Take to the Skies

PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 1, 2023 | WRITTEN BY EMILY COUGH | EDITED BY BHHS STAFF
Sepia photo of Alexander V. Wilson's motor-less plane with a few onlookers.

Welcome back to “Way Back Wednesday!” Last week we covered the sea with the “Queen of the Sea.” This week, we’ll take to the skies!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! On October 17, 1908, The Evening Times of Pawtucket, RI, wrote an article about a man from Bangor who had built a motor-less airplane.

That man was Alexander V. Wilson, and he built the flying machine “in a bid to the government for a naval aeroplane.” The article goes on to state that this wasn’t the first machine Wilson had built, but rather just one of many.

In his efforts to test these machines, Wilson “had flown with them, most of his experiments having been on the ice in winter over Eagle Lake in Bar Harbor, and in summer along the shore.” In the article, he claimed in one of his previous tests, he was able to “[cover] seven miles and on another occasion rose to a height of 700 feet without the aid of a motor.” “Of course,” Wilson goes on to say, “[he] can only rise in the air and remain there without a motor provided there is sufficient wind.”

For an island that was only accessible by boat at the time, it must have been a sight to see for year-round residents if they saw Wilson testing his machines, especially if they’ve never been off island or seen a plane before!

Wilson took his invention to Morris Park in New York for an “aeronautic exhibition and contest,” along with many others, to compete for best in show. If you’d like to know more about the 1908 Morris Park contest, Tom D. Crouch’s article, “The Aeronautic Society of New York and the Birth of American Aviation, 1908—1918”, is an excellent read: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23645508

While many of these names who competed in the contest, like Wilson, were nearly lost to aviation history, they were still a part of a time of great invention and innovation, to push the boundaries and laws of physics. They wanted to be a part of something great and new, just like the Wright brothers. And what an exciting time it must have been!

If you’d like to read the article in full and to read about the features of his plane, including “a movable fulcrum,” head to this link: https://pawtucket.advantage-preservation.com/viewer/…

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