Gull Bat clues...

Wright model B pusher.  Notice the sign in the background.  Jersey Aeroplane Co?  New Jersey Aeroplane Co? 

While I was researching the Gull Bat, or whatever it actually turns out to be, I started noticing some similarities in the buildings in all these photos to the buildings around the Gull Bat.  Above is a Wright Brothers model B pusher, which unfortunately shows up broken in two in an adjoining photo.  Notice the sign in the background, which is why I include it.  The good folks over at the Aerodrome have provided some clues, but I'm still looking for a definitive answer on the Gull Bat.

If you go back to the last post, you'll see the pulleys that open up the hangar door in the photo below.  This twin is an Atlantic Battleplane, according to Tork1945 over at the Aerodrome.  He also has photos of the Gull Bat, but they are in a folder he has, titled "USA UNIDENTIFIED".  Sigh.

Another mystery plane, at the same location as the Gull Bat. 

I've included this last photo in case the plane below sparks anyone's memory about the identity of either the plane, or the location of this airfield.  Aerodrome contributor Rbailey posted in response to my query that there was a New Jersey Aeroplane Co. listed in old magazines in Patterson, NJ.  So we actually have a little more to go on, thanks to those guys!  My thanks to them.

Unknown airplane, with the same

Just a few more photos remain in the first scrapbook, and they're pretty good!



The "Gull Bat" of 1916.

The 1916  

Here is the oddity that I've been itching to publish, and now we've finally arrived at this little gem in the collection.  I literally found nothing regarding this except a scrap of paper with the words "Gull Bat" tucked in the pages where the photos reside.  My initial thought was that it might be the early work of W Leonard Bonney, but I don't see much in common with his ill-fated craft of 1928.

So, I'll put it to you.  I invite you to find some information about this odd aircraft.  What on earth is it?

The 1916  

Notice the tail skid and the nose wheel, and the marvelous curves of the wings. I don't know how common three-bladed propellers were in 1916, but this one is really nice.  The tubular trusswork below the wings reminds me a bit of a crop-duster.

The 1916  

A pretty arrangement of landing wires from a central post, and notice the full-flying elevator and vertical stabilizer!


I don't know if the plane got airborne, but I'm assuming it did not.

The 1916  

Thankfully, the pilot can be seen again in the final photo.

The 1916

Please post an answer if you know what this strange plane is.  I'm dying to know more about it!



Class Clowns?

Ralph McMillen, Capt. Ralph Taylor, Edgar Bagnell, and Ivan Wheaton clowning in front of a Curtiss JN-4, in Mineola, New York. 1916

Ivan (on the right) is posing here with three aviators who came to the Curtiss school together, from Nebraska.  I believe the first fellow (from left to right) is Ralph McMillen, and I'm certain the others are Capt. Ralph Taylor and Lt. Edgar "Happy" Bagnell.  There are a lot of photos of Mr. Bagnell in the coming photos, and you'll see that his nickname suited him well, as I've already mentioned.  I don't think we saw McMillen at the Curtiss school, and it may be because he was already a pilot.

I particularly love this photo because it brings to mind any number of places I've worked where I have fond memories of the people I was blessed to have known and had fun with.  Ivan spent just shy of a year at Mineola with these guys, clowning, flying, drinking, playing and perhaps weeping together.  Ralph Taylor would die in an a crash a few months after this photo was taken.  McMillen died in September of the same year when his plane abruptly dived into the ground from 200 feet.  Ivan and Edgar lived long enough to see grandchildren.

While I hate to even write about the deaths of these carefree looking gentlemen, it is something that was a regular part of early aviation, and can't be avoided without revising the story.  It may have been the reason Ivan left aviation in 1920.  Early aviation was pock-marked by the deaths of many of the best pilots of the time.  At the same time, Ivan's logbook is filled with the names of students who would go on to fly for decades with nary a scratch.

Here is a newspaper article regarding Ivan's change of address, and a mention at the end that gives a clue that he and Captain Taylor may have been friends off the airfield as well.

Newspaper article describing Ivan's move to Mineola, New York, where he joined the Signal Corps. 

