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Glen Hammond Curtiss was born in Hammondsport, New York, in 1878. Originally a bicycle mechanic, he established his own motorcycle factory in 1902. Three years later he set a new world record of 137 mph on a motorcycle.
Curtiss then became interested in aviation and began producing motors for airships. He also started building aircraft and in 1908 his June Bug achieved the world's first ever one-kilometre flight. The following year he won the James Gordon Bennett Cup in France when his Golden Arrow travelled at over 46 mph. In 1910 Curtiss staged his sensational flight down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City.
In 1911 Curtiss produced the world's first practical seaplane. He also began work on a large flying boat, the Curtiss H-12, that he hoped to use to cross the Atlantic. On the outbreak of the First World War, the Royal Naval Air Service purchased two of these aircraft. They were so impressed with their performance that they ordered another sixty-two.
Curtiss founded the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corporation in 1916. His company designed and produced several aircraft for the Allies during the First World War including a larger and better armed version of the Curtiss H-12, the Curtiss H-16, in 1917.
After the Armistice Curtiss continued to work on improving his plane and motor designs. Glen Hammond Curtiss died in 1930.
City of Opa-locka History
The City of Opa-Locka was the vision of aviation pioneer, Glen Curtiss. Opa-locka is an urban community occupying 4.2 square miles in the North-Western area of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The city boundaries are as follows: on the North-NW 151st Street, on the South - N.W. 125th Street, on the East &ndash NW 45th Avenue on the West. On May 14, 1926, Opa-locka was chartered as a town by twenty-eight registered voters.
The area was originally named by the Native Americans "Opa-tisha-wocka-locka" meaning "a big island covered with many trees and swamps" but the name was quickly shorten to Opa-locka. The City was developed based on the Arabian Nights theme which is evident by the large collection of Moorish architecture throughout the city and with street names like Sabur, Sultan, Ali Baba, Sharazad, Aladdin and Sesame. Mr. Curtiss and architect, Bernhardt Muller, built 105 buildings with an array of domes, minarets and outside staircases. By the time Mr. Curtiss completed his vision for Opa-locka he had built a self-contained city with a hotel, zoo park, golf course, archery club, swimming pool, airport, and train station.
The September 1926 hurricane badly damaged the City, destroying many of the structures, but the surviving Moorish style buildings continue to give Opa-locka its unique appearance. Opa-locka currently has twenty buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The U.S. Navy opened a base at the Opa-locka Airport shortly after the hurricane which allowed the City to thrive after the hurricane but the base closed in the 1950s. The City experienced a decline, and was labeled a "struggling community" in South Florida. Despite the challenges, the City has regained the spirit it was founded with in 1926. Under the direction of Mayor Myra L. Taylor, city officials have vowed to turn the city around by focusing on crime prevention, cleaning up the city and maintaining financial stability. This drive has generated an increased sense of community, pride among Opa-locka residents and a major drop in crime. In keeping with that vow and to advance community pride, the city became the first community in the United States to commemorate the first African-American President of the United States by renaming a mile-long section of Perviz Avenue from Oriental Boulevard to Ali-Baba Avenue, Barack Obama Avenue on February 17, 2009.
In addition to the unique buildings, Opa-locka has a large general aviation airport, three parks, two lakes and a railroad station which is currently the tri-rail station. The City is comprised of a mixture of residential, commercial and industrial zones. Despite its limited resources, the City was the backdrop for the making of movies such as Texas Justice, Bad Boyz II and 2 Fast 2 Furious.
GLENN CURTISS TIMELINE
The Aero Club of America under Federation Aeronautique Internationale (F.A.I.) issued pilot’s license # 1 to Curtiss in recognition of “the first person to publicly fly in the United States” (July 4, 1908 June Bug flight). # 2 is Frank P. Lahm (US Army Pilot # 1), # 3 is Louis Palham, and Orville & Wilbur Wright are # 3 and # 4..
