Tag Archives: Curtiss Pusher

18 January 1911

Eugene Burton Ely, 1886–1911. (Portrait by J. Ellsworth Gross, Chicago, Illinois, 1910)
Eugene Burton Ely, 1886–1911. (Portrait by J. Ellsworth Gross, Chicago, Illinois, 1910)

17 January 1911: Taking off from the U.S. Army’s Selfridge Field (the closed Tanforan race track at San Bruno, California) at approximately 10:45 a.m., Eugene Burton Ely flew his Curtiss-Ely pusher to San Francisco Bay where he landed aboard the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) as it lay at anchor.

A temporary wooden deck had been erected aboard the ship at the Mare Island shipyard. Built of wood, it was 133 feet, 7 inches (40.7 meters) long and 31 feet, 6 inches (9.6 meters) wide. Twenty-two manila hemp cables were stretched across the deck at 3-foot (0.9-meter) intervals. These were to catch hooks mounted beneath Ely’s airplane and drag it to a stop. Each cable had a 50-pound (22.7 kilogram) sand bag at each end. The bags were precisely weighed so that the Curtiss would not slew to one side.  A guideway was laid out on the deck with 2-inch × 4-inch (5 × 10 centimeter) planks, and 2-foot (0.6-meter) high barriers were at each edge of the flight deck.

Captain C.F. Pond, U.S. Navy
Captain C.F. Pond, U.S. Navy

Captain Charles Fremont Pond, commanding Pennsylvania, offered to take the ship to sea in order that Ely would have the advantage of a head wind down the flight deck, but as winds in the bay were 10 to 15 miles per hour (4.5–6.7 meters per second), Ely elected to have the cruiser remain anchored.

About ten minutes after Ely took off, he was overhead the anchored ship. He set up his approach and when he was approximately 75 feet (23 meters) astern of Pennsylvania, he cut his engine and glided to a landing. The airplane was flying at about 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers per hour) when the hooks engaged the cables, which quickly slowed it to a stop. Eugene B. Ely landed aboard USS Pennsylvania at 11:01 a.m.

Eugene B. Ely lands aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4), at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely lands aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4), at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely landing his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely landing his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania (ACR-4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)

This was the very first time that an airplane had landed aboard a ship. The use of arresting wires would become common with aircraft carrier operations.

Ely and his wife, Mabel, were guests of Captain Pond for lunch. Photographs were taken and 57 minutes after his landing, he took off for the return flight to Selfridge Field.

Eugene Ely with his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania, shortly before taking off, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene Ely with his Curtiss pusher aboard USS Pennsylvania, shortly before taking off, 18 January 1911. (U.S. Navy)
Eugene B. Ely with his Curtiss pusher. He is wearing an improvised life vest made of bicycle tire inner tubes. (U.S. Navy
Eugene B. Ely with his Curtiss pusher. He is wearing an improvised life vest made of bicycle tire inner tubes. (U.S. Navy)

Ely unsuccessfully tried to interest the Navy in employing him as an aviator. He and Mabel traveled the country, “barnstorming,” making flight demonstrations and entering aviation meets. He was killed at Macon, Georgia, 19 October 1911, when he was unable to pull out of a dive.

Eugene Burton Ely was born 21 October 1886 at Williamsburg, Iowa. He was the first of three children of Nathan Dana Ely, an attorney, and Emma Lewis Harrington Ely.

In 1907, Ely married Miss Mabel Hall at San Rafael, California.

Ely taught himself to fly using an airplane that he had repaired after it had crashed. He quickly became an recognized expert in aviation.

Soon after the formation of the California National Guard, Eugene Ely enlisted. Then in 1911, he was appointed Aviation Aide to Governor Hiram Warren Johnson of California. Eugene Ely was commissioned a second lieutenant, California, National Guard, 27 July 1911.

Mrs. Ely admires a medal which had been awarded to her husband, Eugene Burton Ely, circa 1911. (U.S. Navy)

Eugene Burton Ely was killed in an airplane accident at the Georgia State Fairgrounds, Macon, Georgia, on 19 October 1911, two days before his 25th birthday. His airplane failed to pull out of a dive. He had recently altered its configuration from a forward elevator to aft, and conjecture is that the ‘plane did not respond as Ely expected.

