The First Aeroplane Take Off from a Ship, November 14, 1910, Part I

Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, MD.

This is the first of two blog posts about John Barry Ryan, Capt. Washington I. Chambers, USN, Eugene B. Ely, and the USS Birmingham, November 14, 1910.


At the beginning of 1909 the number of airplanes in the world’s armies was zero. By 1910 it was fifty. America got its start on August 2, 1909, when the United States Army purchased its first aeroplane from the Wright Brothers after they had met all the requirements the Army had required during tests at Fort Myer, Virginia, during July (see The United States Army Buys its first Aeroplane, 1909). At the time, few naval officers had an interest in aviation. One that did was Admiral of the Navy George Dewey, the hero of Manila Bay. He believed the United States Navy should explore the possibilities of aeroplanes for naval use. In October 1909, under his direction, the Navy General Board suggested that the Bureaus of Construction and Repair and of Steam Engineering consider the problem of providing space for aeroplanes in the plans for new scouting vessels.[1] 

Naval aviation at this point was truly in its infancy. By the end of 1909, only one naval officer had flown in an aeroplane. That was Lt. George C. Sweet, who had been the Navy’s official observer at the Wright Brothers’ trials at Fort Myer. Once the Army purchased a Wright aeroplane, Wilbur Wright, at College Park, Maryland, trained two Army aviators how to fly it. One of the aviators, Lieutenant Frank P. Lahm, just before the training ended, took Sweet up on November 3, 1909. They remained in the air for 8 ¾ minutes. [2]    

It would be over a year before a naval officer actually flew an aeroplane. That naval officers were to fly was, to large part, due to the efforts of Capt. Washington Irving Chambers. Born in Kingston, New York, on April 4, 1856, Chambers in 1876 graduated from the Naval Academy. He had many different shore and sea assignments, and earned a reputation as a reformer and as a skilled and knowledgeable engineer from his work on torpedoes, mines, submarines, and the design of dreadnought-type battleships.He was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance as the Assistant Chief of the Bureau on November 11, 1907. On June 1, 1909, Chambers took command of the battleship Louisiana. A promotion to admiral normally followed a two-year command of a battleship. On September 22, the Louisiana with the Atlantic Fleet put into the North River at New York City for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. On October 4 Wilbur Wright made a 33-minute flight over the Hudson River to Grant’s Tomb and back, enabling perhaps a million New Yorkers to see their first airplane flight. Undoubtedly, Chambers witnessed this flight. On October 6 the Louisiana left New York and headed for the Norfolk Navy Yard. Chambers’ command would be short-lived. On December 7, 1909, despite his expressed desire to remain in command of his ship, he turned over command of his battleship, and became Assistant to Rear Adm. William H. Swift, the Aide for Material to the Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer. When Swift retired on March 17, 1910, he was replaced by Capt. Frank F. Fletcher.[3]  

1910 was a year of great strides in aviation. Aviator Claude Grahame-White and journalist Harry Harper wrote that the year witnessed “a new and more daring spirit.” “With growing confidence,” they wrote, “airmen soared higher and higher. Breezes no longer made them hasten to descend; and, with this new spirit of adventure, came the desire for cross-country flying, instead of monotonous circling round the aerodrome.”[4] Numerous cash prizes were being awarded for speed, duration, altitude, and distance. [5] The New York World, in May 1910, awarded Glenn H. Curtiss[6] $10,000, the prize for the first flight from Albany to New York City. This Curtiss flight in his Hudson Flyer was a great stimulus to aeronautics in this country. Prizes, in the tens of thousands of dollars, were at once offered in several different places by several different newspapers, and a great many cities wanted to have public flights made. In June, The New York Times and the Philadelphia Public Ledger awarded a $10,000 prize to Charles Hamilton for the first flight from New York to Philadelphia and back.[7]        

During the year numerous aviation meets were held throughout the country. One of the first important ones took place during the last two weeks of August, at Sheepshead Bay race track, near Brighton Beach, New York. There, aviator and aeroplane manufacturer Curtiss had his flying team demonstrate Curtiss aeroplanes. The team consisted of  J. C.”Bud” Mars, Charles F. Willard, Eugene Burton Ely, J. A. D. McCurdy, and Augustus Post. According to the journal Aircraft, they performed “many daring and sensational, as well as novel and scientific, feats and evolutions with their Curtiss aeroplanes.” It was at this meet that Ely first came into prominence as an aviator. One reporter wrote that a few weeks previously, Ely had only been that unknown “addition to the Curtiss troupe,” but within a few weeks, some would be calling him “the world’s greatest aviator.”[8] 

NH 77547; Eugene B. Ely Seated in a Curtiss pusher biplane, with Glenn H. Curtiss standing alongside, during the international air meet at Sheepshead Bay, Long Island, New York, 23 October 1910. Photograph from the Eugene B. Ely scrapbooks. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph. Image retrieved from https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/OnlineLibrary/photos/images/h77000/h77547.jpg

Eugene Burton Ely had been born in Iowa on October 21, 1886. During the winter of 1905 he relocated to California, where on August 7, 1907 he married Mabel Hall. Several years later they moved to Oregon, and in Portland in early 1910, Ely learned how to fly a Curtiss aeroplane. In May of that year, in southern Oregon, he flew his first exhibition. Then he began a career of exhibit flying, starting in Oregon, then the Midwest and Canada, and back to the States. He impressed Curtiss with his flying skills at a meet in Minneapolis in June and had flown with Curtiss and Mars in Omaha in July. He then took his damaged aeroplane to the Curtiss factory in Hammondsport, New York, to have it repaired and the engine replaced. After receiving some flying lessons from Curtiss it was back on the road to perform at Rochester in early August.[9]

In the midst of the popular interest in aviation there was increasing belief that aeroplanes could be used for military purposes in time of war. After his Albany-New York City flight, Curtiss told reporters that aeroplanes would soon take off from ships and that warships were already vulnerable to air attack. “The battles of the future,” he said, would “be fought in the air.” In his fiscal year report for 1910, Brig. Gen. James Allen, the Army Chief Signal Officer, observed that “Aerial navigation has taken hold of the entire civilized world as no other subject in recent times, and represents a movement that no forces can possibly check.” He added, “In its military aspects it is a subject which we must seriously consider whether we wish to or not, and the sooner this fact is acknowledged and measures taken to put us abreast with other nations the better it will be for our national defense.” [10]  