Blanche Stuart Scott, student of Glenn Curtiss and later called the “Tomboy of the Air,” was the first woman to fly in public in the US on Sept. 2, 1910 when the plane’s throttle block “accidently” slipped out of place and she “soared” to 150 feet.
Another of Glenn Curtiss’s students was Emory Conrad Malick, who became America’s first licensed African-American aviator on March 20, 1912 with F.A.I. License #105.
The Curtiss NC-4 America piloted by Lt. Cmdr. Albert C. Read landing in Lisbon harbor after completing the first Atlantic crossing by air.
Glenn Curtiss taking some time out with his son, Glenn, Jr. circa 1914.
Glenn Curtiss “retires” to Florida and heads to the beach for a little relaxation.
Glenn Curtiss (middle) in Hialeah with new Florida business partner and rancher James Bright, and long-time friend and associate, Arthur Stanton.
Glenn Curtiss with son, Glenn, Jr., in 1930 in Florida.
Glenn Curtiss with one of last inventions, the Aerocar, which was manufactured in Opa-locka and sold in the Coral Gables showroom.
Glenn Curtiss (far right) and Seminole friend getting ready to play a round of archery golf on the golf course in Miami Springs that he hired members of the Seminole Tribe to build.
Glenn Curtiss on board his invention, Scooter, a shallow-draft boat with an aircraft propeller that was the precursor of Curtiss’s invention – the airboat – the perfect craft for skimming across the Florida Everglades.
Glenn Curtiss before taking off to retrace the route of the of the historic Hudson River flight. Two months later, he died in Buffalo, NY on July 23, 1930 from an embolism following an emergency appendectomy.
Glenn Curtiss Airport
If the photo map of Glen Curtiss/North Beach Airport appears to be in a familiar place you’re right. The airport is on the same land now occupied by LaGuardia Airport.
When someone mentions Queens airports, our thoughts immediately go to JFK International, one of the best-known airports in the world and popular gateway into New York City, and LaGuardia Airport, the older of the two, primarily servicing domestic flights. But few people are aware that at one time, Queens housed at least five airports, smaller in size, with two of them occupying the land area now the homes of JFK and LaGuardia.
LaGuardia was preceded by a much more modest facility with links to world aviation history — Glenn H. Curtiss Airport. It opened in 1929 as a private airfield off Flushing Bay became a commercial airport called North Beach in 1935 and a decade later was changed to what we know today when then Mayor La Guardia wanted the city to have its own airport and not have to rely on Newark.
Glenn H. Curtiss Airport was built in 1929 on the site of the Steinway family’s Gala Amusement Park in the North Beach section of Queens.
The shoreline area was owned by New York Air Terminals, and beginning in 1925, flying began here. Two years later, Glenn H. Curtis, the famed aviation pioneer from Long Island who founded the country’s aircraft industry, bought the land as a distribution center for his Curtiss Robin light aircraft. Then, in 1929, this area plus the site of the amusement park (totaling 105 acres) was sold to the Curtiss-Wright Airports Corporation and named Glenn H. Curtiss Airport. At the time, it had just three hangars and three gravel runways, the longest of which was 2,300 feet (today’s runways are usually 6,000 feet or longer), and the waterfront location was good for both land and sea planes.
In 1935, the city bought the site for use a light aircraft field, facility to crate exports, and small flight school. They changed the name to North Beach Municipal Airport. Not long after, the push to turn the site into a commercial airport began when Mayor LaGuardia flew into Newark Airport when his ticket said “New York.”
Though Newark was the only commercial airport serving the area at the time, the Mayor made the pilot fly him into Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, the city’s first municipal airport. He then gave an impromptu press conference calling on New Yorkers to support a new airport.
