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From Popular Aviation, January 1935

Did Whitehead Precede Wright
In World's First Powered Flight?

By Stella Randolf and Harvey Phillips

Before 1901 had ended, Gustave Whitehead had built fifty-six airplanes. The first ones were turned out without numbers being assigned and that is why, in August, 1901, the machine under construction was only No. 21.

One day, it was pushed into the street from the backyard of the modest house, 241 Pine Street, which was then the Whitehead home. For weeks women in the neighborhood had been exclaiming about the fineness of the silk they were sewing into the wings of this airplane. Even a young man, loitering about the neighborhood, was pressed into service to help sew.

No labor unions or NRA set the wages, for the young man received twenty cents to the women's fifteen. Now, the wings were neatly folded back against the boat-shaped canvas-covered body as it was being pushed through the gate. Inside it, two engines were humming, one for propelling the wheels on which it was to get its start upon the ground, the other to turn the propellers when the machine was in the air. The small boys of the neighborhood came running, attracted by the unusual.

Little Alexander Gluck was there and so was an older friend of Mr. Whitehead, Louis Darvarich, who had worked with him long before they came to Bridgeport in 1900. Other spectators came flocking, shouting and exclaiming round-eyed at the monster. They drew excited breaths of awe, and whistled through their teeth as the creature dashed down the road, rose from the ground, not many feet higher than their heads, and flew above the dirt road that was then Pine Street.

But too many children running about add to the dangers of such tests. So, morning after morning, the plane tests were made before many of the little ones were up and about — or many of their elders either. Even then, one day Gustave Whitehead's heart was in his mouth as he barely missed striking a little boy who ran excitedly into the pathway of his moving plane.

On most of his test flights a mechanic-helper accompanied Gustave Whitehead. Anton Pruckner remembers well some of these flights. One of the longest was made in August, 1901, and was about a mile and a half in length, as Gustave Whitehead wrote the editor of the "American Inventor," who published the letter in the edition of April 1, 1902.

The Phillips Aeronautic Library furnished me the information that led me to this letter and also on the long trail which has not ended, but continues to broaden as it discloses the genius and ability of Gustave Whitehead.

The airplane used in 1901 had been constructed by Mr. Whitehead in its entirety; both engine and plane were his own idea. It was a monoplane with a four-cylinder two-cycle motor located forward. Ignition was of the make and break type and Columbia dry batteries were used. The gas tank was gravity-fed and held two gallons of petrol. The body of the machine was constructed of pine, spruce, and bamboo, reinforced with Shelby steel tubing and piano wires. The wing coverings were of Japanese silk, varnished and fastened to the bamboo struts with white tape. The wings spread out behind the two propellers, and were supported with wires running to a central mast. The entire thing weighed approximately 800 pounds. With Mr. Whitehead aboard the weight was increased to about 965 pounds.

The mile and a half flight, made August 14, 1901, occurred at Lordship Manor, now a suburb of Bridgeport and took place somewhere in the vicinity of the site of the present Sikorsky airplane factory. Junius Harworth, then a young boy assistant of Mr. Whitehead, remembers the flight distinctly and in detail.

Gustave Whitehead was modest about proclaiming his achievements. He sought perfection. When he had flown, this was not sufficient. He must do better. In fact, Gustave Whitehead was never satisfied. Ever since, at an early age, he had constructed his first pair of wings and attempted a secret flight with them, he had been dissatisfied with his own inventions.

The great Lillienthal was his friend and model; successful gliding was at that time his goal. When he could glide, Gustave Whitehead would not be content until a motor drove his glider. A steam motor did it, but it was too heavy to seem practical and it required too heavy a load of fuel to send it far. Gunpowder, ammonia, acetylene, gasoline and even kerosene served his purpose by turns.

And when he had mastered motor construction and had flown again and again, he knew he had not yet reached the desideratum of flight. Airplanes must rise vertically from the ground, declared Gustave Whitehead to his dying day, if they were to become practical and to that end he toiled on through the years.

He was one of the few men who made both his own airplane and motors. So able was he at motor construction that he might have made a small fortune from the manufacture of motors alone, had he been willing to confine himself to this, but an inventor's genius cannot be confined so readily. He constructed revolving motors, motors of two and more cylinders, motors of increasing horsepower and a tester for determining the thrust they would afford.

His tester, crude though it is, remains today as additional evidence of the genius of this remarkable man. Much of his construction was done by his own hands. Occasionally, a wooden pattern would be sent to some shop to be made up into metal. Even his house, in which his widow lives today, was constructed by his own hands with the aid of his then small son.

He was essentially the mechanic type, better able to carry out his ideas in wood and metal than to work them out on paper or with blueprints. So it was that Gustave Whitehead, instead of broadcasting his flight of August 14, 1901, or any of his others previous to that, confined himself to his self-appointed task. While he was striving for perfection in the United States, Santos Dumont, in France, was steadily pushing ahead toward his goal of constructing a petrol-driven airship, or "'blimp" as it would be characterized today.

The afternoon of October 19, 1901, a group of frock-coated, silk-batted, bearded officials importantly appeared at the Pare d'Aerostation at St. Cloud. They represented the French Aero Club. In addition to the officials, a considerable crowd had gathered. They had come to watch Santos Dumont rise into the air, which he did at 2:43 P. M. in his sixth airship, and take-off in the direction of Eiffel Tower.

Santos Dumont's interest in the Eiffel Tower lay in the offer of 100,000 francs that M. Henry Deutsch had offered as the prize for the first petrol-driven airship that rose from the Pare d'Aerostation at St. Cloud and circled the tower, returning to its starting point, all this to be accomplished within the unheard of brief period of not more than a half hour. Santos Dumont won the prize with 29 seconds to spare.

Above England floated a balloon in which rode the Hen. C. S. Rolls, Frank Hedges Butler and Miss Hedges Butler of the United Kngdom, As they floated they thought, and their thoughts resulted in the creation of an Aero Club for their native isle. Promptly it was formed, and from this beginning in 1901 the present Royal Aero Club traces its ancestry.

Throughout that same year, 1901, Captain Ferber, in France, and Octave Chanute, in the United States, were continuing their research with gliders and seeking means of turning them in circular movements in the air. In the fall, at Kitty Hawk, the Wrights were also trying out a glider, a biplane with the enormous wing area of 308 square feet. This was larger than they had used when making their glider flight at Kill Devil Hill, July 27, 1901.

