Man In Motion
Bicycles, motorcycles, aircraft—if it went fast, Glenn Curtiss built it, improved it, and made it even faster
Glenn Curtiss was always going someplace. Lean and solemn, with long, powerful legs, a lust for speed, and an intense drive to win, he rode his bicycle all over western New York. Wherever there was a bicycle race, he and his club, the Hammondsport Boys, took most of the prizes. He could easily move faster than most cars of the day, but in 1901 nobody in Hammondsport had a car anyway. Then, one clear summer day, Glenn Curtiss introduced that quiet village at the tip of Keuka Lake to the noisy, speed-crazy twentieth century.
Curtiss was twenty-three years old and had a well-established business, manufacturing and selling bicycles. When he began to read in cycling magazines about small gasoline motors being attached to bicycles, his passion for forward motion spurred him to order a set of engine castings. They arrived without instructions and with no carburetor. Undiscouraged, Curtiss set about finishing the engine, outfitting it with a carburetor made from a tomato can and a gauze screen. Similar improvisations followed, and eventually he got the little one-cylinder engine running.
Outside for his first test ride, with much of the town watching, Curtiss pedaled furiously to get the machine up to speed. Finally the motor caught, and Curtiss sputtered and banged through Hammondsport’s formerly quiet streets. He crashed just short of plunging into the lake and went home determined to order a larger motor.
The new engine was just as crude and unfinished as the first, and it was too heavy to be practical. Curtiss soon decided to make his own, with the help of a nearby machine shop and foundry. Always trying for the greatest possible ratio of horsepower to weight, he built air-cooled engines and relied on the speed of the motorcycle to keep them from overheating. Light weight was sometimes achieved at the expense of reliability and ruggedness, but his primary interest was speed, not endurance.
Naturally he began entering motorcycle races. On Memorial Day 1903 Curtiss became the American motorcycle champion, setting a world speed record of 56 2/5 seconds for the mile. The publicity generated by his victories brought in so many orders that the shop had to be enlarged, but it also brought a complaint from a firm in California that had a prior claim to the brand name he had picked, Hercules. The new trademark Curtiss finally settled on was his own name, written in a script that suggested his signature. This label would appear in later years on airplanes that marked some of the most important developments in American aviation.
In these early days, however, Curtiss had no thoughts of airplanes. He did not even like being called an inventor because, he said, in a small town at the turn of the century an inventor was considered a “wild-eyed crackpot.” Fascinated with anything mechanical, but no crackpot, Curtiss was beginning to be an influential member of the community. His motorcycle business continued to grow, and the factory ran day and night to keep up with the demand.
He was still inventing improvements for motorcycles when in 1904 he was visited by “Captain” Thomas S. Baldwin, a balloonist who had just won the aviation prize at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis with a dirigible propelled by a secondhand Curtiss motorcycle engine. After his triumph Baldwin traveled to Hammondsport to see Curtiss and to commission a new engine made specifically to meet his requirements. Curtiss knew nothing about aviation and had not yet heard of the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk the year before.
Although Curtiss had no particular interest in the slow-moving, cumbersome dirigible, he designed a four-cylinder engine for Baldwin and began to see that a new market was opening up. In 1906 he corresponded with Orville and Wilbur Wright, offering to supply them with a lightweight engine, but they were less interested in power plants than in aerodynamics and were content to use their own. Nevertheless, many other would-be aeronauts soon made their way to Hammondsport in search of engines.
The first to settle there was Baldwin, who moved to Hammondsport after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake had destroyed his balloon headquarters. The hefty, jovial showman and the shy, lanky motorcycle manufacturer became fast friends. Curtiss began to help Baldwin with propeller design and accompanied him to fairs and expositions.
On an excursion to a fair in Dayton, Ohio, in 1906, Curtiss and Baldwin stopped in to see the Wright brothers, and thus began one of the most unfortunate and damaging relationships in the history of American aviation. The Wrights later claimed that Curtiss used this opportunity to steal ideas from them. There is no evidence, however, that Curtiss had any plans yet to go into aviation, except as a supplier of lightweight engines and on a friendly basis as a mechanic for Baldwin.
