The ‘Unrealized Dreams’ Gustave Whitehead Article: A Commentary, Updated 2.10.14

Unrealized Dreams Article Part 1

Unrealized Dreams Article Part 1

Unrealized Dreams article Part 2

Unrealized Dreams Article Part 2

Whitehead Flew High. Bridgeport Post, April 5, 1902

Whitehead Flew High. Bridgeport Post, April 5, 1902

Commentary on the articles:

Unrealized Dreams and Whitehead Flew High (April 5, 1902)



Whitehead Flew High

April 5, 1902

“Whitehead Flew High
That Is Financially but Not Actually — That Is, to Say as Yet He Hasn’t
Linde Tired of Putting up Ducats.
Millers Lumber Co. Brings Him into Court — Says He Ordered Brakes Down

The Frank Miller Lumber Company summoned Herman Linde before Justice John S. Pullman yesterday to show cause why he should not foot a bill which Gustave Whitehead, the widely known flying machine inventor, had contracted. [emphasis added by author]

Many months ago Mr. Whitehead intending to carry on his extensive experiments, sought the assistance of men with money. His enthusiastic descriptions of what he hoped to do interested Mr. Linde who promptly paid $1,000 to the venture.

This fund, although not large, enabled Mr. Whitehead to do considerable experimenting. Lumber was necessary in the work and Mr. Whitehead went to the Frank Miller Co. to get it. He told them that Mr. Linde was back of him and would be all right.

The lumber firm was a bit skeptical on flying machines and made some inquiries. At the City National bank it learned that Mr. Linde was all right, so an account was opened. with the firm of Linde and Whitehead.

Up to Nov. 20, $110 worth of lumber was purchased. Then the company began to inquire about payment XXX. Linde received a letter. He went around and found out how things were. He paid $76 on account and then, so he says, told the lumber people not to let the firm of Linde & Whitehead have any more on account, as the thousand dollars was used up.

But the inventor wanted more lumber and he ran up a bill for $38 more. When this was presented Mr. Linde refused to pay. he acknowledged the $X4 balance due, but he would not pay the new amount.

Upon the trial the defendant put in his statement that he had ordered that the company not to trust the firm of Linde & Whitehead any more. But this was denied by the plaintiff. The company held that it had not received notice of any kind and had filled Mr. Whitehead’s order the same as before.

Before the Justice, Hill & Hill appeared for the plaintiff., William K. Dewitz for the defendant. Justice Pullman reserved his decision.

Mr. Linde is now of the opinion that inventors are very expensive business.”


This little-known article, ‘Whitehead Flew High’, from the Bridgeport Post of April 5, 1902, reports strictly on the lack of payment (and resulting court case) by Mr. Hermann Linde, Whitehead’s new sponsor in Fall, 1901, to the Frank Miller Lumber Company. The article’s title refers to the promised practical high flights for a long distance not yet being achieved. Whitehead is described as “the widely known flying machine inventor”. He is portrayed as an inventor cut off from funding prematurely, after less than one month, by his new sponsor, Hermann Linde. Ultimately, Linde shuts down the new shop Whitehead had set up, billed as “a flying machine factory” by other newspapers. Following his successful short – but, as he saw it, impractical – flights of August 14, 1901, Whitehead’s next goal was to perfect his machine, to able to fly to nearby New York City and transport people there. Linde’s promised funding did not hold up. In fact, this article shows Linde to be a liar, according to the lumber company. Whitehead has not flown high to New York as promised, but is still held in high esteem – nothing in the article attacks his efforts, which is referred to as “extensive experimentation”. It merely points out that inventing airplanes is expensive business that Linde was not ready for – other experimenters – far less successful than Whitehead – spent millions.

In another local article of the exact same date, in the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, often happily cited by detractors such as Tom Crouch of the Smithsonian in recent years, Whitehead is ridiculed for not making good on his flight goals, without taking into consideration that no one in the world had yet flown as far as it was to New York City and one could certainly not do it without the funding.

The two articles taken together show conclusively that the ridiculing of Whitehead in the Bridgeport Evening Farmer, which chose to slant it as “Last Flop of the Whitehead Flying Machine”, is editorializing at its worst, ignoring the more mundane facts regarding lumber customer Linde who would not pay his bill after just a short time, and then quit supporting Whitehead.

