Scientific American on early flights of Gustave Whitehead

From the new book, “Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight“, p. 216  © Susan Brinchman, 2015

"Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight" book cover

“Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight” book cover

Stanley Yale Beach, Aviation Editor for the Scientific American and son of its owner, said to be direct descendant of William the Conqueror and Elihu Yale, founder of Yale University, published half a dozen significant Whitehead articles in that noteworthy magazine, five different times crediting Whitehead as “first to fly”, describing his work and flights, especially those of 1901, in a very positive manner. Beach pointedly referenced Whitehead’s successful powered flights of 1901 in his articles in Scientific American from 1903-1908,469 up until the time of his “falling
out”* with Whitehead (*to be covered in the next section). These are as follows: (emphasis added)

Scientific American June 8, 1901, p. 357
This article describes the “No. 21” as it was being prepared for a manned, free flight, describing the aeroplane as “inherently stable”. Beach also wrote, “He built [an engine] of 20 horsepower to drive the two propellers of his
new monoplane and one of ten horsepower to propel it on the ground.”

Scientific American, Sept. 19, 1903, p.204 (see entire article on the following pages, below)
Beach wrote this article, crediting Whitehead with recently flying along the ground surface, up to 16 feet in the
air, with a motor-driven aeroplane of his own construction, a triplane. The date is still three months ahead of the
Wrights’ flights at Kitty Hawk.

Scientific American, Jan. 27, 1906, pp.93-94
“The Aero Club of America’s Exhibit of Aeronautical Apparatus”
“This exhibit was the most complete of its kind ever held in any part of the world, for all types of flying
machines, balloons and airships were represented … Besides these very complete exhibits of apparatus,
the walls of the room were covered with a large collection of photographs showing the machines of other
inventors, such as Whitehead, Berliner and Santos-Dumont; and other photographs showing airships
and balloons in flight … A single blurred photograph of a large birdlike machine propelled by compressed
air and which was constructed by Whitehead in 1901 was the only other photograph besides that of Langley’s
machines* of a motor-driven aeroplane in successful flight. In order to at least partially substantiate their
claims, it would seem as if aeroplane inventors would show photographs of their machines in flight …”
[*Author’s note – Langley’s photo was of a scale model]

Scientific American, Nov. 24, 1906, p.379
“Santos Dumont’s Latest Flight”
“…In his enthusiasm, the Brazilian aeronaut forgets also that at least three experiments in America
(Herring in 1898, Whitehead in 1901 and the Wright brothers in 1903), Maxim in England (1896), and
Ader in France (1897) have already flown for short distances with motor-driven aeroplanes, and yet no
really practical machine of the kind has as yet been produced and demonstrated.” (p. 378)

Scientific American, 15. Dec. 1906, p.447
“The Second Annual Exhibition of the Aero Club of America”
“The body of the framework of Gustave Whitehead’s latest bat-like aeroplane was shown mounted on
pneumatic-tired, ball bearing wire wheels … Whitehead also exhibited the 2-cylinder steam engine which
revolved the road wheels of his former bat machine, with which he made a number of short flights in 1901.”
At the bottom of the next page, the 1901 Whitehead engine is displayed in a photograph from the exhibition, as
are two additional motors and a propeller.”

Scientific American, Jan. 25, 1908, p. 54
“The Farman Aeroplane Wins the Deutsch Archdeacon Prize”
“In view of the above-mentioned facts, while giving to M. Farman the credit for first publicly
demonstrating that it is possible to fly in all directions, both with, against and across a light wind,
we nevertheless wish to recall to the aeronautical world the fact that to America belongs the credit of
producing the first successful motor-driven aeroplane, and that to such men as the Wright brothers, A. M.
Herring, and Gustave Whitehead – men, who under the tutelage of Lilienthal and Chanute, have begun
with gliding flight and gradually worked their way forward to the production of a self-propelled aeroplane
in all its details, including the gasoline motor – belongs the real credit of having produced the first successful
heavier-than-air flying machines.”