As more aviators captured headlines, and more mail relating to aviation poured into his office, Secretary of the Navy Meyer demanded that his aides assign someone to deal with it. In September Capt. Fletcher, who had been friends with Chambers since their midshipmen days at the Naval Academy, added aviation correspondence to Chambers’ duties. Chambers was instructed to keep “informed of the progress of aeronautics with a view to advising the Department concerning the adaptability of such material for naval use…and to gradually provide the Navy with suitable equipment for aerial navigation and to instruct the Navy personnel in its use…”[11]

Chambers had to start from scratch. The Navy, for the most part, had devoted little attention to aviation. Capt. Bradley A. Fiske who reported to Washington, D.C. in October to serve on the General Board and wanted to take up the study of aeronautics, was surprised to learn how little there was to learn, and how little had been done, especially by armies and navies, and especially by the American Army and Navy.[12]

Chambers started to familiarize himself with aviation matters. He had discussions with Sweet regarding recent developments and began reading everything he could on the subject of aviation. He undoubtedly spent time reading newspapers, many of which had reporters to assign aviation matters on almost a daily basis. Also there was a profusion of aviation weekly and monthly periodicals. In early 1911, Chambers reported that there were more than 400 books on aeronautics and aviation and over 25 current publications. He added that many people were actively engaged in writing and compiling other books to keep the literature up to date. Chambers also asked his friend Capt. Templin Potts, the navy’s Chief Intelligence Officer to send him copies of everything he received on aviation, and he convinced the navy’s librarian to purchase everything available on the science of flight and aviation. Chambers soon received regular reports from the Office of Naval Intelligence’s attaches on European military aviation as well as the latest books and articles from Europe.[13] According to his biographer, “the more he studied aviation, the more its potential fascinated him. Chambers became the most vocal champion of aviation within the Navy.” [14] Soon, with his additional duties, Chambers would become involved with John Barry Ryan.

John Barry Ryan, LC-B2- 1108-9 [P&P], Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/item/2014685492/

Ryan was born on September 8, 1874. His father, Thomas Fortune Ryan, was by 1910, the tenth wealthiest person in America. The son was a millionaire, writer, and publisher. His father was close friends with William C. Whitney who served as the Secretary of the Navy from 1885 to 1889. The younger Ryan became most interested with the work and welfare of the Navy.[15]Ryan became interested in aviation, particularly military aviation. This interest became manifest at the time of the Harvard-Boston aviation meet that began in early September 1910.

The aviation meet was held at the Harvard Aviation Field at Squantum Point in Quincy, the first aviation meet in New England. Crowds frequently exceeded 10,000 persons. It was attended by many officers of the Army and Navy, including retired General Nelson A. Miles, a large advocate of aviation. President William H. Taft attended, probably coming over from his summer home at Beverly, Massachusetts. The feature of the meet were flights in a Blériot monoplane, by Englishman Claude Grahame White, especially in performance in the speed and bomb-throwing contests, as well as two flights to the Boston Light, the lighthouse on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor.By the end of the meet Grahame-White was arguably the most famous man in America. On account of the great popularity of the aviators, and so Secretary of the Navy Meyer could attend to see the bomb-throwing contests, the meet was extended two days, and some new prizes were offered. One of these, the Commodore Barry trophy, donated by John Barry Ryan, was for accuracy in dropping bombs from an altitude of 1,500 to 1,800 feet. At the end of the meet one of its organizers remarked regarding the bomb-dropping, “the demonstration proved conclusively that the airplane must be reckoned with in any future wars.”[16]  

Not everyone was convinced the aeroplane needed to be reckoned with. Retired Rear Admiral Robley D, Evans, who had commanded the Great White Fleet several years previously, wrote a column for the Boston Sunday American on September 11, in which he ridiculed the idea that the airplane posed a threat to the navy’s battleships. On September 15, The New York Times observed that “among the older military men there has been and still is a strong inclination to deny that the aeroplane will work any revolution in warfare, of, for that matter, have much effect upon it in any way.” [17] 

During the meet, on September 8, Ryan established the United States Aeronautical Reserve (USAR). It was organized along strictly military lines with a view of advancing the aeronautical science as a means of supplementing the national defense. A number of applications were received from prominent aviators all over the country for charter membership. Among them were Glenn Curtiss and Wilbur Wright. The new organization established offices, in the Lenox Mansion, at the corner of 12th Street and Fifth Avenue, in New York City, not far from those of the Aero Club of America. By November 1910, the organization claimed no less than 3,200 members.[18]Ryan told a reporter in October that:

“The Reserve is planned to be a nation-wide association of aeroplane inventors. professional and amateur aviators, designers and builders of aeroplane engines and other aerial equipment. army and navy officials prominent in the regular service and in the militia of the states, financiers, statesmen. Newspapermen, sportsmen, and hundreds of others interested in aeronautics, from President Taft down to the humblest aeroplane mechanic—and all banded together to advance the aeroplane as a war engine. to make of it something better than a mere exhibition toy, and of its aviators something besides mere chasers of prize money.”[19]

The USAR did not neglect the need to cultivate War and Navy Department cooperation. Even before it was formally established, General Leonard Wood, Army Chief of Staff, had been consulted and his cooperation secured.On September 23 the self-appointed Commodore of the USAR, Ryan, wrote the Secretary of the Navy requesting an officer of the United States Navy be designated, with whom the USAR may consult and correspond in regard to its relations with the Navy Department. Beekman Winthrop, the Acting Secretary of the Navy, replied on September 26, that he was pleased to designate Capt. Chambers, ”now attached to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, as its representative for this purpose.” This action, according to one author was the first recorded reference to a provision for aviation in Navy Department organization.[20] 

Exhibition flying continued in early October, in Chicago. There on October 5, Ely and McCurdy took the opportunity to pass the aviator tests of the Aero Club of America and were awarded licenses, numbers 17 and 18 respectively.[21]

On October 1, the General Board, of which Admiral of the Navy Dewey was President, recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that, in recognition of “the great advances which have been made in the science of aviation and the advantages which may accrue from its use in this class of vessel,” the problem of providing space for airplanes or dirigibles be considered in all new designs for scouting vessels. Probably at the prompting of Dewey and Capt. Bradley A. Fiske, on October 7, Capt. Hutchinson I. Cone, the chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy pointed to “the rapid improvement in the design and manipulation of airplanes and the important role they would probably play” and requested authority to requisition an airplane for the scout cruiser USS Chester and the services of an instructor to teach one or more officers to fly the machine. This suggestion was immediately referred to the General Board, thus affording that body the opportunity to reaffirm its belief that the adaptability of aviation to war upon the sea should be thoroughly investigated. [22]

