Creation Of The U.S. Air Force – 1912

Origins of the USAFWhile combing through the dust and mites of forgotten lore while surfing the ‘net, I came across a newspaper article from over 105 years ago that details just how the very first United States of America aeroplane air force was proposed to be set up.

Featuring data supplied by United States Brigadier General James Allen, we learn not only the state of America’s air force was at the time of 1912, but how it stacked up against other great nation’s of the day.

Providing a look at what each section of the newly proposed air force for aeroplanes would consist of—from number of men, machines and crew—we can get a real look at the foresight of Brigadier General James Allen in starting up what is one of the world’s best military armadas ever conceived now in 2017.

US Brigadier General James Allen.jpg

So… here we go… all spelling and grammar is the original author’s own and was left that way out of respect.

June 9, 1912 The San Francisco call.

What Our Sky Army Will Be Like
Brigadier-General Allen Discusses His Plan For An Aerial Fighting Fleet.
By John E. Watkins

You may now get your first definite idea as to how our sky army is to be be organized and equipped.
It is ready to pass from the experimental to the practical stage. Hitherto you have regarded the performances of our military aviators as feats spectacular rather than utilitarian, and what pictures you have had of their future functions in actual warfare have been for the most part extravagant phantasies.
The general of our aerial forces today explained to me his plans and ambitions for this new arm of the service. This officer is Brigadier General James Allen, who for a number of years has been chief signal officer of the regular army. He is a practical man. If he dreams dreams, he does not confide them to the hungry journalist. He sees no visions in the empyrean. He will draw you no word pictures of tilts between aerial cruisers and winged torpedo craft, nor will he tell you how many pounds of dynamite flung from the heavens would wipe Greater New York from the face of Mother Earth.
He attacks his problems as would the chief engineer of a railroad or a telegraph company.
He knows all of the sky doings of every great military nation on earth, and while his plans for our future air force combine the chief virtues proven by foreign experts, they also include many original ideas of his own.
In the first place, General Allen will organize his sky soldiers into sections, platoons, companies and squadrons. In the air each section will consist of one aeroplane with two aviators. Two of these sections will compose a platoon; two platoons, a company; two companies, a squadron.
In other words, a squadron will consist of eight aeroplanes, to which 16 aviators will be assigned. All of these aviators will be captains or lieutenants of the regular army.
Each squadron will be in command of a major, who will have on his staff two commissioned officers in addition to the military aviators assigned to the machines.
He will also have under him a force of 48 “aeroplane mechanicians”—mechanics and assistants—all enlisted men. There will be five mechanics assigned to each aeroplane and four extra ones for each company.
To one field army of regular troops there will be three aviation squadrons—one assigned to each of the two divisions and one to the headquarters of the field army’s commander. The squadron assigned to headquarters will be equipped with aeroplanes of extra power for long distance reconnaissance.
And there will also be special machines for the field artillery.
In Addition, there will be 64 machines and 152 aviators distributed among 14 of our continental coast defense stations. So far we have been considering only the regular army of the United States.
In the Philippines General Allen wants two squadrons, or 16 machines; on Panama and Hawaii, each one squadron, with eight machines.

Fleet of 120 Machines
All told, he wants, for the regular army alone, 120 aeroplanes in charge of 285 aviators, and 720 enlisted mechanics. This great establishment would be headed by two colonels, under his command, besides two lieutenant colonels and eleven majors. At present he has only 10 officers for aviation duty, while France already has 800, or three times as many as he asks for—and this despite the fact that our army was the first in the world to develop practical aviation.
France will spend a total of $6,400,000 for its aerial fleet this year. John Bull in the same time will spend 1,610,000 on his aviation school, and Germany will buy $624,000 worth of military aeroplanes before the year is over. Within a month the kaiser will have 350 military aeroplanes, while we now have six.
France in her army alone, has just 100 times as many these machines as have we, and England has more than 13 times as many military aviators as we can boast of.
Our militia, according to General Allen’s program, must be equipped with machines distributed among its mobile troops in proportion to one squadron for each division of men, and the militia aviators will receive diplomas from the regular army’s aviation schools.
Other machines besides aeroplanes will enter into the equipment of each squadron, which group of eight flying machines will be the unit of our sky force just as the regiment is the unit of our land force.
There must be great trucks to carry whole aeroplanes and tractor automobiles to haul these trucks, as well as transport the aeroplane crews in the field.
These heavy automobiles and trucks will carry “aeroplane tents” for temporarily sheltering machines separated from the hangars; also repair tools, spare parts and additional supplies of gasoline.
General Allen says that it will also be necessary to have attached to each of these squadrons of eight aeroplanes a self propelled repair shop, which can be moved to any place in the field where a machine may be in distress. This would always be equipped with reserve supplies and a complete set of spare parts for machines in use.
Distributed over the country are to be five training schools, officially known as “centers of aviation,” from which our sky soldiers will be continually making test and instruction flights. One of these points will be upon the Atlantic coast, one on the Pacific, on on the Great Lakes, on on the Gulf of Mexico and one at some central inland point.
In addition, there will be as many auxiliary centers as it may be possible to organize.
It is the general’s ultimate ambition to have such a school of instruction in each state.

How a “Center” Will Look
You are wondering how these principal aviation schools will appear. The accompanying photograph of the aviation center already established by General Allen at College park near Washington will give you a partial idea.
There will be a wide, level field edged by a line of low lying hangars—or stables for the aerial steeds; sheds, workshops, storerooms and barracks.
At these centers officers not only of the regular army, but of the militia, will be trained as aviators and enlisted men of both forces will be instructed as “aeroplane mechanicians.”
As inventors turn out new aviation devices they will be brought to these points for test.
The officers and mechanics will also be systematically employed in studying weather conditions and other atmospheric phenomena in their relations to flying; in sending wireless telegrams from the clouds; in sketching, map drawing and making reconnaissances from aircraft; in dropping projectiles from the heavens and in accurate firing of rifles and machine guns from aeroplanes.
Hydro-aeroplanes—machines that will alight upon, skim over and fly from water as well as land—are also proposed as part of the army’s equipment. So far these vehicles have been adopted only by the navy.
The five “centers of aviation” described are not to be called schools, because they will be points for the concentration of squadrons as well as for the instruction of officers and mechanicians. No new land and few new buildings will have to be acquired for them.
Our existing army posts will supply all of their needs except those of the eastern center, which will probably occupy the College park field near Washington, already equipped as an aviation school for the army.
This, the first of the series of “aviation centers,” is now being taken possession of by 10 military aviators lately moved north from the temporary winter school at Augusta, Ga.
The school is in command of Captain Charles de F. Chandler, the army’s chief aviator, who has also won honors as a balloonist.
He now has in charge one captain and seven lieutenant colonel of the Ohio national guard. The accompanying photographs show these aviators at work at College park, as well as the most modern machines lately installed there.
The army now has only six aeroplanes in use, but General Allen tells me that he has six more ordered, and hopes to have four others, making a total of 16 by July 1.


The Wright Model F pusher-type (propeller facing rear) aeroplane licensed as a Wright Model F craft by the BUrgess Company seen here in a circa 1914 photo via the National Museum of the US Air Force.

The Wright, Burgess-Wright and Curtiss machines already working were bought at an average cost of $5,100 apiece, but the new machines will be much more powerful and will have an average cost of at least a thousand dollars more each.
The last five contracted for will be known as “weight carrying military aeroplanes.”
They carry two aviators, and before they will be accepted they must prove by trial flights that they can ascent 2,000 feet in 10 minutes while carrying a weight of 450 pounds, in addition to four hours; supply of fuel; that their planes will insure a safe gliding angle in case the engine stops, and that they can alight upon or rise from plowed fields. The speed of these heavy machines, with the weight mentioned, must test up to 45 miles an hour.
More than a mile per minute speed, or 65 miles an hour, must be attained by a class of “light scouting aeroplanes,” for which the general has had specifications drawn. These will carry only one aviator each.
Physical perfection is demanded by the general of men who seek admittance to the College Park aviation school or who will apply for training at the four other schools projected. Only commissioned officers of the army and militia need apply, and before they can be admitted these must undergo a rigorous physical examination, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their eyesight is normal, without glasses; that they can estimate distances accurately; that the are not color blind for red, green or violet; that their ears are as sharp as their eyes; that their wind is good, their lungs and heart perfectly sound, and that they have no diseases of the nervous system or digestive apparatus.
You will be surprised as well as amused at some of the tests prescribed for these candidates. Here, for example, are some devised to detect diseased conditions of the internal ear:
Have the candidate stand with knees, heels and toes touching. Have the candidate walk forward, “backward and in a circle. Have the candidate hop around the room. All these tests should be made with the eyes open and then closed, on both feet and then on one foot, hopping forward and backwards, the candidate trying to hop or walk in a straight line. Any persistent deviation, either to the left or right, is evidenced of a diseased condition of the inner ear.”
Intestinal disorders tending to produce dizziness are also looked out for very carefully.
And there is an elaborate test for precision of the limb movements.
Having run the gauntlet of the examining surgeons, the wouldbe military aviator must next get used to his Pegasus.
This takes some time and is preparatory to the final series of six tests which determine whether he shall receive his certificate from the secretary of war and see “military aviator” printed after his name in the army register.
Here are six feats which he must perform before he can receive his degree:
He must fly to an altitude of at least 2,500 feet; make a cross country flight of 10 miles going and 10 miles returning; fly five minutes in a 15 mile wind; carry a passenger 500 feet up and land him clear within 150 feet of a mark; execute a volplane from 500 feet up with the engine cut off and land within 300 feet of the mark; make a reconnaissance flight of 20 miles at an average height of 1,500 feet and bring back information concerning features of the landscape passed over.
Having this won his certificate, he will be detailed with one of the aeroplane squadrons and will receive 20-per cent extra pay while engaged in his perilous profession.
And if he cracks his head during such service his widow will be given his full pay for six months after he turns up his toes.
These, at least, are provisions of the bill now before congress, which makes partial provision for General Allen’s general scheme for enlarging our sky army from its present formidable force of 10 aviators.


The advertisement above depicts a Curtiss Hydro-aeroplane – the same aircraft (near as I can figure) featured in an image accompanying the above article.

The writer does say that the five “centers of aviation” described are not to be called schools, but after stating that, does seem to enjoy calling them ’schools’.

A minor complaint to be sure.

Plus, the author is a little too light in his off-the-cuff remarks regarding a pilot’s death in the line of duty, but I suppose we can forgive author John Elfreth Watkins, considering he’s been pushing up daisies for a while, too.

I do love Watkins’ “sarcastic” comment about America’s “formidable force of 10 aviators”… nice.

FYI: College Park is located in Maryland, and is now the College Park Aviation Museum.

FYI: a volplane, as mentioned in the second-last paragraph, is a controlled dive.

FYI: The Burgess-Wright aeroplane mentioned within, is a licensed version of a Wright Model B aeroplane to the Burgess Company… the very first licensed airplane company in the U.S., first occurring on February 1, 1911.  These Wright Model B planes were actually designated (for Burgess) as the Wright Model F.

I also love how the term air force isn’t in use, with Watkins constantly using the term “sky army.” To Watkins’ credit, once, and only once, does he use the term air force.

Prior to the use of aeroplanes, hot air balloons were the aircraft of choice.

The predecessor organizations leading up to today’s U.S. Air Force are:

  • Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps August 1, 1907 – July 18, 1914;
  • Aviation Section, Signal Corps July 18, 1914 – May 20, 1918;
  • Division of Military Aeronautics (May 20, 1918 – May 24, 1918);
  • Air Service, U.S. Army (May 24, 1918 – July 2, 1926);
  • U.S. Army Air Corps (July 2, 1926 – June 20, 1941), and;
  • U.S. Army Air Forces (June 20, 1941 – September 17, 1947)

The Army Air Force then became the U.S. Air Force (USAF).

The newspaper article is a wonderful look back at how the USAF was thoughtfully created.

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Wills’s Aviation Card #69 – “Morning Post” Airship, 1910.


History Behind The Card: “Morning Post” Airship, 1910 (Lebaudy III.)

Card #69 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Marie Paul Jules Lebaudy, July 4, 1858 in Engheim, France – October 17, 1937 in  Rosny-sur-Seine, France;
  • Pierre Joseph Marie Lebaudy, October 6, 1865 in Versailles, France – August 1, 1929, in XXXX;
  • Henri Julliot, 18xx (?) – 19xx (?), (Birthplace?), France

It seems strange to me that airships like dirigibles and zeppelins were still being purchased when the new and exciting technology of aircraft was all the rage, but I keep forgetting that despite the fact that Wills’s put out the 50-, and later extended sets of 75- and 85-cards on aviation—it was really pretty new… and despite moderate success, aeroplanes had not proven their worth yet as of the time of the card set’s printing in 1911.

Aircraft motors simply weren’t powerful enough or the aircraft frames weren’t sturdy enough to haul anything more than two people up in the air at a time… and could only fly for a couple of hours maximum until they had to land and refuel.

But zeppelins, hot-air balloons and dirigibles not only had more carrying capacity, but could stay aloft a far greater length of time, making them much more practical than the hopping and sputtering aeroplane.

It’s probably the reason why French manufacturer Lebaudy Frères (The Lebaudy Brothers) were building their semi-rigid airships.


Lebaudy Brothers

Pierre (left) and Paul Lebaudy are honored on this postage stamp from Cuba in 2000… but I could not find photographic images of these aviation pioneers, and was, after discovering this Cuban stamp surprised there wasn’t one issued by France.

Brothers Paul and Pierre Lebaudy—wealthy French sugar refiners, who seemed to have deep pockets and acted the sugar daddy to the actual chief engineer and designer Henri Julliot, who in the first decade of the 1900s built what eventually became known as the Lebaudy-style of dirigible that was uniquely a semi-rigid aircraft.

While Germany preferred Count Zeppelin’s rigid self-named Zeppelin with its permanent frame within a gas envelope, the Lebaudy craft was a semi-rigid aircraft whereby it is dependent on its framework and the form of its envelope.

Basically, that means that the bottom of the balloon has flat framework with planes attached, and has its car, engine and propeller suspended from it. You can actually get a clear view of that in the Wills’ card above.

The Lebaudy and other semi-rigid craft have a partial framework consisting of a rigid or flexible keel frame along the long axis under the aerodynamic hull envelope.

The Lebaudy or Lebaudy-Julliot dirigibles were built in France between 1902 and 1910.

The Lebaudy dirigibles designed by Julliot were unique. While contemporary craft used propellers at the prow to pull it, and others placed them at the stern to push it, Julliot affixed the propellers on each side of the craft near the center allowing for less air disturbance.

