The Tale of the Vin Fiz
Fix 'er Up Boys

  BACK    Home    History Wing    Adventure Wing    Exhibits & Programs    Company Store    Information Desk    NEXT 


History Wing  

A History     
of the Airplane  

    Pilots, Planes     
aNd Pioneers  

 The Tale of     
The Vin Fiz  


 An Aristocracy     
of Heroes

The Hearst Prize  

  Fix 'er Up Boys  
(You are here.)        

Help That     
Man Fly  

A Gift to     


Been There     
Done That  

Vin Fiz    


Need to    

find your    


Try these    
navigation aids:    

 Site Map 

Museum Index 

the Museum

 If this is your first    
visit, please stop by:     

the Museum

Something to share?     

Contact Us 


  Available in Française, Español, Português, Deutsch, Россию, 中文, 日本, and others.

rom Sheepshead Bay, Cal angled north to Brooklyn, then flew across midtown Manhattan at an altitude of 800 feet. In New Jersey, the chase train began to follow the aircraft. The Vin Fiz and the Vin Fiz Special both arrived at Middletown, New York that evening a little over a hundred miles from Cal's starting point. On take-off the next morning, he snagged a tree and completely wrecked the airplane. Cal was dazed by the accident, but unhurt. Despondent, he poked through the wreckage and found the bottle of Vin Fiz unscathed. Taking it as an omen, he told his incredulous entourage that this was not the end of the line. "Fix her up, boys. I'll be ready." It was a phrase they would hear over and over again throughout the adventure.

The Wright Company sent its best mechanic, Charlie Taylor, to help rebuild the Vin Fiz. Taylor had built the engine the Wright's used in their first aircraft and had been with them ever since. Now he would accompany Cal Rodgers most of the way across the United States. With Taylor's help, Cal was back in the air by September 21. He broke the skids when landing at Hancock, wrecked upon landing at Elmira, and smashed the machine again on take-off from Redhouse, near Salamanca,New York. There were more major crashes in Huntington, Indiana, Spofford, Texas, and Compton, near Pasadena, California. The engine exploded over Kyle, Texas, and again over Imperial Junction, California. Cal was lost over vast stretches of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, and Arizona. He was nearly electrocuted in a thunderstorm in Indiana. But the bottle of Vin Fiz survived every mishap, the boys kept fixing up the airplane, and Cal kept flying.

If the flight of the Vin Fiz was a heroic tale, the story of the Vin Fiz Special was a soap opera. Near the beginning of the trip, the train picked up Cal's twice-widowed and indulgent mother, Mrs. Sweitzer. Cal's mother had little regard for Cal's wife Mabel, who was along in her semi-official capacity as "postmistress." Mrs. Sweitzer didn't think that Mabel was good enough for her son — and she had no qualms about saying so. Mrs. Sweitzer left the adventure when it reached Chicago, rejoined it again in Kansas City, and left it again in San Antonio. When she joined it for the last time in El Paso she had a "traveling companion" in tow, Lucy Belvedere, a 22 year-old heiress. It soon became obvious to the Vin Fiz entourage that Mrs. Sweitzer thought Lucy would make a more suitable daughter-in-law than Mabel. In the wilds of the Arizona Territory, after Cal had paid Lucy just a little too much attention to suit his wife, Mabel stuffed Lucy's designer gowns in a trunk and put them on a train going east. Lucy soon followed her clothes.

Cal's first mishap came on the second day of the expedition, when he all but destroyed the Vin Fiz. On take-off from Middletown, NY, Rodgers clipped a tree and came down in a chicken yard. The farmer was paid for the damages.

And the third was in Huntington, IN. The Vin Fiz suffered five major wrecks and a host of smaller accidents on its trip across America, but each time the bottle of Vin Fiz emerged unscathed.

The "hangar car" on the Vin Fiz special carried spare parts for the EX, among them six spare wings. Rodgers and his crew would use them all.

Cal and his wife Mabel Rodgers. Mabel had to contend with both her mother-in-law and the Vin Fiz for her husband's attention. "Sometimes," she said, "I suspect that Calbraith thinks showing affection to a woman would be unfaithful to his machine."

Despite the massive damage in Middletown, the airplane was back in the air after a few days of hurried repairs.

The second major wreck was in Redhouse, near Salamanca, NY.

Cal and master mechanic Charlie Taylor rebuild a wing of the Vin Fiz. Charlie, who had worked for the Wright brothers since 1901, left their employ to participate in the Vin Fiz adventure. Had it not been for Charlie's expertise, it's doubtful that Cal could have completed the journey.

Getting ready for a take-off, Rodgers and his crew start the engine and check its performance.

Vin Fiz takes off from Olean, New York trailing a little hay after a close encounter with a hay stack.

Back to the top

  BACK    Home    History Wing    Adventure Wing    Exhibits & Programs    Company Store    Information Desk    NEXT 

"Aviation is proof that – given the will – we can do the impossible."
 Eddie Rickenbacker



A History of the Airplane/The Tale of the Vin Fiz/Many Wrecks and Crashes
Copyright © 1999-2011