Before winter had come, they could say they had learned one thing that year, namely, that by shifting the position of the body while operating the glider, the pilot could make his machine travel a distance of as much as 300 feet. But they were not greatly encouraged. Said Wilbur, "'Man will never fly in a thousand years." Chanute's encouragement, however, did much to keep the brothers at work with their research during the winter.

It was also the year 1901 that Samuel Pierpont Langley, having made and flown steam-propelled airplane models and thus demonstrated the necessary laws of aerodynamics, remarked, "I have brought to a close the portion of the work which seemed specifically mine — the demonstration of the practicability of mechanical flight-and for the next stage, which is the commercial and practical development of the idea, it is probable that the world may look to others."

That winter of 1901-02 was a busy one for Gustave Whitehead. On the afternoon of January 17, 1902, the weather looked promising. It was the day he and his helpers had been seeking, so they quietly took their new avion, No. 22, to the beach outside Bridgeport and started its kerosene motor. The intention was to make some short trial flights, out over the Sound.

Gustave Whitehead took his place at the controls of the machine, the men gave it a preliminary push, and it trundled away on its three wheels and was off! The plane performed so admirably that its owner continued his flight for a distance of two miles over the Sound, following the shore line of the beach, although he had intended to make only short flights of not more than half a mile. The men pulled it ashore, and now Gustave Whitehead proposed to fly across the Sound.

He took off again, and at a height of 200 feet, was steadily progressing out across the Sound and out of the view of his helpers, when it occurred to him that it might be interesting to see if he could make his machine turn about and go back to its starting place. He turned the rudder slowly and drove one propeller faster than the other. With a thrill he realized his scheme was working.

Steadily and rapidly the machine came about until he was facing his starting point. As he neared his rejoicing helpers on the shore, he slowed the speed of the plane and again dropped it gently into the water. It had traveled a distance of approximately seven miles, not across the Sound, but it had made the first turn in the air so far as has been recorded. Thus, on January 17, 1902, Gustave Whitehead carried out the suggestion of Langley that others should demonstrate the practicability of mechanical flight.

That he accomplished this feat, Gustave Whitehead testified himself in a letter to the editor of the "American Inventor," to which the editor gave sufficient credence to publish it. This fact is further substantiated by affidavit of Whitehead's assistant, present upon this occasion. Once more Gustave Whitehead had set out to travel a given distance in the air and had exceeded all expectations.

The machine used upon this occasion was similar to the one used in August of 1901. The thrill of the experience exceeded any within memory except that early one in the Oakland suburb of Pittsburgh in the Spring of 1899, when much cruder, steam-driven model had carried him and his assistant a distance of almost a mile.

Firemen from the nearby No. 24 Engine Company had lent their assistance that time to start the machine, while the assistant fed charcoal to the flame which heated water in the ordinary kitchen boiler which they were using. The firebox had a sheet of asbestos at its base, then a sheet of iron over that, while the walls were made of clay. The engine itself was a two-cylinder one with a 4-inch bore and 10-inch stroke.

No one expected the machine to go far on that eventful day. A distance of a few rods would have been sufficiently convincing in those days. But as they went onward and upward, steered by Gustave Whitehead at the controls in the front, they exceeded the distance originally planned and found themselves headed for a three-story brick house. Afraid to attempt to swerve, there was but one hope, namely that they might clear the top of the house. But they failed. Down fell the machine, all but demolished, while the agonized fireman in the back writhed with the pain of a scalded leg. The glasses for indicating water-level in the boilers had broken, permitting steam to envelop the man.

While all this unusual performance was taking place in Pittsburgh in 1899, two young men were zealously testing glider models in their home in Dayton, Ohio. Orville and Wilbur Wright had not solved to their satisfaction a problem which troubled them, a problem of controlling and balancing winged machines in the air, and their first man-carrying glider was nothing but a dream as yet. In Germany Graf von Zeppelin was busily overseeing the construction of his rigid airship, while in France Santos Dumont was testing petrol-driven airships and Captain Ferber was experimenting with heavier-than-air machines.

Spring went by, then summer and one rainy day in October of that year, 1899, a crowd stood in the rain at Stanford Park, near Market Harborough, in England, to see Percy Pilcher make his first test of a power-driven glider. Percy Pilcher looked at the sky and shook his head. The weather was not to be trusted. But the crowd grew restless. The long wait and the rain were fast convincing them of the soundness of logic they had often repeated, "If man had been intended to fly, God would have given him wings."

Not to disappoint the crowd utterly, Pilcher prepared to make a glider flight in his tried and trusty "Hawk" as he had done many times before. All was ready. Pilcher took his place and the machine was being towed rapidly over the ground when the tow-rope broke. The crowd murmured in disgust. Hastily the rope was repaired and another start was made.

Breathlessly, they saw Pilcher sailing splendidly into the air, up and up to a height of nearly thirty feet--suddenly a guide wire in the tail snapped. The tail collapsed. And before the eyes of the crowd could credit what they saw, down came Pilcher and his "Hawk" in a heap upon the crowd. Two days later Pilcher passed away without regaining consciousness, one of the earliest martyrs to aviation.

Like Gustave Whitehead, Pilcher designed and constructed his own motor and plane. His plane, in which the motor was to be used, had been a triplane, while the plane used by Gustave Whitehead in Pittsburgh the preceding spring had been a monoplane. Gustave Whitehead's flight had been brief too, not over a half-mile--less than 2,640 feet. Yet it was more than four years later that the Kittyhawk flight of 852 feet, lasting only 59 seconds, took place and eventually won the acclaim of the world.

The realization that he had flown was all the mechanic-engineer had over which to rejoice as he lay for weeks in the hospital recovering from his wounds. Poor comfort it was without a doubt, but it spurred on the enthusiasm he had shared with his inventor-friend, Gustave Whitehead. They had been taking turns working in a coal mine at Wilcox, Pennsylvania, while in spare time Whitehead repaired guns and did like odd jobs to help earn the extra pennies his experiments required. With a young family to support, money was not too plentiful, but true inventive enthusiasm is not easily downed.

Misinformed by so-called scientists of the day regarding comparative strengths of different metals under steam pressure, these two men had tested out boiler after boiler of different metals. And boiler after boiler had been blown to bits as they tried and tried for the mathematical and scientific exactness they required.

The neighbors had not always shared the enthusiasm of their inventive friends during this stage of their labors, particularly as much of the experimental work had to be done after working hours at night, and many a neighboring window pane went hurtling into the darkness along with the bursting boilers. But the tests resulted in the finding of a boiler that would somewhere nearly meet the requirements of the inventor.