As well, the Lebaudy balloons were not quite round, having the lower area flattened and resting on the frame suspending the car. In fact, the balloons were divided into three sections to stop heavier air from moving into another area when it is tilting during altitude alterations.

All told, there were 12 different dirigibles built by Lebaudy brothers, with the first airship built in 1902.

The dirigible pictured in Card No. 69 above is the Lebaudy Morning Post, then the largest airship built in France. It was the seventh dirigible built by the Lebaudy brothers.

It was actually commissioned by the British newspaper The Morning Post, who created a fund to purchase and present the dirigible to the British Army. Aww… how patriotic.

Designed by Henri Julliot, the Lebaudy Morning Post was similar in design to such dirigibles as the earlier Lebaudy République and Lebaudy Patrie but was both larger and faster.

The Morning Post was built in September 1910 and purchased by a national newspaper subscription service for the London Morning Post.


Despite what the Wills’s card states on the revers of the card, the dimensions are different:


  • Capacity: 20 people;
  • Length: 337 feet 10 inches (102.97 meters);
  • Diameter: 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters);
  • Volume: 353,168 cubic feet (10,000.6 cubic meters);
  • Powerplant: 2 × Panhard & Levassor 4M 4-cylinder in-line water-cooled piston engines, 135 hp each;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed 2x Chauvière Integrale, 16 feet 5 inches (5 meters) in diameter each;
  • Speed: 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) per hour.

The Morning Post always flew well… but parking… yeesh.

The Morning Posts Delivery
To deliver the airship, flew 370 kilometers in five-and-a-half hours between Moisson, France to Aldershot, England.

Leaving on October 26, 1910, it carried right people including pilot Louis Capazza. The passengers included the dirigible designer Henri Julliot; the just-appointed commander of the British Army Balloon Works Major Sir Alexander Bannerman; and a representative of the Morning Post newspaper.

The take-off, flight and landing all went well, but… there’s always a but…

There were strong winds that day and landing was difficult, but after a few comical attempts by the ground crew trying to catch hold of the mooring ropes, they managed to safely secure it.

The passengers disembarked – happy at the successful flight.

The Morning Post dirigible was then towed to a special shed that was built specifically to house the aircraft.

While it seemed to shock them that it was going to be a tight fit – because they swear they measured it… they simply needed to make sure they took care.

You know… like even if my garage didn’t have stuff in it and I tried to park a car there, I would still have to carefully enter and exit the facility because you don’t want to damage the vehicle.

Now… this is what you get for paying someone $0.25 an hour (I’m guessing)…

As the dirigible was being maneuvered into the tight shed—with just 10 more feet (~3 meters) to squeeze in… a large hiss could be heard meaning either the world’s largest snake was somehow in the shed, or the dirigible got caught on an overhead girder.

The balloon quickly lost its gas and buoyancy and collapsed on a men below, but luckily there were no injuries.

Canceling My Subscription To The Morning Post
It took until May 4, 1911, but the Morning Post was finally fixed up and ready to embark on its second voyage.

Up in the air with a crew of seven, and approaching the end of its one-hour test flight, all had gone well…

The crew dropped down the mooring ropes to allow the ground crew (soldiers), to grab hold and steady it.

But again… winds… or maybe just a strong gust… but the grounds crew couldn’t steady her losing control of the mooring ropes… the Morning Post drifted into some nearby trees.

Fortunately, there was no hiss… but there was an explosive ka-pow, as the gas envelope burst.

The dirigible collapsed quickly over the trees and a house, which I’m sure must have amused the homeowners and their home insurance company.

“A what-now landed on your roof? Uh-huh… I’m pretty sure you aren’t covered for falling dirigibles.”

I joke, but the crew aboard the Morning Post were tossed around quite a bit, with one mechanic receiving some pretty bad burns.





Luckily the motors missed landing on the house.

And yeah… that’s it for the Morning Post. Kaput.

Seems to me like what the world needed more of in 1911 were better places to park a dirigible.

Below you’ll see some additional Wills’s Aviation cards from different 1911 series’.

Below is a reverse of the Vice Regal 75-card series, and one from the Vice Regal 85-card series. The fronts are identical to the Capstan version above.


75-card series – Vice Regal black back issue 1911.


85-card series – Vice Regal black back issue 1911.

Per above, you can see how collecting the cards is more than it seems… and I’m not even talking green backs… I don’t have any of this card… or of the Havelock tobacco series.
For more information on all the Lebaudy dirigibles, see my blog HERE.

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Wills’s Aviation Card #68 – Capt. Bertram Dickson.

Captain Bertram Dickson 1911 Wills Aviation F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: Capt. Bertram Dickson.

Card #68 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Captain Bertram Dickson, December 21, 1873 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Great Britain – September 28, 1913 in Lochrosque Castle, Scotland, Great Britain.

Never heard of Bertram Dickson? I don’t blame you… his aviation career was fairly short-lived, but obviously of import enough for Wills’s to have created a card featuring him.

His was a case of shoulda-woulda-coulda, except that fates conspired against him to cut his aviation career—and life—short.

As a Scott, Great Britain lays claim to Bertram as being its first serviceman to qualify as a pilot in 1910, and was one of two men to have been involved in the first-ever aeroplane collision, which the reverse of the Wills’s card sort of relates.

He also prophesied the military’s use of aircraft in war, but the Wright Brothers had done that at least seven years previous considering they kept their flight achievement (in December of 1903) a secret while they tried to sell their flying machine concept to the U.S. military.

Bertram Dickson.jpg

Much of Bertram’s early civilian life is blank. We don’t know much about his parents and family, about what his likes and dislikes were as a young man, or even what steered him towards aviation—besides the obvious of it being an exciting new technology.

We do know that in 1892, Dickson went with English geographer (later knighted as a “Sir” and later president of the Royal Geographical Society) Thomas Holdich to the Andes Mountains to define the border between Chile and Argentina. The data was used to officially recognize the boundary in 1902.

Then, after training to be an officer at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, England, Dickson was made a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in November of 1894.

He was promoted to Lieutenant in November of 1897, and later to the rank of Captain in November of 1900.

In May 1901, Dickson was sent to work for Britain’s Foreign Office department, and ended up in 1908 Van, a city of Armenia as a military attaché and vice-consul.

By 1910, he became infatuated with aeroplanes… again, I can only assume it was because they are cool.

I am unsure if he was posted in France—which I assume—or if he received a leave of absence to go there, but he attended Henri Farman’s aviation school in Chalons, France, and earned pilot’s license No. 71 from the Aéro-Club de France on May 2, 1910.

Apparently one did NOT need to have a pilot’s license in order to fly an aeroplane, as evidenced by the fact that Dickson still had earned his, and was taking place in the Aéro-Club de France aviation meet Tours, starting on April 30, 1910 and running through May 5, 1910.


Here’s a postcard featuring an image of Dickson flying at the 1910 Tours, France aviation event.

Dickson flew a Farman biplane with a seven-cylinder Gnome motor capable of 60 horsepower.

We know that Dickson (and others) rolled their aircraft out to perform in the events on April 30, but strong winds prevented anyone from going up until later in the evening when Dickson and a few others braved the winds.

In a distance event, Dickson flew eight laps of a 2.2 kilometer (1.4 mile) lap.

On May 1, Dickson managed 32 kilometers (19.9 miles) even with the winds.

May 2, the winds died down, but the rain began—but the pilots did get up in the air even if no one came out to see them because of the poor weather. Dickson flew 45 kilometers (28 miles).

May 3, no wind or rain… and while Dickson managed to fly 93 kilometers (57.8 miles), another pilot (Chávez) flew 108 kilometers (67.1 miles).

May 4 – another day of poor weather when only one pilot flew for three kilometers (1.9 miles) and no one else dared.

May 5 – windy and heavy rain showers meant little flying… Dickson had just taken off in a wind of 10 meters per second (22.4 miles per hour) when the rudder jammed so that he couldn’t fly straight ahead. He managed to control the plane with the ailerons, but while landing he lost control and crashed. He was thrown out of the plane and escaped without injuries, but the plane was heavily damaged.

The big winner of the meeting was Dickson, who flew a total of 267 kilometers (165.9 miles) and took home half of the prize money being offered by the organizers,

I know that Dickson won 18,000 French Francs… as well, there was a 1,000 Francs entry fee, that was given back if the entered plane could fly at least between the finish/start line differential—which he obviously did.

I am unsure if Dickson tried out for and was awarded the pilot’s license on May – a day when it was really poor weather, or whether he took the test before the Tours Meet, and was only awarded it days later on May 2… anyone know?

The following month, on June 6, 1910, Captain Dickson achieved an aviation first, carrying a passenger on a flight that lasted over two hours.

Next was the Great Aviation Week of Rouen airshow held in Rouen, France June 19-26, 1910. Dickson flew the same Farman with a seven-cylinder Gnome motor putting out 60 horsepower

Dickson won the longest distance without landing prize, flying 141 kilometers (87.6 miles) in two hours, 27 minutes and 44 seconds. Going well over an hour more than the nearest competitor.

He also won the planing prize doing 204 meters (0.127 miles), came third in the passenger contest carrying 141 kilograms (310.9 pounds) of passenger weight).

He also came in first for the total distance flown, traveling 747 kilometers (464.2 miles), taking home the prize by a mere 12 kilometers (7.46 miles) in cumulative distance.

Dickson took home 28,100 Francs. Hmmm… a guy could get rich doing this sort of stuff. Let’s just say that was a lot of money for back then.

The next big event for Dickson, was the Bournemouth, England aviation meet. Dickson was awarded a prize for General Merit (along with Morane, Drexel and Grahame-White) flying his Farman biplane.

Because of his exploits in France, all of Great Britain was interested in seeing one of their own at a British aviation meet.

(I did find a lot of great information on these aviation meets over at

Bournemouth meet

General Merit.

  1. L. F. Morane, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) … £500;
  2. J . A. Drexel, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) … £225;
  3. C. Grahame-White, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) … £225;
  4. Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) … £50.


  1. 1. L. F. Morane, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) 4,107 feet (1,251.8 meters), £1,000;
  2. J. A. Drexel, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) 2,490 feet (759 meters),  £400;
  3. C. Grahame-White, Farman biplane (60horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) 1,660 feet (506 meters), £100;
  4. Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome) 1,340 feet (408.4 meters), £50
  5. Cecil Grace, Short biplane (65-horsepower eight-cylinder E.N.V.) 1,161 feet (353.9 meters);
  6. Hon. C. S. Rolls, French Wright biplane (30-horsepower 4-cylinder Wright) 900 feet (274.3 meters);
  7. L. Wagner, Hanriot monoplane (40-horsepower four-cylinder Clerget) 694 feet (211.5 meters).

Daily Prizes for Altitude.

  • Monday:  J. A. Drexel, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 2,490 feet (759 meters), £25;
  • Wednesday:  L. F. Morane, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 4,107 feet (1,251.8 meters), £25;
  • Friday: Cecil Grace, Short biplane (65-horsepower eight-cylinder E.N.V.), 1,161 feet, (353.9 meters) £25;
  • Saturday: Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 1,340 feet (408.4 meters), £25.


  1. 1. C. Grahame-White, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome). 90 miles 1,740 yards (146.4 kilometers), 35.2 miles per hour (56.65 kilometers per hour), £300;
  2. Christiaens, Farman biplane (65-horsepower eight-cylinder E.N.V.). 83 miles 1,500 yards (134.95 kilometers), 35.6 miles per hour (57.3 kilometers per hour) ,£150;
  3. E. Audemars, Bayard-Clement monoplane (35-horsepower four-cylinder Bayard-Clement). 17 miles 1,480 yards (28.7 kilometers), £60;
  4. Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome). 12 miles 860 yards (20.1 kilometers), 33.8 miles per hour (54.4 kilometers per hour), £40;
  5. James Radley, Bleriot monoplane (25-horsepower three-cylinder Anzani). 1 mile 1,380 yards (2.9 kilometers), 36.49 miles per hour (58.7 kilometers per hour).

Weight Carrying. (Load including pilot)

  1. Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 407.5-pounds (184.84 kilograms), 3-minutes 23-seconds, £350;
  2. C. Grahame-White, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 425-pounds (192.78 kilograms), 3-minutes 23.8-seconds, £150; HMMM THIS SECOND-PLACE FINISH DOESN’T MAKES SENSE – HEAVIER LOAD AND LONGER TIME IN AIR;
  3. L. F. Morane, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 412-pounds (186.88 kilograms), 2-minues 37.8-seconds, £50.

Starting. (closest distance from spot)

  1. Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 105-feet 7-inches (32.18 meters), £250;
  2. L. F. Morane, Bleriot monoplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 105-feet 8-inches (32.2 meters), £50;
  3. C. Grahame-White, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 111-feet 9.5-inches (34.07 meters), £25;
  4. Hon. Alan Boyle, Avis monoplane (40-horsepower eight-cylinder E.N.V.), 126-feet 10-inches (38.66 meters), £25;
  5. James Radley, Bleriot monoplane (25-horsepower three cylinder Anzani), 129-feet 9-inches (39.55 meters);
  6. L. D. L. Gibbs, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 144-feet 4.5 inches (44 meters);
  7. Christiaens, Farman biplane (65-horsepower eight cylinder E.N.V.), 152-feet 8.5-inches (46.55 meters);
  8. E. Audemars, Bayard – Clement monoplane (35-horsepower four cylinder Bayard-Clement), 153-feet 9-inches (46.86 meters).


  1. C. Grahame-White, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 7-feet (2.13 meters), £250;
  2. Christiaens, Farman biplane (65-horsepower eight cylinder E.N.V.), 29-feet 3-inches (8.92 meters), £50;
  3. Hon. C. S. Rolls, French Wright biplane (30-horsepower four cylinder Wright), 78-feet 10-inches (24.03 meters), £25 – Rolls was the co-founder of Rolls-Royce in December of 1904. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display at this aviation show!;
  4. Capt. B. Dickson, Farman biplane (60-horsepower seven-cylinder Gnome), 83 feet 1-inch (25.32 meters), £25.

If you are counting, Dickson won £740 – not a bad week at all. Still, he and his plane were overshadowed by Morane (in a Bleriot monplane), Drexel (in a Bleriot monoplane), and Grahame-White in a Farman biplane.

At the Lanark Aviation Meeting, August 6-13, 1910, Dickson won £900 – good for 5th overall in the event.

Thanks to the financial success and fame he had achieved through aviation, Dickson resigned from the British Army by September of 1910, and took up a position with the British & Colonial Aircraft Company to help promote its products.

The British Army would hold military maneuvers on Salisbury Plains every year until WWI.