Admiral Dewey wrote Secretary Meyer on October 14, that he should investigate aviation “without delay.” It is probable Meyer did not see this letter right away, as during October he was on an inspection tour of naval facilities on the West coast and then to New Orleans, Florida, and eventually Cuba. Now Assistant Secretary Beekman Winthrop was in charge. As one author has noted, Winthrop “approved virtually all of the important decisions concerning naval aviation while Meyer was out of the office.” [23]    

When the Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair Capt. Richard M. Watt seeing the suggestion of placing aeroplanes on naval ships, on October 11, sent a memo to Meyer asking him to place his bureau in charge of aviation, Capt. Cone, at the Bureau of Steam Engineering, sent a similar note. Chambers scrambled to maintain control of aviation and convinced Winthrop to intervene on his behalf. With Meyer gone, Winthrop ordered on October 12, both bureaus to appoint officers to investigate the subject of aviation and gain technical knowledge of airplanes, and directed that these officers keep Chambers, previously designated to serve in a similar capacity in the Secretary’s office, fully informed of work contemplated and the results of all experiments. A few days later Naval Constructor William McEntee of Construction and Repair, who, with Lieutenant Sweet, had been detailed to observe the 1908 Wright Brothers trials at Fort Myer, and Lieut. Nathaniel H. Wright of Steam Engineering were duly assigned.[24] Years later, when speaking of this advance, Sweet remarked of Chambers: “Knowing his reputation as a go-getter, I felt that Naval Aviation was underway at last!” [25]

In mid-October, John Barry Ryan came to Washington, D.C. to interest officers of the Army and Navy in the USAR. Members of the newly organized National Association for the Promotion of Military Aeronautics, after speaking with Ryan, decided to disband and join his organization, believing by joining the USAR they could best promote the objects of their organization.[26]

Ryan, and his chief of staff, Clifford B. Harmon, encouraged Claude Grahame-White, to come with them to Washington, D.C. and to participate in a three-day aviation meet at Benning race track just outside the city. While the meet was taking place, probably on October 12 or 13, Ryan addressed a meeting of the National Press Club. He told the assembled newspaper men about the USAR and said: “When you realize how easy it would be for Mr. Graham-White to fly over this city and destroy the Capitol, the White House, and the Treasury, you will see the necessity of an aeronautical reserve. This city would be absolutely defenseless against such an attack. I make no doubt that the bird-men will dominate the wars of the future.” After speaking about the bomb-throwing feats of Harmon, he said “I believe the battle of the future will be fought in the air. Dreadnoughts will not be required at all. The aeroplane is cheap in comparison, and is deadly in destructive potentialities.” [27]

On the morning of October 14, Grahame-White, at the prompting of Ryan, flew his Farman biplane from the Benning race track across the city, circled the Washington Monument at a height of 500 feet above its top, and alighted in Executive Avenue at the very gates of the White House (the street between the State, War and Navy Building and the White House). It was an amazing landing, as the Executive Avenue was 40 feet 2 inches wide and the Farman aeroplane was 38 feet 6 inches from tip to tip. The object of the trip was to make a personal visit by aeroplane to the army and navy officers at the State, War and Navy Building. Dewey was the first to congratulate him. “A wonderful piece of work you have just performed,” he said. “I want to congratulate you on the remarkable feat. It truly is a wonderful one.” Also coming out to congratulate him were Beekman Winthrop, Acting Secretary of the Navy; Brig. Gen. James Allen (who had been designated by the War Department to serve as liaison with the USAR); Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, Chief of Staff, and Robert Shaw Oliver, Acting Secretary of War. The aeroplane remained in Executive Avenue for an hour after landing while Grahame-White lunched with the officers of the USAR at the Metropolitan Club. After lunch he flew back to the Benning race track.[28] 

LOT 6131 [item] [P&P], Claude Graham White [i.e. Grahame-White] flying his Farman biplane along W. Executive Ave., Wash. D.C., Oct. 14, 1910. Retrieved from: https://www.loc.gov/item/2001705761/

In Washington, on October 15, Ryan and his wife entertained a large party in honor of Grahame-White and Clifford B. Harmon. Among the guests were General Leonard Wood, Assistant Secretary of War Oliver, Brig. Gen. Allen, Chambers, and Fletcher. The next day, The Washington Herald, ran a piece on the USAR, with a full-length photo of Ryan and another photo of the Lenox Mansion, USAR headquarters. The writer of the article observed Grahame-White’s remarkable flight and the feats of Harmon had focused the attention of the people of Washington on the USAR, and those who arranged the meet at Benning intended that it should be so. He wrote that Grahame-White’s flight was intended primarily to attract the attention of Army, Navy, and National Guard officers, and the public in general, to the importance of the aeroplane as a weapon of national defense. The flight, he noted, “did more to impress upon the public the possibilities of air craft than months of argument or tons of literature on the subject could have done.” [29]  

In the meantime, Chambers was busy with aviation matters. Although holding no special title, he pulled together existing threads of aviation interest within the Navy. He was not put into a position where he could make any decisions but was merely authorized to offer recommendations.After studying aviation matters Chambers submitted a summary of his studies. He believed that the performance and reliability of aeroplanes would improve rapidly. They would soon be able to land on, or take off from a ship; someday, they might even fight, but for the immediate future he recommended they be developed for scouting only.[30]

The Washington Post, in an article entitled “Need for Airships,” onOctober 18, observed “That the United States… is deplorably remiss in developing military aeronautics is obvious. The situation is not without elements of alarm, even.”  “‘Yes, the War department is taking a keen interest in the remarkable exploits in aviation that are occurring every day,’ said Assistant Secretary [of War] Oliver yesterday… ‘but the army is doing nothing in that line, for the reason that we have no appropriation available. Our estimates for the current year were pared down to actual necessities, and no provision was made for the development of the aeronautical service. What we need is a fund of $500,000, in order to give proper attention to the aeronautic side of war problems.’” After stating the need for aeroplanes, dirigibles, observation balloons, Oliver told a reporter, “In a general way, I will say that I think we ought to be doing something toward preparing ourselves, as other nations are preparing themselves. I hope that Congress, at the coming session, will see its way clear to provide a substantial appropriation.”[31]

