat. In that few seconds it took her to recover, he switched hands, and battle started anew. Spotting the airport ahead, he made a straight line for it. Boston’s airport was a busy one, and he hoped other air traffic would see him coming and get out of his way. If it didn’t, then his efforts would have been for naught.

   Miraculously, he managed to land the plane in his contorted position, and as soon as the wheels touched the tarmac the woman stopped fighting, slumped in her seat, and accepted defeat.  Airport employees raced out in a car to meet them and gave Sutherland a hand in holding the woman until Boston police could arrive.

     Even though the woman had flown with Intercity Airlines before, nobody had ever bothered to ask her name, for such things were not required in 1936. She carried no identification, and when police questioned her all she would say was, “Just give me a gun.” Exasperated, they took her to a nearby hospital for evaluation where she was admitted as a “Jane Doe”. Her picture was posted in local papers hoping someone would recognize her, but follow-up articles for this story could not be located.

     As for Mr. Sutherland, he was hailed as a hero, and he no doubt decided to trust his instincts more in the future. What motivated the pretty young woman to try to end her life is unknown, but her actions made for what is perhaps the most unusual aerial battle to ever take place over Boston.      




First U.S. Navy Dirigible – 1916

First U. S. Navy Dirigible – 1916

Artist rendering of the first dirigible produced for the U.S. Navy.

Artist rendering of the first dirigible produced for the U.S. Navy.

     On January 22, 1916, The Manufacturers Exhibition opened in New Haven, Connecticut.  One display that drew great interest was a model of a dirigible airship that had been constructed by the Connecticut Aircraft Company of New Haven; the first dirigible ever built for the United States Navy.    

     At the time of the exhibit, the airship was in a hangar at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire, undergoing some final preparations before it would sail to Pensacola, Florida, to under go trials and testing.

     The initial order for the dirigible was placed May 14, 1915.  It was reported at that time that the ship would be constructed in New York, assembled in New Haven, Connecticut, and shipped for trials to the Pensacola, Florida, Naval Aeronautic Station, all under the supervision and guidance of the Connecticut Aircraft Company.     

     The model displayed at the exhibition was designed to be towed by a battleship traveling 25 miles per hour against a 15 mph wind to be utilized by lookouts, and spotters for directing ship’s fire during battle conditions.   Traditional balloons had proved to be problematic in this roll due to their lack of stability under these conditions which often resulted in seasickness for the observers.

     The completed dirigible was described as being be 175 feet long, 50 feet tall, and 35 feet in diameter. It would carry a crew of eight, and cost $45,636. 

     The balloon was built with inner compartments that divided the front from the back, either of which could be pumped full with regular air to displace the hydrogen gas so as to make one end of the ship heavier or lighter to aid in ascending or descending.    

     Government specifications required that the dirigible be capable of rising at the rate of 8 feet per second. 

     Fabric for the balloon was manufactured at the United States Rubber Company.   

     On March 13, 1917, with the United States now involved in World War I, contracts totaling $649,250 were awarded to four manufacturers to produce 16 additional dirigibles for the U.S. Navy. 

     The awards were as follows:

     Three dirigibles to be built by the Curtis Aeroplane Company in Buffalo, N.Y., for $122,250.

     Two dirigibles to be built by the Connecticut Aircraft Company of New Haven, CT., for $84,000.

     Nine dirigibles to be built by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company of Akron, Ohio, for $360,000.

     Two dirigibles to be built by the B. F. Goodrich company in Akron, Ohio, for $88,000.  

     During its tenure in business, the Connecticut Aircraft Company build 177 airships and balloons of various kinds.  In 1921 the company was acquired by a Delaware corporation known as the Aircraft-Construction Corporation, and continued to produce dirigible airships under that name. 

    Click here to view more articles pertaining to the Connecticut Aircraft Company. 


     The Sun, (NY) “First Dirigible For The U.S. Navy Will Be Constructed In New York”, May 16, 1915 

     Tulsa Daily World, (Okla.) “U. S. Navy’s New Air Ship Fleet”, August 8, 1915 

     The Sun, (N.Y.) “Model Of First Dirigible Built For U. S. Is Shown”, January 23, 1916   

     The Chickasha Daily Express, (Okla.) April 1, 1916

     The East Oregonian, (Ore.) “U.S. Contracts For Sixteen Dirigibles”, March 14, 1917, (Daily Evening Edition, page 5.)

