Writing about my great uncle, Addison Hartle in Yours in a Hurry made me wonder what it would be like to sit in the same biplane he built and flew in 1911—and I actually did! As I've said before, researching for historical fiction is the best part of the genre!
Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum
Red Hook, New York is just up the road from Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's Hyde Park estate. Nearby is possibly the best collection of flying antique airplanes in the country at the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum . The museum is 57 years old this year and is devoted to the founder's legacy of presenting aviation history in its purest form—antique aircraft in the skies. They have certainly succeeded!
The many famous pioneer and World War I aircraft on display and in the sky includes an original 1909 Bleriot XI similar to the one that Louis Bleriot flew on the first cross-English Channel flight that year. Rhinebeck's Bleriot monoplane is the oldest flying aircraft in the US and the second oldest in the world. Yours in a Hurry describes many early aviation events that included many of the aircraft at Rhinebeck.
The 1911 Curtiss Pusher Model
The Curtiss biplane on display is similar to the one Addison flew. The Aerodrome’s Curtiss Pusher, shown here with Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum President Michael DiGiacomio and the author, was built in 1976 and is powered by an original 1911, 80 HP Hall-Scott engine obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. It utilizes the original Curtiss control system. The shoulder yoke controls the ailerons as the pilot leans from side to side. Rotation of the control wheel controls the rudder. Moving the wheel fore and aft control both forward and rear elevators. The right pedal controls the throttle, a center pedal is for the front wheel friction brake, and the left pedal operates an emergency “claw” brake located in the center of the main
The flying schedule is at http://oldrhinebeck.org/ORA/. The season starts each May and ends in October with alternating History of Flight Air Shows and World War I air shows. As you can see from the photo of the WWI auto, the performances are family oriented. The staff is very personable and knowledgeable and for a reasonable fee you can fly in a biplane like I did.
Note: The information above and the photo of the WWI auto from a performance are from the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum website with a thank you to the staff for a great visit. The photo of the Curtiss biplane is courtesy of David Otto.
Next time: Domestic terrorism isn't new- the LA Times bombing of 1910
Last week's Yours in a Hurry blog was about the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This week I had the opportunity to see the 2nd annual vintage race sponsored by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA). My spouse is very knowledgeable about automobiles and we look for opportunities to see classic cars when we travel. For instance, the Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum in Fairbanks, Alaska pairs the autos with costumes from the period, which provided ideas for many fashions described in the novel.
A Survivor From 1911
Several autos from the early era were present at Indianapolis, but one which actually participated in the first 1911 race performed this week on the track in the pre-war class. Brian Blain's blue class A National Model 40 with a large number 20 on the sides may have been the slowest in the division, but to me, the most impressive at 104 years old! As such, it was the only auto with a riding mechanic (see photo).
Until the mid-1930's two men rode in the auto—the driver and the mechanic, who often had to hold on for dear life, having no steering wheel to steady him. By the 1930's technology got to the point that he wasn't needed and the extra weight made the auto slower. A single driver was also more aerodynamically correct with only one person's upright body against the wind.
I hope you take the opportunity to experience a SVRA or other vintage auto show. We've been to Watkins Glen several times and hope to see Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin this summer. You may want a quieter look, as at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s in Michigan. Walk around the venue and you get a real feel for whatever your favorite twentieth century era.
Photos and history courtesy of David Otto
Next Week: Living History in the air at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
In July of 1909 Addison writes Purl that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open soon. It actually officially opened with a balloon race on June 5, 1909, but Addison was waiting for the motorcycle and automobile races to be held on Aug. 14 and Aug. 19 respectively. Today, with an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 is the best-attended event in U.S. sports.
Marketing the New Automobile
In 1905, Indiana entrepreneur and sportsman, Carl Fisher, visited friends racing in France and saw that Europe was ahead in automobile design. Something was needed to motivate the new industry in the U.S. He thought that a way to test cars before selling them to customers would help. His idea was that occasional races at a track could pit cars from different manufacturers against each other. Hopefully, after seeing what these cars could do, the public would go to the automobile showroom and buy.
Before 'The Brickyard'
American racing was just getting started on horse tracks and on dangerous, muddy public roads. The 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis became a testing facility for Indiana’s growing automobile industry.
The rectangular two-and-a-half-mile track linked four turns, each exactly 440 yards from start to finish, by two long and two short straight sections. In the first five-mile race on August 19 Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer won with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. The track’s surface of crushed rock and tar broke up in a number of places, causing the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators. The surface would soon be replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks and named 'The Brickyard' by the time the annual Indianapolis 500 began in 1911.
Next time: Historic racing at Indy
We know about the World War II battles at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Corregidor in the Philippines, but what were those islands like prior to that era? When did the U.S. acquire them, and how did they become military fortifications?
The first stop for Yours in a Hurry character, new army private Purl, is Manila, the capital of the island of Luzon in the Philippines. To reach the naval station, Cavite, about two miles from the city, he sails through narrow Manila Bay past Corregidor Island. The Regular Army was establishing a post in 1908 and by early 1909 the Army Corps of Engineers had started constructing concrete emplacements, bomb-proof shelters, and trails at various parts of the island.
The Philippines consist of nearly two thousand islands, some only rock and reef. Others, like Mindanao and Luzon had large populations. In 1909 its diverse population included 'Mohammedans', Chinese and Spanish settlers. The navy and army had two missions in addition to protecting the islands: assisting in upgrading the battlements on Corregidor to better protect Manila Bay, and completing a topography study of uncharted areas on the islands.
Conditions in the tropics were unlike anywhere the Americans had experienced. Hostilities persisted after the United States took responsibility of the islands, including battles with the Spanish during the Spanish American War in 1898 and the Balangiga Massacre in 1901, a major U.S. loss. Although the U.S. wasn't at war, they knew that the native insurgos could decide to make trouble at any time.
When Purl and his friend Robbie arrive in Hawaii, they find the climate much better than in the jungle atmosphere of the Philippines. The former Sandwich Islands were protected by the United States starting in the 1880s, and were annexed in 1898. Little attention was given Hawaii until the Spanish-American war, and then only to Honolulu harbor.
The U.S. government first obtained exclusive use of the Pearl Harbor inlet and the right to maintain a repair and coaling station for ships here in 1887. After the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the United States Navy established a base on the island in 1899. In 1908 Congress approved an estimated three million dollar expansion in the Pacific, including the Pearl naval station, which was to be the largest naval base in the world. Purl's unit assists with the work in deepening the harbor channels for newer, larger ships.
Next time: Auto and Air Races at Indianapolis