The fancy new airport opened with four runways, ranging from 4,500 to 6,000 feet in length, and with commitments from the five largest airlines–Pan American Airways, American, United, Eastern Air Lines, and Transcontinental & Western Air. A 1998 Newsday article recounted the glamour of the airport, as well as its subsequent financial trouble:
Families flocked to the airport on weekends just to watch the gleaming silver airliners take off and vanish into the blue or swoop majestically down onto the field. A dime got you through the turnstiles to a crowded observation deck. The turnstile dimes, plus parking fees, soon added up to $285,000, The New York Times reported two years later. With other yearly revenues of $650,000, the LaGuardia “white elephant,” as its opponents dubbed it earlier, soon was operating in the black.
The name was officially changed to LaGuardia Airport in 1947 after the Port Authority took control of the site. By 1951, all transatlantic fights had moved to Idlewild Airport (now JFK), and in the ’80s, the Port Authority and FAA had to institute regulations on nonstop flights to cities more than 1,500 miles away, as well as the general number of flights going in and out of the airport.
After a failed attempt at turning Floyd Bennett into a commercial airport (Newark proved to be more accessible to Manhattan), the city decided to take advantage of the newly opened Queens-Midtown tunnel and place their sights on North Beach Airport. After a $23 million redevelopment that turned the small facility into a 550-acre modern destination, the New York Municipal Airport-LaGuardia Field was dedicated on October 15, 1939.
Glen Curtiss - History
[First of a series about Glenn H. Curtiss, renowned inventor, aviator and founder of Miami Springs, Hialeah and Opa-locka, and the house that he built, the Curtiss Mansion.]
Glenn Hammond Curtiss has been called The Real Tom Swift, The Pioneer of Flight, The Founder of the American Aviation Industry, The Thomas Edison of Aviation, The Henry Ford of Aviation, The Architect of American Aviation, and The Father of Naval Aviation, to mention just a few. But those who live in Miami Springs would all probably agree that the best title is The Founder of Miami Springs. This amazing man of vision created a town that has retained some very unique characteristics for 90 years. He also founded the cities of Hialeah and Opa-locka. Yet how much do you know about Glenn Curtiss?
Glenn Curtiss is one of the greatest unsung heroes of American history. His life was filled with daring challenges and tedious lawsuits, horrific losses and astounding successes, abysmal heartaches and marvelous delights, and throughout it all he remained a “man in motion.”
Glenn Hammond Curtiss was born in the quiet little town of Hammondsport in the Finger Lakes region of New York on May 21, 1878. His grandparents, Claudius G. Curtiss, a Methodist Episcopal clergyman, and Ruth Bramble arrived in Hammondsport in 1876 along with Glenn’s parents, Frank Richmond, a harness maker, and Lua Andrews. Glenn had a little sister, Rutha Luella, who was also born in Hammondsport.
Most towns in the Finger Lakes region have a glen close by where families can spend summer days playing games, swimming, picnicking or just relaxing. Frank and Lua were so enamored with the beauty of the surrounding glens that they chose Glenn for their son’s first name and part of the town’s name where he was born as his middle name.
Hammondsport was a sleepy little town with no real distinction until just prior to the start of the Civil War when an Episcopal minister planted grape clippings from the Hudson River Valley and found that the combination of all the local elements created a perfect environment for grape growing. Soon everyone in Hammondsport had at least one grape arbor, and it was the start of the wine industry in New York. (Interestingly enough, over 40 years later when Curtiss built his home in Miami Springs, he had a prized grape arbor on the grounds.)
It wasn’t too long before Hammondsport attracted the attention of international vintners, including the renowned Masson family. They were so captivated by the quality of the region’s wines that some of them moved to New York from France and began producing premium wines. Did you know that Hammondsport is the home of America’s first “champagne,” or more correctly, sparkling wine? Aside from producing fine wines, the Massons and other wine makers were instrumental in helping Glenn start his first business by providing financial backing.
Tragically, Glenn’s father and grandfather died while he was still a child. His mother remarried and moved the family to Rochester. Glenn and Rutha, who was deaf as a result of childhood meningitis, returned to Hammondsport every summer to visit their grandmother. Glenn left school after the eighth grade to help support the family and started working as a Western Union messenger. He was known to speed through the streets delivering telegrams faster than anyone else. On the weekends, he would race his bicycle at events throughout the region, usually taking home cash prizes, and sealing his position as the champion rider for western New York State.
A couple of years later, Glenn started working for the Eastman Kodak Company assembling cameras. Although he loved working with cameras and became a talented photographer, he was frustrated by the dullness and slowness of the assembly line. He asked to be paid by the piece rather than by the hour. His supervisors thought that the young man had lost his mind and knew that they had just struck the bargain of a lifetime. Unbeknownst to them, Curtiss had developed a device that cut the work time in half and quadrupled the output. Kodak used his invention far longer than they employed Curtiss – they simply could not afford him.
The Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss
We all know that the Wright brothers hold the title for first in flight – on December 17, 1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first sustained and controlled human flights – but for this post let’s clear the air about some of the fallacies I just watched in a “documentary” on Netflix last night (it aired on NatGeo on June 1, 2015). Even though the viewer is given the following warning, I fear that many will not heed it.
“This program includes dramatizations inspired by history. Some events have been altered for dramatic purposes.”
Instead of outlining each of the incorrect statements or over dramatizations, I’ll just outline the basic story of these three incredible American engineers and innovators.
The rivalry between the Wright brothers and Curtis mostly began after the Wrights filed for (and won) a patent lawsuit which asserted their ownership of the skies via motorized plane. Their patent was No. 821,393 for a “flying machine.”
Glenn Curtiss rode the world’s first V-8 motorcycle to a speed of 136 mph and became known as “the fastest man on earth.”
Starting out, Glenn Curtis was a bicycle shop owner (like the Wrights) and probably the best engine mechanic/designer in America at the time. Eventually, Curtiss morphed his bicycles and engines into one, creating powerful motorcycles. “In 1903, on Decoration Day (now called Memorial Day), Curtiss used a V-twin motorcycle to win a hill climb, win a ten-mile race, and set a new one-mile speed record (Langley, 2009, para. 6).” Catching wind of the Wrights flying machine, Curtiss tried to sell his engines to them to be used in their aircraft, but the Wrights refused the business. Instead, Curtiss continued his work on engines and within five years had become known as “the fastest man on earth.”
That same year Curtiss joined the Aerial Experiment Association, or AEA, a group founded by Alexander Graham Bell, the famous inventor. Shortly after, Curtiss offered a free engine to the Wrights for use in their plane, but again they refused. The next year Curtiss flew a plane called the June Bug which he designed, created and fashioned with one of his engines. In coordination with the AEA, Curtiss became the second in North America to design, build, and fly airplanes. Curtiss had much success in building new, inventive aircraft, but because of the patent the Wrights held, he was unable to sell them without embarking into a long patent war.
Meanwhile, Wilbur showed off the Wright’s flying capabilities in New York with a two-mile flight around Governor’s Island as well as did a loop around the Statue of Liberty. Wilbur Wright also “flew ten miles up the Hudson River to Grant’s Tomb, and then returned to base. His 20-mile flight lasted over 33 minutes, averaging 36 miles per hour. An estimated one million New Yorkers witnessed at least some part of his flight (Langley, 2009, para. 21).”
Less than a year later, Curtiss beat the Wright’s record by successfully flying 151 miles. This flight lasted 2 hours and 51 minutes, and averaged 52 miles per hour, due in large part to the engine design skills. It was the longest airplane flight to date, and won for Curtiss both a $10,000 prize and permanent possession of the Scientific American trophy. (Langley, 2009)
Wilbur Wright’s funeral procession passes through the gates of Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery on June 1, 1912.
In 1912 Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever. Almost two years later the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of New York ruled in favor of the Wright Company in its suit against Glenn Curtiss. The ruling stated that Curtiss could not manufacture, use, or sell flying machines which infringe on the Wright’s patent (The Wright Brother’s Timeline, 2016). Curtiss continued to create airplanes that were different in design than the Wrights, keeping Orville in a continued patent infringement lawsuit.
