Quicker Than a Rushing Bullet: Glenn H. Curtiss

Faster Than a Dashing Bullet: Glenn H. Curtiss

“The quickest gentleman in the world…bullets are the only rivals of Glenn H. Curtiss of Hammondsport.” – 1907 newspaper headline

Wearing a leather-based cap, a perfectly-manicured moustache and a steely gaze Glenn Hammond Curtiss stares out of a time-worn black and white postcard-like photograph. In the history frothy waves plash upon a beach front, the extremely really hard packed sands upon which his experimental V-8 powered bike would transport him into the record publications as “The Quickest Guy in the Globe.” The working day was Thursday January 24, the year 1907 the location, Ormond Seashore on the east coast of Florida. The history… 136.3 mph, a land speed history that would stand for eleven several years and then only surpassed by an car. It would not be until 1930 that a motorbike would very best Glenn Curtiss’s feat of daring-do and mechanical style and design.

The surfside environment for the renowned blast down the beach front experienced its origins a couple of decades earlier when in 1902 influential Ormond Seaside people began advertising and marketing racing on the nearby seaside with an inaugural car speed operate. The activity grew in reputation and even Henry Ford confirmed up for an function in one particular of his early automobiles, and slept in it because at the time he could not manage the hotel room. Yet another “celebrity” who could find the money for about nearly anything took up residence in Ormond Seashore, none other than John D. Rockefeller who had resolved to stay to a 100 and was seeking for the ideal healthy environment in get to get to the century mark (he designed it to 97). Ormond Seaside grew to become a playground the prosperous and well known… and individuals experience the require for speed. Case in position, 1 Glenn H. Curtiss, a true American hero and a more substantial than lifetime individuality who exploits would even encourage a popular series of youth publications “The Adventures of Tom Swift” penned by Victor Appleton. And yes, there was one quantity circa 1910 titled “Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle or Pleasurable and Adventures on the Street.”

Curtiss was often wanting for new adventures on, or off, the street. He also realized he would discover the rapid lane he needed to break the existing file for it was at Ormond Beach in 1904 that Charles Schmidt drove his Packard Grey Wolf to a environment record in the kilometer at 76 mph and wherever, for the one-mile report, William Vanderbilt, Jr. set the earth history of 92 mph in a 90-horsepower Mercedes. It was these races that put Ormond Seaside on the pace map and introduced it fame as house to 30 many years of land-speed information sooner or later evolving into the now well known Daytona Seaside 500 and the founding of NASCAR.

Again in 1907 the 29-year outdated Glenn Curtiss had now invented or produced many of the much more than 500 patterns and parts he would conjure up throughout his life time including a hand in the progress of the Wright Brothers first airplane and further aeronautical experiments in partnership with Alexander Graham Bell that provided developing and patenting the aircraft aileron now universally intrinsic to managed flight.

Regardless of whether it was propeller powered or rolled on wheels, Glenn was usually pushing the envelope. While his lasting fame would rest with plane, it all started with bikes. As a consequence of his knowledge as a bicycle racer, Western Union bicycle messenger and bicycle shop owner Curtis became intrigued in motorcycles. In 1901 he commenced motorizing bicycles with his personal single cylinder interior combustion engines, initially fashioned from tomato cans. He not only talked the converse, he walked the walk, racing what he developed and earning the accolade in 1903 as the “First American Motorcycle Champion” by achieving 54.6 mph. By 1905, he established the world pace records for 1, two and a few mile activities. Other than piloting his speedsters he tinkered out a number of advancements which include the handlebar twistgrip throttle manage and a triple cylinder engine selected the W-3, fundamentally a V-twin with a 3rd cylinder which Curtiss himself termed the swiftest production motorcycle in the earth.

How these kinds of ingenuity arose is 1 of those mysteries of mother nature for Curtiss was lifted in around poverty and shed his parents when really young and subsequently only attained an 8th quality education. As Trafford Doherty, Director of the Curtiss Museum points out, “Curtiss was amazingly intuitive and unbelievably mechanical. He was also particularly athletic and in the1890s was virtually unbeaten as a bicycle racer. He was extremely aggressive and that aggressive mother nature appeared first in bicycles, then motorcycles and then in his business ventures. Although of a critical demeanor, a person of relatively handful of text and not comfy with community speaking, he was also known to be congenial amid his fellows. His contributions have been legion and rightly acquired him the accolades as “The Henry Ford of Aviation” and “The Speediest Man in the Earth.”