Another old photo of the early aviators at Mineola.  Ivan is standing directly in front of the flag, with Edgar Bagnell to the left in the photo. Happy apparently didn't get the dress code memo.  Captain Taylor is seated on the far left.  Directly in front of Ivan is Major Hysop, of the New York National Guard, as Ivan has marked him in another photo.  Right of Ivan is a fellow marked Carolyn in another photo, and on the far right is a fellow marked Osborne.  As we work through the scrapbook, I'll attempt to discover more about these fliers, and as always, you're welcome to add any input via the comments at the bottom of the blog, if you know the identity of any of these men.

  A group of aviators sit for a portrait in Mineola, New York.  Ivan is standing directly in front of the flag.

We're very close to the end of the first scrapbook, but there are some fascinating photos of an airplane I'm unable to identify which I hope will amaze you as much as it does me.  I'll post those photos next.



Odds and Ends at the Curtiss School

Ivan poses in a Curtiss flying boat, model F - at the Curtiss School in 1916. 

I'm wrapping up the section on Ivan's flight instruction at the Curtiss School with this post. The photo above is of Ivan in the Curtiss model F flying boat.  Notice the Curtiss Control, which is a yoke that Ivan is sitting in which controls the ailerons.  The yoke moved from side to side as the pilot leaned from one side to the other, and the wires lead off to either aileron, causing the plane to bank.  The rudder was operated by a large steering wheel which also moved forward and aft to control the elevator.  Some of these planes had a foot operated throttle, as well.

Next up is a photo of the weekend crowd at the Curtiss School. Folks around these parts must have seen quite a few airplanes, but recall that this is early 1916, and aviation if still less than a decade old.  I imagine there is still a bit of wonder as folks watch the planes flying past.

Visitors at the Curtiss School watching an aerial demonstration, 1916. 

Here's a Curtiss model R making a slow pass for the camera.  Look at this as large as possible on Smugmug and see if it looks to you like the pilot has a pie tin on his face.  Weird!

A low flyby in a Curtiss model R at the Curtiss School, 1916. 

Finally, here's the last page of Ivan's logbook for his hours here at the school.  Notice that he did not solo, but still earned his certificate at about fourteen and a half hours of total flying time!

Ivan's final logbook page from the Curtiss School.

Next up, Ivan moves to Mineola, on Long Island.  I'll have details in that post...



Curtiss Model H Flying Boat

Curtiss model H flying boat prototype being lowered into the water by davit.  Curtiss school, Newport News, Virginia, 1916. 

These are the only photos in the scrapbook of this Curtiss model H flying boat.  My first clue to the identity of this plane was the logbook entry by Ivan on May 4, 1916.  Ivan noted here a "6 min. joy ride out to meet H boat".  That does not necessarily mean that this photo can be dated definitively, but I'm comfortable that it was very close to that date. The second clue is the ailerons on the upper plane, rather than between the wings as on the model F.

Various sources say that the first model met with failure. The thrust from the propeller combined with the drag of the hull produced a torque which caused the nose to dig too far down in the water.  That may be why there are no photos of this prototype in flight.  The first fix was to add "fins" on the side of the hull, so this may be the second prototype. The final fix was to add sponsons along the hull, which show up in photos seen of the model H2 flying boat, and are clearly lacking on this design.  The sponsons produced more bouyancy, overcoming the torque enough to achieve flying speed.

Prototype Curtiss flying boat model H taxiing in glassy calm water.

Back on the davit and ready to be removed from the water. Notice the slight chop in the water, indicating that the wind has picked up, and it's later in the day.  Also notice that it is photo #282, which comes after #279.  Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Curtiss model H flying boat prototype attached to the davit at the Curtiss school, 1916.

We're coming very near the end of Ivan's stay in Newport News, and a handful of pages from the end of the scrapbook.  There is one more flying boat model left to cover in next post, and then I'll post the odds & ends before moving on to his next assignment. Or rather, his first assignment!



Curtiss model F Flying Boat

Curtiss students launch a Model F Flying Boat as a crowd watches. 

I seem to be running out of model F flying boat photos!  This will be the last series of this model of the Curtiss Flying Boat, or Hydro-aeroplane, as it was referred to in its early years.  The first photo, above, shows a detail that I have wondered about for a while.  How did they cart that thing down the ramp?  Look closely, there's a pair of wheels steadying the plane.  I can't quite make out how they attached the wheels, but it is fun to have this mystery solved.  I don't think this was the case in every launch, since I think we would have seen one in a photo by now.