Seeing an opportunity, Dickson joined one of the sides named Red Force, and on September 21, 1910 he flew a Bristol Boxkite aircraft taking it up in the air to tray and find the enemy side, Blue Force.

It appears as though Dickson found the Blue Force team, and when he happened to land to make a telephone call to commanders of Red Force (his team), his aeroplane was captured by Corporal Arthur Edwards of the 4th Dragoon Guards – part of “Blue Force“.

Was it fair that Dickson was caught while he landed to make a telephone call (sure). But while waiting for the umpires to rule on the situation, Dickson met British home secretary Winston Churchill, who was observing the maneuvers.

Churchill liked how the aeroplane was used and could be used for the military.

Despite being captured, Dickson had flown the world’s first-ever military sortie by aeroplane. Though it was just maneuvers…

By the end of day September 21, Dickson flew twice more for Red Force… which made the Daily Telegraph newspaper the next day… which caused actor and aviation flyboy Robert Loraine to arrive on the Salisbury Plains and offer himself and his Bristol Boxkite to the “Blue Force” team to even things out.

Still with the British military after a few days, and while up in the air flying, Loraine used a 40-pound radio to send Morse Code reports over a one mile distance to his Blue Force headquarters, which was actually at Dickson’s Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Co. Ltd.’s hangars at Larkhill, which still stand as of 2017.

Thanks to Dickson and Loraine, Churchill purchased its second and third Bristol Boxkite aeroplanes, delivered in 1911.

It was because Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill watched their flying exploits and were impressed, it led (eventually) to the creation of the British Royal Flying Corps, which was the “flying” part of the British military prior to WWI. It merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on April 1, 1918 to form the British Royal Air Force (the RAF).

Captain Bertram Dickson 1911 Wills Aviation R.jpg

On October 1, 1910 while in Milan, Dickson in his Farman biplane was crashed into from both behind and above by René Thomas of France in his Antoinette monoplane aeroplane.

While both pilots were hurt in the crash, Dickson, as noted in the Wills’s card No. 68., was actually never able to full-recover from his injuries, and it is believed that those injuries contributed to his early demise a few years later.

Back in 1911, Dickson did express to Churchill the importance for Great Britain to have some sort of military organization.

Unable to fly anymore, in late 1911, Dickson consulted with many a British aeroplane  manufacturer to improve their designs.

In November of 1911, British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith asked the Technical Sub-Committee for Imperial Defence (TSID) to consider what part aeroplanes could play in future military operations.

Dickson himself discussed his opinion:

“In case of a European war, between two countries, both sides would be equipped with large corps of aeroplanes, each trying to obtain information on the other… the efforts which each would exert in order to hinder or prevent the enemy from obtaining information… would lead to the inevitable result of a war in the air, for the supremacy of the air, by armed aeroplanes against each other. This fight for the supremacy of the air in future wars will be of the greatest importance…”

The TSID’s recommendations led directly to the formation of the Royal Flying Corps on April 13, 1912.

Bertram Dickson saw the formation of a military wing, but did not survive long enough to see his prophecy surrounding air supremacy during The Great War (WWI).

Dickson died from complications surrounding that airplane collision on September 28, 1913, and is buried the Scottish village of Achanalt in Ross and Cromarty.

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Wills’s Aviation Card #67 – M. Louis Bleriot.

Louis Bleriot 1911 Wills Aviation F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: M. Louis Bleriot.

Card #67 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Louis Charles Joseph Blériot, July 1, 1872 in Cambrai, France – August 1, 1936, Paris, France.

This aviation card deals with Louis Blériot.

Because I was originally only going to do write-ups on the first 50 cards of this series only, I previously included detailed biographies of an aeroplane’s designer and or pilot when I wrote about a specific plane.

In this case, I previously wrote about Blériot for Card No. 38, and the Bleriot XI Monoplane – see HERE (card image below)


Louis Blériot’s Bleriot XI monoplane. Wills’s Aviation Card No. 38., 1910 card series.

As such… I’m going to repeat much of what I wrote previously here. Don’t worry, there are many future subjects where I will have to do a full-scale write-up.

We are now at Card No. 67 of 75 cards, but there is also an 85-card set… an additional 10 cards… and then… ye cats, I may have to collect another set of aviation cards so as to have more to write about. I’ll get right on that. Don’t tell my wife. Or my girlfriend or mistress.

(I ain’t no Saint, so:) As the actress said to the bishop, on to Louis Blériot:

A decent, but unspectacular student, Blériot was rather more successful in the so-called real world.

In fact, he was one of the first to create his own aviation company.

But who was Blériot?

He was the guy who designed the first practical headlight for a car, utilizing a compact integral acetylene generator.

Soon after in 1897, Blériot opened a showroom in Paris and began selling his headlights to Renault and Panhard-Levassor, two of the foremost automobile manufacturers of the day, with the latter now actually a part of Renault nowadays as Renault Trucks Defense.

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Louis Blériot

That’s fine, but what was he like?

Well, he was the type of man who, when eating lunch in a restaurant saw a woman eating lunch… telling his mother that he would marry her or marry no one.

I was like that once… it didn’t work out, and I obviously lied as I married someone else later.

As for Blériot, he was more a man of his than I apparently am. He went back to the restaurant near his showroom, bribed a waiter for the woman’s name – Alice Védères, the daughter of a retired army officer – and began to woo her. Yes, I used the word ‘woo’ in 2017. On February 21, 1901, they were married. Now that’s determination.

But who was Blériot?

He was the type of man who like most people of the era, had an interest in aviation. For him, it was after seeing aviation pioneer Clément Ader and his Avion III aeroplane at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (yes, 1900!), he thought – heck, I’m doing well at the headlight business, but why don’t I also see if I can make my own aeroplane.

I do stuff like that, too – only I don’t follow through… probably because I lack the money and inclination to start my own headlight business.

God help us all, Blériot began experimenting with ornithopters… machines shaped liked birds that attempted to mimic flight by flapping wings.  Needless to say, his experiments were not successful.

Louis Bleriot 1911 Wills Aviation R.jpg

Luckily, in April of 1905, Blériot met Gabriel Voisin, the guy who would  design and build Europe’s first manned, engine-powered, heavier-than-air aeroplane capable of a sustained (1 kilometer), circular, controlled flight, including take-off and landing, made by pilot Henry Farman on January 13, 1908 near Paris, France. More on Voisin HERE. More on Farman HERE.

At that time, Voisin was working for Ernest Archdeacon on his experimental gliders.
Archdeacon has been mentioned in these pages a few times, by the way. He was a promoter and sponsor of aviation in France, offer financial prizes like the Coupe d’Aviation Ernest Archdeacon and the Deutsch de la Meurthe-Archdeacon prize), commissioning designs, and organizing tests and events.. but he was most famous for co-founding in 1898 the the oldest aero-club in the world, the Aéro-Club de France.

Oh yeah, on May 29, 1908, Archdeacon became the first aeroplane passenger in Europe when he was flown around by Henry Farman. There’s that name again.

Blériot was present when Voisin first tested a floatplane glider on June 8, 1905, and actually filmed the flight. You might find that in a Google search… I had it earlier, but it was removed from the site I found…

Along with having one of the earliest films of flight, seeing Voisin fly had him ask Voisin to build him a similar plane, the Blériot II glider. On July 18, 1905 when Blériot had Voisin try and fly it, Voisin nearly drowned.

Undaunted, Blériot thought he and Voisin should team up – and they did, cancelling Voisin’s partnership with Archdeacon and then establishing  Ateliers d’ Aviation Edouard Surcouf, Blériot et Voisin.

Over the next two years through 1906, they built two powered aircraft –  the Blériot III and the Blériot IV (a rebuild of III)  – but neither flew.


Blériot III crashed on take-off in May of 1906.


Blériot IV seen here in a postcard, never flew, despite the artist’s rendition.

The two aeroplanes used lightweight Antoinette engines developed by Leon Levavasseur, and despite the failure of the aircraft, Blériot became a shareholder in Levavasseur’s company.

The Blériot IV was wrecked while taxiing on November 12, 1906, a fact made worse when on that same day Alberto Santos Dumas flew his 14-bis aeroplane for 220 meters (720 feet), and won the Aéro Club de France prize for the first flight of over 100 meters. See HERE for more on that.

How could it be even worse?

While the Blériot IV crashed at Bagatelle, France, Alberto Santos Dumont succeeded at the very same place later that day, and was witnessed by Blériot.

Disappointed, Blériot  and Voisin parted ways, with Blériot opting to create his own aviation company, Recherches Aéronautiques Louis Blériot (Louis Blériot Aeronautical Research), where he started creating his own aircraft, experimenting with various configurations and eventually creating the world’s first successful powered monoplane – you know, what we fly nowadays.


Blériot V – still with bird-like wings.

His first monoplane was the Blériot V, flying it (after numerous ground tests) on April 5, 1907 lifting up and ‘flying’ for six meters (20-feet). On April 19, he reached a speed of 50 kph (30mph), with the nose leaving the ground… but Blériot  overcompensated when the nose rose up, causing the aircraft to flip onto its nose, somersaulting.

He was lucky to have survived, considering the motor was situated immediately behind his pilot seat.

The Blériot VI was a tandem-wing aircraft, first flying on July 11, achieving flight of about 25–30 meters (84–100 feet), soaring to a height of two meters (seven-feet).


Blériot VI

This was his first successful flight, but by July 25, 1907, Blériot  was able to fly a distance of 150 meters (490 feet). On August 6, 1907 he managed to reach an altitude of 12 meters (39 feet), but a propeller blade got loose and he crashed.

After adding a 50-horsepower V-16 motor, on September 17, 1907, the aircraft rose to 25 meters (82 feet) before the engine cut out, falling into a spiral nosedive.

Still in a nosedive, Blériot climbed out of his seat and threw himself towards the tail, and with the weight on the back, the plane sort-of pulled itself out of the nosedive… and crashed horizontally. Owtch.

Next, was the Blériot VII that looks like a modern aircraft, except he used a differential elevator control for side-to-side movement. This is the first truly successful monoplane, first flying on November 16, 1907.


Blériot VII

On December 6, 1907, he did two flights of over 500 meters and even managed a U-turn. Unfortunately, the plane was wrecked on December 18, 1907.

Oh well… up comes Blériot VIII – a failure when it first debuted in February of 1908, he made modifications, and on October 31, 1908 he flew it from (in France) Toury to Arteny and back to Toury over a distance of 28 kilometers (17 miles).


Blériot VIII

Of course, that Farman guy actually had the first cross-country flight from Bouy to Rheims, France… one day earlier. Four days later, the Blériot VIII was wrecked while taxiing.

Blériot decided to exhibit three of his aircraft at the first ever Paris Aero Salon event held at the end of December 1907 – the Blériot IX monoplane; the three-seat pusher biplane Blériot X; and his most successful aeroplane ever, the Blériot XI – which is pictured on the Wills’s tobacco card at the very top of this article.

Planes IX and X never flew. This was by choice. They each used an Antoinette engine, but because the Antoinette company had also just decided to begin constructing its own planes, Blériot noted a conflict of interest and scrubbed flights with them.


Blériot XI

Now… the Blériot XI… she’s a beauty. In the photo above, she’s using an REP (Robert Esnault-Pelterie) motor. While it flew well, the engine did overheat, so Blériot purchased a motor from motorcycle-engine developed by Alessandro Anzani, and because of him, added a laminated walnut propeller designed by Lucien Chauviere.

Still, never satisfied, Blériot  started flying the Blériot  XII, a high-wing two-seater monoplane, flying it first on May 21, 1908. He flew it with a single passenger on July 2, and then with two passengers on July 12 – the first to do so. By the way, one of those two passengers was Santos Dumont.


Blériot XII

The E.N.V. 30-horsepower engine’s crankshaft broke a few days after, so Blériot  went back to his Blériot XI.

  • June 25, 1908: flew for 15 minutes and 30 seconds;
  • June 26, 1908: flew for over 36 minutes;
  • July 3, 1908 at an aviation event in Douai, France he flew for 47 minutes;
  • July 4, 1908, he flew for 50 minutes at an aviation meet in Juvisy, France;
  • July 13, 1908, he flew for 41 kilometers (25 miles) from Etampes to Orleans, in France.

On June 16, 1909, Blériot and Voisin were both awarded the Prix Osiris by the Institut de France – awarded every three years for whomever had made the greatest contribution to science.

On July 19, 1909 he told the British newspaper the Daily Mail that he would try and win their contest to cross the English Channel in a heavier-than-air-aircraft and win the £1,000 prize.

While the Channel had first been crossed unmanned in a hydrogen balloon in 1785, and in a manned crossing by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries later that year, no one thought the flight was possible in an aeroplane…. or if they did think it, no one could successfully prove it.

Along with Blériot, other serious in blasting the myth were:

  • Hubert Latham flying an Antoinette IV monoplane;
  • Charles de Lambert, a Russian aristocrat with French ancestry, and;
  • Arthur Seymour of England, who supposedly owned a Voisin biplane.

With around 10,000 people in Calais, France and 10,000 people at Dover, England, and with the Marconi Company doing a radio broadcast… Latham tried first on July 19, 1909 but with windy winds, he made the first-ever landing of a plane on the sea about 9.7 kilometers (six miles) from the end.

On July 21, 1909 Blériot, two mechanics and friend Alfred Leblanc, arrived in Calais, France and began prepping for their attempt.

On July 22, 1909, Latham received a second aircraft for his attempt, but the winds remained too strong until July 24 (Saturday), when the winds calmed a bit…

On July 25, 1909, Leblanc woke at 2AM, thought the weather was perfect and awoke Blériot… who wasn’t all that keen on flying…

At 4:14AM, after a quick trial flight, he awaited a signal that the sun had risen… the flight, according to the rules, had to be made during daylight… and took off at 4:41—which wasn’t quite daylight yet, but would be by the time he arrived across the Channel.

He flew at an altitude of 76 meters (250-feet) at a speed of approximately 72 kph (45 mph) across the channel.


Bleriot crossing English Channel 1908.

With no compass, he followed an escort ship (carrying his wife Alice) to Dover, until his plane overtook the ship… and with poor visibility now happening (what, a fog in England?!), Blériot says: “for more than 10 minutes I was alone, isolated, lost in the midst of the immense sea, and I did not see anything on the horizon or a single ship.”

But then he spied land, noting that a wind had blown him off-course, and then followed the coastline until he saw a Le Matin (Swiss-French newspaper) newsman waving a large tricolor flag to signal him.