During that year, 1906, Curtiss built two 8-cylinder motors for men he still sometimes called “aviation cranks.” Now twenty-eight, he was still racing, and he wondered what an eight-cylinder engine would do for a motorcycle. He had his workmen build a bike more than seven feet long, with an automobile tire on the rear wheel. The V-shaped engine stuck out so far on both sides that the driver could not straddle it but had to sit well behind it, steering with a pair of handlebars more than two feet long. Curtiss took the monster to the Florida Speed Carnival at Ormond Beach in January 1907 and was clocked at 136.3 miles per hour, a record for any type of vehicle. The press promptly dubbed him “the fastest man in the world.”
But it was not until June of 1907 that Curtiss discovered something potentially more exciting than speed along the ground. Baldwin was testing his latest dirigible near Keuka Lake, and Curtiss mentioned that he would like to give it a try. On his first flight he took the craft to twenty miles per hour, returned safely, and remarked, “It is delightful, only there is no place to go.”
At the beckoning of Dr. Alexander Graham Bell, Curtiss would soon find someplace to go. Since the early 189Os Bell had been conducting aerial experiments at his summer home in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. Bell was convinced that glider-style flying machines, like those used by the Wright brothers, were inherently unstable and therefore unsafe. He envisioned a craft that would land by settling gently to the ground, or even hover and allow the pilot to climb down a rope ladder. Bell’s experiments centered on kites, and he ultimately decided on a long kite made of a honeycomb of hundreds of tetrahedral cells, each cell constructed from an aluminum frame, covered with red silk. He predicted that the craft would go only ten or fifteen miles per hour but said that “man must learn to go slow before he goes fast.” He hadn’t yet consulted Curtiss on that issue.
In 1905 Bell had ordered a Curtiss engine and used it for testing propellers, and by 1907 he was ready to attach a new engine to the kite itself. He was also beginning to gather a group of younger men to help carry out his experiments. Bell was now sixty and rather large of girth, and he had no plans to leave the ground himself. But he was fascinated with the problem of flight and, thanks to the success of his early inventions, he had the means to maintain a laboratory and support staff.
In July of that year Curtiss traveled to Nova Scotia to observe and assist in the testing and application of the new engine. When he arrived, he found a group of experimenters who needed only an engine expert to be complete. J. A. D. McCurdy, the son of Bell’s photographer, had just graduated from the University of Toronto. Casey Baldwin (no relation to Captain Tom) was a mechanical engineer. Lt. Thomas Selfridge had been assigned by the United States Army to observe and assist in Bell’s aviation work. Along with the gracious Mrs. Bell and the great inventor himself, they formed a group that was both socially pleasant and intellectually lively. Curtiss was at first uncomfortable among these college-educated, well-to-do people, but he soon found himself sharing their vision of the future of aviation. He began to see that flying could be more than sailing lazily around in a huge balloon. It could be a fast and efficient way of going places. He was hooked.
He had recently hired an assistant to run the factory and another to relieve Lena, his wife, as office manager, so he was free to spend more time away from Hammondsport. In September 1907 he joined his new friends in forming the Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), which pledged to “get into the air” one way or another. Bell was named chairman, Baldwin chief engineer, McCurdy treasurer, Selfridge secretary, and Curtiss director of experiments.
According to the agreement, the AEA would produce five aircraft, each member directing the work on a project of his own choosing. When Bell’s latest kite, the Cygnet , was destroyed in a test flight, the group decided to move on to another project while a new kite was constructed. Selfridge, who had taken a dunking when the Cygnet was ripped apart in the waters of Bras d’Or Lake, was appointed head of this new project. An avid student of the literature on winged flight, he was eager to experiment with gliders.
The AEA moved to winter headquarters in Hammondsport, and the younger members began building and testing gliders made of wooden frames and covered with fine-meshed linen. Selfridge studied everything he could find on the subject and made extensive use of Octave Chanute’s published glider designs. Little was known about the details of the Wrights’ planes, but the AEA knew of their success and had read their patent. Selfridge wrote to the brothers for advice on wing shapes and construction materials, and he received a reply from Wilbur that answered some of his questions.
After launching many successful gliders by running off the hills around Hammondsport, the AEA began construction of “Drome Number One.” Its wings, 42 feet long, curving toward each other, and tapered at the ends, were covered with the same red silk that Bell used for his kites, and so the plane was named Red Wing . Powered by an eight-cylinder engine and mounted on skids, it took off from the ice on Keuka Lake in early March 1908 with Casey Baldwin at the controls. Its first flight took it 318 feet 11 inches, at a height of 10 feet. Because Bell had alerted the Associated Press and the Aero Club of America, the flight was well publicized, and the newspapers reported this as the first public flight of a heavier-than-air flying machine.