Gustave Whitehead and the world at large expected great things from flight. A practical aeroplane was sought, to achieve transportation and other uses of the sort we now enjoy. Flying short distances of even a mile and a half, accomplished by Whitehead on August 14, 1901, and his even longer flights of January, 1902, circling over Long Island Sound, wetted the appetite of the inventor and the public for more. These accomplishments were not seen as important events in history when they occurred, but merely as experimental steps to the final outcome culminated  through the efforts of hundreds of inventors. Whitehead was struggling to accomplish effortless, practical flight, and his early accomplishments were the first small steps of mankind toward this goal. Recognition for those significant early successes should widen, as well as the later successes in development of the art of flying by all who participated, as we look back on them with the advantage of a century having passed. Let us honor them with our recognition, for their combined struggles have blessed us with technologies that enable effortless travel and will take us to the planets and beyond.

Whitehead invented the first airplane, humble as it appeared.



Last Flop of the Whitehead Flying Machine”

The Bridgeport Evening Farmer article of April 5, 1902

Bridgeport, CT

(To read the original article, click on JPEG’s above, at left)

This little known article, from a small newspaper in Bridgeport, CT, pertains to Gustave Whitehead’s early flights and a key falling out with one of his earliest sponsors, and is used by Whitehead detractors such as Smithsonian NASM’s Head Curator, Tom Crouch, who obtained it from an earlier critic of the 1960’s. The article explains what occurred in the courtroom concerning a small lawsuit brought against Hermann Linde by the Frank Miller Lumberyard, for a small bill he had not yet paid. To make it more interesting to the readers, the article floridly details purported “unrealized dreams” as they concern a falling out about a flying machine venture, between Gustave Whitehead and Hermann Linde, a brief backer of Whitehead’s. The information is tainted by Linde’s side of the story, but astute readers can “read between the lines”. In October of 1901, according to the article, Linde and Whitehead formed a partnership of sorts to produce a new flying machine that was boat-shaped. This would have been the bird-like No. 22, following in the footsteps of the “bird-like, boat-shaped” No. 21.

Whitehead gave numerous interviews about the flying machine factory that had just started to be in operation, in early November, 1901, funded by a then-unnamed backer, who turned out to be Linde, allegedly promising Whitehead $1000 in a written letter. Linde had explained the partnership to the Frank Miller lumberyard, according to the Evening Farmer article, but not according to Linde, who denied it. By November 20, 1901, Whitehead had been furnished with only $110 worth of lumber. The lumberyard where an account had been opened for “the thousand dollar account” was paid $76 by Linde on account, who then told them that there was no such partnership (anymore) and not to allow Whitehead to charge anymore to the account. The lumberyard wished to be paid in full, and sued Mr. Linde for the balance, which was “about $50” by the time they went to court in April, 1902, including a small liability of about $15 that Whitehead had supposedly charged after November 20. In the courtroom, Linde is described as “excitable” and uncooperative, often jumping to his feet and yelling, denying there’d ever been a Whitehead partnership, refusing to answer questions of the Miller attorney concerning it. But then Linde claimed that he’d spent $1000 without the hoped for flight over the rooftops of Bridgeport.

What this article shows is that given approximately one month, Gustave Whitehead was supposed to have produced the first airplane factory in the world and a new passenger-carrying, flying model of his previously successful No. 21 for Mr. Linde. Whitehead was allegedly given $1000 – yet the Whitehead charges to the lumber account were only $110, being cut off prematurely. Perhaps the shifts of mechanics and laborers reported to be working in the “factory” by other newspapers were paid out of the rest of the $1000, if we are to believe Linde. Items not available in a lumberyard would also be necessary, such as material for the wings and blocks of metal used in engine construction. Previous news articles of that time period show that the goal of the “partnership” was to build aeroplanes to be able to fly passengers from Bridgeport to New York, more than an hour away by train or car. Other inventors of the era, including Smithsonian’s Secretary Langley and Hudson Maxim, were spending hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for each attempted flying machine, which had been failures. Whitehead, with a score of witnesses to his flights, built his machines for a few thousand dollars – often using old parts from the earlier ones, and taking many months or up to a year to finalize. In this case, he had to buy the materials for, build and set up a new factory-style shop, then build multiple a similar but new, improved flying machine, based on the successes of the No. 21, which was the plan in the fall of 1901. Being given $110 in lumber was not going to achieve that goal, especially within a month. Perhaps Mr. Linde, reputed to have had mental health problems, was overly excitable with Whitehead too. Mrs. Whitehead, years later, when interviewed in the 1930’s, said that Mr. Linde was attempting what amounts to “corporate espionage”, trying to get one of the Whitehead mechanics to note how the planes were being built and to steal the designs, to tell Linde how to build the planes with the help of that mechanic, so he could do so without Whitehead.  A note Linde had written to the mechanic to this effect was found and that was the cause of the breakup of the partnership, according to Mrs. Whitehead. The Miller lumber company said Linde had never told them Whitehead could no longer charge there to the partner account, and so were seeking full payment of the amounts owed ($50). Mr. Linde denied this. He appears to have been dishonest, as well as an excitable and uncooperative man.