In 1914, the Smithsonian Institution contracted with Curtiss to verify if Samuel Langley’s 1903 Aerodrome was the true first powered flight machine. After 29 years, Orville finally proved that Curtiss had made adjustments to Langley’s plane, rendering it able to fly when in actuality, the original plane could not. The Wright Flyer now hangs at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC as the world’s first “powered heavier-than-air flying machine.” (Langley, 2009)
In 1917, with World War I well underway, the U.S. government pressured Wright and Curtiss to resolve their patent differences in an effort to meet the war’s aviation needs. In the end, they both received cash settlements for resolving their disputes and patent war finally ended. With the suit over, Curtiss was able to manufacture and sell innovative aircraft to his biggest client, the U.S. War Department.
“In 1929, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation took shape from twelve Wright and Curtiss affiliated companies, and became the second-largest firm in America. The Curtiss-Wright Corporation still exists today. The company’s official website describes it as ‘a diversified global provider of highly engineered products and services of motion control, flow control, and metal treatment.’ In the rough economic market of late 2008, the firm still reported assets of over two billion dollars and a net income of over 109 million dollars.” (Langley, 2009, para. 36)
Glenn Curtiss Slept Here
THE AUTUMN SUN HAS SET. Paul Geisz Sr. and I have spent about 20 minutes trekking through the thick brush along the south shore of Keuka Lake, in upstate New York. Behind us, bulldozers sit silently after another day of work demolishing the old Garrett Warehouse in preparation for 26 new lakefront condos. Nothing looks particularly historic here there’s no sign telling visitors that on March 12, 1908, on the frozen surface of this lake, the Red Wing, the first U.S. airplane designed and built by someone other than the Wright brothers, took off on its first flight.
Wetlands block our way ahead, so we double back to my rental car and head south. We turn into the Hammondsport Junior-Senior High School parking lot. Now we’re surrounded by parkland about 100 feet from us is the lake. By this time it’s dark, and the rising moon flickers on the surface of the water. Here, at least, there are a few signs of resident Glenn Curtiss’ accomplishments. You can make out an airplane mounted on a pole several feet from shore. It is a model of the Curtiss A-1, the U.S. Navy’s first airplane. Next to Geisz and me is a short flagpole in a black, angular stone base about four feet tall. Carved in it are Curtiss’ major accomplishments, along with the dedication date: July 4, 1978, exactly 70 years after Curtiss flew the third airplane he designed, the June Bug, and won a Scientific American trophy for making the first public flight of at least one kilometer. The base also notes Curtiss’ 1906 speed record on a motorcycle (136 mph), his invention of the floatplane, and more.
“It’s not much of a monument,” says Geisz, a former cop from Philadelphia in his late 60s who moved here after he retired.
“Well, the Wright brothers were first,” I reply. At the spot where they made their 1903 flight, atop Kill Devil Hill in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, there is a grand 60-foot-tall Art Deco monument, paid for by the U.S. government.
“He flew a kilometer,” Geisz says—almost 3,300 feet. “They flew yards.”
“But they did it five years before he did.”
“The one who really flew first was Langley. Did you ever see his airplane?”
“Not up close.”
“The shot of him flying.”
“Into the Potomac,” he says.
“Oh yeah, I’ve seen that one.” It dates back to 1903, just before the Wrights’ first flight. Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Langley’s Aerodrome arcs off its houseboat catapult and goes right into the river. That’s not flying it’s more like plunging. But never mind.
There’s no use arguing about it. The Curtiss people always think they’re right. I’m a Wright Guy.
KEUKA LAKE LIES ON the edge of Hammondsport, New York, the quiet village where in 1878 Glenn Hammond Curtiss was born. (Though he was not a descendant, he was named after village founder Lazarus Hammond.) Curtiss was raised here and in Rochester, and it was in Hammondsport that he built and rode motorcycles, designed and constructed early airplanes, and now lies buried alongside his wife and sons. But unlike Kitty Hawk or Dayton, Ohio, where images of the Wright brothers are everywhere, little in Hammondsport indicates Curtiss’ presence. At the Glenn Curtiss Museum, which is located outside of town, executive director Trafford Doherty says: “Hammondsport could have done a little more for the favorite son. Not even a statue” pays homage to Curtiss in the village. The grade school bears his name, but it’s nowhere on or near the building. The city’s phone directories are mostly filled with listings for all the wineries in the valley. This is New York wine country. That’s what brings tourists to Hammondsport every summer. Not Glenn Curtiss.
Now a group wants to change that. For starters, Curtiss supporters hope to fly the museum’s replica of the June Bug in 2008, on the 100th anniversary of that flight. But beyond that, the group, the Friends of Hammondsport, wants to build an 11-acre Glenn H. Curtiss Memorial Park along the southern shore of Keuka Lake. They envision erecting a wrought-iron gate at the entrance, as well as a wall with the names of Curtiss, his family, and the people who worked with him and flew his machines in those early days of aviation. Something substantial. After all, the lake is where Curtiss and his team made history.
Carl Slater, an 82-year-old Hammondsport native, says his father (born in 1894) would ride his bicycle down to watch men tinker with an early airplane. “Curtiss needed a part from his shop,” Slater says, “and he had no transportation, so he asked Dad if he could borrow his bicycle. He borrowed it and rode it up there. Here is a master of all transportation, and he has to borrow a bicycle from a local kid. Curtiss asked Dad if he liked to swim and Dad says ‘Yes,’ and he said ‘You can come down to the dock anytime you want to,’ and my dad took him up on it.”
The 11 acres the Friends want to transform is owned by the H&B Railroad, which was built around the turn of the last century to transport wine grapes from Hammondsport to Bath, a small town seven miles south. An abandoned train depot sits on the land, as does a garbage dump.
The railroad wants to sell the acreage it is required to offer it to the village first. It’s asking $1.35 million. So far the Friends have raised 10 percent of that ($5,000 came from the surprisingly still-extant Curtiss-Wright Corporation, which now manufactures stuff like nuclear power plant valves—it’s gotten out of the aircraft and engine business). The Friends have until July 31 to raise the other $1.2 million.
Glen Curtiss - History
The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910
Vintage postcard view of a
The Harvard-Boston Aero Meet of 1910 was the first international air-meet of its kind ever held in the United States, and became an aviation record setting event. Some newspapers touted it as “the greatest meet of its kind ever held in America”, and it was, for it eclipsed the first international aviation meet that was held in Reims, France, the year before.
Although it was advertised as the “Harvard-Boston Aero Meet”, the event was actually held on a 500 acre tract of land on the Squantum Peninsula in the neighboring town of Quincy, but some newspapers reported the location as being in “Boston”, “Squantum”, “Atlantic”, or “Soldiers Field”.
The air meet was originally scheduled to be held from September 3rd thru September 13, but was so successful that it was extended for two additional days. Preparations had been made months before the start, with advertising and promotion, vendors, and the construction of grandstands capable of seating 150,000 people, and parking areas which could accommodate up to 10,000 automobiles.
The event came about through the efforts of the Aero Club of New England and the Harvard Aeronautical Society of Harvard University.
The following newspaper article which appeared in The Bridgeport Evening Farmer, (Bridgeport, CT.), on May 24, 1910, indicates that during the early planning stages there was some disagreement between the various aero clubs across the country.
INSURGENTS WILL NOW HOLD RIVAL AVIATION MEETS
New York, May 24. – When the board of governors of the Aero Club of America meets this afternoon to decide formally upon a place for holding the international aviation contest and to award the contract for financing the meet, it is not likely that representatives of the various aero clubs throughout America will be present following the split which has resulted in the foundation of a rival aero club. The split will probably be followed by new complications in the patent suits of the Wright Brothers which were thought to have ended when the Aero Club of America recently recognized the validity of the Wrights patents and agreed that no aviation meet should be held in America unless it consed (newspaper word/spelling) by the Wright company.