     The Bridgeport Times, (CT.) “Connecticut Aircraft Plane Will Be Operated By New Delaware Corporation”, September 1, 1921 

Earl L. Ovington – Early New England Aviator

Earl L. Ovington – Early New England Aviator

   early monoplane illustration

     There’s evidence to suggest that Gustave Whitehead was the first to fly an airplane in Connecticut – in 1901 – which pre-dates the Wright Brothers flight at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, in 1903.  However, could it be that Whitehead’s accomplishment was relatively unknown in 1911?  If so, it might explain the following headline in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer on May 6, 1911; “Ovington, First To Make Successful Flight In Connecticut, Has Narrow Esacpe As Plane Drops Into Air Hole”.  

      Earl L. Ovington, (1879-1936) (Also spelled “Earle” in some sources.) was a pioneer aviator from Newton, Massachusetts, who’d worked as an assistant to Thomas Edison prior to starting his aviation career.      

Advertisement from the
Bridgeport Evening Farmer
May 4, 1911

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer article referred to a harrowing flight Ovington made on May 5, 1911 at Steeplechase Park (On Steeplechase Island) in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

     The article began, “At Steeplechase Island yesterday afternoon Earl L. Ovington wrote his name deep into aviation history by making the first really successful aeroplane flight in the state of Connecticut.”

     The article went on to describe how Ovington’s Bleriot aeroplane dipped in “a dreaded air pocket” while at 2,000 feet over a crowd of spectators, and narrowly missed slamming into the ground.   As a point of fact, he’d had three brushes with death on the same flight.

     The first involved his take-off where he narrowly missed crashing into a building.  The second was when the plane hit the so-called “air pocket” and experienced a sudden dip.  During the dip, Ovinton remained in his seat due to his “life belt” holding him securely in place, thus saving him from being pitched to the ground.

     “These lifebelts are great things.” he joked later, “I don’t see why they are not included in the fashion plates of all aviators.”    

     As the plane’s right wing suddenly dipped when it entered the “air pocket”, the aircraft began falling from the sky, and it seemed virtually certain that Ovington was going to crash, but he recovered control of the plane just in time.  

        In an exclusive interview with a reporter from the The Bridgeport Farmer, Ovington described what happened that day.  

     “I certainly thought for a moment at the start yesterday that there was going to be a big dent in that ball room, with a wrecked machine and probably a wrecked aviator beneath it.

     That Steeplechase track is certainly the smallest and worst field I ever arose from or attempted to alight into.  I had great difficulty in getting a proper start over that sub-soil of sand.  The small wheels loaded down with the heavy motor, sank into it and retarded badly.

     When I got into the air I pushed down the tail of the machine and started to rise.  My Machine didn’t respond the way it should, and I saw that I wasn’t going fast enough.

     I had a fraction of a second in which to make up my mind: to come down and start over again, or make an attempt to get over the buildings upon which I was sweeping.

     I find that my mind works automatically in such cases quicker than I can think.  I realized instantaneously that to come down would mean that I would plough right into the fence and the spectators at (the) speed I was traveling.

     So Instead, I straightened out the tail and shot straight ahead, plumb for the buildings.  It must have looked as thought I was going to crash right into them with terrific force.  I took that course on purpose, in order to get sufficient speed .  Then I lowered the tail hard, and the monoplane lifted up nicely and just cleared the flag pole of the ball room.

     Over every building of that kind there is a heavy stream of air when there is a wind blowing.  As soon as I had cleared the ball room, my wings struck the stream of air and I went directly up then at a sharp angle.  But I owe my life and the safety of my machine to the splendid way in which my engine worked in lifting me over that building.  If it had failed, there would have been a great wreck. 

     Once in the air, my machine asserted its right to be what it is – the fastest climbing machine in the world.  I went up at an angle of 30 degrees.  There isn’t another machine in America that can do it.

     When I was making my second turn over the Sound (Long Island Sound) at a height of about 2,000 feet, I experienced what I consider to be the narrowest shave of my career as an aviator.