It should be noted that in Bridgeport, CT, at that time, according to Anton Pruckner, one of Whitehead’s associates and mechanics, a semi-skilled worker earned between $1 and $2 for a ten hour work day in local factories, working six days a week, to put things in perspective. Whitehead was thought to have few assets so the lumber company wished Mr. Linde to pay the full bill.  The article says Mr. Linde claimed to have invested $6000 total (if we are to believe him) in the Whitehead flying machine venture, without a return on his money. However, as we have seen, he only allowed Whitehead a little more than a month with the documented $110, possibly $1000, or up to $6000 if we are to accept Mr. Linde’s version, to produce a new, improved aeroplane that could carry passengers a hundred miles in a successful flight, in an era that predated the Wright “flights” at Kitty Hawk by two years, when short flights by Whitehead alone in the craft, had just been accomplished. No. 21, the predecessor to No. 22, had flown successfully numerous times in the summer and early fall of 1901, but was not suitable for long, necessarily more controlled flights, nor in transporting multiple passengers (which had not yet been done), and so it had to be improved. These were high-minded goals which ultimately led to realities, though it would be much more than a decade before these were accomplished by others. It is no wonder that the demands of Linde were unrealized in a month!

One of Whitehead’s most daunting problems with backers was that they often, like Linde, had unrealistic expectations and wanted returns on their money within short periods of time. This was not compatible with the necessary process involved with many stages of trial and error to develop new inventions, especially flying machines, which had not been perfected and were often lethal.

After the breakup of the “Linde-Whitehead partnership”, mentioned in a January, 1902 Bridgeport Sunday Herald article by Gustave Whitehead, the No. 22 had indeed been built and flown in January, according to Whitehead, who revealed this to the public via the American Inventor, April, 1902, having been confirmed subsequently by a number of witnesses. However, having lost the factory in Bridgeport on Cherry Street that Linde paid for, briefly, and with no resources to build a suitable shelter for the plane, Whitehead had to leave No. 22 and No. 21 out in the winter weather, whereupon it became destroyed. Undaunted, Gustave Whitehead would go on to build more planes, when his resources allowed, of multiple designs, always seeking to eliminate the need for horizontal takeoffs and landings, which was a problem to all early aeronauts. 

The suit was about a lumber company attempting to be paid. The title, “Unrealized Dreams” refers to the specific dreams of building a passenger plane to New York in 1901. It might better have been entitled “Unrealized Funding”, as without funds, dreams are especially hampered. Whitehead struggled and did feverishly build his often successful planes at home during those early years, in all his spare time, often in the middle of the night, following a ten hour shift at local factories. Whitehead’s early successes were man’s first successful airplane flights. He shared his successes in the print media at occasional intervals, but focused most of his attention on inventing. However, Whitehead never received the steady funding necessary to perfect his own inventions.

“Unrealized Dreams” has been used by Whitehead detractors with strong ties to the Wright brothers legend, such as Charles Gibbs-Smith of the London Museum (deceased) and Tom Crouch of the Smithsonian, for the past fifty years to attempt to deny that Whitehead flew before the Wrights. Unfortunately, this has been an “unrealized goal”. Due primarily to the large number of witnesses who saw him fly with that evidence supported by media coverage of his day, Gustave Whitehead has now been recognized as “first in flight” by the world authority on aviation, Jane’s All the World Aircraft and the state of Connecticut, where Whitehead’s successful powered flights took place.

An “unrealized dream” of the present is that the Smithsonian Institution, in the interest of reducing bias, will tear up the contract it holds with the Wright heirs, requiring it to support only the Wrights as first in flight, or lose their premiere exhibit, the purported “Wright Flyer”. Another yet unrealized dream is that Gustave Whitehead will receive widespread recognition for being in “first place” for the first manned, powered flights in aviation history, including at the Smithsonian, where an exhibit on his achievements should be established, as it should be at all aviation museums in America and beyond. Despite attempts to deny it and efforts to twist the meaning of a single, small news article about money owed for lumber, Whitehead was first in powered flight, the Wrights second.

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