A test model had been made first, then the one that really flew. Today, the model looks a little odd to be adapted to airplane propulsion, but it is apparently as sturdy and ready to demonstrate as the day on which Gustave Whitehead turned it out in his workshop.

When Gustave Whitehead's friend and assistant had recovered sufficiently to leave the hospital, still carrying the scar of his scalding which was to be for life his only medal of honor for the first airplane flight, the two men agreed to go to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where they hoped to find more suitable employment in a factory. Together, they traveled to Bridgeport on bicycles and found the desired employment.

Gustave Whitehead sent for his family to join him. Although the employment was better in Bridgeport, spare time for indulging inventive ambitions was even more scarce. Louis Darvarich, the mechanic friend, married and the demands of growing families compelled both men to devote less of their time and funds to the inventions Gustave Whitehead's busy brain could devise.

Often, however, the demands of genius were too strong. Both Mrs. Whitehead and the children found it necessary to seek employment, while in a fever of the certainty of success that would compensate for all privations, Gustave Whitehead devoted time and money without stint to his experiments.

Almost any of the local machine shops were glad enough to employ him when the need for more funds drove him to them, for he was a master mechanic. But he remained only long enough to acquire what his immediate needs demanded and he was gone, back to his beloved inventions.

Men of means, fired with his enthusiasm, came, saw, listened, contributed for a time to his experiments, then grew discouraged and disgusted when his insistence upon perfection caused Gustave Whitehead to destroy one after another of his airships and start anew.

To the promoter it seemed well enough that his invention flew. To a public that could not then vision a flight much beyond a quarter of a mile, such demonstrations would have been convincing enough. But brief flights, running starts, too heavy materials and half-realized dreams were not for Gustave Whitehead. There were quarrels. Charges of unfairness by promoter and inventor were sometimes hurled. But through it all Gustave Whitehead remained steadfast in his search for the perfect airplane.

Young boys and men, mechanically inclined but lacking means, were his most eager assistants. It was nothing for them to linger over their work until early morning hours, absorbed with the same interest that drove their inventor friend, while they gleaned unforgettable lessons in mechanics from him.

Gustave Whitehead did not fly any more after his circle over Long Island Sound that 17th day of January, 1902. The weather was becoming threatening, the day was nearing its close, and in spite of the enthusiasm of his workers, the plane was returned to the Pine Street back yard.

Winter come in earnest. Through its storms the plane rested unprotected in the yard; there was no money to secure a shelter for it, because only a short time before, Whitehead and his financial backer had quarreled. Spring came and the motor had been ruined; the plane itself was not thought trustworthy in view of the ravages of winter. There was nothing for it but to construct another.

In April, 1902, John Whitehead, a brother, arrived from California and volunteered to assist his brother in his construction of airplanes. Neither had sufficient money, however, so both found employment and continued the labors at night as best they could. When there was not sufficient money for airplane construction, gliding could still be accomplished and Gustave Whitehead became a very proficient glider.

A young reporter, name MacNamara, found Gustave Whitehead and "his delightful Weber and Fields dialect" interesting copy. Now editor of the Bridgeport "Times," he tells me he once called upon Whitehead just in time to see a young assistant make a flight in a glider. MacNamara asked to be permitted to do likewise, and his wish was granted. A triplane glider was one of the most interesting of Whitehead's inventions.

In September and October, 1902, the Wright brothers were ready to believe they had pretty well mastered the art of gliding, for during those months they had completed nearly a thousand glides, some of them more than 600 feet in length. A motor for their plane was the next step.

Meanwhile, in Bridgeport, there appeared a picturesque figure. He was Colonel Buffalo Jones, characterized so well by Zane Grey. Buffalo Jones had his own ideas of inventions and he had his ideas concerning who could construct the type of engine he had in mind, to his satisfaction. Gustave Whitehead's genius appealed to him, and as neither knew the probable cost of such work, the figure agreed upon was too small for Gustave Whitehead to realize any profit by the time the work was completed.

He then took up building motors for others for a time, hoping thus to secure funds for his own work. But his profits were small and progress with his own engine was slow. When he had completed his new type engine, for the also newly constructed airplane, although it was a forty horsepower, four cylinder, four-cycle gasoline motor, it was not sufficiently powerful to lift the plane. To determine the thrust required, he tested the plane by attaching it to a Locomobile car and having it towed for a distance. Finding that a motor of sixty horsepower was required, the brothers set to work again.

To make sure of plenty of power to spare, they designed a 200 horsepower, eight-cylinder, four-cycle, V-shaped motor. They were encouraged now, for a new backer from New York had sought them out and, assured of funds, they felt success was within their reach. But the new backer proved their undoing, for he insisted upon testing the new motor in a boat on the Sound, and in his eagerness he advanced the spark too rapidly, the boat capsized and lost the motor.

Again, Gustave Whitehead started construction, but now 1903 had more than half run its course, and Professor Langley, encouraged by the War Department to renewed effort, was busily attempting to launch a large duplicate of his flying models, a duplicate large enough to carry a man from a houseboat on the Potomac. The means of launching was by a catapult. Unfortunately, the catapult failed to operate satisfactorily and the plane caught and was thrown into the water on each of the two attempts Langley made to launch it. The public, always ready to doubt if the Deity actually intended man to fly, could not heap enough abuse upon him.

When December 17th came, there was activity in the Wright Brothers' camp at Kitty Hawk. A few days later came reports of flights, not at first generally accepted, flights the brothers had succeeded in making in a power-driven man-carrying, heavier-than-air flying machine.

The Wright Brothers had much in their favor at all times. They had independent means, they had the encouragement of others working in the same field, they belonged to organizations where their work would find reception and publicity, they spoke English fluently and their background was such that they knew how to use it skillfully to carry their audience with them.

They took out patents promptly and had every means of establishing their claims. And so, to the Wright Brothers, after years of bitter controversy with those who believe in the efficiency of Professor Langley's plane, has been generally conceded the palm of having been the first to fly.

Disheartened and discouraged, Gustave Whitehead had still not lost sight of the fact that an airplane would never be really practical until it could rise vertically from the ground. He had always been in the forefront of those who could foresee what were the needs of practical aviation. He had been early in putting wheels under his planes to Wrights were still using a pylon and derrick arrangement several years after their first accredited flight.

Gustave Whitehead was among the earliest to seek light weight and strength through the use of aluminum and silk. He was one of the few who made both motor and plane for his airplanes. But now he turned to his ideal, a helicopter. One such helicopter was completed but, although his engine lifted it, he saw a more powerful one was needed, so he started construction of another larger helicopter along the same lines and a more effective engine. But once more he and his backers disagreed. The law was with the latter and all his shops and equipment were seized. It was the final blow to a long-suffering genius. Gustave Whitehead never lost his interest in aviation, but he died without completing his helicopter.