     Without warning, my right wing dropped into an “air pocket” or calm space, and immediately sank down, tilting the machine at a sharp angle.  There is only one way to save yourself in a case like that.  I lowered the machine quickly, and the downward plunge gave me sharp acceleration.  At the same instant I jammed over as hard as I could and the machine just righted itself.”

     When he was safely back on terra firma, Ovington kissed his new bride of two weeks, who had watched the entire event unfold.

     Ovington flew again at Steeplechase Park on May 7th, and once again he nearly died when his airplane hit another “air pocket” and almost crashed in the same manner as before.   

     On June 15, 1911, slightly more than a month after his flights at Steeplechase Park, Ovington’s fame grew when became the first man to pilot an airplane over the city of Boston. 

     On July 28, 1911, Ovington crash-landed a borrowed airplane in Mineola, New York.  On July 29th the Bridgeport Evening Farmer reported that the aviator “had the most remarkable escape of his life” when he took off in anew monoplane belonging to William Evans.  Not long after becoming airborne the engine quit, and the plane crash-landed and flipped over near a roadway construction project not far from the airfield.  Ovington was pinned beneath the wreckage for ten minutes before rescuers could extricate him.  Despite the damage to the aircraft, he escaped with minor injuries.  

     In August of 1911, Ovington  entered the International Aviation Meet held in Chicago, and won the 12 mile race for monoplanes with a time of 13 minutes and 30.92 seconds,  winning $400.  

     In September of 1911 he entered the Harvard-Boston Aero meet where he raced other well known airmen, Tom Sopwith, and Claude Graham-White, 15 an 1/2 miles to Boston Light and back. Ovington placed third with a time of 16 minutes 15.25 seconds. 

     One Sunday in October of 1911 Ovington was nearly arrested on Long Island, New York, when three deputy sheriffs appeared at the Nassau Boulevard field and told him and another aviator, Miss Mathilda Moisant, they couldn’t fly their airplanes due to it being the Sabbath.  This was due to a New York court ruling which determined that Sunday airshows where admission was charged were illegal.  

     This left both pilots in a predicament as they would be forced to leave their airplanes overnight, and make arrangements for guarding them.  Both aviators flew anyway, with the deputies in hot pursuit via automobile.

     As both took to the sky the deputies were forced to make a choice as to which one to chase.  For unspecified reasons they stuck with Miss Moisant who flew from the field to her hangar in Mineola, which was located on her brother Alfred’s property.  Once on the ground she ran towards her car where her chauffer was standing by, and secured herself inside. The three deputy sheriffs arrived in short order and attacked the chauffer with billy-clubs when he tried to prevent them from extricating Miss Moisant. 

     Miss Moisant was taken into custody, but was later released with all charges dropped because the deputies didn’t have a warrant.   

     Meanwhile, Ovington fared better, and landed near Belmont Park when he encountered a squall that nearly wrecked his aircraft.  By then the deputies had no idea where he’d gone and he escaped arrest.   

     Another interesting story about Earl Ovington occurred in the summer of 1919 when he flew two New York men,  J. O. Colt, and L. W. Hutchins, six miles out to sea in a seaplane so they could fish for sea bass.  It was reported that they returned with a string of fish. 

     In November of 1919, Ovington took part in an airborne search-and-rescue operation off the coast of New Jersey.  On November 7th, two 16-year-old youths, John Ledbetter, and Raymond Iszard, went duck hunting in a small boat and were carried out to sea.  When the boys didn’t come home a search was instituted.  In addition to water craft, two seaplanes from the Cape May Naval Air Station, and Earl Ovington’s personal aircraft, took part in the search.    

     The boat with the youths still inside was found by one of the navy planes about three miles off Cape May.  Unfortunately both had succumbed to exposure.

     More information about Earl Ovington can be found at


     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Ovington, First To Make Successful Flight In Connecticut, Has Narrow Escape As Plane Drops Into Air Hole”, May 6, 1911 

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Ovington In Flight Over Steeplechase” , May 6, 1911, page 7

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, “Earl Ovington’s Narrow Escape”, July 29, 1911, page 7.

