Is the new information concerning Gustave Whitehead reliable ? Updated

The best source of reliable new information on the evidence for Gustave Whitehead’s (Gustav Weißkopf’s) flight claims is found in the new evidence-based, fully documented book, “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” (Brinchman, 2015). This important new book contains new discoveries, including additional witness statements and local newspapers from the period, that support Whitehead’s early flights. Previous research by O’Dwyer and Randolph has been supplemented by Susan O’Dwyer Brinchman, assistant to and daughter of Maj. O’Dwyer, author of the new book, and owner of this website. Ms. Brinchman, a longtime teacher with a masters degree in education, has 52 years of experience with the Whitehead research.

The majority of the information presented to Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft’s editor, Paul Jackson, and to the CT State Legislature in 2013 was based on the original Gustave Whitehead research of Major William J. O’Dwyer and Stella Randolph. Major O’Dwyer’s carefully conducted, well-documented research was conducted from 1963 through 2008 (when he passed away). It included primarily “field” research in the locale where Whitehead flew (and where O’Dwyer lived, from 1921 forward), especially first-hand interviews with flight witnesses and relatives of witnesses, inspection of flying grounds and other historic Whitehead sites. Local and state media archives and related Internet-based information, such as existed during those years, were utilized, leading to a listing and archive of over 50 key articles then known to exist on Whitehead. Major O’Dwyer studied Whitehead’s history, conducting field research in the places Whitehead lived, on a near daily basis, from 1963-1999.  His published and unpublished writings, including magazine articles and his co-authored book, “History by Contract”, as well as extensive correspondence about his research findings (POST-publication of his 1978 book coauthored with Randolph) are archived at the Gustave Whitehead Museum (Gustav Weisskopf Museum) in Leutershausen, Germany, and at the Fairfield Museum in Fairfield, CT, USA.

The International Gustav Weisskopf Committee (aka FFGW), affiliated with Germany’s Gustav Weisskopf Museum, initiated in the 1960’s, and in existence today, based in Leutershausen, Germany, Whitehead’s birthplace, has been a known reliable source of information for half a century. Major O’Dwyer helped found and lead that organization for several decades.

The 2013 information concerning Gustave Whitehead released to the world media includes misinformation that cannot be attributed to Major O’Dwyer. Unsubstantiated claims of a missing photo “located” allegedly located by Australian John Brown in 2012 of Gustave Whitehead in flight is but one example. Caution should be exercised with potentially hasty and poorly substantiated conclusions derived from short periods of “research” by self-described “amateur historians” who may be very new to the subject, but skilled at inserting this information into the major media; recently, portrayed in a flawed documentary shown in Europe and Australia, followed by a book replete with inaccuracies. This also pertains to those fighting the Whitehead flight claims, whose websites and information are opinion, not evidence-based.

A full CV should be required, examining professional qualifications for those claiming to be “historians”, on either side of the fence. In particular, those living in the locales of Fairfield and Bridgeport, CT, including the mayors and legislators who are seeking information about Gustave Whitehead, should require full background information and evidence of acceptable research practices (vs. opinion-based). They should exercise caution when accessing information generated in distant locales independently by persons unfamiliar with Whitehead’s flying grounds and field work related to the history, except for what they have accessed on the Internet, in limited German archives, and in books. Learning about Whitehead from the readily accessed research of William J. O’Dwyer would be time well spent. The alleged new information concerning Gustave Whitehead is not all correct on the websites, books, and documentaries of some amateur historians, as well as that found on the website of the Smithsonian and their affiliates (very likely due to conflicts of interest created by a contract signed with the Wright heirs requiring them to recognize only Orville Wright as first in flight).

For instance, in a recent documentary  being aired in Germany and France by Artemis Films (Australia), “Who Flew First “, Whitehead’s famous first sustained flight on August 14th is incorrectly portrayed as occurring during the daytime, in bright daylight, when it actually took place just before dawn. Amazingly, the film, soon to be available in English, also skips entirely over the important 45 years of Whitehead research by Maj. William J. O’Dwyer, including the interviewing of key witnesses in the 1960’s and 70’s, and does not credit anyone but Stella Randolph, whose preliminary 3 years of research was limited to the 1930’s. One watching this new Artemis docu-drama might think that no one discovered anything about Whitehead since then, except a new, amateur historian John Brown, of Germany, and does not explain the Weisskopf Museum in Leutershausen, Germany, co-founded by O’Dwyer with donations of Whitehead artifacts he placed there, nor O’Dwyer’s extensive Whitehead archives in Fairfield, CT. This docu-drama film about Whitehead (Gustav Weißkopf), entitled Pioneers of the Sky (Pioniere am Himmel) appears to be an infomercial for Mr. Brown’s rediscoveries, a retelling by Brown of how he learned about the Whitehead history, essentially based on the published, existing, original research of O’Dwyer and this writer, Brinchman, while giving no credit to either, with the exception of Brown’s finding of additional, distant, “rewrite” articles about Whitehead’s 1901 flight on August 14th, online. Mr. Brown’s widely covered 2013 interpretation of a Whitehead photograph purportedly in flight* was debunked within half a year as that of a Montgomery glider, taken in 1905. Randolph and O’Dwyers’ books about the Whitehead research are pictured in the film, lying sideways on the desk of a museum where Brown is “discovering” the evidence, but never mentioned as a source of the material the film appears to be crediting to Brown.

*mentioned above

Critics of the O’Dwyer and Randolph research are primarily found amongst those who have made a living off selling the Wright story and photos to the public, or hobby (amateur) historians devoted to the Wright claim. These most often include the Smithsonian curators (under legal contract to support the Wrights as first in flight, in order to retain the Wright Flyer as an exhibit) and their associates. Their critiques are full of misinformation about Whitehead and his flights, and should be approached with caution, as they cite nothing more than the opinions of contenders for the title of first in flight, such as Orville Wright, or his associates.

The new information concerning Gustave Whitehead should be obtained from reliable sources, such as this website and the new, fully documented evidence-based book, “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight“.

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