The cover of the January 1935 edition of Popular Aviation.

From The Bridgeport Herald, August 18, 1901 


(This article is attributed to Richard Howell although there is no hard evidence that he actually wrote it. Other candidates include  editorial cartoonist "Dad" Barber, who sometimes wrote special features, and a reporter named MacNamara, mentioned by Stella Randolf as being close to Whitehead. It may not have originated with the Bridgeport Herald staff at all; historian Carroll Gray contends it was a cut-and-paste job, much of  the text pirated from an article that appeared in the New York Sun on 9 June 1901, then amended and appended for the Herald readership. However, Howell was the Managing Editor of the Bridgeport Herald at the time, having worked at this weekly paper since 1888. We can assume that even if he didn't write the article, it certainly crossed his desk and it was he who decided it belonged on page 5 rather than the front page. This is important because Howell occasionally published sensational stories that bordered on fiction on page 5 – this was the Bridgeport Herald's "features section." In July of 1901, page 5 had informed readers about the "Dog Man of Windham," a home-grown Bigfoot-like creature, and the "Great White Shark of the Lexington Wreck," which protected gold bullion that had sunk with the ship. A week after "Flying" appeared, page 5 described "The Woodbury Kleptomaniac" who stole rare plants and chickens. Howell placed serious stories there too, but page 5 often walked the line between fact and fancy. – Ed.)

Richard Howell

The success that has attended the experiments of the young Brazilian M. Santos-Dumont in scientific ballooning in France has been responsible for a marked impetus in this country in the fascinating and daring sport of flying. The probability is, however, that the final solution of successfully navigating the air by two American inventors combining their brains and energies toward perfecting a flying machine that will do what scores of men have been working to accomplish for many years.

Gustave Whitehead of Bridgeport and W. D. Custead of Waco, Texas have co-operated and are now working on a flying machine which is expected to revolutionize the world of aeronautics. Accompanying this article are pictures of both the Custead and Whitehead flying machines. Mr. Whitehead is employed at the Wilmot & Hobbs works as night watchman, and during during about half the time that is allotted to most men to sleep he is working on his flying machine. Some weeks ago Mr. Whitehead took his machine out beyond Fairfield in a large field and tried it.

There was no doubt of it being able to fly at that time the inventor did feel like raising himself for a trial.

Tuesday night, however of the last week, Mr. Whitehead, Andrew Cellie, and James Dickie, his two partners in the flying machine and a representative of the Herald left the little shed on Pine street where the machine is housed and took it to a suitable spot beyond Fairfield where its inventor had planned to take his first flight.

The start was made shortly after midnight in order to not attract attention. The wings or propellers were folded tightly to the sides of the body of the air ship. The two engines were carefully tried before starting out and now the acetylene generator was gone over a last time by Mr. Whitehead to see that it was in perfect order. There was only room for two in the machine, Whitehead and Cellie occupying the seats while James Dickie and the Herald representative followed on bicycles.

The machine rolls along the ground on small wooden wheels, only a foot in diameter, and, owing to their being so small, the obstructions in the road made it rock from on side to the other in an alarming fashion at times when the speed was fast. After reaching the Protestant Orphan asylum at the corner of Fairfield avenue and Ellsworth street there is a clear stretch of macadam road the the flying automobile was sent spinning along the road at the rate of twenty miles an hour. For short distances from then on the speed was close to thirty miles but as the road was not straight or level for any distance this rate of speed could not be maintained. There seems no doubt that the machine, even with its present common board wheels of only a foot in diameter, can reel off forty miles an hour and not exert the engine to its fullest capacity.

The location selected to fly the machine was back of Fairfield along the highway where there is a large field and few trees to avoid in flying the air ship.

It was about 2 o’clock Wednesday morning when the great white wings of the air ship were spread out ready to leap through the air. Mr. Whitehead was excited and enthusiastic and his two partners were almost as bad. The light was not very strong and everything looked like a ghost. Whitehead spoke in whispers, although the reason for it was not apparent. But probably the very time selected for trying the machine was responsible for that. The Herald representative assisted when the opportunity afforded, but a stranger about a flying machine is sadly out of place and absolutely in the way when it comes to the hour to fly the ship. Ropes were attached to the ship so that she would not get away from her handlers. In the body of the machine were two bags of sand, each weighing about 110 pounds, for ballast. Mr. Whitehead started the engine that propels the machine along the ground on the four wooden wheels, while his two assistants clung to the safety ropes. The newspaper man kept well clear of the machine, partly to better watch the operations and partly not to get tangled up in the ropes and wings of the giant white bat. Slowly the machine started at first to run over the ground, but inside of a hundred yards the men who had hold of the ropes and inventor Whitehead were running as fast as their legs would travel. Then Whitehead pulled open the throttle that starts the air propellers or wings and shut off the ground propelling engine. Almost instantly the bow of the machine lifted and she raised at an angle of about six degrees. The great white wings were working beautifully. She looked for all the world like a great white goose raising from the feeding ground in the early morning dawn. The two men with the ropes were tumbling over the hummocks in the field for it was not clear enough yet to avoid such obstructions readily, and Whitehead waved his hands enthusiastically and excitedly as he watched his invention rise in the air. He had set the dial so that the power would shut off automatically when it had made one revolution in order that the machine would not keep flying and smash against the trees at the other end of the field. When the power was shut the air ship settled as lightly on the ground as a bird and not a stitch was broken or a rod bent.

The air ship was now taken back to the starting point. And now the real test was to be made. Whitehead had determined to fly in the machine himself. She had behaved so nicely that he felt that there would no longer be any trouble about his flying in the place of the 220 pounds of sand that was used for the ballast on the first trip.

The engines were carefully tested again and every joint and rod in the structure was carefully gone over and critically inspected. The bags of sand were taken out of the machine.

By this time the light was good. Faint traces of the rising sun began to suggest themselves in the east. An early morning milkman stopped in the road to see what was going on. His horse nearly ran away when the big white wings flapped to see if they were all right.

The nervous tension was growing at every clock tick and no one showed it more than Whitehead who still whispered at times but as the light grew stronger began to speak in his normal tone of voice. He stationed his two assistants behind the machine with instructions to hold on to the ropes and not let the machine get away. Then he took up his position in the great bird.

He opened the throttle of the ground propeller and shot along the green at a rapid rate.

"I’m going to start the wings!" he yelled. "Hold her now." The two assistants held on the best they could but the ship shot up in the air almost like a kite.