     Burlington Weekly Free Press, “Aviators Speed Mile-A-Minute”, September 7, 1911, Page 9

     The Daily Missoulian, Photo and caption, August 14, 1911, Page 3 

     (Rock island Ill.) Rock Island Argus, “Third Day Results In Aviation Meet”, August 15, 1911, page 3

     Arizona Republican, “Miss Moisant Is called Aviatrix”, October 9, 1911, pg. 1

     (Ocala, Florida) The Ocala Evening Star, “Struck A Woman To Save The Sabbath”, October 10, 1911 

     The Washington Times, “Fish From Plane Six Miles At Sea”, July 12, 1919, final edition

     New York Tribune, “Bodies Of Two Boys Found Drifting In Boat”, November 11, 1919, Page 3


First Passenger Flights In Vermont – 1911

First Passenger Flights In Vermont


Advertisement for the Orleans County Fair - 1911

Advertisement for the Orleans County Fair – 1911

     On August 22, 23, & 24, the 22nd Annual Orleans County Fair was held at Roaring Brook Park, in Barton, Vermont.  It was reported that aviator James V. Martin (1885-1956) would be there with his “passenger aeroplane” to take customers aloft, “thus constituting the first passenger flights in the state”.    


It was further reported that Martin’s wife, one of the few women aviators at the time, who be with him at the fair.


     St. Johnsbury Caledonian, “First Passenger Flights In Vermont”, August 16, 1911 – supplement. 

Alaska & New England First To Get Air Mail – 1916

     The following article appeared on page 8 of  The Tacoma Times, February 17, 1916.

“Alaskans And New Englanders First To Get Aeroplane Mail”  

Click on article to enlarge.

Tacoma Times Feb 17, 1916 page 8

First Aircraft Used In Sea Rescue – 1914

First Aircraft Used In Sea Rescue – 1914

     According to the following article, the first time an airplane was used in rescue operation for a ship in distress was in June of 1914, in the waters off Massachusetts.  

“…the first time in the history of aviation that an airship has gone to succor a ship at sea.” 

     The Columbus Commercial, Airship For Sea Rescue” June 14, 1914.

 Click on image to enlarge.

Airship For Sea Rescue Newspaper

For more information about the Burgess-Dunne hydroplane see the following links:   (click on pages 308 to 310)  (click on page 83)

Early Aviation At Newburyport, Massachusetts

Early Aviation Newspaper Articles

Of Newburyport, Massachusetts

early biplane

     The following newspaper articles, culled from various sources, offer a small glimpse of early aviation trials held in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


Successful Aero Flights

New Yorkers Make Several “Runs” with “Flying Fish”

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

     The Salt Lake Herald-Republican, April 18, 1910.


Breaks World’s Record

Great Feat Of Burgess Aeroplane In Its Initial Flight

     Newburyport, Mass., April 18. – Three successive aeroplane flights by A. M. Herring of New York and W. S. Burgess at Plum Island aviation field Sunday created a record for heavier than air machines when the big machine started on each one of its three flights by its own power in skids while resting on the ground.

     The successful flight is the culmination of three years steady planning by the two inventors who made the flights, which marked the opening of the aeroplane era in New England.

     Orleans County Monitor, April 20, 1910


Flights By Auto Racer

New Device Works Well On Herring Burgess Aeroplane

     Newburyport, Mass., May 13 – William Hilliard, and automobile racer of Boston, made three successful flights in a new Herring-Burgess aeroplane at Plum Island aviation grounds to-day.  The machine he used had a new device of his own invention which supplanted the “fins” on the top, and is used to maintain the equilibrium of the machine.

     Several hundred yards were covered in each of the three flights, at a height of between fifteen and twenty feet, and during one ascension Hilliard was able to negotiate a complete turn, the first he has been able to make. 

     New York Tribune, May 14, 1910, page 3


Flight At Plum Island

     Newburyport, Mass., May 24 – The longest aeroplane flight in New England has been made by William Hilliard, of Boston, who went a distance of a third of a mile at Plum Island.  The machine worked smoothly and no mishap happened.

     The Washington Times, May 24, 1910, Page 13, Last Edition  


Biplane In Several Flights

     New Device to Give Lateral Stability Works Well at Plum Island

     Newburyport, Mass., May 27 – Several aeroplane flights lasting an hour and a half and covering distances from a quarter to half a mile at an altitude of fifteen feet were made to-day by William Hilliard in a Herring-Burgess biplane at Plum Island aviation grounds.  There was a brisk breeze blowing at the time, and it was thought at first the flights would have to be postponed until the air was calmer.  Hilliard, it is said, jestingly made a vow last night that he would not eat again until he had made a flight, and he evidently was hungry this morning, for he launched the machine despite the breeze and flew across the meadows.