Cutting his engine at 20-meters (66-feet), Blériot circled twice to lose height and proceeded to head for Northfall Meadow near Dover Castle – landing with a pancake splat thanks to the wind, damaging the Blériot XI‘s undercarriage, and its propeller blade.

All told, Blériot’s flight took 36 minutes and 30 seconds. Nice. For reference, if you were to drive the Chunnel today, it would take you 35 minutes. Longer with traffic.

You can see the Blériot XI at the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris.

With the success, Blériot achieved financial success, with 100+ orders for new builds of the Blériot XI coming in by the end of the year 1909)… each selling for F10,000.

It was estimated, that before the flight Blériot had spent more than F780,000 on his experiments. Is that a lot? Well, he paid a skilled mechanic F250 a month. So yeah… a lot of money laid out for R&D.

But don’t worry for Blériot, because he wasn’t hurting for cash.

I guess there was a bright future and lots of money in car lights. Okay, he did win a few cash prizes for his aviation skill along the way, so he wasn’t hurting for cash.

You can see Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE for the results of the Grande Semaine d’Aviation held at Reims, France where he was narrowly beaten by Glenn Curtiss in the first Gordon Bennett Trophy race. Blériot did, however, win a prize for the the fastest lap of the circuit, and a new speed record for aeroplanes.

Between 1909 and WWI in 1914, Blériot built about 900 planes – mostly variations of the Blériot XI.

The French government grounded all monoplanes in February of 1912, after four such planes had accidents, but the ban was lifted after he strengthened the landing wires.

In 1913, a consortium led by Blériot bought the Société pour les Appareils Deperdussin aircraft manufacturer, with him becoming its president a year later.

He then renamed the company the Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD)– the company that would later manufacture one of the premier WWI fighter aircraft.

But, because Blériot never really improved on his Blériot XI design, his monoplanes became ‘dated’… and his company was eventually closed up in 1916.

Still, before that happened, he was already planning on opening the Blériot and SPAD Ltd. company in Great Britain… eventually forming into the Air Navigation and Engineering Company (ANEC) in May 1918, but while never a much of a success with its planes, it did also produce Blériot-Whippet cars.

Retired from flying, but still famous in his own right, Blériot was on hand at Le Bourget field in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh finished his historic transatlantic flight in his Spirit Of St. Louis.


Bleriot was also a masterful pickpocket thanks to his skills of misdirection. Kidding. Here he’s giving Lindbergh a kiss for the camera.

Blériot died on August 1, 1936, was given a funeral with full military honors and is buried in the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles, France.


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Wills’s Aviation Card #66 – M. Louis Paulhan.

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History Behind The Card: M. Louis Paulhan.

Card #66 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Isidore Auguste Marie Louis Paulhan, July 19, 1883 in Pézenas, Hérault, France — February 10, 1963, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France.

Man… I get that Louis Paulhan was famous enough in 1911 to get his own card here as No. 66 – but also as card No. 55.. but come on Wills’s – you’re killing me in 2017.

Kidding, of course. Paulhan was the aviator–or at least one of the big wigs of the fledgling field–who in 1910 won the first Daily Mail newspaper aviation prize awarded to anyone who could fly from London and Manchester.

I really did cover Paulhan quite well in my blog here on card No. 55 (HERE)… there’s nothing to add on his life that I haven’t already covered.

As such, rather than re-write the story, I’m going to cherry-pick the appropriate material from my previous blog and paste it here…

He is also known as the guy who didn’t provide an aeroplane ride to a guy named William Boeing… you know… the guy who would go on to found The Boeing Company.

Known primarily as a pilot, rather than as an aeroplane designer and manufacturer, Paulhan got his start making model aeroplanes while he was a balloon pilot.

In 1905 he actually won a design competition for aircraft (recall that though the Wright Brother’s first flew in 1903, no one else knew of it… even when Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont made a public flight in Paris with his 14-bis, also known as Oiseau de proie (French for “bird of prey”) on September 13, 1906. It was a Thursday.)


Louis Paulhan in 1909 looking pretty happy.

He briefly went to sea in his youth, before joining the army and serving in a balloon battalion under Ferdinand Ferber. After his military service in 1905 he worked on airships under the airship pioneer Surcouf.

He built flying model airplanes, some motorized, in his spare time and entered competitions. In June 1908 this paid off in a big way when he won a competition organized by the Aero Club of France. The top prize was a full-scale build of that aeroplane design.

However, Paulhan’s design ended up being sooooo complex to build, that the Aero Club of France instead eventually offered him a real Voisin airframe – sans (without) the engine.

With help from family and friends, Paulhan managed to purchase an engine for his Voisin plane, and taught himself to fly, achieving his pilot’s license on August 17, 1909 – the 10th ever issued by the Aero-Club de France. Maybe that’s why he’s so happy in the above photo.

After his successes on the Voisin during the 1909 meetings, he became a Farman pilot. He flew successfully in aviation meets in several countries, setting a world altitude record in Los Angeles of 1,209 meters (~3,967 feet) and winning the Daily Mail London-Manchester prize after an epic flight, beating Claude Grahame-White. He was also a seaplane pioneer, being one of the first to fly the Fabre seaplane.

Paulhan performed at various aeroplane meets:

  • Douai 1909 -in a Voisin setting an altitude record of 150 meters (~492 feet), and a duration record of one hour and seven minutes flying 47 kilometers (29.2 miles) Tissandier and Paulhan raced each other in their Wright Flyer and Voisin aeroplanes, respectively.
  • Vichy 1909 – in a Voisin on July 22, 19019, and unable to make a test flight on the uneven field thanks to two days of high winds, he could not properly adjust his aeroplane’s tail which had come out of trim during transport to the event. At around 7PM he took off while Tissandier was already in the air to compete for the “Grand Prix de Vichy” –  a FF16,000 francs prize “Prix de la Ville de Vichy”, consisting of a 20-kilometer (12.43 mile) race over 12 laps of the 1.666 km (1.036 miles) lap course. For three minutes and nearly three laps, the two planes raced each other… and while Paulhan was ahead by about 300-400 meters at the start of the actual race, he was eventually caught by Tissandier in his faster Wright Flyer aeroplane. Paulhan was soon forced to land. Paulhan made another flight later that day, ending up with the completion of nine laps. Tissandier later had mechanical issues and sat out the rest of the air meet. The next day while vying for the “Prix de la Traversée de l’Allier”, a four-kilometer race outside the airfield crossing the river twice, Paulhan had mechanical problems and was forced to land on a small island in the river. Both pilot and the plane were rescued by boat and Paulhan was back in the air soon afterwards.On July 24, Paulhan won the event in exactly five minutes. On July 25, disaster struck the event in the form of Mother Nature. The main grandstand was blown over completely and a couple of the hangars collapsed. Tissandier’s plane was wrecked when the roof and doors of the hangar fell over it and the mechanics working on it. Paulhan’s Voisin had its left wing broken. “De Rue”‘s hangar was completely lifted from the ground and moved one and a half meter. The left wing and the tail of the plane were crushed. Those who fled the hangars ended up in even bigger danger, since corrugated roofing panels were flying everywhere. The total damages were estimated to 50,000 francs. The rest of the meeting was cancelled and the results were based on the flights that had taken place so far. This meant that Tissandier and Paulhan split the prize money, with Tissandier winning everything except the cross-country race over the Allier.
  • Reims 1909
  • Spa 1909
  • Port-Aviation October 1909
  • Blackpool 1909
  • Los Angeles 1910
  • Lyon 1910, flying a Farman III, Paulhan broke the speed record, traveling 20 kilometers in 19 minutes, and weight record by carrying a 73-kilogram (161 lb) passenger.
  • Budapest 1910.

After a crash flight at Reims, he was invited to perform at the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet, bringing with him two Bleriot Monoplanes and two Farman III biplanes to use.

At the Los Angeles Air Meet, Paulhan set a new altitude 1,269 meters (4,164 feet) and a new endurance record (1 hour 49 minutes and 40 seconds). Paulhan received $14,000 in prize money for his record setting performances at the event.

At this meet, Paulhan was responsible for taking famed American newspaper man William Randolph Hearst on his first aeroplane ride.

Paulhan also piloted U.S. Army Lt. Paul Beck, who essentially performed the first bomb tests by dropping weights at markers located on the ground during the flight.

William Boeing was in attendance at that Los Angeles Air Meet in 1910.

In 1909, while president of the Greenwood Timber Company, Boeing, who had experimented with boat design, traveled to Seattle and visited the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. Seeing a manned aeroplane for the first time, he became very much intrigued by the flying machines.

Traveling to the Los Angeles Air Meet in 1910, Boeing approached several of the aviators to beg for a ride in one of their aeroplanes – everyone said no… except for Paulhan.

Paulhan told him he would give him a ride, but asked him to be patient because of his participation in the races at the event. But after four days of waiting, Paulhan left forgetting his promise to William Boeing.

Undaunted, Boeing decided to take lessons at the Glenn L. Martin Flying School in Los Angeles, purchasing one of Martin’s planes. Glenn L. Martin would form the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912 to build aeroplanes… it eventually merging with American-Marietta Corporation in 1961, which later merged into Lockheed Martin Corporation in 1995.

So… Paulhan…. he really missed out. We could have been seeing the Lockheed Paulhan Corporation.

In February of 1910, the lawsuit that the Wright Brothers had against Paulhan for patent infringement re: aeilerons, came due, with Paulhan being told he had to pay US$25,000 for every paid display of his Farman aeroplanes… which naturally ticked Paulhan off causing him to cancel his own tour of the U.S. and to fly to New York to challenge the Wright Brothers by offering flights for free.

During the Los Angeles Air Meet of 1910 between January 10-20, Paulhan had heard rumblings of the Wright Brothers and their lawsuit… which is thought to be the main reason why Paulhan left the meet so quickly at its closure… which why he stiffed Mr. Boeing and his offer of an aeroplane ride.

In March of 1910, another agreement was reached allowing Paulhan to fly exhibitions in his Farman III biplane if he paid a then $6,000 a week bond, pending the outcome of the case.

Paulhan eventually had enough of the U.S. and left for France.

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In April of 1910, Paulhan won the £10,000 prize offered for flying from London to Manchester, England, in less than 24 hours.

He also received £5,000 for the greatest number of flights taken in 1910.

Paulhan continued to perform in air meets throughout Europe, started a flight school in France, was involved in designing triplanes for the French military.

Still in 1910, Paul flew the seaplane Hydravion designed by Henri Fabre.

It was at this time, that he also began to design his own aircraft, creating the Paulhan Biplane in association with Fabre, and a triplane that was flown at the 1911 French military aircraft trials competition, and the Aéro-Torpille in association with Victor Tatin.

In February 1912, he opened a seaplane flying school in Villefranche-sur-Mer before moving to Arcachon, France.

As for the 1910 Paulhan Biplane, it was constructed of wood and covered with fabric. It used a Gnome engine, an first flew at Saint-Cyr-l’Ecole, near Paris, on November 5, 1910, piloted by Albert Caillé, and apparently flew quite well.

The British Army ordered an example and in early January of 1911, Caillé successfully put it through a series of tests at Buc, near Paris.

The British Army said that if they were to pay for it, the aeroplane needed to:

  • be able to fly for  two hours with a pilot and passenger;
  • carry 441 pounds (200 kilograms) of ballast, in a 25 miles per hour (40 kilometer per hour wind;
  • make a gliding flight with the engine stopped from a height of 626 feet (200 meters).

Holy crap – it did as it was required… and the British Army accepted it on January 11, 1911.

A similar-looking 1910 Paulhan Triplane was also built by Paulhan in 1910—a wooden frame covered in fabric.

Paulhan-Tatin Aéro-Torpille No.1

Paulhan-Tatin Aéro-Torpille No.1.jpg

The Aero-Torpille No. 1 (above) was designed and built by Paulhan and Victor Tatin, a scientist who had experimented with various types of flying models and in 1879 had made the first model aircraft to take off under its own power.

From Wikipedia:

The aircraft had a streamlined circular section fuselage which entirely enclosed the 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome rotary engine, which drove a pusher configuration propeller mounted at the back of the fuselage, connected to the engine by a long driveshaft. The structure of the fuselage was a conventional square-section wire-braced wood structure, outside which were circular formers bearing a series of stringers to support the fabric covering. Initially a universal joint was fitted at the engine end of the driveshaft, but in tests the girder construction of the fuselage proved rigid enough for this not to be necessary, and the long tube forming the driveshaft was simply held by six ballraces attached to the structure by wires, to eliminate whip. The section of the fuselage containing the engine was covered by louvred aluminium panels, removable for maintenance of the engine. The wings had curved leading and trailing edges, were tapered in planform and were curved upwards at the wing tips. Flight loads were transmitted to the bottom of the fuselage by a pair of steel ribbons on either side. The rearmost of these also operated the wing warping for lateral control. The pilot sat immediately in front of the leading edge of the wing. Even the undercarriage was of novel design, consisting of a pair of semi-circular lengths of hickory, hinged at the front and attached to the fuselage by bungee cords and bearing a pair of wheels whose spokes were covered. Tail surfaces consisted of a fixed tailplane with trailing-edge elevators and a small rectangular balanced rudder.

Specifications of the Aero-Torpille No. 1:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 9 meter (28 feet);
  • Wingspan: 9 meter (28 feet);
  • Wing area: 13 meters2 (140 square feet);
  • Empty weight: 363 kilograms (800 pounds);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Gnome 7 Omega 7-cylinder air-cooled rotary piston engine, 37 kW (50 horsepower);
  • Propellers: Two-bladed Régy Frères, 2.4 meter (8 foot) diameter.

The aircraft was flown during October 1911 and in February achieved a measured speed of 150 km/h (93 mph). In March it was sold to the Italian aviator Signor Bosse.

In the autumn of 1910 Paulhan became a builder and designer before building Curtiss seaplanes under license. When his businesses failed in 1913 he was employed by the Serbian government to develop aviation in that country.

During WWI, he was drafted as a lieutenant and flew combat missions in Serbia and worked as a test pilot. After the war he continued designing seaplanes. He also worked in the surface-treatment industry and with the Dewoitine company.

In 1927, Paulhan was a co-founder of the company Société Continentale Parker in France together with Robert Deté, Enea Bossi and Pierre Prier. The purpose was to transfer surface treatment technologies for the growing aerospace industry to Europe. They started with a license from Parker Rust-Proof of Detroit (Parkerizing or phosphating) and in a later step with the distribution rights of Udylite Corp. for specialty chemicals in electroplating. The company’s successor organizations, Chemetall GmbH and Coventya GmbH, later became the European market leaders in surface treatment.

He retired from aviation in 1937, when his son, a test pilot, was killed in an accident.