Here's a nice view of the Flying Boat taxiing, presumably back to the ramp.

Curtiss Flying Boat model F taxis by the Curtiss School in 1916.

I would have left this final photo out, if not for two things I noticed about the photo.  1) It may be the last model F plane in the scrapbook, and 2) it is taken in a vertical format.  Notice the tail is cut off, and that the horizon is pretty crooked.  In order to get a vertical format with this camera, you have to focus it via the viewfinder (by looking down into the camera from above, there was no prism) and then turn the camera on its side and give it your best guess.  I hadn't thought of that until this very photo, regarding all the other vertical format photos in the collection!  I find it interesting from a photographic standpoint, since it doesn't really make sense to try and capture this angle of the airplane vertically, it was a break from the traditional.

Curtiss Flying Boat model F at the Curtiss School in 1916.

Next up, I have some photos of what I believe is the model H prototype.  



The Preparedness Day Parade

Aviators from the Curtiss school pose with the Speed Scout S1 at the Norfolk, Virginia Preparedness Parade in 1916

Unfortunately, I'm at a point in my studies where I'm not able to spend as much time as I'd like researching this.  I was able to do a little detective work and discover that the parade passed a the address 205, and featured a China, Glass and Toys seller by the name of Max Schwan, which showed up in Norfolk, Virginia. There were many such parades across the U.S. in 1916 urging the government to make appropriations in preparation for war. Unfortunately, most news accounts fixate on the horrific suitcase bombing in San Francisco, California, which makes it difficult to find more details about our parade.

Preparedness Parade, Norfolk, Virginia, 1916.

You should be able to make out the sign in the photo below when you open it in X2Large size on Smugmug, but if you're in a hurry, it reads "Aeroplanes - Are the Eyes - Of the Army & Navy - Aviators & Students - Curtiss Aviation School - Newport News, Va."  The sign sheds a little light on the name of the plane they are leading, the Speed Scout, which was alleged to have a top speed of 105 mph.

The Curtiss Speed Scout is led by aviators during the Preparedness Parade in Norfolk, Virginia, 1916.

Aviators walk in the Preparedness Parade in Norfolk, Virginia, 1916.

Next up will be some photos of airplanes at the Curtiss School. I believe I'll hone in on a flying boat, and I have more than one model, so I'll start with the model F.



Aviator portraits, Part III

Walter Lees in the cockpit, with a photographer (Frank Conway?) perched on the nose of  a Curtiss flying boat.

Here's another small batch of early aviator portraits, starting with Walter Lees at the controls of a Curtiss Flying Boat, and an oddly perched photographer.  I wonder if this isn't Frank Conway?  His photos are a different format from this photo, and you see the initials FJC in white, and a number in his photos, or sometimes just the white numbers.  The large format camera makes me think that not many of the photographers probably carried such equipment, and I doubt that anyone would be given this kind of access to a plane unless they were on the payroll, as Mr. Conway was.  I also highly doubt that this type of "saddle up" riding was allowed on a flying boat.  Fun photo, though.

Most of the photos have some caption indicating the person or persons in the photo, but this next photo lacks one lacks one, unfortunately.  I included it because I like the photographic framing, the eyelines (where he's looking) and the "flaps up" style of his flight helmet.  It's just an interesting photo.

Unknown aviator at the Curtiss School in 1916.

The gentleman below will be featured in a series of photos concluding the album.  Edgar "Happy" Bagnell was a zany guy, if the photos in Ivan's collection are any indication of his temperment.  I guess his nickname is a giveaway, and I found a reference to him as a "humorist" in a Nebraska paper.  He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Nebraska Aviation Corps six months before he learned to fly, and by 1920 he ranked Captain. 


I'll wrap up the people photos with this tiny photo of a poker game.  Looking closely, you can see that there are only chips in the center, but one guy has a dollar bill going onto the table.  I like the one guy glancing up at the camera, cigar in hand.  If Ivan took this, I applaud his ability to do candid shots.

