The Flying Indian Girl

Wilber Wright Circling the Statue of Liberty in 1909, Dean Mosher, 2013

Yesterday, was a day of rest. We unpacked our bags, did some laundry, and paid the bills that had been waiting for our return. This morning, our house is wrapped in fog, an outside fog that matches my interior mental fog that hopefully enough coffee will dispel. There are more things to do today, as we pick up the pieces of our homelife. This day we will do some chores, make some phone calls, and then dive headfirst into the onrushing Christmas season, but first let us revel a little bit here in our recently concluded journeys.

This painting, in the newly reopened Air and Space Museum commemorates Wilbur Wright’s 1909 flight in NYC. Celebrating the achievements of Henry Hudson and Robert Fulton, Wright had agreed that he would make a flight. In exchange, the city would pay him $15K. What worried Wilbur was that his flights would be over water. On the morning of the flight, he had made a modification to the Flyer: Beneath the lower wing, he had slung a bright red canoe, a top-of-the-line Indian Girl canoe made by the Rushton Canoe Company, it featured a sturdy 16′ frame made of northern white cedar, which Rushton claimed was nearly a third lighter than other cedars. In essence, the canoe turned the Flyer into the world’s first floatplane.

Taking off, he arose and flew east. A man in the crowd exclaimed, “I believe he’s off for Philadelphia!” Charlie Taylor, Wright’s crew chief, corrected him: “No, he will round the Statue of Liberty.” And so, he did. Crossing between Ellis and Liberty islands, Wilbur steadily gained altitude, then began a turn to the left, closing the distance to Lady Liberty. At an altitude of 200′, he passed in front of the statue, his wingtips only a few hundred feet from her waist. He then flew back to Governors Island and landed, completing a flight of 20 miles.

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