In 1960, at the age of 77, Paulhan was invited by Air France to be one of the passengers on its inaugural nonstop flight from Paris to Los Angeles.

He died on February 10th, 1963 in St-Jean-de-Luz in south-western France and is buried in Pézenas.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, People, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wills’s Aviation Card #65 – M. Henri Farman.

65F 001.jpg

History Behind The Card: M. Henri Farman.

Card #65 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue

  • Henri (Henry) Farman, May 26, 1874 in Paris, France — July 17, 1958, Paris, France;
  • Maurice (Morris) Alain Farman, March 21, 1877 in Paris, France — February 25, 1964 in Paris, France;
  • Richard (Dick) Farman, XX, 1872 (Can’t confirm specific date – HELP?), in Paris, France — January 31, 1940, Paris, France.

Because Henri Farman was one of the more famous, and rightly-so, pioneers of aviation he appears multiple times in the card series, as well as referenced by myself in the whole Pioneers Of Aviation blog site.

An excellent such example is HERE Card #41 of the series.

As such, why reinvent the wheel? I’ve borrowed heavily from that blog article.

Henry Farman was born in Paris, France—but his family was British… so depending on who is doing the recollecting, Farman’s name is either Henry (British) or Henri (French).

Because his family was British and living in France, I would suspect that Henri was born as Henry… but in order to fit in with the French children, probably became Henri at some point in time.

At that point in time in history, if your British parents said you were British even if you were born in France—you were British.

Actually, Farman’s dad was British, and his mother was French… but with Europe being highly patriarchal in those days, what the father said is all that mattered.

So… no matter how French Farman may have thought he was with his cool “Henri” name, Farman’s dad said he was British.


Henry/Henri/Hank Farman.

As such, Henri/Henry Farman was actually a British citizen until he finally became an ‘onest-too-gosh Frenchman in 1937…. just in time to become German a couple of years later (if you know your European history).

Farman’s British father was a newspaper correspondent… and since he was married to a French woman, and their son was born there, we can assume that Papa Farman was a foreign correspondent in France. D’uh, eh.

I have no proof, but it seems self-evident.

Lucky British bugger that Papa Farman was, his French wife’s family came from  pretty decent money, which means that Henri/Henry Farman didn’t really have to do any real work.

He decided, when he was old enough, to become an amateur sportsman.

Even in the 1900s, professional sports were still somehow seen as corrupt and unethical. Many is the time that they were.

Farman first pedaled his way to becoming a champion bicyclist in the 1890s before moving up into motorcycle racing in the 1900s, racing for Renault in the Gordon Bennnet Cup.

In 1907, when the Société Anonyme des Aéroplanes G. Voisin (Voisin aircraft manufacturing company) began constructing aeroplanes, the thrill-seeking Farman ordered a Voisin 1907 Biplane (an exact copy of one already built for French pilot Ferdinand Léon Delagrange).


The 1907 Voisin aeroplane flown by Farman—called the Voisin-Farman I— flying in 1908.

In this 1907 Voisin, Farman would became one of the era’s most famous pilots on the planet, setting record after record for distance and duration, including:

  • first to fly a complete circuit of one kilometer on January 13, 1908, winning a 50,000 franc Grand Prix d’Aviation award;
  • First to fly two kilometers on March 21, 1908;
  • First to fly with a passenger (Leon Delagrange) on March 29, 1908. Some say Wilbur Wright achieved this first with Charles Fumas as passenger on May 14, 1908 – argue amongst yourselves and let me know why one is more correct… but Farman was two months earlier… ;
  • First cross country flight in Europe frying from Châlons to Reims, France – a 27 kilometer trip – in 20 minutes.

This was all in the 1907 Voisin Biplane that was also known as the Voisin-Farman I. The aeroplanes were known by the Voisin moniker, and then by the person’s name they were sold to, and then a number, denoting how many that pilot might have owned.

Of course, the very famous Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft calls this aeroplane the Voisin II (mostly because it was built after the Voisin I owned and flown by Delagrange. Regardless, Voisin built about 60 of these aircraft.

Farman, by the way, personally modified his aeroplane to improve performance. So impressive were his modifications, that Voisin added them to later version of his aircraft.

I should point out that when Farman first flew with a passenger on March 29, 1908, first flew two kilometers on March 21, 1908, and was the fist to fly a one kilometer circuit on January 13, 1908… no one outside of a few people had any idea that the Wright Brothers had made the first aeroplane  flight some four+ years earlier in December of 1903.

Or that Albertos Santos-Dumont flew his 14-bis aircraft some 25 meters as early as October 23, 1906.

All that secrecy Orville & Wilbur Wright… just to secure a military deal before everyone else… meanwhile… others are taking their successful designs and moving farther and farther ahead.

Come on! You boys were bicycle manufacturers and sellers… put some damn wheels on your aeroplane!

65R 001.jpgBack to Farman…

In 1909, Farman opened up a flying school at Châlons-sur-Marne, France with (George) Bertram Cockburn as his first student… a person I will do a biography on soon enough.


Henri Farman (left) and Gabriel Voisin.

Now… Farman really loved his Voisin aeroplane… but man was he pissed when Voisin founder Gabriel Voisin took an aeroplane that was supposed to be sold to Farman—that was had designed to Farman’s specifications—and instead sold the aircraft to J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon (who used the aircraft to perform the first officially-recognized aeroplane flight in England on May 2, 1909. Moore-Brabazon named his aeroplane the Bird of Passage.

Farman was rightly ticked off at Voisin, and caused him to start up his own aeroplane manufacturing business called Avions Farman (Farman Aviation Works).

The very first aeroplane designed and built there was the Farman III – a highly successful machine.


The Farman III.

Farman III Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Capacity: 1;
  • Length: 12 meters (39 feet 4½ inches);
  • Wingspan: 10 meters (33 feet 9¾ inches);
  • Height: 3.5 meters (11 feet 6 inches);
  • Wing Area: 40 square meters (430.56 square feet);
  • Gross Weight: 550 kilograms (1213 pounds);
  • Engine: 1x Gnome Omega 7-cylinder rotary engine @ 50 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 60 kilometers per hour (37 miles per hour)

I should point out that Henry’s brother Maurice (Morris? – I assume that since he, too, was born in Paris and his dad was still British, he could have actually been British or French) had earlier constructed his own biplane in February of 1909 – and like Henri’s, was also based on the 1907 Voisin Biplane.


The Maurice Farman MF.1 biplane. Photo found at – very, very good historical aviation website.

The Maurice Farman MF.1 biplane had a pilot’s nacelle and used a Renault inline motor. Henri’s Farman III did not have a nacelle, and used a Gnome engine built by the Société des Moteurs Gnome. Henri and Maurice only began to work together in 1912.

How good was the Farman III? Others copied his design (copied initially from Voisin), but called it the Farman type, and were soon copied in Britain for the Bristol Boxkite, Short S.27 and the Howard Wright 1910 biplane (not related to the Wright Bros… but one of these aircraft was used by Thomas Sopwith (he of the famous Sopwith Camels).

The Farman III was also built in Germany (legally) as the Albatros F-2 by Albatros FlugzeugWerke.

If you want to find out more about this plane, go to my blog on Card #41.

Later, on November 3, 1909, the Farman III flew 232 kilometers in 4 hours-17 minutes-53 seconds at Mourmelon-le-Grand.

Before the Reims meeting, the very first Farman III biplane sold was to Roger Sommer who after learning to fly, two months later set the French endurance record of one hour, 50 minutes and later two hours and 27 minutes and 15 seconds… Farman himself smashed these records at Reims. Sommer became an aircraft builder later, initially borrowing heavily from the Farman III.

The Farman III aeroplanes in all their incarnations also became know for their speed in the early days, with many pilots winning trophies, but really… this was a long-distance flyer.

As for Farman and the Farman Aviation Works family business he ran with brothers Maurice and eldest Richard (Dick), they continued to design and build aircraft from 1908 through 1936, at which time France nationalized its aeronautical industry taking the Farman business (as well as Hanriot company) and placing it within the then just formed SNAC (the Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Centre, sometimes known as Aérocentre).

Farman Brothers.jpg

The Farman Brothers (from left): Richard, Henri and Maurice Farman.

Maurice and Henri Farman retired at this time.

The SNAC was later liquidated at the conclusion of WWII, with assets distributed.

In 1941 the Farman brothers reestablished the firm as the Société Anonyme des Usines Farman (SAUF), but only three years later it was absorbed by Sud-Ouest. Maurice’s son, Marcel Farman, reestablished the SAUF in 1952, but it wasn’t successful and closed its doors in 1956.

The Farman brothers designed and built more than 200 types of aircraft between 1908 and 1941, and even built cars until 1931.

If you are wondering why I never mentioned the Farman II aircraft… well… remember the airplane designed by Farman and sold by the Voisin company to Moore-Brabazon? That was to have been the Farman II.

Farman died in 1958 and is buried in the  Cimetière de Passy in Paris.

Posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Aviation Art, Concepts, Firsts, Heavier-Than-Air, Motors and Engines, People, Pilots, Tobacco Card | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wills’s Aviation Card #64 – Mr. Claude Grahame-White.

Claude Grahame-White F.jpgHistory Behind The Card: Mr. Claude Grahame-White.

Card #64 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Claude Grahame-White, August 21, 1879 in Bursledon, Hampshire, England, Great Britain – August 19, 1959 in Nice, France.

Claude Grahame-White was the type of aviator that ticked off the Wright Brothers.

With this card – No. 64, Wills’s Aviation card series of 1911 began to include biographical cards of some of the more famous aviators. Claude Grahame-White was the first.

Along with his fame as an aviator – he was the first to make a night flight – he also formed his own aviation company, and helped promote the aviation field with penned articles and books.

A handsome man, Grahame-White was not tremendously educated, but after learning how to drive a car in 1895–a big deal at the time–he apprenticed as an engineer and soon started his own motor building company.


What I love about the photo of Claude Grahame-White above, is the fact that he is wearing the same chapeau as depicted on the Wills’s card – and quite possibly the same bow tie, complete with white polka dots. The same type of collar on the shirt is also evident, but the Card depicts him wearing an aviator-style overcoat.

It was his swagger, his lifestyle and his love of self-publicity more than anything, a public darling.

Let’s face it, if no one has seen you or heard you talk, you tend to fade from public view… Grahame-White didn’t… at least until he stopped his self-promoting.

The Wright Brothers—despite being pioneers of heavier than air flight, they preferred keeping their innovation a secret for years… and when they did speak about aviation they weren’t exactly thought of as exciting.

Think about this… who invented television? Right. But we all know who shot JR, the plot of every Seinfeld episode, or just when Happy Days jumped the shark.

It was professor Farnsworth – immortalized in Futurama by name only, by the way.

While the Wright Brothers viewed Grahame-White as a huckster… a snake-oil salesman of self-promotion, he thought that while they were fantastic for being the first in the air with an aeroplane, he thought they were greedy SOBs for their penchant for suing everyone and every company that dared build their own version of an aeroplane.

I agree with Grahame-White in this case. There’s a reason why the Wright Brothers are rightly praised for being the first… but they hardly propelled aviation further as the years went on.

I mean come on! Even though these guys were bicycle builders, they never thought of putting wheels on their aeroplanes until 1910-19143 Model B, their seventh aeroplane design.

Anyhow… Grahame-White did meet Wilbur Wright when the latter visited France in 1908. He described Wilbur Wright as an “ascetic, gaunt American with watchful, hawklike eyes.”

Big whoop, except that the implication is that Wilbur was someone very careful of his invention.

Still, after seeing Wilbur Wright actually fly, he decided to focus his drive on aviation.

He had used fast cars and fast boats to capture the attention of fast women, and correctly guessed that aviation would be a great way to get into the mile-high club then known as the 500-meter club.

However, after pilot Louis Blériot first crossed the English Channel in 1909 (see my story HERE), he became intrigued by aviation – so much so that he traveled to France for an opportunity to see the 1909 Reims aviation meet (see HERE and HERE), the first aviation meet, where he met Blériot and decided to enroll in his flying school.

Or did he?

I also found a story that makes a lot of sense… that he after ordering an aeroplane from Louis Blériot’s factory in France, he taught himself to fly all by his lonesome.

Apparently Grahame-White was impressed by the power of the press who wrote about him and gave hims such much sought after fame for his solo-teaching method.

So he hired a pres agent in 1910 and told him to tell everyone in Great Britain and the foreign press every time he was to fly.

So which story is correct?

Well, the guy is a shameless self-promoter!

I would say he visited Reims, met Blériot and learned how to fly in France.

He may have said that he never took a flying lesson in England, and the press may have assumed then that he was self-taught, probably reasoning that no one would ever find out the truth, and by then – who cares?

We do know that he was awarded Royal Aero Club certificate No. 6 in April of 1910 making him the sixth qualified pilot in England.

Later in April, Grahame-White became the local celebrity in England as he and French aviator Louis Paulham challenged to be the first to pilot an aeroplane from London to Manchester, England – with a £10,000 prize offered by the British Daily Mail newspaper.

Consider that Blériot only won a £1,000 from the Daily Mail for being the first to pilot an aeroplane across the English Channel in 1909, this £10,000 prize shows just how much money the newspaper figured to make on the promotion of the new and very popular aviation industry.

The rules of that first flight between London and Manchester was simply to do so within 24 hours – allowing for fuel refills, expected aircraft break-downs and more.

While Paulham won the prize, Grahame-White’s efforts were lauded by the British press and natives who were starving for local homegrown success.

Claude Grahame-White R.jpg

A few months later on July 2, 1910, Grahame-White won £1,000 as the first prize for Aggregate Duration in Flight while at the Midlands Aviation Meeting at Wolverhampton, England.

Grahame-White flew his Farman III biplane for a total of one hour-and 23-minutes and 20-seconds.

Grahame-White’s exploits didn’t go unnoticed in the U.S.

J.V. Martin of the Harvard Aeronautical Society traveled to Europe in the summer of 1910 to entice aviators to come and fly in the Boston-Harvard Meet.

Guess who was top of his European list? To get Grahame-White, he promised him a US$50,000 retainer and all expenses paid.

Arriving in Bohstan on September 1, 1910 amidst a phallanx of reporters and fans, a female journalist wrote to Boston’s men to be careful if they took their women to the airshow: “For before you know it these hearts may be fluttering along at the tail of an airplane wherein sits a daring and spectacular young man who has won the title of the matinee idol of the aviation field–Claude Grahame-White.”

Perhaps egged on by the media report, women at the Meet were “fighting” to try and get a ride in the sky with the dashing Grahame-White.

Proving that he cared more for money than women—and that’s saying something—Grahame-White charged all comers US$500 for a flight lasting five minutes.