Although the Wright brothers’ flights at Kitty Hawk and then in Ohio had not exactly been conducted in secret, the brothers had tended to keep their work to themselves. Wishing to protect their invention from imitation until it could be perfected and marketed, they had declined many invitations to fly at exhibitions and fairs. A somewhat disgruntled press and public therefore perhaps gave undue acclaim to the AEA’s accomplishment. Still, the AEA had gotten into the air, and Bell’s Boys, as they were now often called, were elated and ready to build a larger, sturdier craft that would fly even longer.
In the Red Wing , vertical control had been achieved with a large elevator ahead of the wings, and horizontal control with a vertical rudder placed above the tail, but there was essentially no means of lateral control. A few days after the Red Wing ’s first successful flight, Casey Baldwin took the plane up, climbed, and leveled off. Then, perhaps because of a gust of wind, one wingtip dropped. Baldwin was unable to regain control, and the plane crashed. The Wright brothers had invented wing warping to solve just this sort of problem. The AEA, having read the Wrights’ patent, had decided not to use any sort of wing flexing for fear of infringing the patent. Yet it was clear that the Red Wing had crashed for lack of lateral stability and control.
As they were designing the second machine, Bell, who was in Washington because his wife was ill, wrote suggesting that lateral control could perhaps be gained by attaching movable surfaces to the ends of the wings. Casey Baldwin designed wingtips that were hinged at the front edge and controlled by a harness attached to the pilot’s body. Later called by the French word aileron and adopted almost universally, these movable tips would become the central issue in the Wrights’ complaints against both Curtiss and the AEA.
The new plane, White Wing , not only had ailerons; it also had wheels instead of skids because spring had come to Hammondsport. After the plane had been tested by Selfridge and Baldwin, Curtiss made his first flight, on his thirtieth birthday. Perhaps because of superior balance and reflexes, honed during bicycle and motorcycle races, he made the longest flight yet: 339 yards, at 37 miles per hour. Two days later, during the White Wing ’s fifth flight, McCurdy failed to use the ailerons correctly, and a wing struck the ground. In both this crash and the earlier wreck of the Red Wing , the pilot and engine were unharmed. Plans were immediately made to begin a new machine.
This time it was Curtiss’s turn. Again improving on the Red Wing ’s basic design, he built a longer, sleeker machine. Changes in the angle of incidence of the ailerons and the aileron control gear made the plane easier to steer. Because pilot skill was becoming important, the AEA members decided that initially only one person would fly the new plane. And so in June of 1908, Curtiss flew the June Bug repeatedly from the Hammondsport horse track. After a flight of 3,420 feet, he was ready for competition.
In 1907 Scientific American had created a large silver trophy to be offered in three successive competitions for progress in winged flight. The first award was to be made for a straight-away flight of one kilometer (3,281 feet). If an aviator won the trophy three times, he would gain permanent possession of it. The Wrights had, of course, been urged to try for the trophy, but they had secured a contract with the Army and were busy perfecting their machine for demonstration in August 1908.
On July 4 representatives of Scientific American and officials of the Aero Club of America traveled to Hammondsport to watch Curtiss make a try for the trophy. The day was wet and windy, and the crowds found themselves waiting in the rain for most of the day to see if Curtiss would be able to fly. Finally, around six o’clock, the weather cleared, and the June Bug was rolled out. After one false start the plane rose gracefully, flew past the flag that marked the end of one kilometer, and landed in a field nearly two kilometers from the starting point.
The AEA’s name was engraved on the trophy, and Bell’s patent attorneys immediately set about studying the craft for patentable features. They emphasized the ailerons, the shoulder harness, the tricycle landing gear, and the interacting steerable ground wheel and rudder. The Wrights immediately protested that the ailerons infringed their 1906 patent on “any construction whereby the angular relations of the lateral margins of the aeroplane [i.e. the wing] may be varied in opposite directions.” Their own planes had used flexible wings that were twisted to achieve control, but the patent had been broadly enough written to give them a strong case against the AEA.