Not long afterwards, on October 21, Winthrop signed orders for Chambers, Wright, and McEntee to be official observers at the first American-held international air meet from October 22 to 30, at Belmont Park race course near Mineola, Long Island, New York. The three officers went to Belmont to observe in person what the aeroplane could do and to gather as much information on the latest technical advances in aeroplanes and their motors. Possibly at the prompting of his son, John Barry Ryan, during the meet Thomas Fortune Ryan put up $10,000 for a prize that was to be awarded to the aviator, who made the best elapsed time in a flight from the starting line at Belmont Park, around the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, and return to the starting line. At the meet, Chambers put the question of aeroplanes flying from a ship to almost everyone. The answer was always yes. It could be done. Chambers also met Glenn Curtiss. They discussed Curtiss’ work with hydroaeroplanes, aircraft that could take off and land on water. When the meet was over, Chambers was convinced that Curtiss’ hydro would succeed, and Curtiss believed that, when it did, the Navy would be his customer. Chambers left convinced that the Navy could and should develop naval aircraft. Like Chambers, McEntee and Wright returned to Washington profoundly impressed with aeroplanes and with the aviators, as they flew through rainy and windy conditions.[32]    

At the Belmont meet on October 25, Brig. Gen. James Allen, with John Barry Ryan at his side, told the New York Herald that he was impressed with what he saw, stressing that “with a fleet of biplanes and monoplanes as large as that which flew here today, an army could do immeasurable damage in time of war.” “I am encouraging,” he said, “the War Department to take a deeper interest in aviation all the time.”[33]

Sharing Chambers’ views regarding naval aviation, was retired Rear Admiral Colby M. Chester. “Fly, young man; fly into the Navy Aeronautic Corps,” was the advice he gave on October 22 in the Army and Navy Journal to the young officers of the Navy. The article was written by Chester at the instance of several young officers who had asked him how they may get into service in the Aeronautic Corps, “which they hope, and I fully believe,” he wrote, “will eventually form a part of the organization of the American Navy.”[34]

Capt. Watt the chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, on October 31, suggested to the Secretary of the Navy that steps be taken to obtain one or more aeroplanes to develop their use for naval purposes and recommended that in the absence of specific funds for their purchase, specifications for the battleship Texas, which had been authorized by the last Congress, be modified so as to require its contractors to supply one or more aircraft as part of their obligation, when bids opened on December 1. Several days later the Army and Navy Register commenting on Watt’s proposal noted that the naval authorities were “giving the subject attention in anticipation of the military value of the aeroplane in connection with naval operations.”[35] 

On November 1, Chambers was ordered to attend the Baltimore Aviation Meet, at Halethorpe, about five miles southeast of Baltimore on the Pennsylvania Railway System and Baltimore & Ohio Railroad lines. Undoubtedly, Chambers took the train from Union Station to either Halethorpe or to Baltimore; a 48 minute trip to the former and a 65 minute trip to the latter. [36]  

Gathered together for the aviation meet, like that at Belmont Park, were some of the greatest aviators in the world. These included Hubert Latham; Count Jacques de Lesseps; Charles F. Willard and Eugene Ely, representing Glenn H. Curtiss; and Archibald Hoxsey, representing the Wright Brothers.Curtiss fliers McCurdy and Mars, after the Belmont Park meet did not go to Halethorpe, but instead went south for a quick exhibition at Norfolk.[37]    

Early on the morning of November 1, Ely and his wife Mabel arrived in Baltimore and checked into the Belvedere Hotel and then hurried to the aviation field at Halethorpe. When they got there, three of Ely’s mechanics were already assembling his aeroplane. Ely and Mabel were followed closely by the newspaper men, who busily wrote down everything they said. While Ely was not that talkative, Mabel, who was always beside him, was always ready to chat.[38]

The meet opened November 2. It was a beautiful Indian summer day. Although 10,000 people were at Halethorpe when the meet opened, many of the aviators who had said they would be at the meet were non-arrivals. Only Ely and three others were ready to go aloft so the management arranged that the scheduled events would be postponed to the following day and that exhibition flights only would be given. Although disappointed, the crowd stayed to watch and be awed by four aviators who made some creditable flights. According to the Aero journal “The Curtiss machine was represented on the ground by [Glenn] Curtiss, and in the air gave a good account of itself in the hands of the two Curtiss aviators, Charles F. Willard and Eugene Ely, who did some sensational dipping and circling in front of the grand stand.” [39]

That day, Wilbur Wright was passing through Baltimore and stopped over to witness the aviation activities. The remarkable calmness of the opening day caused him to express his belief that bad weather would be forthcoming.[40] Glenn Curtiss was also present on November 2.[41] Needless to say the two did not speak, being bitter enemies regarding patent infringement litigation.

On November 2, Chambers spoke to Wright about the possibilities of the Wrights launching an aeroplane from a ship, to dramatize an aeroplane’s capability for shipboard operations. Afterwards, Chambers engaged Ely in a conversation regarding a flight from a ship.  Chambers told Ely that he had just asked Wright for a pilot and aeroplane to fly from a ship. Wright had flatly refused all help, saying it was too dangerous. Ely told Chambers that he had wanted to fly from a ship for some time. Chambers said to Ely “If you’ll fly I’ll prepare and provide the ship.”“I’ll fly,” replied Ely. He said he would attempt the flight when the Halethorpe meet ended. At that point that would have been November 8. It was later pushed back because of the storm that would hit the eastern seaboard. Ely said he would furnish his own aeroplane and would not ask for a fee. He wanted the publicity and wanted to do a patriotic service. Chambers suggested they discuss it with Curtiss. Ely told him that he made his own flights under their contract and consent would not be necessary. When Curtiss learned of the planned flight, he tried to talk Ely out of it. He argued a failure would hurt his aeroplane sales. [42] 

Wright was prophetic about bad weather coming. That very night one of the most remarkable blizzards swept the eastern seaboard from New York to Norfolk and a forty-mile wind with a blinding snow storm blanketed the east coast to a depth of six inches. The aviation field at Halethorpe presented an appalling spectacle the next day. The canvas hangers and all temporary tents and shelters were blown to shreds; the tent poles were thrown across the aeroplanes, some of which, including Ely’s and Willard’s, were demolished beyond repair, and from all appearances the meet had come to a sudden end. But the resourceful aviators and their mechanics retrieved their aeroplanes from the wreckage and hauled them to the nearest machine shops. The aviators announced their determination to fly as soon as their machines were repaired. First Willard telegraphed to Norfolk asking for a replacement, but found none were available, not even the Curtiss Hudson Flyer that was to be flown by Bud Mars. He sent a wire to Curtiss who had returned to New York, and told him of the damage that had been done. Willard informed Curtiss as the meet would continue Ely and himself wanted two more aeroplanes shipped to them from the Hammondsport factory. He told reporters one would probably arrive in Baltimore on Sunday evening or early Monday morning, and thought the other soon thereafter.[43]

As the aviators and mechanics began the task of restoring their aeroplanes on November 3 the weather was terrible, with a heavy rain accompanied by a high wind.[44]Most likely Chambers did not travel to Halethorpe that day knowing there would be no flying.