And I’m too sexy for my hat, what do you think about that? $500, please… now get out! Next!

But Grahame-White wasn’t in America just to pick up women and make money, he also wanted to make more money by winning events at the event – probably so he could pick up more women.

He won the so-called blue ribbon event at the Boston-Harvard Meet that involved flying 33-miles from the airfield to Boston Light (in Boston Harbor), which netted him US$10,000.

The amount of money that Grahame-White made on this Boston jaunt staggers my 2017 brain, as I struggle from paycheck to paycheck hoping the gas station won’t get out its hired goons, Leaded and Unleaded, to get their money.

U.S. president William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States of America (1909–1913), attended the event, but deigned not to put his too heavy 250lb body into the aeroplane when Grahame-White offered to take him up for free.

Another free invite was offered to Boston Mayor John Fitzgerald—he was John F. Kennedy’s grandfather (JFK wasn’t born until May 29, 1917)—who did agree to go up, and had a grand time. Days later, Fitzy (c’mon, you know he was called that) gave Grahame-White a silver trophy inscribed with: “From Boston Friends, in admiration of your skill and sportsmanship as an aviator.”

From Boston, next up, was the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup. Beginning in 1906, the event was one just for balloonists.


By 1909, an event just for aeroplanes was started alongside the balloon event. Now Grahame-White did not enter that first aeroplane event, but he did enter the second one in 1910, held at the Belmont Park racetrack in New York.

The last event of the week-long aeroplane meet was the flying of 20 laps around a five-kilometer circuit. It wasn’t a race, per se, rather it was a time trial.

The event allowed for a pilot to take-off at any time during a seven-hour period on the day of the race.

Claude Grahame-White was first to take off at 8:42AM in his Blériot XI that used a 100 horsepower Gnome Double Omega motor made by Société des Moteurs Gnome. The standard Gnome Omega offered 50 horsepower, but this version provided double the horsepower, but did add additional weight to the flying craft.

Grahame-White completed his first lap in 3-minutes 15-seconds.

How fast was he? Well, next up in the air was Alec Ogilvie flying a Wright Model R at 9:08 and Alfred Leblanc at 9:20 for the first lap.

Leblanc, was the chief pilot for the Blériot company, and flew the same plane as Grahame-White, but slightly modified with a different propeller and a reduced wingspan.

Leblanc’s aircraft was clearly faster: after four laps his time was 1 minute 20 seconds better than Grahame-White’s and he completed his 19th lap after 52 minutes 49.6 seconds in the air.

Grahame-White, having started first, finished his 20th and final lap in a total time of 1-hour, 1-minute and 4.47-seconds.

So…to win, all Leblanc had to do was finish the last five kilometer circuit in around nine-and-a-half minutes… which aside from his opening lap was very easy to do.

But that’s why they make you finish the entire race. Half-way round the last lap Leblanc’s engine stopped, either through fuel shortage or the breakage of a fuel line, and he had to make a forced landing. He actually collided with a telegraph pole some distance away, but wasn’t too badly hurt.

Ogilvie had only been able to do 13 laps before engine problems forced him to land… but it took him 54 minutes to fix the problem before he took to the air again. He eventually finished the race in a total time of 2-hours, 26-minutes and 36.6 seconds.

Proving that nice guys DO finish last, Walter Brooks in his Wright Baby Grand was about to take off in his attempt when Leblanc crashed, and decided to fly to the scene of the accident to see if he could help.

While en route, a connecting rod broke and his aircraft was wrecked in the subsequent forced landing. He was unhurt.

Hubert Latham in his Antoinette aeroplane took off at 10:59AM, but his attempt was plagued by engine failures, and he spent about four hours on the ground making repairs, eventually completing the course in 5-hours, 48-minutes and 53 seconds.

Shortly before the latest permitted takeoff time John Drexel and John Moisant, both flying Blériot IXs, started their attempts.

While Drexel only managed seven laps, Moisant did the 20-lap course but having to land a few times to correct his engine issues, he finished in a time of 1-hour, 57-minutes and 44.8-seconds – good enough for second place.

Grahame-White won. Huzzah!

Grahame-White was a real spokesman for the very young aviation industry, drumming up business with his flying stills and daredevil antics, such as on October 14, 1910 when he flew his Farman III over Washington, DC and landing on West Executive Avenue near the White House.

It’s cool – he knows the president.


Claude Grahame-White in his Farman III biplane about to land on West Executive Avenue in Washington, DC.

In November of 1910, Grahame-White was hanging out in the U.S. courting American actress Pauline Chase (Courting? That’s media political correctness. This guy didn’t have to court anyone. “I wanna woo!”).

Unfortunately, a different type of courting was in Grahame-White’s cards.

Near the end of the month, just days before his scheduled departure back to Great Britain (courting – hah!), those evil Wright Brothers filed a suit against Grahame-White claiming he had infringed on their patent—pick one—summoning him to appear before a judge.

The Wright Brothers wanted a full accounting of Grahame-White’s earnings in America—all $82,000.

Needless to say, Grahame-White thumbed his nose at America’s judicial system and the Wright Brothers, and skipped out of the country on an earlier ship.

When he arrived back in England, the brave Grahame-White laughed to reporters that “the Wrights are frightened. I’ve scared them so bloody well that they are terrified. I’m their most formidable competitor and they know it.”

On December 18, 1910, Grahame-White was hurt after crashing his aeroplane trying to win a $20,000 prize for the longest non-stop flight from England to the European mainland… and while in the hospital, he continued to hear about other pilots dying, which made him ponder his own mortality.

Not buying into that live fast-die young crap, Grahame-White quit competitive flying and put his money into his own company: the Grahame-White Aviation Company founded in 1911, as well as creating London’s first aerodrome at Hendon.

Aircraft built by the Grahame-White Aviation Company included (and taken from Wikipedia):

In 1911 he established a flying school at Hendon Aerodrome. In 1912 Grahame-White gave famed author H.G. Wells his first flight. Some of the books Wells has written that I have read include: The Time Machine; The Invisible Man; The War of the Worlds; The Island of Doctor Moreau; and The First Men in the Moon. If you haven’t read them, I recommend you do. Doctor Moreau is especially thrilling.

It was also around this time, that Grahame-White worked to promote the application of the aeroplane within the military with a campaign called “Wake Up Britain”. He was also involved with experimenting with fitting various weapons and bombs to aircraft.

During the war (then known as The Great War), he flew the first night patrol mission against an expected German raid on September 5, 1914.
The Aerodrome was lent to the British Admiralty in 1916, and eventually taken over by the British Royal Air Force in 1919.
In 1919, Grahame-White co-founded Aerofilms and Surveys Limited, which was Britain’s first commercial aerial photography company. It was founded with Francis Lewis Wills and Herbert William Matthews.
In 1925, Grahame-White sold the Hendon Aerodrome to the RAF (to the British Government, actually) for $1-million in 1925. Yes… that much money.
The truth of this sale, however is that Grahame-White had only lent the Aerodrome to the RAF, and with the war over wanted it back for himself. The RAF, however, didn’t want to give it back, and instead, after a lengthy legal battle forced him to sell it to them.
It was around the tine that he sold the Hendon Aerodrome that Grahame-White began to tire of aviation, soured on it because of how poorly he felt the RAF and the British Government had treated him by forcing the sale.
Still…. $1-million.
He moved to Nice, France but continued to be involved in property development in the U.S. and U.K., making a considerable fortune for himself.
He died in 1959 in France, but is interned at Golders Green Crematorium in the Barnet borough in London, England.


As for his former Hendon Aerodrome… well, it was renamed RAF Hendron and was used until the 1960s. After that, the land was sold and redeveloped into a housing development called Grahame Park… obviously an homage to Grahame-White.

An original World War I Grahame-White aircraft factory hangar was relocated a few years ago to the RAF Museum, where it houses the museum’s World War I collection and is named the Grahame White Factory.
While most of Grahame-White’s exploits at the beginning of the aviation age might nowadays be considered pretty minor, it is important to note that his flamboyant good looks and brashness and willingness to thumb his nose at the stodgy Wright Brothers was great news for the media.
His ability to create headlines for the aviation segment while the Wright’s preferred to keep things “dignified” worked out extremely well for Grahame-White.
Sure the Wright Brothers are better know today than Grahame-White, but I doubt they had as much fun as Grahame-White did, and would be curious to learn who actually made more money between 1910-1925.
While the Wright’s were the first to fly a heavier-than-air machine, and plenty of other pilots pushed development of the aircraft, it was Grahame-White who got the adulation from the average person.
He made it sexy and fun. Not a bad way to have lived one’s life.


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Wills’s Aviation Card #63 – The Etrich Monoplane

Etrich F 001.jpgHistory Behind The Card: The Etrich Monoplane

Card #63 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Green back issue

  •  Igo (Ignaz) Etrich, December 25, 1879, in Trutnov, Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic)February 4, 1967, Salzburg, Austria.
  • Franz Xaver Wels, February 10, 1873 in Maribor, Slovenia – October 18, 1940, Wien, Austria.

First things first. I already did card No. 63 of the Wills’s Aviation series, but that was for the Black back cards.

The Capstan Navy Cut backs of the 75-card series came in both a Black and a Green back series… while most of the cards were identical, some like the Green series offered a completely different card featuring a completely different topic.

Card No. 63 of the Green Back series is one such example. It’s not one of my prettier cards. Finding the 75- and 85-card series is always a challenge, and finding them in good shape is even more so. Finding the green-backed cards… well… it just seems to be even more difficult.

By the way, I’m going to set up a Trade Shop soon, where aviation card collectors need not worry about paying stupidly high prices in shipping or for the card themselves… we just trade… one for one… to help each other complete our collections.

I figure I’ll post images of the cards I have for trade, you tell me what you want, I’ll tell you what I’m after, and then we trust each other to post the card safely. We pay our own shipping costs to send the card to each other. Easy-peasy. No one gets ripped off.

Back to this card:


Is it just me, but does Igo Etrich look a lot like Bud Abbott (of Abbott & Costello)?

Igo Etrich is the designer of the Etrich Monoplane… born in the Czech Republic to a textile manufacturing father (Ignaz Etrich – 1839-1927), Etrich was, in fact, an Austrian.

A pioneer in the early days of aviation (obviously, the Wills’s card is from 1911), Etrich’s monoplane (fixed wing) designs utilized wings shaped like a bird’s wings.

An unorthodox design all around as biplanes were thought to be more stable in the air than monoplanes, the Etrich wings were slightly swept back and turned upward. The tail (note that there is no vertical) was also designed to look like a bird’s tail.

The aeroplane’s model was nicknamed “Taube“, a German word for “dove”.

Along with the wings, the wheels and skid mount at the front of the aircraft were all cable-braced together to the fuselage to provide additional stability – you can see that in the image above.

Anyhow… let’s see what we can discover about Etrich himself first.

We know that his father owned a textile factory, so we can assume the family had some money, which was how he was able to attend schools in Leipzig.

It was at school that he learned of the glider work of the famed Otto Lillenthal.

The elder Etrich also became intrigued by gliders and with his son they constructed their own glider laboratory to study and experiment with flight.

Igo Etrich was also intrigued by birds and how they flew, and felt that using wings curved like a birds would create better lift for their gliders. But they didn’t build any gliders in this form at this time.

When Lillenthal died in 1896, Etrich’s father purchased two of the gliders for their studying: Sturmflügelapparat” (storm wing apparatus)  and “Flügelschlagapparat” (flapping/flying apparatus).

A year later in 1897 the Etrich’s read about a scientific paper by a Professor Ahlborn who described the see of the Zanonian macrocarpa—now known as the Alsomitra macrocarpa or Javan cucumber (see below)—that when detached from the plant would glide through the air.


Dad and son Etrich attempted to build a glider in 1900/1901, but were unsuccessful in their attempts of flight.


Franz Wels in 1908.

Igo Etrich and Franz Xaver Wels decided they would design and construct an unmanned glider based on this cucumber seed—eventually getting it to fly successfully in 1904.

Subsequent attempts to motorize it with an engine he purchased failed to get it to fly as an aeroplane, but a manned non-powered glider version did successfully fly in 1906.


Etrich-Wels “Leaf” glider in 1906. Image from Flying Wings:

In the Wiener Prater district in Vienna in 1907, Etrich set up a second experimental aviation laboratory.


1908 Etrich Nurflugel. Image from Flying Wings:

He designed and built the Etrich “Nurflügel” (Flying Wing) tractor monoplane in 1907-8, and the Etrich Taube (Dove) tractor monoplane in 1909.

The Flying Wing had its first flight attempt on October 2, 1907, flying a distance of 225 (~738 feet) meters at a height of between 15-17 meters (~49-56 feet).

Later that year (1909), he built the Praterspatz (Prater Park Sparrow) – also known as Etrich I, an improved version of the Dove.

But because the aircraft was using an under-powered 24-horsepower motor, the aeroplane was unsuccessful.

He set up two hangars at the newly developed Wienr Neustadt airfield later in 1909, and working with partner Franz Wels they improved the Etrich I by adding a stronger engine.

It flew.

It used foot adjustable side rudders for control, and added a car’s steering wheel to act as a steering horn to provide height control.

By 1910, Etrich had designed and built the Etrich II Taube (Dove) two-seater tractor (motor in front) monoplane. Monoplanes are fixed wing aircraft just like single wing aircraft we have today.

Problem arose between Etrich and co-designer Wels after the latter had traveled to Paris to see the Wright Brothers demonstrate their Wright Flyer. Wels believed that a biplane would be a better wing configuration, leading the two to dissolve their partnership.

The Etrich II Taube made its maiden flight in early 1910… but during a later test flight the plane crashed with Etrich as pilot, nearly breaking his back.

The scare, and perhaps the physical damage to his body allowed Etrich to name Karl Illmer as his test pilot.


Igo Etruch (left) and pilot Karl Illmer – 1912.

Thanks to the successful test flights, two things happened:

  1. The Austrian government wanted him to build them aeroplanes, so further refinements were made to the Etrich II Taube. The military wanted Etrich to ensure that the Taube could land safely on a freshly plowed field.
  2. Etrich signed a contract with German Edmund Rumpler allowing Rumpler the right to build the Taube II in Germany under the name of Etrich-Rumpler-Taube.

However, because the German patent office did not give Etrich a patent, it meant t hat anyone could use his designs to build the Taube for free.

So that’s what Rumpler did, having private companies construct the Taube II under the name of Rumpler-Taube. In fact, there are known to have been some 14 companies that built the Taube with some variations to each… and not a pfennig (German penny, essentially) going back to Igo Etrich. D’oh.