Poker players pass the time at the Curtiss school in 1916.

I've been looking into the Preparedness Day parade in Washington D.C. as the basis for a post.  I have a number of great photos from this event coming up next.



Aviator portraits, Part II

Victor Carlstrom at the Curtiss School, 1916.

Continuing with portraits from the collection, I'll begin with a great photo of Victor Carlstrom.  Victor set a number of world's records before and after coming to the Curtiss School, many of them in Curtiss aircraft.  He perished in a horrible accident when a structural failure caused his plane to disintegrate at about 2,000 feet.  Ivan received a letter and photos of the crash which appear later in the collection.  I'll post what I have when we reach that point.

Captain Ralph Taylor was a student along with a couple of others (Edgar "Happy" Bagnell, and Capt. McMillen) from The Aviation Corps of the Nebraska National Guard.  He also went on to the Signal Corps, and died after only three months of instructing at Mineola, New York.

Captain Ralph Taylor poses with a Curtiss JN 4 at the Curtiss School in 1916.

Captain Thomas Scott Baldwin, of whom I've already written. Apparently, you had to sneak up on him to get a picture.

Captain Thomas Scott Baldwin managed the Curtiss School in Newport News, Virginia.

I was unable to find anything conclusive about J. R. Booth, II of Canada.  However a search of his name did  reveal that a wealthy lumberman of Canada by the name of John Rudoluphus Booth had a number of sons, and a grandson named J. R. Booth, Jr. The dates seem reasonable to make this a possible connection.

J. R. Booth II in a Curtiss model R, 1916.

I'll have a few more portraits coming the the next post.  Thanks for all the +1s and Shares!



Aviator portraits at the Curtiss School, 1916.

An unknown aviator sits in a Curtiss flying boat for a portrait.

The lead photo is not captioned, and I don't really recognize this face among the rest of the photos.  I do love his combination goggles and face mask, though.  The goggles are actually sewn right into a mask that covers his nose.

Next is a photo of Steve Mac Gordon (L) and Warden Leonard Bonney (R).  I've previously written nearly all that I could find regarding Steve Mac Gordon.  By accounts he was a likeable gentleman and excellent instructor.  I have a few more photos in the collection of Mr. Mac Gordon, but the two in this post will be all I'll publish.

Warden Leonard Bonney learned to fly under Orville Wright in 1910 and flew in the Wright Exhibition Team.  He was killed on May 4, 1928 when his experimental Bonney Gull suddenly pitched down and crashed shortly after takeoff.  A tribute film to Bonney may be found here.  I've made references to an unknown aircraft which I will post in the future, which may have influenced Bonney in his theories.


This next photo has Walter Lees (L) and Howard Wehrle (R) in the Curtiss Twin JN.  Walter Lees was Ivan's instructor in the Model F flying boat, but here he is in a Curtiss Twin with Howard Wehrle. Lees' son in law has written a great deal about his life and exploits at this site.

Howard Wehrle was a student at the Curtiss School who joined at the same time Ivan was training there.  He went on, as Ivan did, to Mineola, New York with the Aviation Section Signal Corps.  He served at the Handley Page Training Station No. 1, according the the Who's Who in American Aeronautics of 1922.


Finally, an iconic photo of aviators Steve Mac Gordon (L) and Max Goodenough (R) in front of a Curtiss model R.  Max Goodenough was the second member of a team who attempted to break the world's record time aloft in 1921, but beyond that I was able to find little regarding this man.  I believe I have photos of him at Mineola in another album.  Perhaps some facts will surface as I find more photos and newspaper articles.

More aviators from the Curtiss school in the next post...


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More information on the Sturtevant...

It's interesting how a search for one bit of information often leads me to another.  I have been looking for more information about my post on the Sturtevant with the all steel fuselage.  I found this photo while looking into the death of Steve MacGordon, covered in my last post.  They titled it the Sturtevant All-Steel Battleplane.  It appears to be in the same parade where Curtiss displayed his planes.  I'll post some photos of the parade soon.

Armed with that information, I found this article in the Aero Club's newsletter, "Flying".  This amazing plane had all steel construction in the fuselage and riveted, brazed or welded steel members throughout the entire structure, and was the brainchild of Grover Loening.