It was probable on November 3 that Chambers learned of the imminent flight from a ship that Curtiss had planned in conjunction with the New York World and the Hamburg-American Line. On November 2, the newspaper announced the plan. It had secured an agreement with the Hamburg-American Line to build a launching platform on the bow of the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, an ocean liner that was scheduled to return to Germany on November 5. Curtiss picked McCurdy to make the flight off the ship.[45]  

On November 3, Postmaster General Frank H. Hitchcock gave official sanction for the transmission of United States mail by aeroplane for the first time in history. He granted permission to McCurdy to carry in his Curtiss aeroplane the mail from the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria when that vessel was fifty miles at sea to New York on Saturday November 5. The waterproof mail bag which McCurdy was to carry from the liner to the New York Post Office would contain letters and postcards from passengers for transmission to various parts of the world. Hitchcock’s only requirements were that the mail “have no intrinsic value” and that the letter writers had to be told the mail would be carried by an aeroplane.The plan called for an aeroplane that would be launched from a platform of 100 feet in length, built on the forward deck of the ship. This incline was to have a drop of 10 percent, the outer end being sixty feet above water. The launching device was to be built under the personal direction of Curtiss, who was confident of the success of the experiment. In launching the aeroplane, the ship would be headed into the wind and its speed would be regulated to conform to the aeroplane, thus making the length of the runway more than sufficient. It was announced that the Hamburg-American line was making the test to demonstrate the feasibility of equipping its new liner, the 900-foot steamship Europia [probably the S. S. Imperator], the largest ship in the world, then under construction, with a regular aeroplane service for use in transporting mail at sea and other purposes. The test was to be observed by a party of naval and army officers and torpedo boats would patrol the course. On the evening of November 3, when asked about his proposed flight, McCurdy said “I will try to show the world that the aeroplane has some practical use.” “It is a most interesting experiment,” said Commander George C. Day, commanding officer of the Navy’s Seventh Torpedo Division, Atlantic Fleet. “If successful it will cause a lot of thinking in naval circles the world over. I hope that it will be made and that it will be my good fortune to witness it.” Day was in charge of the two destroyers that had been ordered to follow and observe McCurdy’s flight, and if necessary, rescue the aviator should he fall.

Ryan was quoted, probably on November 3, that McCurdy’s attempt was of “tremendous importance” and would “demonstrate the usefulness of the aeroplane as an auxiliary to the Navy.” “I was speaking to Secretary Meyer of the Navy not long ago about such a test,” Ryan said. “He was deeply interested in having it attempted.” Given Meyer’s travel schedule, the conversation probably took place in mid-September when both Meyer and Ryan were at the Harvard-Boston aviation meet. Given Meyer’s attitude about the usefulness of aeroplanes, he might have told Ryan what Ryan wanted to hear, and might have added that the proposed flight was a good idea as long as the Navy did not have to bear any cost, as it had no monies for aeronautical endeavors.

The next day, November 4, President Taft cancelled the order promulgated by the Navy Department detailing two speedy torpedo boat destroyers to follow the flight of McCurdy from the deck of the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria. The official statement said “Other requests for the use of naval vessels in aeroplane trials have been refused and President Taft does not wish to be inconsistent.” “The Navy Department is chiefly embarrassed in its aviation experiments by the lack of funds,” explained a reporter. “The department has not one cent which it can spend in experimental or practical aeronautics.”[46] 

When news of the planned flight became widespread, and it was given out that the experiment was designed to improve mail service, there were many people who suspected that the German Navy was behind the test.[47]  

The storm that hit Halethorpe also brought strong winds and non-stop rain through the Hoboken, New Jersey docks, where the ocean liner was preparing to cast off. On the night of November 4, German carpenters, drenched by rail and pelted by hail worked feverishly to finish a 80-foot long wooden platform on which McCurdy was to begin his flight. When it was obvious that the bad weather would not let up, Curtiss and McCurdy decided to postpone the flight until the end of the month, when McCurdy would return from an exhibition in North Carolina. The ship sailed away on November 5 with the wooden platform still attached to her bow. It was then announced that in the future the liner Amerika would be substituted.[48]

A newspaper article, with a date line of November 8, Washington, D.C., stated that the result of the experiment will largely determine whether the Navy Department will equip the new battleship authorized by the last session of Congress with an aeroplane and the necessary apparatus for making a flight from the battleship’s deck while at sea. The article noted that since the announcement that the flight would be made, officers of the several branches of the Navy had been keenly interested, and all interviewed declared that not only was the plan suggested feasible, but an idea the Navy Department would consider sooner or later. It added, Capt. Fletcher said if McCurdy’s attempt to fly from the deck of an ocean liner was successful it would demonstrate that for scouting purposes, an aeroplane costing from $5,000 to $10,000 was considerably cheaper and more economical than an armored cruiser costing $5,000,000. The success of McCurdy’s flight may, the article ended, mean a great change in the construction policy of the Navy.[49] Of course, the flight did not take place. But there would be another attempt in the week ahead.

At Halethorpe, meanwhile, on November 4, the rain had ceased, but the wind was blowing almost a gale while workers began putting the field back into flying shape. Conditions on Saturday November 5 were much the same, although by this time the wind and sun had melted the snow away. No attempts at flying were made. On that day it appears Ely’s replacement aeroplane arrived from the Hammondsport factory. Willard’s aeroplane arrived on Sunday morning, November 6. [50]     

On November 6 the wind died down and although the skies were threatening, with a crowd of 15,000 people, the aviators had what was their first opportunity to show what they could do. Willard managed a few flights, but Ely’s aeroplane was not ready until the following day.[51] 

Sometime between November 3 and 5, in Washington, Rear Admiral Richard Wainwright, Aide for Operations to the Secretary of the Navy, turned down Chambers’ proposal to let Ely fly from a cruiser. Capt. Fletcher told reporters that the Navy had no money for such things. [52]  

