Monday, August 27, 2007

Glenn Curtiss' Record-Setting Flight to Cedar Point

On the afternoon of August 31, 1910, aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss established a record for flying over water when he landed his biplane on the beach at Cedar Point. He had taken off from Euclid Beach in Cleveland about an hour and fifteen minutes earlier, flying over Lake Erie, parallel to the shore. His return trip to Cleveland the next day added to his record. The event surely was the highlight of the summer for Sanduskians in 1910. Thousands flocked to see the flight at its take-off and landing points, with many more -- in Vermilion, Lorain, and elsewhere along the route -- positioning themselves on the shore, hoping to spot Curtiss and his flying machine in the air.

The Sandusky Register offered regular preview reports in the days before the flight. Pictures of Curtiss and diagrams of his proposed flight were featured on the front pages. In one report, the paper noted that part of Curtiss' inspiration for attempting the flight to Cedar Point was a prize of $15,000 (an equivalent value of more than $300,000 today) offered by Cedar Point Manager George Boeckling, with a $5,000 bonus if the flight was completed in less than one hour. He was portrayed as enthusiastic, but not overly excited over his prospects, exuding an air of quiet confidence, with a businesslike demeanor.

The people of Sandusky (and Cleveland), it seems, were much more excited about the flight than the aviator himself was. The Register reported in detail about the preparations made in anticipation of Curtiss' arrival: Spotters were assigned along the route to telephone information about the airplane's progress; boats to Cedar Point were to run as frequently as possible, to bring people from downtown Sandusky to the beach; the Eastland brought passengers from Cleveland, the Kirby, from Detroit; many businesses in Sandusky planned to close for the day, so that their employees may watch the arrival; men with megaphones were assigned to broadcast updates to the spectators on the beach.

Unfortunately for those who gathered to witness the flight on Tuesday, August 30, there was disappointment, as the winds in Cleveland were too strong for Curtiss to fly. The Register reported that, upon the announcement of the delay, "[t]here were cries of 'Oh!' and 'Ah' and 'Fake!' and 'Stung!' with poo-poos and hisses." Some out-of-town spectators, of course, had to go back home, missing their opportunity to witness history.

Success finally arrived the next day, Wednesday August 31. In Sandusky, it was arranged that the fire whistle, at the Meigs Street Water Works, was to sound three times upon news of Curtiss' departure from Cleveland (where it was said that 100,000 people watched his flight). It did so at around 1:15 that afternoon. The Register reported that "[t]he effect of the first toot was magical. Men grabbed their hats and started for the boat landing at the foot of Columbus avenue. Women fell into line with them . . . They had but one idea in mind and that was to see Curtiss." He was greeted on the beach by thousands of local spectators, and by Boeckling, who later that day gave a banquet in his honor.

On the following afternoon, Glenn Curtiss returned to Cleveland the same way he came.

(Copies of the photographs included in this article were donated to the Sandusky Library by Reinhardt Ausmus, one of Sandusky's own aviation pioneers.)


wendy said...

I think its so amazing how the crowds always turned out to watch people fly in or out! That's back when it was truly a unique thing to witness. I love Cedar Point - my favorite amusement park!

Moultrie Creek said...

Great story and what is that thing he's got wrapped around him? I hope it's not supposed to be a life preserver.

Sandusky Library Archives Research Center said...

>>Great story and what is that thing he's got wrapped around him? I hope it's not supposed to be a life preserver.<<

Thanks. It is, in fact, supposed to be a life preserver. Of course I can't find the citation now, but somebody wrote that he used a partially-inflated tire innertube as a life preserver.