But it would a neat overcast day in 1907 that Glenn Curtis would make his mark, at the very least in the historical past textbooks of motorcycling. He had been planning and creating a assortment of engines like singles, V-twins and inline fours, but it would be his light-weight air-cooled V8 that would pretty much make his mark. The energy plant came into existence because of to the ever escalating demand for extra impressive aircraft engines for the burgeoning output of early 20th century traveling machines. The history breaking motorbike by itself was in essence a rolling, but not pretty traveling, take a look at mattress for the new Curtiss 40hp “monster” motor.

The configuration was primarily based on a pretty square 3.25 x 3.25 inch bore and stroke that displaced a strong 269 cubic inches. When his previous engines were being generally single cylinder and 50-degree V-Twins, Curtis went to a 90 degree design and style that includes solid iron F-sort heads as used on his lesser displacement powerplants. In addition it dispensed with head gaskets thanks to the excellent of its design and manufacture. Within the huge hunk of steel lurked a strong billet metal crank when inside lubrication was taken care of by way of a dry sump and random splash program. Underneath the valve handles inlet valves ended up activated by atmospheric force when pushrods actuated the exhaust valves. Fed by twin carbs, also Curtiss layouts, the throttle cables had been concealed inside of the handlebars. The electrical procedure relied upon soar-spark Ignition energized by dry mobile batteries. Although it seemed ungainly with its 4000cc engine suspended in what was a intensely beefed up bicycle frame with a 64-inch wheelbase, the general design and style benefited from a electric power to excess weight ratio (a person hp per 6.8 pounds) that was highly developed by any benchmarks, primarily by those people of 1907, the bike tipping the scales at just 275lbs.

As soon as the equipment was unloaded at Ormond Beach front, Glenn Curtiss surveyed the salt-sprayed 4 mile program. It was divided into a two-mile section for reaching best speed, a 3rd mile for timing reasons, and past by not least a “gradual down and cease” mile. As the bike was shaft-driven with no clutch and but a person tall gear, it was an all or practically nothing proposition. One retained twisting the throttle and enable the speed construct when the screaming unmuffled pipes scattered sea birds for miles. As the Curtiss Museum director responses, “It must have sounded like the Wrath of God!”

Aiding Curtiss have been Thomas Baldwin and the aptly named “Tank” Waters, their brawn employed to drive start off the equipment into existence. They wanted to be hale and hearty fellows, and stout they were, due to the fact the bump get started approach typically necessary as a lot of as 10 or far more attempts to get the V8 burbling and barking.

Curtiss climbed into the saddle, positioned his goggles and gripped the handlebars, most likely glancing down at the time much more at the Goodrich tires biting into the seashore sand, then nodded. Fortunately it was not the horrendously humid Florida summer season months, and the two adult males hurled Curtiss and his V8 two-wheeler down the beach and into the background guides. Having the two miles to arrive at entire speed, Curtis was clocked at 136.3 mph in the timed area of the program. He would be the 1st male to travel one particular mile in 25.25 seconds, a feat of mechanical style and personal courage that gained him the title of the speediest gentleman on earth. Ironically the record was regarded as unofficial due to a potentially fatal mechanical challenge that precluded it from working the training course once more under official observation. In other words and phrases the bike broke down following only 1 full by means of the study course. The expert and neat-headed rider that he was, Curtis was in a position to deliver it the machine to a halt from the 90mph at which instant parts experienced began flailing about.