Meanwhile, Secretary of the Navy Meyer was on board the dispatch boat USS Dolphin on November 3, steaming from Cuba to Miami. He believed he would arrive at Miami on November 4, and take a train, reaching Washington, D.C. on Sunday morning, November 6.[53]If Meyer took the railroad on November 5, he would have left Miami on the Atlantic Coast Line at 6pm and arrived in Washington, D.C. the next morning, Sunday, at 840am. Meyer did not plan on spending much in time in Washington, D.C. before leaving for Massachusetts and voting in  the mid-term elections on November 8.[54]     

Either November 6 or early on November 7, Chambers called Ely to inform him that Secretary Meyer was back in town and he should come to Washington, D.C., about an hour train ride from Baltimore. On Monday morning, November 7, Meyer had a meeting with the president and some of his department subordinates. He planned to take an afternoon train to his home in Massachusetts. Ely came to Washington, D.C. and he and Chambers went to confer with Meyer about the proposed aeroplane flight from a warship. Meyer turned them down.[55]   

At this point John Barry Ryanhappened to be in town to pledge USAR pilots and their aeroplanes to the Army and Navy in case of war with Mexico. The Army had one aeroplane, the Wright Brothers aircraft it had purchased in 1909 and the Navy had no aeroplanes. Ryan had a lot to offer. The USAR secretary at a speech at Columbia University on November 14 said the USAR had 5,127 members. And they had aeroplanes. When Ryan learned of the Chambers-Ely plan he reopened the subject with Secretary Meyer.[56]

Meyer was a savvy politician. He had first served three terms as speaker of the lower house of the Massachusetts state legislature. In 1900, President McKinley appointed him as ambassador to Italy. In March 1905, Meyer was transferred by President Roosevelt to St. Petersburg to serve as ambassador to Russia. He was recalled by Roosevelt in February 1907, to enter his cabinet as Postmaster General. When Taft succeeded Roosevelt he appointed Meyer to be Secretary of the Navy.[57] He knew Ryan was an influential person, and probably knew that his father Thomas Fortune Ryan was important, so Meyer was perhaps willing to at least listen to Ryan.

Meyer told Ryan that the Navy had no funds for such experiments. Ryan then offered to pay the costs of the test. Meyer consulted with the White House. If he spoke with President Taft, which he probably did, Taft was probably more focused on his November 9 departure from Washington, D.C. for Charleston, where he would sail November 10 on the battleship Tennessee to the Isthmus of Panama. After consulting with the White House, Meyer agreed that the Navy would furnish a ship, but no money. Meyer then left town to vote and take care of political business in Massachusetts. Before doing so, he ordered Winthrop to find an available ship and get it to Norfolk Navy Yard. Acting Secretary (once Meyer left town) Winthrop acted quickly. He, with the help of Capt. Frank Fletcher, the Aide for Material to the Secretary of the Navy,   rushed the scout cruiser Birmingham, commanded by Capt. William B. Fletcher, to Norfolk and told the yard commandant to help equip her with the ramp which McEntee designed. [58]   

The Chester class Birmingham (Scout Cruiser No. 2) was commissioned on April 11, 1908. It was 423’1″ long; had a top speed 24 knots; and a complement of 356. Her armament consisted of two 5-inch, six 3-inch, two 3-pounders, and two 21-inch torpedo tubes. Her open bridge was but one level above the flush main deck. The Birmingham was at Newport, Rhode Island on November 7, when its captain received orders to proceed to Norfolk. She steamed 360 knots to Norfolk, arriving on November 8. [59] 

Now it was a race against the clock. The Halethorpe meet would not end until November 12 and Ely had to be in North Carolina for exhibition flying on November 16. There was a small window of opportunity to get the Birmingham outfitted with a platform for Ely’s aeroplane, and for the plans to be finalized as to how the whole experiment would be undertaken.


Footnotes:

[1] Stephen Budiansky, Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, from Kitty Hawk to Iraq (New York: Penguin Books, 2005), p. 45; Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916 (Annapolis, United States Naval Institute, 1966), p. 13; Archibald D. Turnbull, Captain, USNR and Clifford L. Lord, Lieutenant Commander, USNR, History of United States Naval Aviation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949), pp. 7-8.

[2] Aeronautics, Vol. 5, No. 9, December 1909, p. 210; C. de Forest Chandler and Frank P. Lahm, How Our Army Grew Wings (New York: Ronald Press, 1944), p. 165; Brigadier General Frank P. Lahm, USAF (Ret), “Early Flying Experiences,” The Air Power Historian, Vol. 2, No. 1 (January 1955), p. 6; Adrian O. Van Wyen, Lee M. Pearson, Clark Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition (Washington, D.C.: Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air) and the commander, Naval Air Systems Command, 1970), p. 2; “The Wright Brothers and Their First American Pupils,” Scientific American, Vol. 101, No. 20 (November 13, 1909), p. 354.

[3] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916 (Annapolis, United States Naval Institute, 1966), p. 13; Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year 1909 (Government Printing Office, 1909), p. 357; Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year 1910, House of Representatives, 61st Congress, 3rd Session, Document No. 1005 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1910), p. 82; Stephen K Stein, From Torpedoes to Aviation: Washington Irving Chambers and Technological Innovation in the New Navy, 1876-1913 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007), pp. 7, 17, 153, 155,  156, 157. M. A. De Wolfe, George von Lengerke Meyer; his life and public services (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1919), p. 468; William F. Trimble, Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2010), p. 97; Stephen K. Stein, “The Experimental Era: U. S. Naval Aviation before 1916,” in Douglas V. Smith, ed., One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power (Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 2010), p. 11; “The Record Flights of Orville and Wilbur Wright” Scientific American, Vol. 101, No. 16 (October 16, 1909), p. 274.

[4] Claude Grahame-White and Harry Harper, The Aeroplane in War (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company and London: T. Werner Laurie, 1912), p. 24.

[5] According to the Paris Le Figaro, between August, 1909, and the first of October, 1910, eight aviators won more than $20,000 each; 21 won more than $10,000; 30 won more than $5,000; and 54 won more than $2.000. These sums did not include payments fixed by private contract at some meetings and exhibitions. “The Winnings of Aviators,” Scientific American, Vol. 103, No. 27 (December 31, 1910), p. 518.

[6] Curtiss had been issued Pilot License No. 1 by the Aero Club of America. Orville and Wilbur Wright had been issued licenses No. 4 and No. 5 respectively. Aero America’s Aviation Weekly, Vol. 3, No. 16 (January 20, 1912), p. 314.

