Monday, October 3, 2011

Glenn Curtiss Museum (Part 2)

Continuing our visit to this museum, it must be pointed out that bicycles, motorized bicycles and motorcycles were both the beginning and a passion for Glenn Curtiss.  But where he really made his mark was in aviation!
Curtiss’ motorcycle engines were so light and powerful that balloonist Thomas Baldwin asked Glenn to build an engine for use on Baldwin’s airship.  This airship became the first powered dirigible in the United States.  Other balloonists followed Baldwin’s lead and it wasn’t long before a Curtiss engine was used to power the first U.S. Army aircraft, the dirigible SC-1.
Curtiss and Alexander Graham Bell founded the Aerial Experiment Association in 1907.  The AEA produced the first aileron…leading to a long patent struggle between Curtiss and the Wright brothers.  More importantly, Curtiss made the first public flight of more than a kilometer in the United States.  The Wright brothers had made their first flight in relative secrecy at Kitty Hawk… Curtiss became America’s foremost aviation pioneer and he won the Scientific American Trophy for his efforts. (We tried to take a photo of a ‘June Bug’ reconstruction, but it was all wires and a little cloth so it didn’t lend itself to making a great photo)

This is arguably the most significant aircraft that Curtiss built while he controlled his company.  This is the Curtiss JN-4D ‘Jenny’.  During WWI, they were used as the primary training aircraft by the United States Army as well as by the Royal Flying Corp in Canada.  A total of 6,813 were built.  After the war, surplus ‘Jennys’ flooded the market and one could be purchased in a crate ready to assemble for about $50.00!  They were the core aircraft for the ‘barnstorming years’ that exposed Americans to the possibilities of flight, with many still in the air into the mid-1930’s.
Other Curtiss accomplishments include: the first flight between New York City and Albany, establishing the aeroplane as having some practical value; first demonstration of aerial bombing; pioneered the design of seaplanes and flying boats; a Curtiss plane made the first takeoff and landing on the deck of a ship; a Curtiss NC-4 made the first transatlantic crossing in 1919, and; the construction of the first U.S. Navy aircraft, the ‘Triad’.  Glenn Curtiss is known as the Father of Naval Aviation.

This is the Seagull Flying Boat.  It was introduced in 1919, right after WWI.  It is a civilian version of Curtiss Flying Boats built for the military.  In addition to the U.S.A., the military version of this flying boat was purchased by Russia, Japan, Italy, France and England.  Hundreds were built.  However, only 16 of the civilian version, as shown here, were ever built.  These civilian flying boats could carry 3 passengers, including the pilot.  They were powered by a 160 hp. engine with a top speed of 76 mph.  The finish was mahogany veneer and the seats were upholstered.  In 2010, an original Seagull Flying Boat was sold at auction for $506,000.
Glenn Curtiss is also known as the Father of the American Aircraft Industry.  During WWI, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company manufactured more aircraft than another other company in the world, some 10,000 in total.

There are many other interesting and eye catching exhibits in this museum.  This is a 1908 Buick Model Touring Runabout.  Costing $900.00, it was the most popular Buick model in 1908, with a total production of 4,002.  It seated 3, had a 40-horsepower engine, acetylene headlights, a bulb horn and oil fueled side and taillights.

This is an early American workhorse…the 1931 Ford Model A Closed Cab Pickup. 

This is a 1910 Pullman Model K-10 that was built by the York Motor Company based in York Pennsylvania. (There was no relationship between this company and the Pullman Rail Car Company) This auto had a 35 hp. T-head 4-cylinder engine. 
Pullman autos were expensive for the time.  In 1910, the 4 Pullman models sold from between $1,650.00 and $3,200.00.  The company operated between 1905 and 1917 when it went bankrupt.  Only 27 Pullman automobiles are known to exist today, with about half of them restored.

With a plethora of propellers and yet another airplane in the background, I wanted to point out that there are also a number of very interesting boats in the Glenn Curtiss Museum. 
This is a 1931 Penn Yan Imperial Runabout.  It is 17.5 ft. long, and it was powered by a 32 hp. stern mounted Johnson Out-drive inboard/outboard engine.  Top speed was 27 mph.  The Penn Yan Boat Company was founded in Penn Yan New York in 1921 and the original company ceased operations in 2001.

Laurie liked the look of this 1929 Jamestown 17’ runabout.  It reminded her of the family’s old wooden Chris Craft from her childhood.  If anything could be improved in this great regional museum, it would be that they provide a little more information on some of their exhibits.  I haven’t been able to find out any more information on this boat or its manufacturer.

As far as I was concerned, this was one of the most interesting exhibits in the museum.  This is a Curtiss Aerocar.   Glenn Curtis developed the Aerocar luxury camper in 1927, with the first models being built on Long Island and in Hammondsport New York by the Curtiss Engineering Corporation.  Oh yes, he also developed the 5th wheel to stablize these trailers, an invention that is used throughout the transportation industry to this day.
In 1928, he incorporated the Curtiss Aerocar Co. of Florida to build these custom camping trailers.  At least 4 other companies were licensed to build them as well.  However, due to the Depression, only a few hundred were ever built.  
Curtiss left the aviation industry and moved to Florida where he became a highly-successful land developer…involved in the development of Hialeah, Miami Springs and Opa-Locka.  However, at age 52, he died while undergoing surgery for appendicitis.  Glenn Curtiss is buried in Hammondsport New York. 

This is a photo of the inside of the Curtis Aerocar.  Each ‘camper’ was built to the owners specifications.  In the late 1930’s, you could purchase an Aerocar for about $5,000.00.  Today, only about 12 are known to exist…with 2 actually still being driven on the road.  They are very collectable…if you have the money!  To view a truly spectacular version of the Aerocar and a custom built 1938 International D15 Towcar, just go to

Here we have a Curtiss-Wright C-46 Commando transport plane.  It sits at the entrance to the Glenn Curtiss Museum.
Note: The Curtiss-Wright Corporation was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States at the end of World War II.  In fact, it was the second largest manufacturing company in the world after General Motors.  The company produced 13,738 P-40 Warhawks, (; 7,140 SB2C Helldivers, ( and; as pictured above in front of the Glenn Curtiss Museum, 3,181 C-46 Commandos ( .  Three C-46 Cargo Aircraft are still on active duty with Buffalo Airways in Canada’s Northwest Territory.
Today the Curtis-Wright Corporation has evolved into an multi-faceted component manufacturer, specializing in actuators, aircraft controls, valves and metalworking for commercial aerospace, defense, the oil and gas industry, power generation and industry in general. 
This stop was well worth the time!  Also it wasn’t too big nor was it too small.  The Glenn H Curtiss Museum of Early Aviation and Local History is located at 8419 State Route 54 in Hammondsport New York.  Phone: 607-569-2160.  To learn more about the museum, just go to
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!  Sorry for being so long winded…!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

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