DANSVILLE — The Dansville Area Historical Society hosted Steuben County Historian Kirk House as he talked about the importance of local aviation during The Great War.
House said the place affected the most by World War I in this area was Hammondsport. Glenn Curtiss of Hammondsport built many planes for war aviation during the early 1900s. It all started in 1914.
The Curtiss Jenny was in full production for the war efforts. House said they ordered about 6,000 planes from the famous company.
“The Curtiss plant was very busy,” he said. “They employed over a thousand people at the time.”
The Curtiss factory ran night and day six days a week. After Curtiss realized he needed more space for the high orders he built a couple more plants in Buffalo.
Thomas Bros. Aeroplane Co. in Bath did planes for the war efforts too. They were not as popular as Curtiss Aeroplane Co.
Due to the bigger plants they started focusing on making airplane engines in Hammondsport.
“They loaded these engines twice a day on trains to be shipped all over the world,” House said. “You would hear these engines being tested all over the hillside. Hammondsport was an overly crowded industrial town.”
“If you worked in the plant it kept you out of the army,” House continued. “The Curtiss Jenny was the only American plane used in World War One for training. They were not combat planes.”
America was into making fancy tractors in those days, because all of the young men were taken off the farms to go fight. However, the war ended sooner than they thought, so all of those farms wasted money.
“For the farmers the Great Depression started ten years early,” House said. “They put all of their money into these new tractors, and had to pay off the debt.”
Another thing that has been lost in history is the huge impact of the Spanish Influenza.
“The Spanish Flu was so intensely horrible that people thought it was some kind of secret warfare. Spain was not part of the war, but the name came from them. It killed more people than the war itself. It remains the greatest natural disaster in the human race.”
Dansville and Bath were hit the most by the Spanish Influenza.
Schools and churches were all closed down, and mass graves were dug for burials.
The Curtiss Aeroplane Co. closed down after the war, and millions was lost in orders.
Some people went back to the farm, and other stayed overseas after the war.
“Imagine a world without World War I,” House said. “No World War I means no World War II, no Hitler, no Cold War, no Soviet Union, and no Auschwitz.”
Almost everything that came after The Great War was because of The Great War.
House showed a photo of a little boy who would die in World War I.
“We need to be reminded who dies in these wars,” he said. “It all starts with a young boy like this. This is what it was like over here during World War One.”
Many of the World War I veterans also fought in World War II.
World War One made Glenn Curtiss a multi-millionaire in no time flat. Today you can visit the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum to see all this rich history in real life. You can visit https://glennhcurtissmuseum.org/ for more information.