His remains are buried at his birthpace, Williamsburg, Iowa..

In 1933, the United States Congress passed Senate Bill 5514, authorizing the posthumous award of the Distinguished Flying Cross to Eugene Ely for his contributions to aviation.

Wreckage of Eugene Ely’s airplane at Macon, Georgia, 19 October 1911. (California Center for Military History)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

19 November 1916

Ruth Bancroft Law at the controls of a Curtiss Pusher, ca. 1915. (U.S. Air Force)
Ruth Bancroft Law at the controls of a Curtiss Pusher, ca. 1915. (Lt. H.M. Benner/U.S. Air Force)

19 November 1916: Ruth Bancroft Law (Mrs. Charles Augustus Oliver) flew a Curtiss Pusher non-stop from Chicago, Illinois to Hornell, New York, a distance of 590 miles (949.5 kilometers). This exceeded the previous long distance flight record of 452 miles (727.4 kilometers) and set a new Aero Club of America record for distance.

Ruth Law departed Chicago at 8:25 a.m., in very windy conditions. After a very difficult flight, she landed at Hornell at 2:10 p.m., gliding the last two miles to a landing after the engine stopped from fuel starvation.

With her airplane refueled, Law took off from Hornell at 3:24 p.m. and flew on to Binghampton, New York, landing there at 4:20 p.m.

One the morning of 20 November, Law departed Binghampton at 7:23 a.m., finally arriving at Governor’s Island, New York City at 9:37:35 a.m. The total flight time for the 884-mile (1,422.66 kilometers) Chicago–New York City journey was 8 hours, 55 minutes, 35 seconds.

For a more detailed article about Ruth Law’s flight, please see:


Ruth Bancroft Law arrives at New York.
Ruth Bancroft Law arrives at New York City, 1916. (George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

Ruth Bancroft Law was born at Lynn, Massachussetts, 21 March 1887. She was the third of four children of Frederick Henry Law and Sarah Bancroft Breed Law. She married Charles Augustus Oliver in 1907. He would act as her business manager during her aviation career.

Law (Mrs. Oliver) was taught to fly by Harry Nelson Atwood, chief instructor of the General Aviation Corporation, Saugus, Massachussetts, and Archibald A. Freeman, assistant instructor. She received her pilot’s certificate in November 1912.

Ruth Bancroft Law with her Wright Model B at Daytona Beach, Florida, 1916. (National Archives and Records Administration)
Ruth Bancroft Law with her Wright Model B at Daytona Beach, Florida, 1916. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Ruth Law enlisted in the Army 30 June 1917, after the United States entered World War I. Although it was her intention to serve as a pilot, she was not permitted to fly, but was assigned to the U.S. Army Accessions Command, to assist with recruiting and instruction. Law trained with the 38th Infantry Division at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. She served in Europe and held the non-commissioned officer rank of Sergeant.

Ruth Bancroft Law at Camp Shelby, Missippi, 1917. At the far right is Major General William H. Sage, with Mrs. Sage. Rutkh Law is fourth from right without a hat. (SunHerald)
Ruth Bancroft Law at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, 1917. At the far right is Major General William Hampden Sage, commanding officer, 38th Division, with his wife, Elizabeth Sage. Ruth Law is fourth from right, not wearing a hat. (Sun Herald)

Following the War, Law set several aviation records, did stunt flying and operated Ruth Law’s Flying Circus. Several sources say the she earned as much as $9,000 per week, approximately equivalent to $112,590 U.S. dollars in 2016. She retired from aviation in March 1922, saying that her husband was worried about her, and that she wanted to raise a family.

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver moved to Beverly Hills, California, living at 613, N. Roxbury Drive. Later, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver resided at 34 Rosewood Drive, San Francisco, California. Mr. Oliver died in 1947.

Ruth Bancroft Law Oliver died at Notre Dame Hospital, San Francisco, California, at 1:30 a.m., 1 December 1970, of a cerebro-vascular accident, at the age of 83 years. She was buried at Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn, Massachussetts.

