HAMMONDSPORT— Glenn Hammond Curtiss was a man who changed the way we see the world in aviation, motorcycles, automobiles, and so much more.
As you walk through the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum you are left wondering, what didn’t this man achieve in his lifetime? It is amazing to see how much of our history is connected to this "Father of Naval Aviation."
Curtiss is known for many things and among this is the roots to his hometown of Hammondsport. Curtiss’ lifetime spanned from 1878 to 1930.
His inspirational life story can be found on the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum website.
By his teens he was a champion bicycle racer for years and naturally progressed to designing and building his own machines. By 1902, Curtiss, with three employees, was manufacturing his own motorcycles under the trade name, “Hercules.” In a measured-mile run at Ormond Beach, Florida, on Jan. 23, 1907, Curtiss’s V8 powered motorcycle was officially clocked at 136.3 mph. On that day, and for years afterward, Glenn Curtiss carried the title, “Fastest Man on Earth.”
Curtiss’s first experience with aviation came when famed balloonist, Thomas Scott Baldwin, ordered a V-twin motorcycle engine to power a lighter-than-air ship. Curtiss’s engine was a success. In 1904, using this early engine, Baldwin’s “California Arrow” became the first successful American dirigible. In 1907, Glenn Curtiss began his aviation career in earnest as a member of the Aerial Experiment Association, a group of men focused on getting a man into the air. He accomplished this in 1908.
In 1910, when the New York World Newspaper offered a $10,000 prize for the first successful flight between Albany and NYC, following the Hudson River, Curtiss again determined to be first, and did so in a craft he had named the “Hudson Flyer.” He won the prize money, nationwide recognition, and in the process, won the third leg of the Scientific American Competition and permanent possession of the coveted trophy.
His interest in water-flying led to an association with the US Navy that was to form a basis for Naval aviation as we know it today. Naval seaplanes, flying boats and aircraft carrier operations are all a direct result of Curtiss’s influence. A final high point in Curtiss’s aviation career came in 1919, when the Navy Curtiss NC-4 Flying Boat became the first aircraft to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean.
It is clear that he left his mark on the world, and although it was tragically cut short on July 23, 1930 after complications with appendicitis, he changed the path of aviation forever. Curtiss is laid to rest in Pleasant Valley Cemetery not far from where he made history in his beloved “June Bug.”
Among the things seen in the museum are his office, rifles from every American war, guns used on famous films like “The Mummy” and “Indiana Jones,” winery machines, aeromobiles, studio cameras, police and fire department equipment, record players, press machines, and so much more.
For more information and to plan a visit through history visit https://www.glennhcurtissmuseum.org
The museum is located at 8419 State Route 54 Hammondsport. It is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.