It was an exciting moment.

"We can’t hold her!" shrieked one of the rope men.

"Let go then!" shouted Whitehead back. They let go and as they did so the machine darted up through the air like a bird released from a cage. Whitehead was greatly excited and his hands flew from one part of the machine to another. The newspaper man and the two assistants stood still for a moment watching the air ship in amazement. Then they rushed down the sloping grade after the air ship. She was flying now about fifty feet above the ground and made a noise very much like the "chug, chug, chug," of an elevator going down the shaft.

Whitehead had grown calmer now and seemed to be enjoying the exhilaration of the novelty. He was headed straight for a clump of chestnut sprouts that grew on a high knoll. He was now about forty feet in the air and would have been high enough to escape the sprouts had they not been on a high ridge. He saw the danger ahead and when within two hundred yards of the sprouts made several attempts to manipulate the machinery so he could steer around, but the ship kept steadily on her course, head on for the trees. To strike them meant wrecking the air ship and very likely death or broken bones for the daring aeronaut.

Here it was that Whitehead showed how to utilize a common sense principle which he had noticed the birds make use of thousands of times when he had been studying them in their flight for points to make his air ship a success. He simply shifted his weight more to one side than the other. This

careened the ship to one side. She turned her nose away from the clump of sprouts when within fifty yards of them and took her course around them as prettily as a yacht on the sea avoids a bar. The ability to control the air ship in this manner appeared to give Whitehead confidence, for he was seen to take time to look at the landscape about him. He looked back and waved his hand exclaiming, "I’ve got it at last."

He had now soared through the air for fully half a mile and as the field ended a short distance ahead the aeronaut shut off the power and prepared to light. He appeared to be a little fearful that the machine would dip ahead or tip back when the power was shut off but there was no sign of any such move on the part of the big bird. She settled down from a height of about fifty feet in two minutes after the propellers stopped. And she lighted on the ground on her four wooden wheels so lightly that Whitehead was not jarred in the least.

How the inventors face beamed with joy! His partners threw their arms around his neck and patted him on the back and asked him to describe his feelings while he was flying.

"I told you it would be a success," was all he could say for some time. He was like a man who is exhausted after passing through a severe ordeal. And this had been a severe ordeal to him. For months, yes years he had been looking forward to this time, when he would fly like a bird through the air by means that he had studied with his own brain. He was exhausted and he sat down on the green grass beside the fence and looked away where the sun’s first rays of light were shooting above the gray shrouding fog that nestled on the bosom of Long Island Sound.

Gods, what a picture for a painter of "Hopes Recalled at Dawn." And there he sat in silence thinking. His two faithful partners and the Herald reporter respected his mood and let him speak the first words.

"It’s a funny sensation to fly."

For half an hour the man who had demonstrated that he has a machine that can navigate the air talked of his ten minutes experience in the air ship. He was enthusiastic, spoke almost like a child who has seen for the first time something new and is panting out of breath in an effort to tell it to his mother.

Thus did Whitehead describe his sensations from the moment the air ship left the ground until she landed again:

"I never felt such a strange sensation as when the machine first left the ground and started on her flight. I heard nothing but the rumbling of the engine and the flapping of the big wings. I don’t think I saw anything during the first two minutes of the flight, for I was so excited with the sensations I experienced. When the ship had reached a height of about forty or fifty feet I began to wonder how much higher it would go. But just about that time I observed that she was sailing along easily and not raising any higher. I felt easier, for I still had a felling of doubt about what was waiting for me further on I began now to feel that I was safe and all that it would be necessary for me to do to keep from falling was to keep my head and not make any mistakes with the machinery. I never felt such a spirit of freedom as I did during the ten minutes that I was soaring up above my fellow beings in a thing that my own brain had evolved. It was a sweet experience. It made me feel that I was far ahead of my brothers for I could fly like a bird, and they must still walk.

"And while my brain was whirling with these new sensations of delight I saw ahead a clump of trees that the machine was pointed straight for. I knew that I must in some way steer around those trees or raise above them. I was a hundred yards distant from them and I knew that I could not clear them by raising higher, and also that I had no means of steering around them by using the machinery. Then like a flash a plan to escape the trees came to mind. I had watched the birds when turned out of a straight course to avoid something ahead. They changed their bodies from a horizontal plane to one slightly diagonal to the horizontal. To turn to the left the bird would lower its left wing or side of its body. The machine ought to obey the same principle and when within about fifty yards of the clump of trees I shifted my weight to the left side of the machine. It swung over a little and began to turn from the straight course. And we sailed around the trees as easy as it was to sail straight ahead.

"This gave me more confidence and I tried steering the machine to the right by shifting my weight to the right past the center of equilibrium. The machine responded to the slightest shifting of weight. It was most sensitive.

" I had soared through the air now for half a mile and not far ahead the long field ended with a piece of woods. When within a hundred yards of the woods I shut off the power and then began to feel a little nervous about how the machine would act in settling to the ground, for so many flying machines have shown a tendency to fall either on the front or hind end and such a fall means broken bones for the operator. My machine began to settle evenly and I alighted on the ground with scarcely a jar. And not a thing was broken.

"That was the happiest moment of my life for I had demonstrated that the machine I have worked on for so many years would do what I claimed for it, It was a grand sensation to be flying through the air. There is nothing like it."

But while Mr. Whitehead has demonstrated that his machine will fly he does not pretend that it can be made a commercial success. On the other hand inventor Custead claims that his airship can be made a commercial success for it differs from Whiteheads in that it rises from the ground vertically while Whiteheads machine must have a running start like a goose before leaving the ground for the flight. Custead claims to have the most feasible form of airship but he lacks a generator that is sufficiently light and do the work required to propel the airship. Whiteheads however has the generator and by the combination of Custead’s airship and Whiteheads generator it is believed by the inventors that will be able to perfect a machine that will come nearer to the point of success than any other machine thus far made.

This new generator of Whiteheads promises great things if the claims of the inventor are fulfilled. The power is developed by a series of rapid gas explosions from calcium carbide. At the present time the spark explosions are not very rapid but Whitehead claims that he can produce 150 explosions to the minute if required. The gas thus generated is forced into a chamber where it comes into contact with a chemical preparation the ingredients of which are known only to Whitehead. The contact of the gas with the chemicals produces an enormous and even piston pressure. It is said that dynamite is nothing compared with this new power. Whitehead has had the chemists inspect his chemical preparation and they marvel at it’s power. The chemists call the chemical preparation a "queer mixture" but not one of them denies that Whitehead has discovered something valuable.