Ruth Law races Gaston Chevrolet, 1918. (Library of Congress via The Old Motor)
Ruth Law with her Curtiss Pusher races Gaston Chevrolet at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, Ontario, Saturday, 29 June 1918. The race was to cover 5 laps. Chevrolet was given a 1-lap head start, and won the race by ½ a lap. (Library of Congress)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

2 September 1910

America’s first woman airplane pilot, Blanche Stuart Scott. The aircraft is a Curtiss Model D. (George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)

2 September 1910:¹ After receiving flight instruction from Glenn Hammond Curtiss, Miss Blanche Stuart Scott became the first woman in the United States to fly an airplane when she made a solo flight in a Curtiss biplane at Lake Keuka Field, Hammondsport, New York.

She later wrote:

It was customary in those days to have the student “cut grass” for many days, to become thoroughly familiar with the controls. As the plane was a one seater, no instructor would go along to teach the student. There was a governor on the engine to hold the power down and keep the plane on the ground. My fourth trip down the field “grass cutting” caught a side wind and the plane soared about ten feet in the air. It felt like a hundred feet. Curtiss was alarmed, because at that stage in aviation an injured or killed woman would have been the worst publicity. However, and perhaps because I didn’t know enough to be afraid, I landed safely. Two days later, I asked Curtiss to take the governor off the engine, and he finally agreed. I stepped into the little old 35 hp ship, waved a flippant good-bye and took right off, flew around the field and made a good landing. I have never found that any woman antedated that flight.

Glenn Hammond Curtiss (left) instructs Blanche Stuart Scott at the controls of a Curtiss Model D, circa 1910. (Monash University)

She became a professional exhibition pilot and worked for Curtiss as a test pilot—the first woman in that occupation. She is said to have earned as much as $5,000 per week with Curtiss, nearly $133,000 in 2018 U.S. dollars.

On 6 September 1948, Blanche Scott was the first woman to fly in a jet-powered aircraft when she rode with Major Charles E. (“Chuck”) Yeager, U.S. Air Force, in a two-place Lockheed TF-80C Shooting Star (later redesignated T-33A).

Blanche Stuart Scott (NASM)

Blanche Stuart Scott ² was born 8 April 1885 ³ at Rochester, New York. Her father was James C.S. Scott, owner of Scott’s Hoof Paste Co., Inc., of Rochester, and her mother was Belle J. Herendeen Scott. Mr. Scott died in 1904. Mrs. Scott continued to run the business.

Blanche Scott, also known as “Betty,” was educated at Vassar College, a highly-regarded residential school for women in Poughkeepsie, New York.

In April 1910, Blanche Scott was employed as an auto saleslady.

Miss Scott first gained public notice when she drove across the North American continent, departing New York City on 16 May 1910, and arriving at San Francisco, California, on 23 July. She had driven approximately 5,400 miles (8,690 kilometers) in 69 days.

Scott’s automobile was an Overland Model 38 “runabout,” named Miss Overland. It was a front-engine, rear-wheel drive car, with a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 198.804 cubic-inch-displacement Overland inline four-cylinder L-head engine with two valves per cylinder. It used a single Schebler carburetor. The engine produced 25 horsepower. The power was transmitted from a two-speed transmission by a drive shaft to the rear axle. Two wheels were equipped with manual brakes. Goodyear 32″×  3.5″ tires were used on all four wheels. The Model 38 was advertised for sale at $1,095.  (Scott was the first woman to make the transcontinental journey from east to west. The previous year, Alice Ramsey, also a Vassar alumni, drove a Maxwell touring car from San Francisco to New York, west-to-east, in 59 days.

Blanche Stuart Scott with Gertrude or Amy Philllips in a 1910 Overland Model 38 “runabout.” New York, 1910. (Spooner & Wade/Detroit Public Library

Blanche S. Scott married 32-year-old Harry Bronson Tuttle, superintendent of agencies for Willys-Overland Co., (until recently, the head of the service department of the Dayton Motor Car Company) at Detroit, Michigan, 24 October 1910.

On 1 July 1912, Mrs. Tuttle was flying for Glenn L. Martin’s exhibition team, the Martin Flying Circus, at Squantum, Massachussets, and witnessed the death of Harriet Quimby, America’s first licensed female pilot.

Her husband, Harry Tuttle, is reported to have told her, “she must choose at once and for all between him and aviation.”

There marriage soon ended.