[7] Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 1 (July 1910), pp. 7-8; “The Albany-New York Aeroplane Flight,” Scientific American, Vol. 102, No. 24 (June 11, 1910), pp. 480-481; Aircraft, Vol. 1, No. 5 (July 1910), p. 180; Glenn H. Curtiss and Augustus Post with Chapters by Captain Paul W. Beck, U.S.A., Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson, U.S.N., and Hugh Robinson, The Curtiss Aviation Book (New York, Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1912),, p. 112; Sherwood Harris, The First to Fly: Aviation’s Pioneer Days (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1970), pp. 176, 177; Adam Jungdahl “Public Influence on the Proliferation of Military Aviation 1907-1912,” Air Power History, Vol. 60, No. 1 (Spring 2013), p. 37.

[8] William M. Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2014), pp. 87-94; Glenn H. Curtiss and Augustus Post with Chapters by Captain Paul W. Beck, U.S.A., Lieutenant Theodore G. Ellyson, U.S.N., and Hugh Robinson, The Curtiss Aviation Book, pp. 112-113; Frank S. Tillman, “Sheepshead Bay Meet,” Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 4 (October 1910), p. 129;  “Air Feat Costs Life,” The Washington Post, October 20, 1911, p. 1; “The Curtiss Flyers at New York,” Aircraft, Vol. 1, No. 8 (October 1910), p. 297.

[9] Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, pp. 13, 23, 38. 40-86; Trimble, Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation, p. 90.

[10] Stein, From Torpedoes to Aviation: Washington Irving Chambers and Technological Innovation in the New Navy, 1876-1913, p. 159; War Department, Annual Reports for the year ended June 30, 1910 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1910), vol. I, p. 653.

[11] Stein, From Torpedoes to Aviation: Washington Irving Chambers and Technological Innovation in the New Navy, 1876-1913, p. 159; Norman Polmar, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events Vol. 1, 1909-1945 (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc. 2006), p. 3;Van Wyen, Pearson and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition, p. 1; Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 13. Charles J. Gross, “George Owen Squier and the Origins of American Military Aviation,” The Journal of Military History, Vol. 54, No. 3 (July 1990), pp. 281-282; Stephen K. Stein, “The Experimental Era: U. S. Naval Aviation before 1916,” in Douglas V. Smith, ed., One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power, p. 11.

[12] Rear-Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, U.S. Navy, From Midshipman to Rear-Admiral (New York: The Century Co., 1919), p. 478.

[13] Captain W. Irving Chambers, U. S. Navy, “Aviation and Aeroplanes,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 1911), p. 180; Stein, From Torpedoes to Aviation: Washington Irving Chambers and Technological Innovation in the New Navy, 1876-1913, p. 159; Stephen K. Stein, “The Experimental Era: U. S. Naval Aviation before 1916,” in Douglas V. Smith, ed., One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power, p. 11; Budiansky, Air Power: The Men, Machines, and Ideas That Revolutionized War, from Kitty Hawk to Iraq, p. 39.

[14] Stephen K. Stein, “The Experimental Era: U. S. Naval Aviation before 1916,” in Douglas V. Smith, ed., One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power, p. 11.

[15] Brooklyn Life, December 31, 1910, p. 20..

[16] “Finish of the Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet,” Scientific American, Vol. 103, No. 13 (September 24, 1910), p. 235; “The Harvard Aviation Meeting,” Scientific American, Vol. 103, No. 12 (September 17, 1910), pp. 216; 217; Gordon F. Nelson, “Squantum, 1910: Turning Point in Aviation,” Quincy History (Spring 1981), pp. 1-4; Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 4 (October 1910), p. 118; Trimble, Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation, p. 91; Gavin Mortimer, Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation (New York: Walker & Company, 2009), pp. 21, 22.

[17] Mortimer, Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation, p. 45; “Topics of the Times,” The New York Times, September 15, 1910, p. 8.

[18] “New Aero Organization,” The New York Times, September 10, 1910, p. 3; Dr. Herbert A. Johnson, “Seeds of Separation: The General Staff Corps and Military Aviation Before World War I,” Air University Review, Vol. 34, No. 1 (November-December 1982), p. 35; “Aeronauts Form National Defense,” The New York Times, January 22, 1911, p. C5; E. D. Robinson, “An Army of the Air: The Inauguration of the United States Aeronautical Reserve and the Plans that have been made for this Aerial Scouting Force,” Harper’s Weekly, Vol. LV (January 14, 1911), pp. 10, 11; Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 5 (November 1910), p. 186; Capt. Charles J. Fox, “Aerial Fleet and Pilots To Aid America in War,” The Washington Herald, October 16, 1910, p. 6.

[19] Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 5 (November 1910), p. 186.

[20] Dr. Herbert A. Johnson, “Seeds of Separation: The General Staff Corps and Military Aviation Before World War I,” Air University Review, Vol. 34, No. 1 (November-December 1982), p. 35; The Air-Scout, Vol. 1, No. 2 (December 1910), p. 37; Van Wyen, Pearson and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition, p. 3.

[21] Trimble, Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation, pp. 94-95; Aero America’s Aviation Weekly, Vol. 3, No. 16 (January 20, 1912), p. 314.

[22] Van Wyen, Pearson and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition, p. 3; Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 9.

[23] Stein, From Torpedoes to Aviation: Washington Irving Chambers and Technological Innovation in the New Navy, 1876-1913, pp. 159-160; De Wolfe, George von Lengerke Meyer; his life and public services, pp. 468-480.

[24] Stein, From Torpedoes to Aviation: Washington Irving Chambers and Technological Innovation in the New Navy, 1876-1913, p. 160; Van Wyen, Pearson and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition, p. 3; Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 8; Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916 (Annapolis, United States Naval Institute, 1966), p. 14; Polmar, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events Vol. 1, 1909-1945, p. 3; Stephen K. Stein, “The Experimental Era: U. S. Naval Aviation before 1916,” in Douglas V. Smith, ed., One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power, p. 11.

[25] Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 8

[26] Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 5 (November 1910), p. 187.

[27] Capt. Charles J. Fox, “Aerial Fleet and Pilots To Aid America in War,” The Washington Herald, October 16, 1910, p. 6.

[28] “Makes Daring Flight,” The Washington Post, October 15, 1910, p. 3; Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 6 (December 1910), p. 211; The National Guard Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 3 (March 1911), p. 251; E. D. Robinson, “An Army of the Air: The Inauguration of the United States Aeronautical Reserve and the Plans that have been made for this Aerial Scouting Force,” Harper’s Weekly, Vol. LV (January 14, 1911), p. 11.