Even without the patent dispute, the AEA’s fate was tragically intertwined with the lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright. In August Tom Selfridge went to Washington for the Army trials of the Wrights’ machine. Selfridge volunteered to be the passenger on a required two-person flight on September 17. The plane crashed; Orville was badly injured, and Selfridge was killed. Selfridge had been the Army’s only real aviator; he had been one of the most knowledgeable and certainly the most charming of Bell’s Boys. Now he was the first casualty of powered flight.
Despite this loss, the remaining members of the AEA were determined to continue with their work and build the fifth machine, the Silver Dart . Because flights were now lasting more than a few minutes, the engines were beginning to overheat, and so Curtiss built a water-cooled engine. Eventually the Silver Dart began making flights of up to twenty miles.
An attempt to convert the June Bug to a seaplane was less successful; the two large, heavy, flat-bottomed pontoons would not break free of the water at the twenty or so miles per hour at which the machine was able to move. There was also another attempt to get a man-carrying tetrahedral kite into the air, but Bell’s insistence on stability above all else doomed the kites to failure; there was simply too much drag. The kites could not be raised at all except in a very stiff breeze, and then they were sluggish and difficult to control; none of Curtiss’s engines of this era were sufficient to overcome their built-in resistance.
By spring of 1909 the AEA had reached the end of its planned duration. Although the experimenters had never succeeded with the tetrahedral design, they had accomplished their goal of getting into the air. They talked now of forming a company for the production of airplanes, but Curtiss had begun to drift away. Still, he always maintained friendly relations with Bell, Baldwin, and McCurdy, and he was careful not to involve the AEA in his later legal problems.
When the Aeronautic Society of New York asked Curtiss to build a plane for the use of its members, he formed an aviation company with a dubious character named Augustus Herring and began work on the first plane that would be entirely his own design. To get around the Wrights’ patent, he placed the aileron between the upper and lower wings. Unlike the AEA’s planes, Curtiss Number 1 had straight wings, untapered and shorter than those on the earlier planes. This design was less stable but faster and more agile. In the Gold Bug , as he called the new plane, Curtiss could go faster and make tighter turns than ever before. As usual, he wanted to prove the machine’s ability through public competition.
The second leg of the competition for Scientific American trophy was under way. The Wrights were still preoccupied with persuading the Army to buy their airplanes, and the remnants of the AEA withdrew after the magazine abruptly changed the rules. Originally the winner was to be the first to fly twenty-five kilometers; but after accepting the AEA’s entry the magazine changed the criterion to the longest flight of more than twenty-five kilometers during 1909. There were as yet no American planes capable of sustained flight besides Curtiss’s, so he won the prize easily with a flight of 24.7 miles in the Gold Bug , landing then only because he was running out of fuel.
After turning the Gold Bug over to the Aeronautic Society, Curtiss hurriedly built a similar plane for a try at the Gordon Bennett Trophy, to be awarded by the New York newspaper publisher, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., at an air meet in Reims. Curtiss had installed an eight-cylinder water-cooled engine just before leaving for Europe; his main competitor, Louis Blériot, heard of this and installed an eight-cylinder engine in his monoplane too. Curtiss had read that Blériot’s plane could go sixty miles per hour, and he may have begun to worry. “Glenn,” his mechanic Tod Shriver reassured him, “I’ve seen you win many a [motorcycle] race on the turns.”
While the French pilots strutted around among the adoring crowds in the festive atmosphere of the air meet, Curtiss—the sober, tinkering Yankee—worked steadily with Shriver, making final adjustments to his machine. When his turn came, he circled the field to gain altitude, then dived at the starting line to gain speed. Cutting close to the pylons and banking steeply, he finished the 20-kilometer course in 15 minutes 50 seconds. That was 6 seconds faster than what Blériot achieved later that afternoon, and Blériot was well ahead of everyone else. Probably Curtiss the motorcycle racer had indeed won it on the turns. After racing in another meet in Italy, Curtiss returned with a trophy, fifteen thousand dollars in prize money, and orders both for planes and for engines. In his absence the Wrights had formally filed suit, seeking to prevent him from manufacturing or exhibiting for money the planes that they believed infringed their patents.
