Many early aviators came from Ohio. The Wrights, obviously, and others like Roy Knabenshue and Cal Rodgers of Vin Fiz fame who worked for the Wrights. One of the most interesting is seldom mentioned, but appears in Yours in a Hurry.
Cromwell Dixon was born in 1892 and was raised in Columbus, Ohio with his mother and sister after his father died in an accident. At the age of eleven he built a motorcycle. In 1907 he built a self steering dirigible and flew his "Sky-cycle" across the Mississippi River in the St. Louis International Balloon Race. He won first prize and became "the youngest aeronaut in the world". His mother remained his biggest supporter and personal press agent, making sure that all the news services followed her "boy wonder", all the while grooming his sister Lulu for vaudeville.
Heavier Than Air
Like most aeronauts, by 1911 Cromwell switched to aeroplanes. He took lessons from Glenn Curtiss and received the U.S. pilot license number 43 on August 6, 1911. He was popular with the crowd given his youth and pleasing personality. In September 1911, he flew a Curtiss Pusher aeroplane called the Little Hummingbird round-trip from Helena, Montana to Blossburg, some 15 miles to the west over the Continental Divide. He won $ 10,000 for being the first aviator to conquer the Divide.
Better to fly
Cromwell's next stop on the exhibition circuit was at in the Washington County Interstate Fairground. The field in Spokane was, known to be one of the more dangerous, wedged between low buildings and telegraph wires. When a reporter asked him why he was chancing the flight, he replied that it's better to fly than to live life on the ground, wondering what it's like to be in the sky. He loved meeting the crowds. He loved travel. He appreciated his crew.
The crowd watched as the aeroplane ascended, cleared the telegraph wires, and climbed slowly. But then it shuddered, pitching Cromwell sideways and then quickly down toward the ground at a terrible angle. Dozens of men charged down the slope to the bottom of a steep railroad embankment and were met by smoldering metal and a strong gasoline smell. Cromwell was semiconscious, and died in less than an hour. He was nineteen years old.
Photo courtesy of Helena as She Was website http://www.helenahistory.org/the_fairgrounds.html
The primary Dixon source for the novel is Cromwell Dixon: A Boy and His Plane, 1892-1911 by Martin Kidston, based on stories from Jeff Berry, Cromwell Dixon's great- nephew. It can be purchased from on-line book stores, but please support the Glenn Curtiss Museum gift shop and purchase it at:
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