[29] Army and Navy Register, Vol. 48, October 22, 1910, p. 15; Capt. Charles J. Fox, “Aerial Fleet and Pilots To Aid America in War,” The Washington Herald, October 16, 1910, p. 6.

[30] Van Wyen, Pearson and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition, p. 1; Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 8; Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916 (Annapolis, United States Naval Institute, 1966), p. 14.

[31] “Need for Airships,” The Washington Post, October 18, 1910, p. 3.

[32] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916 (Annapolis, United States Naval Institute, 1966), pp. 15, 16; Captain W. Irving Chambers, U. S. Navy, “Aviation and Aeroplanes,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 1911), p. 163, note.; Van Wyen, Pearson, and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition,  p. 3; Army and Navy Register, Vol. 48 (October 22, 1910), p. 13; Trimble, Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation, p. 97; Aircraft, Vol. 1, No. 9 (November 1910), p. 324; Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 9; Mortimer, Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation, p. 122.

[33] Mortimer, Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation, p. 168.

[34] “Aviation A Field For Naval Officers,” The New York Times, October 23, 1910, p. 3..

[35] Van Wyen, Pearson and Van Vleet, United States Naval Aviation 1910-1970, revised edition, p. 3; Army and Navy Register, Vol. 48, November 5, 1910, p. 8.

[36] Captain W. Irving Chambers, U. S. Navy, “Aviation and Aeroplanes,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 1911), p. 163, note; The Official Guide if the Railways and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States, Porto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Cuba (September 1910 edition), pp. 458, 522, 1310..

[37]  “Latham’s Record Flight over Baltimore,” Book of the Royal Blue, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (Baltimore, December 1910), p. 1; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 121.

[38] Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 122.

[39] R. F. Patterson, “Baltimore Aviation Meet,” Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 6 (December 1910), p. 208; “High Winds and Snow at Baltimore,” Automobile Topics Illustrated, Vol. XXI, No. 6 (November 12, 1910), p. 358; “Latham’s Record Flight over Baltimore,” Book of the Royal Blue, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (Baltimore, December 1910), p. 1; C. H. Clacdy, “Tent Hangars Down in Wind,” Aero, Vol. 1, No. 6 (November 12, 1910), p. 7.

[40] “Latham’s Record Flight over Baltimore,” Book of the Royal Blue, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (Baltimore, December 1910), p. 2.

[41] Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 123.

[42] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 17; Polmar, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events Vol. 1, 1909-1945,  p. 3; Albert Whiting Fox, “Ely’s Flight from the ‘Birmingham,’” The Air-Scout, Vol. 1, No. 2 (December 1910), p. 12; Captain W. Irving Chambers, U. S. Navy, “Aviation and Aeroplanes,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 1911), pp. 174-175.

[43] “Latham’s Record Flight over Baltimore,” Book of the Royal Blue, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (Baltimore, December 1910), p. 2; C. H. Clacdy, “Tent Hangars Down in Wind,” Aero, Vol. 1, No. 6 (November 12, 1910), p. 7; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, pp. 126, 127

[44] R. F. Patterson, “Baltimore Aviation Meet,” Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 6 (December 1910), p. 208; “High Winds and Snow at Baltimore,” Automobile Topics Illustrated, Vol. XXI, No. 6 (November 12, 1910), p. 358.

[45] Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 131.

[46] Newspaper accounts cited in https://canadaatwarblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/29/j-a-d-mccurdy-aviation-exploits-post-canadian-aerodrome-co-july-dec-1910/  . Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 132.

[47] Turnbull and  Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 10; Polmar, Aircraft Carriers: A History of Carrier Aviation and Its Influence on World Events Vol. 1, 1909-1945,  p. 3; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 132.

[48] Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, pp. 132-133; Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 10.

[49] Undated  newspaper article, entitled “Aeroplane for U.S. Dreadnoughts,” with a date line of Washington, D.C., November 8, 1910, in

[50] R. F. Patterson, “Baltimore Aviation Meet,” Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 6 (December 1910), p. 208; “High Winds and Snow at Baltimore,” Automobile Topics Illustrated, Vol. XXI, No. 6 (November 12, 1910), p. 358; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, pp. 127, 128; “Latham’s Record Flight over Baltimore,” Book of the Royal Blue, Vol. XIV, No. 3 (Baltimore, December 1910), p. 2..

[51] R. F. Patterson, “Baltimore Aviation Meet,” Aeronautics, Vol. 7, No. 6 (December 1910), p. 208; “High Winds and Snow at Baltimore,” Automobile Topics Illustrated, Vol. XXI, No. 6 (November 12, 1910), p. 358; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 128

[52] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 17.

[53] De Wolfe, George von Lengerke Meyer; his life and public services, p. 481. The Dolphin reached Miami on November 4 and reached Washington, D.C. on November 7. Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year 1911 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1912), p. 87.

[54] The Official Guide if the Railways and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States, Porto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Cuba (September 1910 edition), p. 1161; De Wolfe, George von Lengerke Meyer; his life and public services, p. 477.

[55] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 18; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 133.

[56] Columbia Daily Spectator, Vol. LIV, No. 41, (November 15, 1910), p. 1; Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 18.

[57] The National Cyclopedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States Vol. XIV (New York: James T. White & Company, 1910), p. 413; De Wolfe, George von Lengerke Meyer; his life and public services, passim.

[58] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 18; Army and Navy Register, Vol. 48 (November 12, 1910), p. 15; The United States Army and Navy Journal, Vol. 48, No. 11, November 12, 1910, p. 293; Miller, Eugene Ely, Daredevil Aviator: First Shipboard Landing and Takeoff, p. 134; Turnbull and Lord, History of United States Naval Aviation, p. 10; Trimble, Hero of the Air: Glenn Curtiss and the Birth of Naval Aviation, p. 100.

[59] Rear Admiral George van Deurs, U. S. Navy (Retired), Wings for the Fleet: A Narrative of Naval Aviation’s Early Development, 1910-1916, p. 18; Surgeon-Lieut. O. Parkes, RN and Maurice Prendergast, Jane’s Fighting Ships 1919 (London: Sampson Low Marston and Co., 1919), p. 201; https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/b/birmingham-i.html. Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Fiscal Year 1911 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1912), p. 76. Chambers, probably mistakenly wrote the Birmingham was sent to Norfolk on November 9. Captain W. Irving Chambers, U. S. Navy, “Aviation and Aeroplanes,” United States Naval Institute Proceedings, Vol. 37, No. 1 (March 1911), pp. 174-175.