It was during this period that Curtiss managed to get himself out of his unfortunate business arrangement with Augustus Herring, but he could not escape the patent war. In 1910 a federal judge found Curtiss at fault, but after posting bond he was permitted to continue flying and building planes during the appeal process. In 1912 Wilbur Wright died from typhoid fever. Orville, further embittered now and blaming Curtiss for his brother’s weakened condition at the time of his illness, continued to press the suit, demanding a 20 percent royalty on all planes that used changes in wing shape to achieve lateral stability.
Curtiss had tried to settle out of court, but he was unwilling to see all his profits go into royalties. And in the patent case, as in everything else, he was determined, even stubborn. He had enthusiastic offers to relocate in countries that did not recognize the Wrights’ patents, but he would not be driven from his home.
In 1914, after an appeals court once again found in favor of the Wrights, Curtiss struck back. Shortly before the Wright brothers’ first flight, back in 1903, Samuel Pierpont Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, had designed a manned flying machine and tried twice to launch it from a catapult. It crashed immediately both times. But a decade later Curtiss realized that if he could show Langley’s machine had been capable of flight, he might invalidate the Wrights’ patent. Curtiss took the wreckage of the failed aircraft out from storage, rebuilt it in improved form, and flew it. (See “Capable of Flight: The Feud Between the Wright Brothers and the Smithsonian,” by Tom D. Crouch, Invention & Technology , Spring 1987.) The restoration allowed Curtiss to continue his legal maneuverings.
Despite the wrangling, Curtiss managed to stay at the forefront of aviation. To make flying accessible to more people, he established a flight school, and to capitalize on the public’s curiosity, he sent stunt pilots around to fairs and air meets. In 1910 he won the New York World ’s prize for a 152-mile flight from Albany to New York City (with stops for oil and gasoline). That flight also won him permanent possession of the Scientific American trophy.
During his flight down the Hudson, Curtiss had been struck by the military potential of the airplane when he flew over West Point. Perhaps because the Wrights were already working on planes for the Army, and because so much of his personal history had been connected with the waters of Keuka Lake, Curtiss began to court the Navy. He first arranged to have a large wooden extension built on the deck of the USS Birmingham , at anchor in Norfolk, Virginia. In November 1910 Eugene B. Ely, one of Curtiss’s students, took off from the deck and flew ashore. A few months later Ely both landed and took off from a ship in San Francisco Bay. The Secretary of the Navy, however, was not impressed with a landing that required a platform cluttering the deck and extending off the end of a battleship. He would be convinced of the airplane’s importance to the Navy only when a plane could land and take off from the water alongside a ship. The Secretary’s vision of the future of naval aviation would eventually prove inadequate, but Curtiss had always wanted to take off from the water anyway, and he gave it a try.
Curtiss established a camp on San Diego Bay to work on an amphibious plane for the Navy. The main problem had always been that the pontoons would not break free of the water, and he tried more than fifty pontoon configurations without success. One Navy officer who worked with Curtiss in San Diego said afterward, “Those of us who did not know Mr. Curtiss well wondered that he did not give up in despair. Since that time we have learned that anything he says he can do, he always accomplishes, as he always works the problem out in his mind before making any statement.”
The problem of breaking the suction was finally solved at the end of January, when Curtiss replaced the complicated assemblage of pontoons and planing surfaces with a single float, long and narrow and curved upward in the front. The weight of the plane was slightly behind the center of the pontoon, so that the front end tipped up out of the water.
On the first test with this configuration, the plane leaped into the air, Curtiss said, “like a frightened gull.… The effect of that first flight on the men who had worked, waited and watched for it was magical. They ran up and down the beach, throwing their hats up into the air and shouting in their enthusiasm.”
Three weeks later Curtiss flew out into the harbor and landed alongside the USS Pennsylvania , after which the plane was hoisted on board by the ship’s big crane. A few minutes later the crane lowered the plane back into the water, and Curtiss took off and returned to his camp.
The next challenge was to build a flying boat, capable of carrying a large load of fuel and traveling long distances. Again the main problem was to design a broad hull that would break free of the tremendous suction created as it moved through the water. This time it was back on Keuka Lake that the breakthrough occurred.
A Navy camp had been established in Hammondsport; there the naval officers and mechanics could learn about aircraft and engines, and Curtiss had their help in solving engineering and mechanical problems. As in the earlier days in his motorcycle shop and with the AEA, Curtiss flourished as the leader of a group experimenting with new technology. He was known and admired for freely trading ideas and for respecting the contributions of both his peers and his subordinates.