     The biplane has lately been equipped with a new device to give lateral stability.  This device is intended especially for use in windy weather, and to-day it had its first real test.  the inventor and Mr. Hilliard say that it worked remarkably well.

     New York Tribune, May 28, 1910, Page 5.  


Insurance Companies Will Not Accept Risk Of Aviators As Ordinary

     Newburyport, June 8.  Evidence that insurance companies are not to accept the risk of aviators as ordinary has been revealed here in the case of A. L. Pfitzner of Hammondsport, N.Y., who has been making flights at Plum Island.  Pfitzner was visited by an agent of the insurance company Justas he was preparing for a trial of some new skids on a biplane today.  The company had heard of the narrow escape of Pfitzner a few days ago when he crashed to the ground from a height of 30 feet.  He was obliged to sign a clause absolving the insurance company from liability in case of death while engaged in flying machine flights.

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, June 8, 1910, Page 5.   


Aviator Pfitzner Makes Flight From Plum Island To Pork Island

     Newburyport, Mass., July 8 – A. L. Pfitzner, of Hammondsport, N. Y., made a very successful flight here today in a Burgess biplane, covering a distance of two miles at a height of 100 feet.  Pfitzner started from the Plum Island aviation field and landed at Pork Island.  The aviator said he could have gone farther but had to descend owing to his engne being overheated.  This is the most successful flight at plum Island so far.

     Mr. Pfitzner will make another flight this evening in the same machine while William Hilliard of Boston will also make a trip in his aeroplane.

     The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, July 8, 1910, Page 4.   


Aviator Falls Into River And Swims Ashore

     Newburyport, Mass., July 9 – Following a spectacular three mile flight across Plum Island meadows early today, A. L. Pfitzner, the New York aviator while flying at a height of 75 feet was hurled into Plum Island’s river when the machine which he was operating was capsized by a cross current of air.  Mr. Pfitzner swam ashore and went to the aviation shed and an examination disclosed a badly bruised head and it is feared that he is injured internally.  He plucklly stayed on the grounds until the remnants of the machine had been hauled from the river, after which he was driven to his quarters at the Plum Island Hotel, two miles distant. But little was left of his machine except the engine.  he was using a Curtiss biplane at the time of the accident.

     The Bridgeport Evening farmer, July 9, 1910, page 2.   

     Note:  This report of the accident states the aircraft was a “Curtis biplane”.  The following report states it was a “Burgess biplane”  


Fell 75 Feet

     Newburyport, Mass., July 9 – Following a spectacular three mile flight across Plum Island meadow today, A. L. Pfitsnor (Name misspelled – should be “Pfitzner”) of New York, flying at a height of seventy-five feet in a Burgess biplane, was hurled into Plum Island river.  The machine capsized in air currents.  It is feared he is internally injured.

     The Fairmont West Virginian, July 9, 1910, Page 6.   



Caledonia County Fair, Vermont – Aerpolane Advertisement – 1910

Caledonia County Fair, Vermont – Aeroplane Advertisement

This ad appeared in the Orleans County Monitor, September 7, 1910.  

Click on image to enlarge.


Caledonia Fair Ad newspaper

First Airplane To Be Insured In Connecticut – 1911

First Airplane To Be Insured In Connecticut – 1911

The following article appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, June 13, 1911, Pg. 5 

Click on image to enlarge.


New Haven Flyer newspaper

First Airplane Built In Vermont – 1910

First Airplane Built In Vermont – 1910

     The following article appeared on page 7 in the Barre Daily Times, August 30, 1910.  

Vermont’s First Aeroplane

     C. C. Bonnette’s  aeroplane, the first to be constructed in this state, is nearly ready for trial at his home in Passumpsic.  The ship is one of the Curtis type of biplanes, 24 feet overall and is equipped with a 40-60-horse-power engine.  Total weight of the machine and driver is a little over 600 pounds, and Mr. Bonnette is confident that he will succeed.  Mr. Bonnette built the aeroplane last winter, and it has been examined by experts from different parts of the country, who have pronounced it the best model they have ever seen.  Because it was the first airship constructed in the state, Mr. Bonnette names it “Vermont No. 1”.  Since he was a young man he has made over 1,500 balloon ascensions, frequently giving exhibitions at fairs.  In Rochester, N.Y. a few years ago, he fell 100 feet, breaking one leg, one arm, and suffering a concussion of the brain.  His wife, who used to accompany him on his ascensions, is now an invalid as a result of a fall from the balloon 14 years ago at Malone, N. Y., when her back was broken.  She is much interested in her husband’s plans for his new invention.        

     Clarence C. Bonnette, aka Bonette, was born in Victory, Vermont in 1872, and died in Concord, new Hampshire in 1947.  For more information about him, see

     The following two items were found in the August 26, 1911 edition of Aero magazine, on page 461, under “The Diary of Flight”.

     Saturday, August 12

     Atlantic, Mass. – C. C. Bonette of Pasumpsic, VT. made several short flights in his Curtis-type biplane.  

    Thursday, August 17

     Atlantic, Mass. – Dr. Percy L. Reynolds broke wood in a Burgess-Wright biplane.  Reynolds unhurt. C.C. Bonette, in his Curtis-type biplane met with similar mishap.

First Airplane Flight In Vermont – 1910

The First Airplane Flight In Vermont – 1910

     The first reported airplane flight in Vermont took place at the Caledonia county fair in St. Johnsbury on September 15, 1910. 

     The fair had been well advertised.  One ad which appeared on page 1 of the Essex County Herald on September 9, 1910,  stated in part, “The greatest of outdoor attractions – an aeroplane will make the first flights ever in Vermont.”

     The fair was scheduled to take place on September 13, 14, and 15.   

     The following article appeared in the Barre Daily Times on September 16, 1910.

Aviator Flew Over Vermont Hills

Successful performance by John Willard at the St. Johnsbury Fair yesterday afternoon.

     St. Johnsbury, Sept. 16 – Over 10,000 people attended the closing day of the Caledonia county fair , the attractions being a decorated automobile parade, three fast races, and two magnificent assentions by Charles F. Willard, the noted aviator, in his biplane.  In the automobile parade, there were over 100 machines, with $250 in prizes.  In class I, John C. Clark won first prize, the Commercial Club second, O.H. Rixford of East Highgate third.

     In class two, Dr. T. R. Stiles won first, Asselin brothers second, and Dan A. Perry of Barre third.  Lyndonville took the prize for the most cars from one town and for decorated cars. 

     The first ascent in Vermont of an aeroplane was a success from start to finish and created great enthusiasm.  In his 18 months of aviation, Mr. Willard told the correspondent it was the roughest course he had ever tried.  The groundis not only rough, but the nearness of the foothills causes a confusionof aircurrents and prevents any long distanceflight.  But in spite of natural difficulties, he kept the machine under perfect control all the time.  In his first flight of about six minutes, he covered about five miles, following the valley of the Passumpsie river, and rose to a height of 506 feet.  His second trip was shorter, but more spectacular , as he circled the fair grounds almost within hailing distance, and his sensational landing created whirl of applause.  Mr. Willard left for Holyoke last night, where he will fly on Saturday.  

     The flight in Holyoke mentioned in the article took place September 17, 1910.  

     Prior to his exhibition at the Caledonia county fair, Mr. Willard had attended the Squantum Air Meet held in Quincy, Massachusetts, a little over one week earlier.   

     The following articles which appeared in the St. Johnsbury Caledonian on September 21, 1910, (Page 7) provide greater detail of his historic Vermont flight. 

Click on images to enlarge

The Aero Flight 1newspaper


The Aero Flight 2 newspaper


The Aero Flight 3 newspaper


Did as advertised newspaper


     Charles Forster Willard died in 1977 at the age of 94.  For more information about him see




A New Kind Of Balloon Race – 1908

A New Kind Of Balloon Race – 1908

   old balloon  It was said to be a new kind of balloon race called a “point-to-point race”, the first ever held in the United States.  Balloons were to take off from North Adams, Massachusetts, but the contestants were to predict ahead of time where they expected their balloon to land.  The landing point had to be at least thirty miles form North Adams, and the one who landed closest to their designated target would be the winner. 