The only demonstration of the new generator’s commercial value has been in its use in the flying machine. There is no doubt that Whitehead used this generator to propel the flying machine along the ground on its wheels and also for the power for the engine that makes the propellers go when flying through the air.

The one great drawback is procuring motive power to run an airship has been the great weight required in a generator and engine. Mr. Whitehead claims that his motor will decrease by seventy five per cent the weight of any motor at present in use. The complete motive power including generator and engine will weigh about five pounds to the horse power. For a ten horse power generator twenty pounds of carbide are required to run twenty hours.

Thus far the longest time a flying machine has been able to fly has been thirty minutes.

Whitehead’s flying machine is sixteen feet long and its general appearance is that of a huge bat. From each side of the body there are wings made of bamboo poles and covered with muslin. These wings are thirty six feet from tip to tip. There is also a tail in the stern of the machine which is intended to regulate the accent and decent of the ship. There are two engines, one of ten horse power to run the machine on the wheels along the ground and the other, of twenty horse power, used to work the propellers in flying. The ten horse power engine weighs twenty-two pounds and the twenty horse engine weighs thirty five pounds.

Mr. Whitehead and Mr. Custead have formed a company for the purpose of building an air ship. Mr. Custead is backed by a company of Southern gentleman with unlimited capital and they firmly believe in the commercial success of Custead’s invention when a proper power can be found to run the machine.

Mr. Custead’s airship is in Waco, Texas where its inventor originally lived. He is now in New York. The work on the new generator which Whitehead is to supply is progressing rapidly. Whitehead has applied for patents to fully protect it and expects no difficulty in receiving them as his generator is unlike any that have been patented.

It is probable that the generators will be manufactured in Bridgeport where every facility is at hand for the manufacture of such articles.

Among the lead stories on Page 1 of the August 18, 1901 edition of the Bridgeport Herald was a report of a yacht race and a fatal trolley accident.

Page 2 of the Bridgeport Herald was always given to sports. Howell seemed especially fond of boxing.

"Much Ado About Nothing" was a regular feature on page 3, filled with local gossip.

Page 4 contained editorials and letters to the editor.

"Flying" appeared on page 5, which commonly featured human interest stories and other "soft news."

"The Dog Man of Windham" was a page 5 story that appeared a few weeks before "Flying."

"The Woodbury Kleptomania" was another page 5 story that was published the week after "Flying."

From American Inventor Magazine
1 April 1902

The Whitehead Flying Machine

Has the End been Finally Attained, and is the Dirigible Balloon to Go?

Editor, American Inventor

Dear Sir: Replying to your recent letter, I take pleasure in sending you the following description of my flying machine No. 22, the latest that I have constructed:

This machine was built in four months with the aid of 14 skilled mechanics and cost about $1,700 to build. It is run by a 40 horse-power kerosene motor of my own design, especially constructed for strength, power and lightness, weighing but 120 pounds complete. It will run for a week at a time If required, without running hot, stopping, or in any possible manner troubling the operator. No electrical apparatus is required for ignition purposes. Ignition is accomplished by its own heat and compression; it runs about S00 revolutions per "minute, has five cylinders and no fly-wheel is used. It requires a space 10 inches wide, 4 feet long and 10 inches high.

The flying machine proper is built like my machine No. 21. of which I send you photographs, only instead of using acetylene gas for driving purposes I use the kerosene motor described above. Machine No. 22 is made mostly of steel and aluminum. There is a body 10 feet long, 3-1/2 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet deep, shaped like a fish, and resting on four automobile wheels, 13 inches in diameter. While standing on the ground the two front wheels are connected to the kerosene motor and the rear wheels are used for steering. They can be easily moved by the aeronaut. The body is well stayed with steel tubing and braced with steel piano wire. It is covered with aluminum sheeting and made so it will float like a boat in the water. On either side are large wings or aeroplanes shaped like the wings of a flying fish or bat. The ribs are of steel tubing in No. 22 instead of bamboo as in No. 21 machine, and are covered with 450 square feet of the best silk obtainable. In front of the wings and across the body is a steel framework to which is connected the propellers for driving the machine through the air. The propellers are 6 feet in diameter and have a projecting blade-surface of 4 square feet each. They are made of wood and are covered with very thin aluminum sheeting. The propellers run about 600 revolutions per minute under full power and turn in opposite directions. When running at full speed they will exert a thrust of 508 pounds. I measured this thrust by attaching the machine to a post by means of a dynamometer and running the engines at full speed. There is a mast and a bowsprit braced something like a ship's rigging to hold all parts in their proper relations to each other. In the stern of the machine there is a 12-foot tail, something similar to a bird's tail, which, like the wings, can be folded up in half a minute and laid against the sides of the body. An automatic apparatus serves to keep the equilibrium in the air.

This is illustrated in the diagrams, in which similar letters refer to similar parts in both the top and side views. H is the body of the machine containing the motor (not shown), and the wheels, II, on which it rests on the ground and supporting the tail, K. F is the bowsprit on which is mounted the lever C, supporting the small aeroplane E. The lever C is connected by the rod G to the pendulum B, which has at its lower end the weight A. It is obvious that the weight A will tilt the aeroplane E if the machine drops her bow. The leverage gained from the end of the bowsprit to the center of the machine is so great that the least change in the position of the aeroplane is instantly effective. By means of the handle D, such changes are under the immediate control of the aeronaut. I have not shown the wings in these diagrams.

In order to start flying, the motor is set in motion, and then connected to the front wheels which drive the machine forward at fearful speed. When ready to go up, a spring is released which stretches the wings and the propellers are started by means of a lever which stops the ground wheels and turns the power into the propellers. It takes about 20 yards run with the extra weight of a man (about 180 pounds) before the machine leaves the ground.

This new machine has been tried twice, on January 17, 1902. It was intended to fly only short distances, but the machine behaved so well that at the first trial it covered nearly two miles over the water of Long Island Sound, and settled in the water without mishap to either machine or operator. It was then towed bock to the starting place. On the second trial it started from the same place and sailed with myself on board across Long Island Sound. The machine kept on steadily in crossing the wind at a height of about 200 feet, when it came into my mind to try steering around in a circle. As soon as I turned the rudder and drove one propeller faster than the other the machine turned a bend and flew north with the wind at a frightful speed, but turned steadily around until I saw the starting place in the distance. I continued to turn but when near the land again, I slowed up the propellers and sank gently down on an even keel into the water, she readily floating like a boat. My men then pulled her out of the water, and as the day was at a close and the weather changing for the worse. I decided to take her home until Spring.