The make a difference was described in the February 9, 1907 difficulty of Scientific American (and we estimate): “THE Quickest AND MOST Powerful AMERICAN MOTOR BICYCLE. What is unquestionably the most impressive as perfectly as the swiftest motor bicycle ever constructed in this place produced its overall look at the races at Ormond Seashore recently but, owing to the breaking of a universal joint and subsequent buckling of the body, this device created no formal file. It was developed by Mr. G. H. Curtiss, a well-acknowledged motor-bicycle maker, with the strategy of breaking all records. The device was equipped with an 8-cylinder air-cooled V-motor of 36-40 horse-electric power…The complete excess weight of the full device was but 275 pounds, or 6.8 pounds per horse-energy. In an unofficial mile exam, timed by quit watches from the start off by several folks who viewed by subject eyeglasses a flag waved at the finish, Mr. Curtiss is explained to have coated this distance in 26 2-5 seconds, which would be at the price of 136.3 miles per hour – a speedier speed than has ever been manufactured right before by a man on any form of vehicle. However, prior to this new mile file could be corroborated by an formal examination, the universal joint broke whilst the equipment was likely 90 miles an hour…”

In addition armchair pundits of the day reportedly snorted with disbelief espousing their agency belief that is was a hoax or fable considering that no mortal male could breathe at the claimed velocity. It would be the V8’s 1 and only working day in the solar, the only time Glenn Curtiss would just take it up to speed. But at the time was adequate.

In 1930, at age 52 Glenn Hammond Curtiss who had so normally slipped the surly bonds of Earth, did in truth breath his previous breath succumbing unexpectedly to an embolism immediately after thriving medical procedures for appendicitis. His entire body now rests in his birthplace of Hammondsport, New York.
As for his vaunted V8 bike, a bolt for bolt duplicate of the ferocious equipment was designed by the Mercury Aircraft Co. and is now on exhibit at the Curtiss Museum. If you want to see the serious McCoy you will uncover it at the new Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center located adjacent to the Dulles Intercontinental Airport in Chantilly, VA (www.nasm.si.ed.u). As a poignant postscript, we are instructed by the Curtiss Museum that numerous of the engine’s inner areas ended up recycled by Curtiss into other assignments, so in a way it lives on as does the just about legendary achievements of Glenn H. Curtis.


A Male of Lots of Firsts: Getting a fork in the highway that would transportation him from the seashores of Florida to the clouds previously mentioned, Curtiss by 1910 would relinquish his fascination in motorcycles. Whilst Curtiss developed motorcycles below the title Marvel right until 1914 he would chart a new class into the web pages of aviation background. This would involve earning the to start with pilot license in 1910, remaining the initially to fly a kilometer, generate the 1st aircraft to cross the Atlantic Ocean, the initially to have a passenger in a seaplane, and the very first to educate the initially American female pilot Blanche Stuart Scott. His talents would guide to the advancement retractable wheels and thus the to start with amphibious plane. Add to the record the designing of dirigibles for the U.S. Army and the manufacture and sale of the initial non-public airplanes. The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Organization grew to become the greatest aircraft company in the earth with more than 20,000 personnel. To the listing of Glenn Curtiss milestones, insert no les than the creation of the aircraft carrier. In addition to developing bikes and airplanes, Glenn Curtiss created cities. Throughout 1919-26 he designed Hialeah, Miami Springs and Opa-Locka, Florida. And to stop by them, in his spare time, he tinkered up the streamlined vacation trailer.

The Identify Game: The “H.” in Glenn H. Curtiss stands for Hammond, the center title derived from his birthplace Hammondsport, New York, its identify in switch derived from the town’s founder. Mainly because it was located on Lake Keuka, it also grew to become the focal position for U.S. Navy aviation earning Curtiss yet an additional accolade as “The Father of Naval Aviation” since he bought the very first “aeroplane” to the Navy in 1911. Inventors, designers and fliers from all-around the world converged on Hammondsport drawn by the frequent need to design and style and manufacture traveling equipment, traveling boats, and dirigibles. As these types of, the location became a Entire world War I arsenal engaged in the creation of the legendary Curtiss “Jenny” trainer in which U.S. and Canadian pilots gained their wings. Yet another generation later on and the Second Planet War brought renewed aircraft making activity to the space in the course of which the Mercury Aircraft Co. created tail assemblies for the P40 War Hawk plane acknowledged variously as the “Tomahawk”, “Kitty Hawk”, and “Flying tiger.”

Curtis Museum: Found on Lake Keuka in Hammondsport, New York, the museum’s 57,000 sq. ft. attributes the total spectrum of Glenn Curtiss’s contributions. On show are his a lot of plane layouts as very well as his bicycles and bikes including a trustworthy replica of the report breaking V8. For extra information contact (607) 569-2160 or make contact with the Museum Director Trafford Doherty by means of [email protected].