Blanche Scott starred as “The Aviator” in “An Aviator’s Success,” and as “Bertha Monroe” in “The Aviator and the Autoist Race for a Bride.” Both silent films were produced by the Champion Film Company and released in 1912.

On Memorial Day, 26 May 1913, Blanche crashed her airplane during an exhibition at Madison, Wisconsin. There are many versions as to what occurred, and as many as to the extent of her injuries.

By 1915, Blanche Scott Tuttle was living with her mother, now running a hotel in Mentz, New York. She listed he occupation as “aviator.”

Blanche Stuart Scott flying at Dominguez Hills, California, circa 1912. (California Historical Society)

13 July 1917 Mrs. Tuttle married George K. Hennings, of Philadelphia, at Lake County, Indiana. They eventually separated and she headed west to Hollywood where she became a script writer for R.K.O. Pictures, Universal, and Warner Brothers. She was known for her witty dialogue. George Hennings died in 1941.

In 1921, Blanche Scott was the studio manager for the Hal Benedict Studios at Flushing, New York.

In 1929, the organization Early Birds of Aviation was founded. The membership was limited to pilots who had made their solo flights before 1916. Blanche Stuart was one of the original members.

1931, she joined radio station KFI in Los Angeles as a talk show host. In 1936 Scott returned to Rochester to care for her mother. She worked for several radio stations in the area.

Blanche Stuart Scott at the National Air Races, Dayton, Ohio, 1954. (Smithsonian Institution)

From 1953 to 1958, Ms. Scott was employed as a consultant by the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. She searched for items that the museum could acquire to help tell the history of early aviation.

Blanche Stuart Scott died at Genesee Hospital in Rochester, 12 January 1970. Her remains were interred at the Riverside Cemetery, Rochester, New York.

¹ The actual date of her flight is uncertain. Some sources cite 6 September, while others give a range of from 2 to 12 September.

² Blanche Stuart Scott was also known as Betty Scott, Blanche S. Tuttle and Blanche S. Hennings.

³ Various sources give Ms. Scott’s date of birth as 1880, 1884, and 1889. Social Security Administration records state 1885, which coincides with her age as listed in Federal and New York state censuses from 1900, 1905 and 1915.

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

27 April 1911

Curtiss Type IV Model D, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)
Curtiss Model D Type IV, S.C. No. 2, 1911. (U.S. Air Force)
Glenn Hammond Curtiss (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)
Glenn Hammond Curtiss (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

27 April 1911: At Fort Sam Houston, Texas, the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps, United States Army, accepted its second airplane, a Curtiss Model D Type IV. The airplane was built by Glenn H. Curtiss’ Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company at Hammondsport, New York. It was known as a “Curtiss Pusher,” as it was propelled by a propeller behind the engine. The aircraft was a canard configuration with elevators mounted in front. It had tricycle landing gear.

The airframe was primarily spruce and ash, with flying surfaces covered with doped fabric. It was easily disassembled for transport on Army wagons.

The Wrights had patented their “wing-warping” system of flight controls and refused to allow Curtiss to use it. The Model D used ailerons instead, which was a superior system.

The Model D Type IV had a length of 29 feet, 3 inches (8.915 meters) with a wingspan of 38 feet, 3 inches (11.659 meters) and height of 7 feet, 10 inches (2.388 meters). Its empty weight was 700 pounds (317.5 kilograms) and loaded weight was 1,300 pounds (589.7 kilograms).

The engine was a “Curtiss Vee,” an air-cooled, normally-aspirated, 268.336-cubic-inch displacement (4.397 liter) Curtiss Model B-8 90° V-8 engine, producing 40 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. The Model B-8 was 29½ inches (0.75 meters) long, 19 inches (0.48 meters) high and 17 inches (0.43 meters) wide. It weighed approximately 150 pounds (68 kilograms). The engine drove a two-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller in pusher configuration.

The airplane’s top speed was 60 miles per hour (96.6 kilometers per hour). Endurance was 2½ hours.

The Signal Corps assigned serial number S.C. No. 2 to the Curtiss. Intended as a trainer, it was in service until 1914, when it was scrapped.

A reproduction of S.C. No. 2 is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

Reproduction of S.C. No. 2 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)
Reproduction of S.C. No. 2 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (NMUSAF)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes