Aero Club Of Vermont -1916

Aero Club Of Vermont – 1916 

     The Aero Club of Vermont was formally established in Burlington, Vt., on July, 6, 1916.  It should be noted that there was another club with a similar name known as the “Vermont Aero Club”, which had been established in Rutland, Vt., in either 1908 or 1909.  Neither club is still active today, and it’s unclear if there was any link between the two, or if the former club merged with the latter.    

     While both clubs were open to those with an interest in aviation, it appears that the Rutland club (Vermont Aero Club) was established primarily for balloon ascensions, and the Burlington organization (Aero Club of Vermont) focused more on airplanes and state defense, and later on the establishment of airports. 

     The following Vermont newspaper articles relate to both organizations.  It has been noted that after July of 1916, the newspapers sometimes referred to the Aero Club of Vermont as the Vermont Aero Club.   

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     The following article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner, April 14, 1908.    

Taken Up Ballooning

Rutland is the First Vermont Town to Form Aero Club 

     Rutland, April 12, – There is an indication that ballooning may supplant league base ball in Rutland this summer.  A meeting will be held tomorrow evening to discuss a movement to form an aero club, the idea of the business men who are at the bottom of the project being that the novelty of balloon ascensions would do more to advertise the city than base ball.  Rutland is the first Vermont town to spring an aero club, the incentive having been by the success of the North Adams and Pittsfield clubs.  

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     The following article appeared in The Barre Daily Times, June 23, 1909, page 1.  (The “aero club” referred to in this article is the Aero Club of America.)

Rutland To Be A Station

Notice Received That Aero Club Has Added Vermont City To Its List.

     Rutland, June 23, – That Rutland is to be added to the list of Aero club stations in New England, is announced in a letter just received by sec. H. W. Allen of the Rutland Improvement League from Charles J. Glidden, whose balloon, the Massachusetts, made a trip from this city to Gilmanton, N. H., last Friday.

     The letter states that the committee on balloons and ascensions has recommended this station to the Aero Club, and that official notice of the fact will be sent to all the clubs of the United States.     

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     The following article appeared in the New York Tribune, July 21, 1909, page 7. 

     Aeronauts In Quick Descent

Pilot of Balloon Ascending From Pittsfield Says He Never Came Down Faster

     Winsted, Conn., July 20, – Winsted today witnessed a thrilling descent by three aeronauts.  William Van Sleet, pilot; C. T. Fairfield, of Rutland, Vt., publisher and editor of “The Rutland Evening News” and president of the Vermont Aero Club, and Professor Oswald Tower, of North Adams, teacher of science in Wesleyan Academy, Wilbraham, Mass.  The men ascended from Pittsfield, Mass., at 8:40 a.m.  When at an altitude of 8,900 feet the balloon started across the town and then suddenly began to drop.  So rapid was its descent that all three men were rendered deaf for half an hour.

     The party finally landed without accident on the farm of Daniel O’Neil, in Mooreville. All ballast in the car had been dumped to avert a landing in the heart of Winsted’s business district.  It was van Sleet’s thirty-sixth flight, and he said he never experienced a quicker ride to earth.

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     The following article appeared in the Burlington Weekly Press, July 29, 1909.

An Ascension In Rutland

Wm. Van Sleet Takes Four Rutland People Up In Balloon Massachusetts

     Rutland, July 27,  – Pilot William Van Sleet of the Pittsfield Aero Club made an ascension here at four o’clock this afternoon in the balloon Massachusetts with four Rutland people, H. Clayton Carpenter, Frank M. Wilson, Charles H. West, and Harry A. Mattison.  The start was made in the presence of 1,000 people with the most favorable weather conditions, a light breeze driving the big bag slowly out of sight over the mountains east of the city.   

     Pilot Van Sleet will make another ascension here next Thursday, the first under the direction of the new Vermont Aero Club.

    ( The balloon landed in Barnard, Vermont, at 6:30 p.m., 18 miles northeast of Rutland.)