It may have been Curtiss or it may have been a Navy man working with him who finally thought to put a step on the bottom of the hull. The step created turbulence, destroying the streamline flow that held the bottom of the hull to the water. Curtiss was now ready to build a flying boat.
Again a competition influenced the direction and intensity of his efforts. The London Daily Mail offered a £10,000 ($50,000) prize to the first aviator to fly across the Atlantic. Curtiss was now doing little flying himself, but he led the effort to build the flying boat America , capable of carrying a one-ton load. The plane was being tested and was nearly ready for its flight when war broke out in Europe. The contest was abandoned, but the plane eventually crossed the ocean on the deck of a ship and was used by the Royal Navy for antisubmarine patrol.
Early advocates of military aviation had claimed that the airplane would be such an awe-inspiring weapon that no one would dare make war again. To the contrary, it was the war that turned aviation into a major industry—and that also finally settled the patent-infringement controversy. Suddenly foreign governments that had hesitated to order American planes were anxious to have them even without a settlement of the dispute, and American companies other than Curtiss and Wright were willing to take the risk of manufacturing planes.
Still, the two largest aircraft companies continued their legal battle. When the United States entered the war, the government finally imposed a solution. All aircraft manufacturers were to join one large organization that would own all patents and collect all royalties. For relinquishing their patents, the Curtiss and Wright companies would receive two million dollars each. Curtiss never did get the vindication he had hoped for in court, and he was never reconciled with Orville Wright, but aeronautical progress could now be made far more freely.
The boxy machines of the early days now gave way to more streamlined and efficient models. The Curtiss JN-4, or “Jenny,” first produced in 1914, was designed for Curtiss by B. Douglas Thomas, a British engineer. It was Curtiss’s first commercial “tractor” (front-engine) plane, and it could fly at 75 miles per hour and climb 3,500 feet in 10 minutes. The Jenny was used mostly for training and observation, but other planes became powerful aggressive weapons, bombing and machine-gunning the ground and dogfighting in the air. By the end of the war, the Curtiss factories in Buffalo, New York, were turning out more than a hundred planes a week.
To finance and manage this rapid expansion, Curtiss brought in outside capital and a more elaborate, professional organization. He himself continued to oversee research at a separate organization on Long Island, the Curtiss Engineering Corporation. There he again directed work on a flying boat, which the Navy now needed for submarine chasing. Just before the plane was ready to be put into service, the armistice was signed, and it was not until May 1919 that a descendant of the America successfully flew across the Atlantic.
The Jenny also had an illustrious postwar career. More than two thousand surplus Jennies were refurbished and sold to the public, and the Jenny became the standard vehicle for the barnstormers of the twenties. In many communities across America, the first airplane ever seen was a Jenny.
The Curtiss company was reorganized again after the war, and Curtiss had an even smaller role. Although he still held the title of chairman of the board, he spent much of his time in Florida developing real estate. He also became involved in the design of travel trailers and of speedboats outfitted with aircraft engines.
He had already given up control of his aircraft company when, in 1929, the final episode of his controversy with the Wrights was played out in a boardroom on Wall Street. Orville Wright had long since retired and sold his interest in the Wright company when the new directors of the two giant aircraft companies agreed to merge and form the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. The new company became one of the largest and most powerful aircraft companies in the world, but for reasons that had nothing to do with the settling of old disputes.
In the end perhaps each side got what it most wanted. Orville and WiIbur Wright always had an eye on their place in history, and they are remembered as the first to solve the problem of heavier-than-air powered flight. Curtiss’s interests were more immediate: solving the next technical puzzle, winning the most recently offered prize, pushing the technology as far and as fast as he could, and making flight a practical reality. He was neither a visionary nor a theoretician, but an experimenter. “Experimenting is never work,” he once remarked. “It is plain fun.”
The experimenting ended in July 1930, when Curtiss, fifty-two years old, died of a pulmonary embolism. Through all his successes Curtiss had remained loyal to his family, his friends, and the community of Hammondsport. And so the man with a passion for forward motion was buried in the village where he had been born. Eventually Hammondsport settled back into a quiet obscurity, but it still calls itself “the cradle of aviation” and it still remembers the day in 1901 when it was jolted into the modern age by a quiet young man on a noisy motorcycle.