The length of flight on the first trial was about two miles, and on the second about seven miles. The last trial was a circling flight, and as I successfully returned to my starting place with a machine hitherto untried and heavier than the air, I consider the trip quite a success. To my knowledge it is the first of its kind. This matter has so far never been published.

I have no photographs taken yet of No. 22, but send you some of No. 21, as these machines are exactly alike, except the details mentioned. No. 21 has made four trips, the longest one and a half miles, on August 14. 1901.   The wings of both machines measure 30 feet from tip to tip, and the length of the entire machine is 32 feet.   It will run on the ground 50 miles an hour, and in air travel at about 70 miles.   I believe that if wanted it would fly 100 miles an hour. The power carried is considerably more than necessary.

Believing with Maxim that the future of the air machine lies in an apparatus made without the gas bag, I have taken up the aeroplane, and will stick to it until I have succeeded completely or expire in the attempt of so doing.

As soon as I get my machine out this Spring I will let you know. To describe the feeling of flying is almost impossible, for. in fact, a man is more frightened than anything else.

Trusting this will interest your readers, I remain, Very truly yours,

Gustave Whitehead
Bridgeport, Conn.

The Editor, hardly able to credit the account above given that a man has actually succeeded in flying: in a machine heavier than air, wrote again to Mr. Whitehead for confirmation. Mr. Whitehead's reply follows.

Editor, American Inventor

Dear Sir:  Yours of the 20th received.  Yes, it was a full-sized flying machine, and I, myself, flew seven miles and returned to my starting point.

In both the flights described in my previous letter, I flew in the machine myself. This, of course, is new to the world at large, but I do not care much in being advertised except by a good paper like yours. Such accounts may help others along who are working in the same line. As soon as I can I shall try again. This coming spring I will have photographs made of machine No. 22 in the air and let you have pictures taken during its flight. If you can come up and get them yourself, so much the better. I attempted this before, but in the first trial the weather was bad, some little rain and a very cloudy sky, and the snapshots that were taken did not come out right. I cannot take any time exposures of the machine when in flight on account of its high speed.

I enclose a small sketch showing the course the machine made in her longest flight. January 17. 1902.

Trusting this will be satisfactory, I remain, yours truly.

Bridgeport, Conn.

Newspaper readers will remember several accounts of Mr. Whitehead's performances last summer. Probably most people put them down as fakes, but it seems as though the long-sought answer to the most difficult problem Nature ever put to man is gradually coming in sight. The Editor and the readers of these columns await with interest the promised photographs of the machine in the air. The similarity of this machine to Langley's experimental flying machine is well shown in the accompanying illustration, reprinted from a previous issue. Mr. Langley, it will be remembered, was the first to demonstrate the possibility of mechanical flight.   Ed.

The cover of American Inventor, 1 April 1902.

Page 1.

Page 2.

Gustave Whitehead.

Mr. Whitehead's No. 21, the first which has flown with a man in it by mechanical power.

The course taken by Mr. Whitehead in his machine over Long Island Sound on Jan. 17, 1902.

A top view on Whitehead's flying machine.

Diagram of the Whitehead flying machine without wings showing the automatic apparatus used for balancing.

An ideal picture of the Langley Aerodrome from below. This machine and Whitehead's are identical in principle. Prof. Langley demonstrated the possibility of mechanical flight. Mr. Whitehead applies the principle and claims the problem solved.

From The National Aeronautic Association Magazine
December 1936 

Did Whitehead Actually Fly?

Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Whitehead vs. the Wrights
For years the story of Gustave Whitehead's alleged flights before the historic motor-propelled flight of the Wright Brothers on December 17, 1903, has been making the rounds. A Washington writer has published articles claiming to prove that Whitehead superseded the Wright Brothers. Here is an authentic article carefully weighing the claims and drawing measured conclusions. Dr. Crane, who is preparing a book on the History of American Aviation, has investigated the Whitehead claims with academic precision and has failed to find substantiation. His investigation was greatly facilitated by a grant of funds from the Committee on Research in the Social Sciences of Harvard University. – Editor

THAT the Wright brothers were the first to make successful airplane flights in the United States has always been considered an indisputable fact. The Congress of the United States gave official recognition of this by appropriating the sum of $25,000 in 1928 for the construction of a monument at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to commemorate the first flights made there by Orville and Wilbur Wright on December 17, 1903- Numerous books and articles have been written acclaiming the Wrights as the first American flyers, and describing in detail their early pioneer efforts.

It came as a distinct shock, therefore, to students of aviation history when, in 1934, a Washington journalist published an article in a magazine challenging the position of the Wright brothers and claiming that a German immigrant, named Gustave Whitehead, had made successful airplane flights at Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1901 and 1902. A certain amount of evidence was advanced to substantiate the claims.

It is the purpose of this article briefly to evaluate the evidence adduced in support of the alleged Whitehead flights, and to determine accurately just what results Whitehead actually achieved in his aviation experiments.

These aims can be encompassed most succinctly by posing and attempting to answer the following questions:

  1. Did Whitehead succeed in making any airplane flights at all?
  2. If Whitehead made any flights, were they true flights, or merely "momentum" flights? That is, did he succeed in leaving the ground and flying horizontally above the ground with power generated by his motor, or did he merely leap from the ground as a result of the initial momentum and then coast or glide to the surface of the earth again?
  3. If it can be demonstrated that Whitehead made airplane flights, either genuine or momentum, exactly when and where were the flights made? Did any of the flights precede the Wright brothers' first flights of 1903?

Research extending over a period of thirteen months has convinced me that Whitehead actually made short airplane flights. Numerous individuals interviewed, who still live in the neighborhood of Whitehead's old home on Pine Street, testified that they had seen him make flights along the streets of Bridgeport. While their statements were unanimous in asserting that he made short flights, they did not agree about the length, the height or the time of the flights.

The lowest estimate of the height attained was given as four feet above the ground, the highest as 25 feet. Estimates of the distance traversed ranged from sixty feet to over 300 feet.

Great difficulty was encountered in determining just when the flights were made and what the exact nature of the flights was. Since many of the witnesses were of foreign extraction, of little education, and possessed slight knowledge of either airplanes or the English language, it was almost impossible to find out whether the flights were genuine, horizontal, sustained flights or merely momentum flights. At length, however, I found Mr. John Fekete, a mechanic who had helped Whitehead build his early motors. He is a man of above average education and intelligence. He declared positively that the flights were not horizontal, that Whitehead would rise rapidly to a height of twenty or twenty-five feet and then coast to the ground a distance of seventy-five yards or so.

