Archive for Friday, December 30, 2011

100 years ago: Two young men of Lawrence build their own ‘flying machine’

December 30, 2011


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Dec. 30, 1911:

  • "On December 12 the United States government granted a patent to Paul and Harry Elliott of Lawrence for a propeller that they have invented for the aeroplane they have built. The granting of this patent is an important step in the work that these young men have taken to perfect their flying machine.... The Elliott boys have been at work on their aeroplane for some time and it now looks as if success were theirs.... From time to time [they] have taken their flying machine apart to rebuild it, for they were certain that they had not reached the stage of perfection that was necessary before they could sail over the town.... The work has all been done at the Elliott home on Haskell avenue, and from time to time many curious visitors have gone there to see this machine that Lawrence young men have invented. There is nothing of the notoriety seekers about the Elliott boys. They are bright young fellows with an inventive turn of mind and the indications are that success will be theirs."
  • "A salesman for an encyclopedia was brought into police court this morning charged with stealing a pair of gloves from a home where he had called yesterday. The gloves were located at his room. At first he denied the charge and pleaded not guilty. He was sentenced $5 and costs, $10.50."


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 4 months ago

'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines' - Original theme song

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 4 months ago

Can LJW follow up on this to see what every become of the machine and if it really got off the ground????Please

Sarah St. John 6 years, 4 months ago

Another search indicates that Harry Houlette Elliott (so he is named in the patent) married Justine Vera Manual and that they had a daughter who died in 2004 at the age of 72. Her obit lists her name as Lois E. "Patricia Sue" Carleton of Fayetteville. I wish she were still around so we could ask her about her dad's (and uncle's) aeroplane! However, it appears that she was survived by her husband John, a son David (Kansas City, MO), and two daughters.

Harry is listed on Find A Grave as born 1889, died 1966. He is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery here in Lawrence.

I haven't found his brother Paul yet.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 4 months ago

Kansas has quite an aviation history!

Part of it is that the first helicopter to actually get off the ground in the United States was built in Goodland, Kansas in 1909. That same year, the Ford Model T was introduced.

Today only fragments of the original helicopter exist, although a replica has been built from the original patent plans and is on display, along with a few fragments of the original machine, in the High Plains Museum in Goodland. The very few fragments of the original had been left deserted in someone's barn for many decades, and thought to be quite worthless. Actually, I think they are.

The helicopter was built by W. J. Purvis and C. A. Wilson, who were from Goodland, and they had convinced many people to invest money in their venture.

The helicopter actually left the ground in front of a large number of spectators, but the pilot quickly discovered that he had no way to control its movements. Careening out of control, it collided with a grain elevator and crashed. Fortunately, no one was injured.

None the spectators or the investors were pleased. They had been led to believe that the helicopter would take to the sky under perfect control, and the thought of a crash had never entered their minds, I suppose. Everyone had been told that It would be a marvelous new invention that would make the town famous, and the investors rich.

W. J. Purvis and C. A. Wilson were accused of fraud, and what the investors got for their money was quite a sight to see, and that was it.

It was not for many years that W. J. Purvis and C. A. Wilson's accomplishment was recognized at all by anyone. Their helicopter used coaxial contra-rotating rotors, which was not a new concept at the time, at least in Europe. Today, coaxial contra-rotating rotors are used in many helicopters used for heavy lifting, although almost all of them that are actually in use and similar to W. J. Purvis and C. A. Wilson's design are Russian machines.

And today, there are very few references to the very first successful helicopter flight in the United States. But, if you ever visit the High Plains Museum in Goodland you will see a prominent display, and at the press of a button the rotors will slowly spin.

It is very entertaining for young children.

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