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     By 1916 the airplane had progressed to the point where it was being used as a weapon of war in Europe.  At the same time the United States was facing the possibility of becoming involved in World War I, and there were those here in America taking proactive action.  Some military leaders began looking to the nations aero clubs for possible recruits.     

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     The following article appeared in The Barre Daily Times, May 31, 1916.

Lieut. Peary In Northfield

North Pole Man To Assist In Forming Aero Club Of Vermont

     Admiral Robert E. Peary, the discoverer of the North Pole, who is now devoting his entire time to aeronautics and aviation, is to be the guest of major Wallace Batchelder, of the Aero Club of America, at Norwich University, Northfield, July 6, and will help perfect the organization of the Aero Club of Vermont, at that time and place.  Other distinguished officers and civilians will be present to help launch what promises to be one of the largest aero clubs in America.  All persons who desire to become charter members of the Aero Club of Vermont should make application before July 6 by letter addressed to Major Batchelder, Aero Club of America, 297 Madison Avenue, New York. 

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     The following article appeared in The Bennington Evening Banner on July 8, 1916.

Vermont Aero Club

John Hartness of Springfield Elected President

     Burlington, July 6. – The exercises attending the formation of the Aero Club of Vermont and the prominence of the speakers attracted a large crowd to Camp Governor Gates today.  The event presided over by James Hartness of Springfield.

     Gov. Charles W. Gates welcomed the distinguished visitors and commended the excellent showing made by the 1st Vermont regiment now on the Texas border.

     The principal speaker of the day was Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, who discussed the advisability of every state preparing an adequate aero service in connection with its national guard.

     Augustus C. Post, manager of the approaching military transcontinental aeroplane flight gave an interesting history of aviation in America.

     Those present had the opportunity to inspect the 1st Vermont Cavalry now being recruited at the state camp to war strength. 

     The following officers of the Aero Club of Vermont were elected:   

     President, James Hartness of Springfield; vice president, Adjt. Gen. Lee S. Tillotson; secretary, James P. Taylor of Burlington; treasurer H. R. Roberts, dean of Norwich University; governing board, Gov. Charles W. Gates of franklin, Col. Ira L. Reeves, commander of 1st Vermont Infantry, Maj. Wallace Batchelder, commanding 1st Vermont Cavalry, Clark C. Fitts of Brattleboro, Horace F. Graham of Craftsbury, Redfield Proctor of Proctor, W. A. Scofield and James P. Taylor of Burlington and James Hartness.    

     The crowd was somewhat disappointed that no aeroplanes or demonstrations were present.

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     The following excerpt is from The Barre Daily Times, July 6, 1916.

     “The Aero Club of Vermont filed articles with headquarters at Burlington, and with the names of 147 signers attached, the leading name being James Hartness of Springfield.”

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     The following article appeared in the Essex County Herald, November 17, 1916.

Annual Meeting Of Vermont Aero Club

     The first annual meeting of the Aero Club of Vermont will be held on the 27th at the Hotel Vermont.  The annual dinner of the Club will be at seven o’clock to be followed by addresses and the annual business meeting.  All citizens of Vermont interested in aeronautics are urged to be present.  Tickets for the dinner may be secured by application to James P. Taylor, Secretary, Stannard Memorial building, Burlington, Vermont.

Aero Club

     The Aero Club of Vermont came into existence to meet the peculiar needs of Vermont, both in respect to its economic development in times of peace and its complete military preparedness to meet any conditions arising out of disturbance of our peace.  The membership of the Club is made up of those who are interested in promoting Vermont’s aeronautical interests, and is not restricted to air pilots or those who, as passengers, make occasional trips in air craft.  There is a distinctive service which everyone can render to Vermont, either by becoming a member of the Club or by co-operating with Club members.

Landing Places 

     Vermont now needs landing places for the air craft.  In the present state of the art, flying in Vermont is unsafe unless one keeps within a short distance of a landing place.  The aeroplane must descend as soon as the engine fails, and although some engines can make a continuous run of several hours, it is still a matter of common experience to have the engine stop unexpectedly.  The descent under favorable conditions may be made at a downward pitch of one in eight.  hence if one is flying a mile high he can volplane a distance of eight miles.  But he never should be farther from a landing place than eight times his altitude.  This means that in order to make it possible to fly in safety through Vermont there should be a chain of landing places separated by a distance of not more than sixteen miles.  Of course, a wind blowing in any direction would change the matter favorably or otherwise.      

     It is highly desirable to get routes through Vermont in all directions, and the landing places should be even closer together than the sixteen miles.

     It is a very fascinating subject to follow.  The aero papers, such as the monthly publication “Flying” and the weekly “Aerial Age”, contain the latest information.  Both of these papers are published in New York City.  Membership in the Vermont Aero Club gives each one an opportunity to attend the meetings and other functions of the Club and get the pleasure that comes in cooperating in an effective way for the betterment of our state, town, and lives.

     There is no more inspiriting subject and surely very few can compare with it for great potency for future development.

     Joining the club gives us a practical opportunity to express our patriotism.  It may be infinitely small compared with the service rendered by those who enlisted in the National Guard, but nevertheless it is of great value.  If you wish to become a member send a letter to Mr. James P. Taylor, Secretary, Aero Club of Vermont, Burlington, Vt.  

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     The following article appeared in The Brattleboro Daily Reformer on July 26, 1919. 

Rutland Men Favor Preparing Airport

James Hartness Of Springfield Addressed Business Men’s Association Previous To Vote

     Rutland, July 26, – There were two meetings of the Rutland Business Men’s Association in their rooms yesterday, a special meeting being called for yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock to hear a talk by James Hartness, the Springfield manufacturer and inventor, president of the Vermont Aero Club and a licensed aviator, on the importance of towns establishing airports or landing places for aircraft.  Mr. Hartness is the recognized head of air interests in Vermont and has advocated the necessity of all towns having such landing places in consequence of the early establishment of regular air routes for the delivery of mail, small express and passengers.

     The resolution was offered by Dr. J. M. Hamilton placing the association on record in favor of procuring an airport here.

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      In the spring 1919, James Hartness, President of the Aero Club of Vermont, purchased two adjoining farms in Springfield, Vermont for the sum of $4,800, and donated the land to the state to become Vermont’s first state airport – Hartness State Airport.  (Source: Brattleboro Daily Reformer, “Airplane Flies Over Town Today”, July 2, 1919.)  

     The following article appeared in The Barre Daily Times on September 15, 1919, page 8.  

Gov. Clement To James Hartness

     Governor P. W. Clement sent the following letter to James Hartness in appreciation to his gift of an aviation field to the village of Springfield.

     “Please accept my heartiest greetings on the occasion of the first commercial flight from one Vermont landing field to Vermont’s first municipal landing field, at Springfield.

     It is an exceptional pleasure that this message is to be borne by my townsman Lieut. John J. Lynch, to the president of the Vermont Aero Club and the state’s foremost advocate of aviation.  This is a pioneer event, and I wish the greatest success to Vermont’s progress in aviation.”

     “Percival W. Clement, Governor”

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    James Hartness was elected Governor of Vermont in 1920, and served until 1923.  As Governor, he resigned his position as President of the Aero Club of Vermont. 

     It is unknown when the Aero Club of Vermont disbanded, but it is known to have been operating in the early 1920s.   

First Vermont Woman To Fly In A Balloon – 1909

First Vermont Woman To Fly In A Balloon – 1909

     The following newspaper article appeared in The Barre Daily Times, (Barre, Vermont), on August 13, 1909.

LANDED IN BRANDON

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Yesterday’s Balloon Ascension

At Rutland Had Lady Passenger

     “Rutland, Aug. 13. – Mrs. Edith I. Sawyer, a reporter on the Evening News in this city, has the distinction of being the first woman in Vermont to make a balloon ascension.  She was a passenger yesterday afternoon in the big balloon Heart of the Berkshires, piloted by William Van Sleet. 

     The ascent was made at 3:25 and was witnessed by a large number of people.  Ezra Allen of Fowler was the second passenger in the car.  Harold F. Keyes of Boston was to have been a passenger, but failed to show up.  A place was then offered to Charles S. Fairfield, editor of the Evening news, and he assigned Mrs. Sawyer, who was in the crowd watching the ascension, to make the trip.

     The big bag was in sight from this city until after five o’clock and the landing was made near Brandon, on land belonging to Dr. O. A. Gee, shortly after that time.  The balloon was seen by many people as it slowly traveled in a southerly direction, and in some instances people on the ground talked with the occupants.  At Fowler the balloon had dropped so low this it was necessary to throw out considerable ballast, and they were plainly seen by the operatives in the mill at that point.

     The landing was made easily and without mishap and the party returned to this city shortly after 11 o’clock.”      

Update January 29, 2017

     Mrs. Sawyer may been the first woman born in Vermont to make a balloon ascension, but the following advertisement promoting the 1887 Lyndonville, Vermont, July 4th celebration indicates that the first woman to go aloft in a balloon over Vermont might have been Mary Myers, (1849-1932,) of Mohawk, New York, better known by her professional name of “Carlotta”.  She was married to Carl Myers, a famous aeronaut and inventor of the time.   

    

Advertisement from The United Opinion newspaper of Bradford, Vermont, June 17, 1887.
The ad was promoting the Lyndonville, Vt., July 4th Celebration.

 

 

 

Rutland, VT. – September 6, 1916

Rutland, Vermont – September 6, 1916 

Rutland Fairgrounds

Balloon ascending with parachute attached to the side.

     On the afternoon of September 6, 1916, Samuel A. Libby, 38, was giving a balloon-parachute exhibition at the Rutland Fairgrounds.  Libby’s demonstration involved four parachutes, each to be used in succession of each other, thereby giving a more thrilling performance.  When the hot-air balloon had reached an altitude of 1,500 feet over the fairgrounds he cut away with the four parachutes.  As Libby made his descent, the first three chutes deployed properly, but the fourth failed to open and he was killed.

     His remains were reportedly sent to Oakland, Maine.  It was further mentioned that he was single, and had belonged to the Loyal Order of Moose.

     The day following the accident, a replacement for Libby was found.  18-year-old Freemont Ross of Rutland agreed to jump from the same balloon using a single parachute, which he did successfully.  It was noted that this was his first time in a balloon. 

Update, March 14, 2017

     According to The Bennington Evening Farmer, Mr. Libby was 44-years-old, and was survived by two sisters.  When his parachute failed to open, he reportedly landed on property located on Phillips Avenue.   

     Sources:

     Burlington Weekly Free Press, (Burlington, VT.), “Balloonist Fall; Meets His death At Rutland fair”, September 7, 1916 

     The Bennington Evening Farmer, (Bennington, VT.), “Parachute Jump At Rutland Was Fatal”, September 7, 1916

     The Bennington Evening Banner, (Bennington, VT.), “Boy Makes Balloon Ascent”, September 9, 1916

Vermont Balloon Ascension – 1858

Vermont Balloon Ascension – 1858

 

     On July 5, 1858, John La Mountain made a balloon ascension from Rutland, Vermont, and reportedly reached an altitude of five miles – a remarkable feat for the day.   

     The following is an excerpt from The Middlebury Register, of Middlebury, Vermont, dated July 4, 1858. 

     “Mr. La Mountain in his account of his balloon ascension from Rutland on the 5th estimates that he reached an altitude of five miles.  He was able to count 53 villages.  The Earth appeared concave and there was no perceptible difference between mountains and valleys.  The wet sand in his (ballast) bags was frozen solid.  The rarified atmosphere and intense cold caused painful and alarming sensations.”

     Mr. La Mountain was quoted as saying:

     “At this woeful scene I still retained presence of mind enough to be aware of my condition. I immediately pulled the valve-rope to discharge gas to descend.  The Balloon having been continually ascending for about forty minutes, was at a height of at least five miles.  In the course of a few minutes the Balloon began gradually to descend, and my suffering began to be somewhat relieved. ”   

     The trip lasted one hour and twenty-two minutes during which the balloon traveled forty miles before it landed in the town of Windham. 