     The race was held August 14, 1908, and the winner was Mr. Arthur D. Potter of Greenfield, Massachusetts, who piloted the balloon, North Adams No.1, which came down on a farm about five miles from its anticipated destination of Haydenville, a village in the town of Williamsburg, Mass.  Accompanying him on the trip was A. Holland Forbes, and his 12-year-old daughter, Natalie.    

     Source: (No. Dakota) Bismarck Daily Tribune, “New Kind Of Balloon Race”, August 15, 1908

Updated April 4, 2017

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Morning Journal-Currier, (New Haven, Connecticut), August 6, 1908, page 4.


Challenge Cup Will Go To Pilot Who Lands Nearest The Place he Selects Before Flight 

Six Balloons, Size Unrestricted, Are Expected To Join Unique Test Next Thursday 

     New York, Aug. 5 – With a record of 25 successful balloon flights from North Adams, Mass., during the present season, and with many more booked for the near future with the certainty that they will continue up to the close of the ballooning season in October, the North Adams Aero Club will start on August 14 the first point to point balloon race ever held in the United States and the fourth race where more than two balloons are started that has ever been held in this country.

     At least four balloons and probably five, with a possibility of six, will be sent away during the afternoon, the pilot of each being required to name the landing place he selects prior to his departure. This place must be at least thirty miles from the starting point, and the pilot who lands nearest to the post office of the town or city he selects, providing he is within a ten-mile radius of the post office, will be awarded the trophy given by A. Holland Forbes of new York, a well known balloonist who has made the majority of his trips from this city and who is to be one of the contestants representing the United States in the international balloon races at Berlin, Germany, in October. 

     This trophy is to be held by the winner subject to challenge after six months, and if the challenge is not accepted after thirty days the cup reverts to the North Adams Aero Club, which will arrange for a second race, as will be done immediately in the event that no one of the contestants succeeds in carrying out the provisions of the race on the first attempt.

     The balloons already entered are: Heart of the Berkshires, owned by the Aero Club of Pittsfield; pilot Alan R. Hawley, third vice-president of the Aero Club of America, and a contestant in the recent international race from St. Louis.  Sky Pilot, owned by Mesers Wade and Morgan of Cleveland, Ohio: pilot J. H. Wade.   Boston, owned by the Aero Club of New England; pilot, Charles J. Glidden of Boston.  North Adams No 1, owned by the North Adams Aero Club; pilot, Arthur D. Potter of Greenfield,  who will be accompanied by Mr. Forbes, the giver of the trophy.  Greylock, owned and piloted by Dr. Roger M. Randall of North Adams.  

     No restrictions as to the size of the balloons or the number of people each may carry is made, and each pilot, after witnessing the direction taken by several piloting balloons, is at liberty to pick his landing place, announcing it as he is ready to leave the grounds.

     The first of the balloons will not be sent away until 1 o’clock at the earliest on Friday, August 14, and the others will follow at fifteen or thirty minutes intervals, as mey be determined upon the day of the race by the race committee. 


     The following newspaper article appeared in The Marion Daily Mirror, (Marion, Ohio) on August 15, 1908, page 2.      


Three Airships In The Race

Balloon That Won The Prize Offered For Victory Had A 12-Year-old Girl As One Of Its Passengers

     North Adams, Mass., Aug. 15 – The balloon North Adams No. 1, with A. D. Potter of Greenfield as pilot and Holland Forbes and daughter Natalie, aged 12 years, as passengers, and owned by the North Adams Aero Club, undoubtedly won the cup offered by Mr. Forbes in the first point-to-point race ever held in this country.  The race was started from North Adams Friday afternoon.  The North Adams No. 1 landed on the farm of Lyman Sanderson at West Whateley, about five miles from its previously declared destination, Haydenville.  This was the first balloon to get away.  The Greylock, owned and pilotd by Dr. Roger M. Randall of North Adams and having Clarence Wildman of this city as passenger, landed at Bryant farm in Ashfield, fully 12 miles from its desired destination, Leeds.

     The third balloon to start, the Heart of the Berkshires, owned by the Aero Club of Pittsfield, was the last to land, coming down in Amherst, within six and one-quarter miles of Whateley Station, its destination.

     The conditions of the race were that, previous to the race, the occupants of the balloon should designate some place, at least 30 miles from North Adams, where they would attempt to land, that they should land within ten miles of the post office of the place and that the balloon landing nearest the announced destination should win the cup.   Further, the winner should hold himself open for six months to a challenge for the defense of the cup.