No one could be found in Bridgeport who had ever seen Whitehead make any flights other than the short hops along the streets and in the neighborhood of Tunxis hill where the Whitehead family moved around 1906 or 1907. What are we to believe, then, about the alleged one and one-half mile flight at Lordship Manor and the seven mile circular flight over Long Island Sound which Whitehead in his letter to the editor of the American Inventor claims to have made? These two flights were alleged to have been made on August 14, 1901, and January 17, 1902, long before the first successful flight of the Wrights.

One person, now living in Detroit, Michigan, was interviewed, who claims to have witnessed the one and one-half mile flight of August 14, 1901. His name is Junius Harworth, originally Julius Horvath. At the time of the alleged 1901 flight he was about eleven years old. The Horvath family lived only a short distance from the Whiteheads at 241 Pine Street and little Julius was an entranced admirer of Whitehead.

In connection with Junius Harworth's claim that he saw Whitehead fly one and one-half miles at an altitude of 200 feet on August 14, 1901, the following facts are relevant. Harworth is collaborating with a certain Washington journalist in preparing a book, the aim of which is to prove that Whitehead flew before the Wright brothers. Harworth is under contract to receive ten per cent or the profits of the projected book. His testimony, therefore, is not disinterested.

Furthermore, Harworth's elder brother, Nicholas Horvath, who operates a drug-store in Bridgeport, asserts that he never once heard his younger brother mention the alleged one and one-half mile flight or the seven mile flight. It was news to him that Whitehead had made such flights. In fact, it was news to everyone of Whitehead's old neighbors and former helpers who still live in the vicinity of Pine Street. Even Louis Darvarich, who was Whitehead's first partner in flying experiments in Pittsburgh in 1899, and who accompanied Whitehead to Bridgeport and lived near him for several years, had never heard of the alleged one and one-half mile flight or the seven mile flight. "

Since Gustave Whitehead has been dead for several years direct questioning is of course precluded. But personal interviews with his widow and children, who still live in a suburb of Bridgeport, revealed that none of them had ever actually seen Whitehead make any flights, although they reported that he had frequently told them he had made flights and had flown before the Wright brothers. They did not recall, however, his ever mentioning the two long flights of 1901 and 1902. It seems strange that Mrs. Whitehead, who had helped him for several years in the covering of the wings of his flying machines, should never have witnessed any of his numerous short hops along the streets of the neighborhood.

Since no airplane however ingenious or structurally sound can fly unless powered by a satisfactorily light and strong motor, an investigation was made of Whitehead's mechanical abilities. The results were most interesting. Whitehead was not a master mechanic as claimed. His former foreman, Mr. August Wahlquist, states that he was not a highly skilled mechanic, and was not allowed to operate a machine in the plant. He was paid $12 a week while master mechanics received $20 a week or more.

Further evidence of Whitehead's lack of expertness was secured from John J. Dvorak, a Chicago business man, who spent six months with Whitehead in Bridgeport in 1904. Mr. Dvorak had been on the teaching staff of Washington University in St. Louis and in August, 1904, went to Bridgeport to finance Whitehead in the construction of an airplane motor. The following excerpts from his sworn statement made in Chicago, July 18, 1936, reveal his opinion of Whitehead:

"After staying several weeks (in Bridgeport in 1904) I came to the conclusion that Whitehead was incapable of building a satisfactory motor, and became disgusted and left.

"During my stay in Bridgeport I did not meet a single individual who had ever seen Whitehead make a flight . . . I talked with Beach, the editor of the Scientific American, who was interested in Whitehead's experiments (and who lived near Bridgeport) and Beach himself told me he had never seen Whitehead make a flight.

"I do not believe that Whitehead made any flights, although it is possible he may have made short straightaway hops similar to a stone's skipping over the surface of the water . . .

"I personally do not believe that Whitehead ever succeeded in making any airplane flights. Here are my reasons: 1. Whitehead did not possess sufficient mechanical skill and equipment to build a successful motor. 2. Whitehead was given to gross exaggeration. He was eccentric – a visionary and dreamer to such an extent that he actually believed what he merely imagined. He had delusions."

The above statements do not lend support to the claim that Whitehead made genuine airplane flights as early as 1901 or at any subsequent date. Did Whitehead succeed in making even short, hopping momentum flights as early as 1901 or 1902? There is some evidence to support an affirmative answer to this latter question. Mr. Alexander J. Gluck, clerk in a saloon in Bridgeport, swore to the following statement on August 13, 1936:

"I, Alexander Gluck, residing at 411 Hancock Avenue, Bridgeport, Connecticut, do depose and say that I person­ally witnessed airplane flights made by Gustave Whitehead in 1901 and 1902. The longest flight I saw him make was approximately sixty feet in length and at an altitude of fifteen or twenty feet above the ground. These flights were made on Cherry Street, Bridgeport, and at the time I saw the flights I was ten or eleven years old. The machine was a biplane... I saw him make numerous flights, both morning and afternoon flights."

So far as has been ascertained Whitehead did not experiment with biplanes until 1904 or later, his earlier machines having been monoplanes. Efforts to ascertain Gluck's birth date have so far proved fruitless. But the uncertainty as to his age, his reference to biplanes, and the fact that he had to consult an earlier statement he had made to a journalist before he could be sure of the years he saw the flights, cast doubt on the accuracy of the years named.

Several witnesses were found who testified to seeing Whitehead make short street flights' from 1904 to 1908. The statement of one of these witnesses is particularly interesting because she still lives at 241 Pine Street where Whitehead lived while he was carrying on his early experiments. It is that of Mari Kopacsi and reads: "During the years 1905, 1906, 1907 and 1908 I saw Gustave Whitehead make airplane flights at Villa Park in the West end of Bridgeport at an altitude of three or four feet above the ground. I also saw him make many similar flights along State street, most of which took place around sunset. In my judgment his flights were from 75 to 100 yards' in length without touching the ground. The airplane was a biplane—two wings—one above the other."

The above statement was also signed by Frederick Szur, who acted as interpreter and who has lived at 241 Pine Street since early in 1905, having moved there from another city. The authenticity of these early street flights seems unquestionable.

At the present writing the conclusions reached on the basis of the accumulated body of evidence are as follows:

  1. The evidence that Whitehead made genuine, sustained, horizontal flights at any time is inconclusive.
  2. The evidence that Whitehead made short momentum flights at different times between 1904 and 1908 is conclusive.
  3. The evidence that Whitehead made short momentum flights prior to 1904 is inconclusive.



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