     Source:

     The Middlebury Register, (Middlebury, VT.), “News Of The Week”. July 14, 1858 

Rutland, VT – September 2, 1930

Rutland, Vermont – September 2, 1930

     On September 2, 1930, Mr. and Mrs. William Vaughan and their friend, Howard Chandler, were traveling in an automobile headed to the Rutland Fair when a hot air balloon suddenly crash-landed on their car, caving in the roof, and seriously injuring the occupants.  The balloon was part of an act being performed at the fair, when for some reason it rapidly deflated and fell five-thousand feet before striking the auto. 

     There was no word on any occupants of the balloon.

     Source: New York Times, “Balloon Drops On Auto”, September 3, 1930.  

Updated April 12, 2017

     The accident occurred around 3 p.m.  The balloon had been used by DeForriest Dickinson, 21, a parachute jumper performing at the Rutland Fair.  Dickinson’s act involved his being launched from a cannon suspended from the balloon while 5,000 feet above the ground.  After leaving the cannon, Dickinson dropped for 1,200 feet before his parachute deployed.  Upon landing he narrowly missed some electrical wires near a railroad track before alighting safely on South Main Street.  

     Meanwhile, his balloon lost its buoyancy and fell rapidly, crash-landing on top of the automobile occupied by the Vaughan’s, Mr. Chandler, his wife, and their 9-year-old son Russell.  The balloon reportedly weighted more than 100 pounds, and when it hit, it completely enveloped the car.  The impact took place at Strongs Avenue and South Main Street.  Fortunately, Mr. Chandler, who was driving, was able to bring the vehicle to a safe stop, thus avoiding a greater accident.

     Source: Rutland Herald, “Autoist Injured, 4 Endangered By Falling Balloon”, September 3, 1930.  Article supplied by Mr. Brian Lindner, Vermont Avation Historian.  

Rutland, VT – September 7, 1922

Rutland, Vermont – September 7, 1922 

Rutland Fair Grounds

     On September 7, 1922, a  “flying circus” was performing at the Rutland Fair Grounds before a crowd of 30,000 spectators when two accidents occurred. 

     The first involved and aircraft flown by Lieutenant Belvin W. Maynard, a.k.a. “The Flying Parson”.  At about 1 p.m. Maynard and two others, Lt. L. R. Wood, and Charles Mionette, took off in an airplane to perform a series of aerial stunts for the entertainment of the fair goers.  The men were familiar with the routine which they had been performing all week.   The accident occurred while Maynard was performing a tail spin from an altitude of 2,000 feet.   Evidently he was unable to pull out of the spin, and the aircraft plunged nose first into a cornfield at the edge of the fair grounds killing all three men.

     Lt. Maynard was a veteran of World War I, but prior to the war he had studied to be a Baptist minister.  He was a frequent speaker in churches, and had been scheduled to give a talk at the Rutland Baptist Church later in the day.  He had also performed at least one marriage while flying his airplane over Times Square in New York, hence the nick name, “Flying Parson”.

     The second accident at the fair occurred later that same day.  A 43-year-old aeronaut named Smith had been giving parachute exhibitions by jumping from his balloon.  After two successful jumps that afternoon, Smith did a third, but his parachute failed to open and he was killed.

     Smith had been doing parachute jumps for the previous ten years.  In 1920, (Exact date not known.)  Smith was severely injured during one of his jumps in Lynn, Massachusetts. 

Source: New York Times, “Flying Parson Dies, 3 Other Air Men Killed During Fair.”  

Update: October 7, 2016

     Smith’s full name was Henry A. (Daredevil) Smith of Boston, Massachusetts.  He jumped from 3,500 feet and his parachute opened slightly, then closed, and failed to re-open.  He hit the ground about 100 yards east of the Main Street fence of the fairgrounds. 

     In the accident at Lynn, Mass., he was to jump from an airplane, but the pilot lost control and crashed.  Smith fell 8,00 feet and lived, but the pilot was killed.

     Source: Barre Daily Times, “”Maynard Body On Way Home” – “Another Shock For crowd”, September 8, 1922, page 1

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