     Charles J. Glidden of Boston was to have made the fourth competitor with the balloon Boston, owned by the Aero Club of New England and having as a passenger Mrs. Helm Clayton, wife of the meteorologist of the Blue Hill Observatory.   Mr. Glidden did not desire to start until late in the afternoon, but the committee on the race decided that the contestants must be ready to start at 1 o’clock.  Mr. Glidden would not consent to go up at that time, so he was disqualified from competing.  







First Airplane Trip Across Long Island Sound – 1910

First Airplane Trip Across long Island Sound – 1910

August 20, 1910

     Clifford B. Harmon of Greenwich, Connecticut, is reportedly the first man to fly across Long Island Sound from Garden City, Long Island, to Greenwich, Connecticut, on August 20, 1910.   

     In an age when man travels in space aided by computer technology, it might seem trivial to mention something as mundane as an airplane flight across Long Island Sound.  Yet such a trip was newsworthy in 1910, for nobody had ever done it before, and the press was eager to report any and all aviation “firsts”.   After all, men had only been using airplanes for seven years.

     Mr. Harmon was described as a “business man and amateur aviator”, who’d made several previous attempts to fly across the Sound without success. 

     Prior to beginning the day’s flight, Harmon met Charles K. Hamilton at the Garden City, L.I. aviation field and took him as a passenger on a test flight of his Farnum biplane.  After circling the field and finding the plane in good order, he landed and discharged Hamilton before starting his flight across the Sound.

     Once aloft, Harmon caught a good tail wind and headed out across Hempstead Bay and Long Island Sound.  There he flew over the water, at one point reaching an altitude of 1,000 feet.  As he neared the Connecticut shore he dropped to 400 feet and circled the Larchmont Yacht Club where he knew some friends of his were dinning.  From there he headed towards the estate of his father-in-law, Commodore E. C. Benedict, where a section of lawn had been mowed and leveled for the occasion, but in the fading dusk he had trouble locating his intended landing spot, and came down instead on a patch of ground about a quarter of a mile away.  As he touched down, his plane ran into a section of tall grass which caught the wheels and broke the chassis and some wires connected to the wings.  Harmon, however, was unhurt.  He’d made the 28 mile trip in just 30 minutes. 

      Shortly after his landing, Harmon’s wife arrived by automobile, having watched his trip across the sound through a large telescope at her father’s estate.    

     For successfully completing the trip, Mr. Harmon was awarded the Doubleday, Page Company Cup, said to be worth $2,000.      


     Norwich Bulletin, “Aeroplane Trip Over The Sound”, August 22, 1910.


First Woman To Fly An Airplane In New England – 1912

     First Woman To Fly An Airplane In New England – 1912

June 29, 1912 

U. S. Air Mail Stamp Issued In 1980 Honoring Blanche Stuart Scott

U. S. Air Mail Stamp Issued In 1980 Honoring Blanche Stuart Scott

     According to a small newspaper article which appeared in The San Francisco Call, Miss Blanche Stuart Scott (1885-1970) was the first woman to fly an “aeroplane” in New England.  The event occurred at the 3rd Boston Aero Meet scheduled to be held at Harvard Field in Squantum, Massachusetts, from June 29, to July 6, 1912.

The following is a transcript of the article:


    “ BOSTON, June 29, – Miss Blanche Stuart Scott secured the distinction of being the first woman to fly an aeroplane in New England at the opening of the aviation meet in Squantum today. She used a biplane.  Later Miss Harriet Quimby made a half hour’s flight in a new monoplane.”

     The article indicates that Miss Scott flew before Harriet Quimby (1875 – July 1, 1912).  Miss Quimby was famous for being the first woman in the Unites States to earn a pilot’s license, and for being the first woman to fly across the English Channel on April 16, 1912. 

     The 3rd Boston Aero Meet was scheduled to run from June 29 to July 6, but was cut short on July 1st when Miss Quimby and a passenger were killed when her plane crashed in Dorchester Bay. 

     Much has been written about the lives of both Miss Scott and Miss Quimby.  

     Source: The San Francisco Call, “Miss Blanche Scott Obtains Aero Honors”, June 30, 1912, Page 22.      


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