Go ahead… build your own 1913 Taube.


Rumpler claimed to be the designer of the Taube… so Etrich sued him, keeping the battle ongoing until WWI broke out in 1914, when he dropped the lawsuit and patriotically made his aviation design of the Taube available to anyone.

Even while this was going on, in 1912 Etrich founded Etrich Fliegerwerke in Liebau (now part of Poland) and designed an aircraft with the first fully-enclosed cabin for the passengers, which he named Luft-Limousine (aka Air Limousine or the Etrich VIII – yeah, I’m skipping some), The Luft Limousine was a four-seater high-wing monoplane. A German named Ernst Heinkel was in charge of the design office. 


The 4-seater Etrich Luft-Limousine… what a beautiful-looking aircraft! And this is 1912?!

Heinkel was one of Germany’s top aircraft designers through WWII – you might have heard of him. Excellent planes, good Nazi.

Etrich R 001.jpg

The caption reads: The most powerful machine in the “Daily Mail” Circuit of Britain second £10,000 prize. This monoplane was driven by Lieutenant Bier, who also carried a passenger. The wording at the reverse is choppy… and as such, the reader couldn’t be sure if the aeroplane won second place, or if this was the second Daily Mail contest. By the way… you’ll notice the offer for an album to hold these and other tobacco cards – the bane of the future collector, as people would glue them in, even though that meant you couldn’t read the back of the cards!

Let’s take a look at the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain… since these are cards issued in 1911, we can assume the contest was either in 1910 or early to mid-1911.

So… looking that up, we find that the Daily Mail Circuit of Britain was a British cross-country air race which took place from 1911 until 1914, with prizes donated by the Daily Mail newspaper.

The 1911 race took place on 22 July and was a 1,010 miles (1,630 km) event with 11 compulsory stops and a circular route starting and finishing at Brooklands in Surrey.

Look at the results, I see that the Etrich Taube II monoplane flown by  Lt. H. Bier did not do very well.


From 1913 Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft pubication.

The winner was Jean Conneau in a Blériot XI who took 22 hours, 28 minutes to complete the course at an average speed of 45 mph (72 km/h) and received the first prize of £10,000. The runner up was Jules Védrines in a Morane-Borel monoplane with James Valentine, in a Deperdussin coming third.

The Taube II was damaged during a landing at Codicote near Hatfield after suffering radiator problems.

That sucked… however, the Taube II was well-respected, at least in the media, because, as the reverse of the Wills’s card states, it carried a passenger… and was the only aircraft in the competition to do so, with Lt. Bier flying fellow officer Lt. C. Banfield.

The Wills’s card is also correct in calling the aeroplane powerful. It probably should have stated why.

The motor used on the Taube II was a 120 horsepower Beardmore, manufactured by William Beardmore, who had first designed and built it for then-Austrian car manufacturer Austro-Daimler. Chief engineer there was Ferdinand Porsche (yes, later founder of the Porsche automobile company), who also had a hand in fine tuning the 120 Beardmore motor.

From what I understand, after Lt. Bier crashed his Taube II in the race, the engine was kept and re-sold to Samuel Franklin Cody, who would use the engine to help him set a speed record in 1914.


A Taube II version from 1913.

By the way, these Taube II Dove aeroplanes were used by Germany and Austro-Hungary during WWI as an observation vehicle, and for training purposes. They had been used as fighters early on,  but their lack of speed relative to the enemy’s planes caused them to be merely training aircraft, with most all German pilots during the war receiving their initial training on a Taube/Dove.

However, back in 1911, the Taube was the first aeroplane used to drop bombs, doing so over the Balkans… and was the first in WWI over Paris in 1914.

Don’t get all excited, there was no bomb release door… the pilot or passenger would physically hold a bomb in their hands, lean over the side and bomb’s away.

According to Flying Wings blog, the Taube II Specifications are:

  • Width (wings): 46 feet 8 inches;
  • Length: 32 feet 4 inches;
  • Take-off Weight: 1,759 pounds;
  • Engine: 100/120 horsepower Mercedes water-cooled six-cylinder in-line (original); later a 200 horsepower Ranger water-cooled six-cylinder upright conversion (representation);
  • Maximum speed:  60 mph.

I can neither confirm nor deny these specs. My data shows the Taube used a 120 Beardmore engine from Austro-Daimler… Daimler was involved with Mercedes, who later partnered with Benz. That company is equally as convoluted when it comes to history.


A 1914 version of the Taube II.


In 1913, Etrich moved to Germany, and founded Brandenburgische Flugzeugwerke aeroplane manufacturing. In 1914, he sold the business to fellow Austrian banker and stock-market player Camillo Castiglioni, who moved the factory from Liebau (now Poland, but prior to WWI a part of teh German Republic) to Brandenburg an der Havel (Brandenburg, Germany), and took chief designer Ernst Heinkel with him.

Known commonly as Hansa-Brandenburg, by August of 1915, the company became Germany’s largest manufacturer of military aircraft, adding two more factories and employing over 1,000 people.

I can’t figure out just what Etrich was doing during WWI… but I can confirm that after it, he was working as the owner of a textile manufacturing plant and worked on developing a flax processing machine in Trautenau (now Trutnov), then of the newly-formed Czechoslovakia.

After WWI, Germans and Austrians, in particular, were forbidden from creating aviation in any format – part of their punishment for their role in the war.

Bitten by the aviation bug once again, Etrich thought, so it is claimed, that he would try to build and sell a low-cost aeroplane that could be used for low-cost transportation purposes.


The Etrich Sport-Taube was a very small plane, as you can see.

So he built the one-seater, closed cockpit Sport-Taube aircraft inside his textile factory, flying for the first time in 1929.

It used a small 40 horsepower engine, but it seemed to be more maneuverable and faster than any other aircraft the Czechoslovakian military had at that time.


Working with the military, the authorities said that Etrich had built the Sport-Taube as a means to perform smuggling operations and took the aircraft away from him.

Utterly fed up, Etrich never again designed or built another aeroplane again, concentrating instead on his textile business.

After WWII, his textile business expropriated, he moved back to northern Bohemia in October of 1946, settling in Niederbayern.

In and around 1955 he developed a high-speed stretch for fiber tapes used in the worsted yarn industry, that made him successful again.

I’m not sure when the first marriage occurred, but in 1950 he moved with his second wife to nearby Freilassing, though the textile plant remained. He moved to Salzburg, Austria in 1961, and was named honorary president of the Salzburg Aero Club.

Other awards include the Knights Cross of the Franz Joseph Order in 1911, the Federal Cross in 1955 and the Dr. Karl Renner Prize in 1959.

He died an old man of 87-years-old in Salzburg.

The Etrich II can be seen at the Technisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. The Sport-Taube can be seen at the Technischen Museum Prague in the Czech Republic.

Here’s a list of aircraft built by Igo Etrich:

  • 1909  Etrich “Nurflügel” (Only Wings) tractor monoplane;
  • 1909  Etrich Taube (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1909  Etrich-Wels “Praterspatz” (Prater sparrow) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich II “Taube” (Dove) 2-seater tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich II modified “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich III “Möve” (Seagull) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich IV “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich V “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1910  Etrich VI “Taube” (Dove) tractor monoplane;
  • 1911  Etrich “Etrichapparat” monoplane;
  • 1911  Etrich IV “Manövertaube” (Military Dove) Type B military 2-seater monoplane;
  • 1911  Etrich VII “Renntaube” (Racing Dove) 3-seater racing monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich VIII “Luft-Limousine” (“Air Limousine”) 4-seater high wing monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich IX “Schwalbe” (“Swallow”) monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich X —-no evidence it was built, but numbering begins later with XII;
  • 1912  Etrich XI —no evidence it was built, but numbering begins later with XII;
  • 1912  EFW Etrich XII “Rennapparat” (“Racing Machine”) 2-seater bomber monoplane;
  • 1912  Etrich “Manövertaube” (“Military Dove”) Fype F 2-seater military monoplane;
  • 1913  EFW Etrich Taube Type 1913 2-seater bomber monoplane;
  • 1914  Type A-1 & A-2 were military airplanes;
  • 1929 Sport-Taube monoplane.



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Wills’s Aviation Card #63 – “Tellier” Monoplane.

63F .jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Tellier” Monoplane.

Card #63 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – black back issue

  • Alphonse Tellier, August 24, 1879 in Paris, France – February 14, 1929 in Grasse, France;
  • Émile Dubonnet, October 18, 1883 in Paris, France – October 4, 1950 in Sologne, France.

Nothing is easy, when it comes to doing these historical biographies of the aeroplanes, designers, manufacturers and pilots of the planes represented on the Wills’s Aviation cigarette cards. Nothing.

For example, the Tellier monoplane, represented by Wills’s card No. 63 states on the reverse that it was built by M.M. Tellier and Gerrard.

If I can assume the at least one of those “M’s” means “mister” or “monsieur”, then sure… we know that Tellier and Gerrard built the Tellier monoplane.

Except I can find zero evidence as to just who Mr. Gerrard is in relation to this aeroplane. Nothing.

Perhaps they meant that Tellier designed it, and Gerrard physically built the aircraft…

There is a bit of information on Alphonse Tellier, however, but not as much as one would hope.


What we do know about Tellier, however, is that he liked to build motorboats, and was one of the early pioneers of speed boat design and manufacture.

Alphonse Tellier was the son of Auguste Tellier, who in 1871 in Paris, started up a manufacturing factory for boats and canoes.

Alphonese Tellier’s introduction to aviation came about in 1905 when aeroplane manufacturer Gabriel Voisin and soon-to-be famous pilot Louis Blériot tested and flew a glider (for aviation patron Archdeacon) that was designed and built by Voisin.

After initially testing the glider by having it towed by an automobile on a road, the second test had it towed by a motorboat on the Seine river – with the glider flying some 600 meters (2,000 feet). See HERE for my write-up on Voisin, his gliders and subsequent aeroplane manufacturers.

The speedboat was powered by a 120-horsepowr Antoinette engine, later one of the most popular aeroplane engine manufacturers of the pioneer days.

Anyhow… the pilot of that motorboat called La Rapière? That was Alphonse Tellier.


Alphonse Tellier during the 2nd Great Aviation Week of Champagne in 1910. Image from July of 1910. Source: Bibliotheque nationale de France

Inspired by what he saw, Tellier opened up his first aeroplane manufacturing facility (for those who had the designs – he had the carpentry skills) in 1908 at Juvisy-sur-Orge in (what I believe) was the northern part of  the outskirts of Paris, then in the town of  Melun, before eventually setting it upon the Île de la Jatte in Neuilly-sur-Seine (offices at 340, rue de Chézy) in 1909.

Now… who designed the first Tellier aeroplane? Was it Tellier himself? Maybe. I don’t know.

We can see (below) that the aeroplane bears more than a passing resemblance the Bleriot‘s XI monoplane… but why not? The Bleriot XI was a very successful aircraft.

We do know that Robert Duhamel and a Mr. Houris (no first name found) built the Tellier monoplane, and that a pilot named Emile Dubonnet was the man who either purchased it, or was the paid test pilot on behalf of the Tellier company.

I’m working from French texts, and the information is sparse, at best.

Tellier Monoplane – 1910

Tellier Monoplane.jpg

We do know that on April 4, 1910, Dubonnet flew the Tellier monoplane from Juvisy to La Ferté-Saint-Aubin in France – traveling some 109 kilometers, and actually landed near Orléans in the midst of the flight to ask for directions! The flight was completed in one hour, 48 minutes and 54 seconds. If my math is good (yeesh), that would be 58.3 kilometers and hour, but it would be faster if we take into account the plane had to land, get directions and take-off again….

For his efforts, Dubonnet won a prize from La Nature science magazine for being the first to pilot an aeroplane a distance over 100 kilometers.

On April 24, 1910, Dubonnet once again flew from his private grounds at Draveil and landed at Bagatelle in France, performing the second flight over Paris (after Charles, Count de Lambert on October 18, 1909), flying at a fairly low altitude ranging from 30 meters to 100 meters – and it was all in the Tellier monoplane.

Why did he pilot the aeroplane at such a low height? Was it to give the people below a great view, or was it simply an under-powered motor? I’m guessing it was Dubonnet doing some showboating.

There is a report that Tellier and Dubonnet took the Tellier 1910 monoplane to the 2nd Great Aviation Week of Champagne (Reims – July 3-10, 1910 ), where one year earlier it hosted the first ever aviation meet (Grande Semaine d’Aviation de la Champagne). However… I can not find a single article on-line providing details of the event, unlike what was provided the year before in 1909.

I did find a December 3, 1910 article in Flight magazine that did offer data on the Tellier monoplane:

General Specifications:
  • Bearing surface: 24 square metres (258.334 square feet);
  • Length 11.85 meters (38.9 feet);
  • Width: 11.85 meters (38.9 feet);
  • Seating capacity: one (though there is evidence Tellier would build a two-seater if desired… more below under Options);
  • Powerplant: 35 horsepower Panhard, water-cooled, 4-cyl. vertical. Steel cylinders, copper water-jackets. Bore – 110mm ; stroke – 140 mm., weight, 100 kilograms (220.5 pounds), revolutions – 1,000, Petrol consumption at normal revolutions – 14 litres an hour. Silencer is fitted if required;
  • Propeller – Tellier, 1,000 revs.;
  • Landing chassis – two wheels, mounted with springs in front, with a small wheel placed in front of the tail. The two front wheels are so arranged that they adapt themselves to any unevenness in the ground on which the machine lands;
  • Tail – Fixed non-lifting tail-plane with fixed vertical fin over it. Elevating-plane fixed to the trailing edge of tail-plane. Single rudder fixed centrally above;
  • Lateral stability – By flexing the trailing edges of the main planes;
  • Weight – Complete with motor, 400 kilograms (881.85 pounds);
  • Speed – About 85 kilometers per hour (52.8 miles per hour);
  • System of control – By steering-wheel mounted on a column in front of the pilot. A rotary movement of the wheel controls the rudder. A sideway movement of the entire column to the right or left flexes the left or right wing. A forward movement depresses the machine, and a backward movement elevates;
  • Price – With 35-h.p. 4-cylinder Panhard engine, 25,000 francs;
  • Options: Large two-seat model, known as the “Type Militaire” is available, but uses a 50 horsepower 6-cylinder vertical Panhard engine.

That’s about all I can find about the 1910 Tellier monoplane.

In the Spring of 1911 in Saint-Omer, Tellier and Dubbonet and some other financial moneybags got together to create the Société Alphonse Tellier et Cie (Alphonse Tellier & Co.).