The clubs which were formally affiliated with the Aero Club of America and which have now broken away to form the American Aeronautic Association are the aero organizations of Indianapolis, St. Louis, Baltimore, and Harvard, Illinois, Washington and Buffalo. The Aero Club of America declares that the association of out-of-town clubs will in no way affect the international aviation meet to be held in October, plans for which will be completed this afternoon.
The insurgents say they will in their turn hold such aviation meetings as they see fit. This will surely be followed by legal complications for the Wright company would immediately seek to enjoin any meeting held without license. If the courts uphold the validity of the Wright patents as some have done heretofore, opposition would be useless.
An unrelated dispute arose between two of America’s top aviators, Glenn Curtiss and Charles Hamilton, which was reported in the New York Tribune, on August 2, 1910, page 2.
HARVARD MEET IN DANGER
Aero Club Can’t Settle Dispute Between Curtis And Hamilton
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.
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.
The Fastest Motorcycle In The world
In 1904 Glenn Curtiss built his first motorcycle known as Hercules. The name later had to be changed to Curtiss after they found out that it belonged to another company. The design of the motorcycle was simple and elegant. The motorcycle was built by a small group of his family and friends in a shop on the Curtiss' property.
After his first motorcycle was completed, Glenn Curtiss took it to Daytona to participate in the open speed trials. Hercules broke the 2-10 mile records and reached speeds of up to 67.4 mph. However, this was only the beginning and Glenn Curtiss' crowning moment would come much later.
In 1906 the daredevil inside of Glenn Curtiss wanted his motorcycles to be better, faster, and more daring than ever before. So he set out to build a bicycle frame around a powerful V8 engine.
The motorcycle was fitted with an air-cooled 40 horsepower V8 engine. The simple design allowed Glenn Curtiss to keep the weight down as much as possible and the total weight of the Curtiss V8 was only 275 pounds when it was completed. After the massive project was finished, the Curtiss V8 was off to the races.
Born in 1878, Glenn Curtiss was an aviation pioneer of the United States aircraft industry. Curtiss began his career building bicycles. Mastering the day’s best technology, he moved on to create intricately designed motorcycles. Testament to his ingenuity was his ability to make the most efficient parts from crude materials. For example, his first motorcycle sported a powerful carburetor fabricated from a tomato soup can with a gauze screen. In 1907, Curtiss raced his V-8 motorcycle to a speed record of 136 mph. His success in engine design propelled him into aviation.
The 1900s took off with a fanatic craze of flying machines. In 1909, Glenn Curtiss contributed his Curtiss Pusher to this growing industry. The elaborately constructed plane captured the imagination of people worldwide. Unique design features of the bi-plane include positioning the propeller and revolutionary Curtiss OX-5 engine behind the pilot. Curtis continued to innovate for decades, developing new models of aircraft until his death in 1930.
Original Pusher parts and engines were thought lost to history until the Collings Foundation came across some remarkable treasures 84 original Pusher airframe parts, ribs and spars in a Massachusetts attic and an OX-5 engine in a Pennsylvania basement. This launched an extraordinary restoration effort.
Century Aviation, based in East Wenatchee, Washington, took on the project. This team of world-class aircraft restoration experts is known for its displays at the Smithsonian and the Air Force Museum. They were pleasantly surprised to find the Pusher Aircraft parts arrive wrapped in August, 1915 Boston Globe newspapers. Over a two year period Century Aviation has meticulously restored and re-built the Pusher to airworthy condition.
*The Curtiss Pusher is currently at the Massachusetts facility and available for viewing during special events and by appointment only. Please contact the office for more information.
The American Heritage Museum at the Collings Foundation featuring the Jacques M. Littlefield Collection explores major conflicts ranging from the Revolutionary War until today. Visitors discover and interact with our American heritage through the history, the changing technology, and the Human Impact of America’s fight to preserve the freedom we all hold dear.
American Heritage Museum
568 Main Street
Hudson, MA 01749