The Scientific American carried a full page article about Whitehead in September, 1903, three months
before the Wrights conducted their experimental powered “hops” at Kitty Hawk. The article then credits Whitehead
with recently flying along the ground surface, up to 16 feet in the air, with a motor-driven aeroplane of his own
construction, a triplane. The article, without a byline, is credited to Stanley Yale Beach, the Scientific American
Aviation Editor who lived in Lordship, where Whitehead was known to fly.

Stanley Beach knew Whitehead, photographed him on many occasions, and several years later, signed
onto a patent with Whitehead for his self-leveling, bat-winged soaring machine (a type of glider that was
developed into a large biplane), with Beach’s father financing some Whitehead-built Beach designs.
Beach sought Orville Wright’s friendship, influence, and business in later years. Beach was increasingly
affiliated, from 1906 on, with those who were squarely in the Wright “camp”. 470 When Orville’s position
as “first in flight” was threatened, in the latter half of the 1930’s, by Whitehead researcher Stella Randolph’s
publications, Beach was prevailed upon to come to the rescue by Wright proponents and did 471, producing
a jointly written, never published or signed “Whitehead Statement”, later used by Orville Wright and all later
Whitehead detractors, to denounce the Whitehead flight claims. Following Stanley Beach’s notorious late life,
highly publicized, unfortunate mental health problems which led to serious personal and financial crises, Beach
turned against Gustave Whitehead – more than a decade after Whitehead’s death. He was “put up to” writing
an unsigned, never-published, collaboratively edited, negative Whitehead statement by several highly placed
friends of Orville Wright, in which he denied that Whitehead had ever flown. [Note: Click here for article with full documentation to prove this.]

The Scientific American of September 19, 1903, contains this article, which illustrates some of the steps
and mathematical calculations Gustave Whitehead engaged in during the invention of his powered planes. First,
he would make a model and or/ glider, testing the glider sufficiently, then he’d add a lightweight engine he’d
build or have built for him. He tried to take these steps as safely as possible, for most of the test flights, cognizant of the dangers involved and people who had been killed in the course of aerial experimentation, such as Otto Lilienthal. Whitehead came up with a variety of designs, some of his own, but increasingly using those of others, his sponsors, who hired him to produce airplanes for them. One recurrent theme with Whitehead was the creation of a “practical plane” (one that had commercial potential) that could rise and descend (land) vertically. He was not alone in both of these concepts, for this was mentioned by others of his era. With no protected airports or runways, establishing suitable places for takeoffs and landings was difficult at best. Whitehead did not consider his earlier successful designs to be practical for the uses he so strongly envisioned. He continued to strive, with his limited funding, to invent and produce designs for a practical plane that would rise vertically. In this article, by Stanley Yale Beach, aviation editor for the Scientific American, we view photos with descriptions of a triplane glider soon to be motorized, the process, and the thoughts of Gustave Whitehead on this subject, several months before the Wrights “flights” at Kitty Hawk.


Continued in the book….

Gustave Whitehead: First in Flight

Note to readers: In 2014, a current Scientific American editor (not a Whitehead researcher), published an updated version of an online article on Gustave Whitehead, originally gained from an opinion-based blog website owned by a Wright website owner, a “hobby historian” who routinely bashes Whitehead evidence. The article denied that Scientific American legitimately supported Whitehead’s early flight claims, purporting to examine a few of the articles above. That article is pure fantasy and opinion, not evidence-based, and accordingly, does not represent good research practices. This author recommends that the current Scientific American editors take the scientific approach the magazine was founded upon. Denying what primary sources above prove was written is just plain silly, as is attempting to concoct excuses for why Scientific American supported Whitehead’s early flights during those years. Whitehead was famous for his 1901 flights; this was accepted throughout the first ten years following his successes. When other inventors surpassed his early successes, Whitehead’s earlier accomplishments, such as being “first”, seemed to pale by comparison.  People then were not interested in first flights, as much as developing commercially viable flight. The later inventors went on to different accomplishments and greater fame, but Whitehead was “first” and the Scientific American wrote about it often.

Copyright by Susan Brinchman, 2015

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