But they weren’t interested in that time in just building aeroplanes, rather they were attempting to build a hydro-aeroplane.

We do know that the first hydro-aeroplane competition was held in Monaco in March of 1912, and featured airplanes using floats from Fabre, Curtiss, Tellier and Farman.

The implication here, is that Tellier’s new hydro-aeroplane was more than likely a physically stronger Tellier monoplane with floats.

However, by 1913, the company had designed and built a Tellier Hydro-Hovercraft… but it doesn’t appear to be a successful endeavor, as I can’t find any record of sales or performance except the following:

Tellier built three hydroplanes (Hydro-hovercraft), essentially aeroplanes that were propelled on the water – not in the air. The aircraft used a propeller to propel it across the water.

In one of these hydroplanes, Dubonnet got it up to 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per hour) – the first time such a vehicle had achieved such speeds.

From then until the midst of the Great War (aka WWI)  in 1916, things were quiet until the company unveiled a Tellier Flying Boat featuring a Hispano-Suiza engine built by the automobile factory of the same name. The company is a Spanish company, but it did open a branch in France where I assume it built the powerplants for Tellier’s flying boat.


This appears to be a 1917 version of the Tellier Flying Boat.

An order from the French Navy kept the company afloat (ha-ha), providing it with updated versions in 1917 and again 1918, with the latter model having a 350 horsepower Sunbeam motor built by the car company of the same name.

The same 1918 model offered the alternate Panhard-Levassor powerplant providing 350 horsepower… I assume it was simply two separate shops providing very similar motors to help Tellier get the Tellier Flying Boats into the hands of the French Navy on time.

The Navy order was for 315 seaplanes, which were given in 1918, and may also have included:

  • combat Tellier seaplane 400/500 horsepower Hispano-Suiza in 1918, and;
  • the combat Tellier seaplane with a 1,100 horsepower Lorraine motor in 1919.

Since the war ended in November of 1918, I am unsure if the last aircraft were delivered, or if the contract was still honored and accepted by the French Navy.

We do know that the original order highlighted that the seaplanes needed to be able to carry a payload of 1,632 kilograms (3,598 pounds), and that a total of 35 aeroplanes were delivered before the war concluded.

While the war continued in 1918 – you have to keep trying to develop new product all the time – Tellier conceived of a transatlantic seaplane called the Vonna.

The Vonna was to be able to carry a crew of three men and a radio, weigh nine tons empty and weigh 16 tons full.

It was to be powered by four Sunbeam-Coatalen W18 450 horsepower motors.

The project was staffed with 15 Nieuport engineers, but was eventually abandoned in 1921.

It didn’t matter too much to Tellier, because he sold the Alphonse Tellier Tellier & Co to Nieuport in August of 1918 after becoming ill. The company then continued under the name of Nieuport-Astra.

He did remain with the company’s marine division as a technical director, while engineer Robert Duhamel took over the management of the Issy-les-Moulineaux engineering department and responsibility for Tellier products, which remained in the firm’s catalog until 1923.

Alphonse Tellier died on February 14, 1929 in Grasse, and was buried in the Père-Lachaise cemetery.

As for pilot Dubonnet?

Born to a French winemaker, one source I found describes Dubonnet as a sportsman, interesting in cycling, skating, soccer, fencing, rower, and vehicle race enthusiast… and all were done before he became interested in aviation, and when he began, it was hot-air balloons that caught his fancy.

A member of the Aero-Club of France, Dubonnet took part in the Gordon Bennett Cup for ballooning in 1908, 1909 and 1911. He won the La Grande Medialle de Aéro-Club de France in 1912.

After the 1909 event, Dubonnet started working as a test pilot for Tellier going up for the first time on April 3, 1910 in the 1910 Tellier Monoplane.

The next day, as mentioned above, he flew the Tellier monoplane from Juvisy to La Ferté-Saint-Aubin in France, flying some 109 kilometers – then a record for distance.

The April 4, 1910 flight was still only Dubonnet’s 10th actual time up in an aeroplane as a pilot.

Still working as a test pilot and pilot for Tellier, Dubonnet used the Tellier monoplane… I assume a rejigged version of the 1910 model when in January of 1912 he traveled from Paris to Russia traveling a distance of 1,954 kilometers.

I also read that Dubonnet in 1912 helped form the first professional baseball league in France, the French Baseball Union.

When WWI started, he was part of France’s balloon aviation corps, flying through the war in 1918, but still finding the time to work alongside Tellier in the construction of his seaplanes.

Dubonnet lived until October 4, 1950.


Émile Dubonnet. Image from the George Grantham Bain collection at the U.S. Library of Congress.

As for Tellier’s aircraft contributions, I found one source offering:

  • Monoplan Tellier (1909);
  • Monoplan Tellier (1910);
  • Hydro-Hovercraft Tellier (1913);
  • Flying boat Tellier 200 HP Hispano-Suiza (1916);
  • Flying boat Tellier 200 hp canon (1917);
  • Flying boat Tellier 350 hp Sunbeam (1918);
  • Tellier Combat Seaplane 400/500 ch Hispano-Suiza (1918);
  • Tellier Combat Seaplane 1100 ch Lorraine (1919).


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Historical Look At Japan’s First Dirigibles

I was finally catching up on my reading the other day, when an article from the New Zealand newspaper, Clutha Leader dated September 26, 1911 – page 2, I discovered some information on Japan’s attempt to build the world’s then-largest dirigible…

It’s 1911… and aeroplanes have been flying across Europe for a few years, with the first successful crossing of the English Channel in 1909… so, why would you want to construct a dirigible?

All one can assume, is that Japan saw more pluses from dirigibles than with the new technology of aeroplanes/airplanes.

The first airplane had been flown over Tokyo in December of 1910… so Japan certainly did know of the technology.

I’m not saying that dirigibles were already yesterday’s news in 1911… we all know that they were long in use through WWI (Okay you, me and about 47 other people on the planet), and that they were used to ferry around Indiana Jones and his father in the 1930s. In fact, dirigibles were a viable transportation option for those that had the time and enjoyed the luxury… right up until May 6, 1937.

That was the date of the Hindenburg disaster… the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg that caught fire and was destroyed during its attempt to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst in Manchester Township, New Jersey, U.S.

There were 97 people on board: 36 passengers and 61 crewmen. I suppose it was lucky… the Hindenburg’s full passenger capacity was 70 people.

There were 35 fatalities: 13 passengers and 22 crewmen, and one poor unfortunate ground worker who died, for a total of 36 dead.

But we’re talking about 1911.

Here’s what that New Zealand newspaper wrote – please note that I have adjusted the formatting and added in metric conversions:

 A wonderful new dirigible airship, a record for the world, is reported to be now in course of secret construction in Japan.
Among its points are the following:
Speed—70 miles an hour (), enough to carry it through a hurricane at five miles an hour;
Staying Power—Can remain a week in the air, as 20 tons (18,143.7 kilograms) of benzine can be carried as fuel;
Lifting Power—12 tons (10,886 kilograms), double that of the British naval airship Mayfly, now in hiding at Barrow;
Driving Power—720 horsepower, divided by six motors, providing it with twice the power of the Mayfly;
Length—600 feet (182.88 meters), 90 feet (27.43 meters) longer than the Mayfly;
Diameter—50 feet (15.24 meters);
Crew—10 men;
Armament—Pneumatic cylinder bombs.

Most of the material that is being used is of Japanese manufacturer, but one English firm—a well-known sewing machine house—has received orders from the Japanese Government for a number of specially durable machines for use in sewing together the sections.

The airship is the result of sending out of a band of official experts who travelled through the great countries of the world during June, July and August of 1910 investigating the developments of aviation.

This is Japan’s second dirigible, the first, known as the Yabada Isaburo dirigible, having been finished about four months ago. That one was 400 feet (121.92 meters) long—half as long as the liner Olympic.

The new dirigible is expected to be attached to the Japanese navy at Yokosuka—the Japanese Portsmouth.  

So… this 1911 newspaper article from New Zealand mentions that the huge, secret dirigible Japan is building is actually the SECOND dirigible it built.

While the article says that the first dirigible was designed and built by Yabada Isaburo (surname first), that’s a newspaper error, as it was actually built by Yamada Isaburo (surname first).

These are the perils of trying to compile a historic database… people make mistakes.

For proper data, I found a website ( that discusses Japan’s early aviation… but I’m just going to borrow from it – not relate it word-for-word…

What we know about Yamada, is that he owned a lifeboat manufacturing company, and he was the person who earned the right on behalf of the Japanese Army to fabricate the envelope (the balloon), as well as the gondola.

The first Japanese dirigible is known as the Yamada-shiki No. 1, a non-rigid type (a blimp, essentially, that lacks an internal structure – frame work).

Here’s an image of the burning wreckage of the Hindenburg, a rigid dirigible… you can see the frame work. Zeppelins are called semi-rigid airships, while blimps are pressure airships.

Yamada-shiki No. 1
Crew: 1, helm control was in the center of the gondola;
Length: 60 feet (18.3 meters);
Capacity: 56,500 cubic feet (1,600 cubic meters);
Gas type: Hydrogen;
Powerplant: 12 horsepower engine, with a pusher propeller (at rear of airship)

The gonodola was an open concept made of tubes in a triangular cross-section, and was almost as long as the balloon envelope itself. It hung below the envelope. The engine was in the middle of the gondola.

Steering was controlled by a single rudder at the rear, just behind the rear of the gondola. The flat, square of a rudder was festooned with the hinomaru (Japan’s sun flag).

Flight control—such that it was—was afforded by a small elevator between the gondola platform and the bow.

The Yamada-shiki No. 1.

On the first flight of the Yamada-shiki No. 1, it lifted off from Osaka (see image above). That’s also it in the top image depicting a Japanese postage stamp.

(By the way, you’ll notice that the style of dress invoked by the Japanese here in 1909 was the same as what any European would have worn, including straw hats.)

Soon after it lifted off, it began to lose large volumes of hydrogen gas, causing it to land, be refilled, and flown back to Osaka.

While no one seems to know what happened to the Yamada-shiki No. 1, it does not appear to have flown again.

This may be why Japan, when in the process of constructing its Yamada-shiki No. 2 dirigible as mentioned in the New Zealand newspaper article, it sought out sewing machine equipment from England to help it create a better seal when constructing the balloon envelope that would hold the gas.

Okay… so Japan got its hands on some British sewing machines.

But did it construct the Yamada-shiki No. 2 dirigible in accordance to the giant dimensions mentioned in the newspaper article?

No. Not even close.

While the Yamada-shiki No. 2 dirigible was larger than Yamada-shiki No. 1, it wasn’t close to the proposed 600 feet mentioned in the article.

Yamada-shiki No. 2
Length: 108 feet (32.9 meters);
Capacity: 53,000 cubic feet (1,500 cubic meters);
Gas type: Hydrogen;
Powerplant: 50 horsepower, four-cylinder water-cooled engine, with a pusher propeller (at rear of airship).

The gondola was similar in design to the Yamada-shiki No. 1, with an open concept made of tubes in a triangular cross-section, but it was wider, and not as long as the previous, about half the length of No. 1. It hung below the envelope. The larger engine was again positioned in the middle of the gondola.

Steering was controlled by a single larger rudder at the rear, just behind the rear of the gondola. The flat, square of a rudder was again decorated with the hinomaru (Japan’s rising sun flag – red circle on white background).

Flight control—such that it was—was afforded by a slightly larger elevator between the gondola platform and the bow.

So… what happened to it?

It depends. There are three options:

  1. Strong winds may have blown it away and badly damaged it without recovery in early February of 1911 during mooring tests.
  2. A ground explosion may have destroyed it (gas leak and flame – ka-boom!) on March 23, 1911 – before it’s second flight… implying there was a first flight.\
  3. It made its first flight in early May 1911, but it was badly damaged during an emergency landing near Osaka due to engine failure in February of 1912.

Uh… yeah…

As stupid as it sounds, dirigibles, and aeroplanes were constantly being damaged by high winds while on the ground…

A ground explosion? This would have been big news… and we would have seen mention of it somewhere, right?

Emergency landing? Sure… motors were still the weak link in all aviation craft at that time… especially since they weren’t using the stronger V8’s other aeroplanes were already using.

So… if you think that the conflicting reports of the demise of the Yamada-shiki No. 2 are bizarre… wait’ll we briefly discuss Yamada-shiki No. 3 and Yamada-shiki No. 4.

No one is sure if Yamada-shiki No. 3 was a different dirigible from No. 2… or if it was just a rebuilt No. 2 that was renamed.

Yamada-shiki No. 3 first flew in early June of 1911… able to make a round trip in the middle of September of 1911 between Osaka and Tokyo and return.

So… if it was a success, what did Japan do with it? This is where it gets silly. Reports say that it was sold to China.

Really? China… well… I suppose it’s possible, as it was to experience its Xinhai Revolution starting in October 10 of 1911… a revolution that overthrew the imperial dynasty (Qing Dynasty), replacing it the Republic of China when it ended on February 12, 1912.

This was NOT when China became communist… this was essentially the time—from 1912 to 1949, that China was in the midst of its own civil war… taken advantage of by Japan in the 1930s, eventually leading to the victorious Communist Party that continues to rule.

So… did a Japanese dirigible play any part in the overthrow of the ruling Qing dynasty, or was it purchased by the Qing Dynasty to help it against the usurpers?

I don’t know…

And then there’s Yamada-shiki No. 4 – again not a heck of a lot of details… which I suppose is fair, because we are talking about Japanese Army military operations.

Did it exist? Maybe. If this wasn’t the Yamada-shiki No. 2 that may may or may not have been sold as Yamada-shiki No. 3 to China, and it is a completely new dirigible (or one retrofitted with a new motor), we do know that the dirigible known as Yamada-shiki No. 4 had a 75 horsepower motor.

No data is available re: speed, dimensions… gas capacity… I’m thinking that Yamada-shiki No. 2 was retrofitted to become Yamada-shiki No. 3, and again retrofitted with a different motor to become Yamada-shiki No. 4

Do I believe that the dirigibles may have been purchased by China? No. Germany had far superior dirigibles, and China could have purchased one from them rather than some experimental one built by Japan.

So what happened to the supposed Yamada-shiki No. 4?

Who knows… again there’s a rumor that it was sold to China in 1913… making it the first dirigible to fly in China in August of 1913. It was then destroyed by a windstorm (see?!) while in its hangar.

Again… China in 1913? Right after the fall of the Qing Dynasty? Is the new ruling power of the Republic of China going to want a new dirigible from Japan? I suppose it’s possible… again… Germany.

It is documented that China did purchase 12 military aeroplanes from France in March of 1913…

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