Prof. Alec Bell, Offers A.E.A.’s Aviation Services to U.S. President Roosevelt, 15th Oct., 1908.

SVP: The below fallows a recorded timeline consisting of letters, telegrams, from parties involved during September until 22nd October 1908 as fallows:—

 Bell to Curtiss: Mr. G. H. Curtiss, Hammondsport, N.Y. Washington, D.C., Sept. 29, 1908:— I notice in the newspapers this morning that the Wright Brothers have applied through their sister, Miss Wright, for an extension of time on their contract amounting to about nine months. While the War Department is inclined to favor this extension it is disappointed that the Officers of the Signal Corps should be deprived for so long a time of the opportunity of experimenting with heavier-than-air flying machines. Through Wilbur Wright, the Officers of foreign armies will be able to gain experience in the use of such machines; whereas in our own army we must await the recovery of Orville Wright, or the return of Wilbur Wright to this country. Now why cannot the Aerial Experiment Association offer its services at this juncture? We are not in any sense competitors of the Wright Brothers in the matter of their contract with the Government. We are an experiment association, pure and simple, carrying on experiments to promote the art of aviation in America. One of the reasons for associating Lieut. Selfridge with us was that the United States Army should have the benefit of our experiments through an Officer specially detailed to observe them. We now have two aerodromes (No.3 and 4) ready to fly, and why should we not offer the War Department the use of these aerodromes for experimental purposes while they are waiting for Orville Wright to recover. If you and the other members of the A.E.A think well of this idea telegraph to me upon receipt of this at once, and I will invite Major Squires to go to Hammondsport and look over our machines, or detail an officer to report upon them, and express to him our desire to be of assistance to the War Department in this matter without in any way interfering with their dealings with the Wright Brothers. I can say that we are their friends, and not their competitors, and will not do anything that would interfere with their contract with the Government.

Aerial Experiment Association Blueprint of Drome No. 3 G.H. Curtiss' June Bug, 1908.

Aerial Experiment Association Blueprint of Drome No. 3 G.H. Curtiss’ June Bug, 1908.


I suppose you are now starting on some flights with the June Bug to show Casey the advance you have made in gaining skill in the manner of its operation. There is only one thing I am afraid of in regard to these experiments, and I had quite a serious conversation with Douglas McCurdy about it. The temptation is strong to attempt to carry two men in the June Bug, or in the Silver-Dart, because Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright and Farmam or Delagrange have done it. I do not want you, or any of you to attempt it. It has already been done by others and of course we know that we can do it too, but I do not think that we have any right to run unnecessary risks and am not at all in sympathy with the idea, as it cannot advance our experiments, and it might be possible that we might regret it. Orville Wright, the most experienced aviator of the world, and probably the best, has lost poor Selfridge. Do not let us, with less experience, run any risks of this kind. Nothing can be gained by it, and the weight of another man — a mere mass of lead, and not a living human being, would serve just as well to demonstrate the capabilities of our machine. We would justly lay ourselves open to severe criticism were we to make such an experiment without adequate reason for so doing. I cannot speak too strongly on the matter. Remember Selfridge. Yours sincerely, (Signed) Alexander Graham Bell.

TELEGRAPHIC REPLY TO ABOVE: (Curtiss to Bell) To Dr. A.G. Bell, Parker House, Boston, Mass. Hammondsport, N.Y., Oct. 1, 1908:—Casey and Gardiner arrive Boston Friday morning. Think well of your idea. All here with you in any action you take. (Signed) G. H. Curtiss.

A.G. Bell to President Roosevelt: To The President of the United States, White House, Washington, D.C. Baddeck, N.S., Oct. 5, 1908:— The death of Lieut. Thomas E. Selfridge, in the recent accident to the Wright Brothers flying machine, has deprived the United States Army of the services of the only officer acquainted with the work of the Aerial Experiment Association of which I am Chairman. On behalf of the Association therefore, allow me to say, that we shall be very glad to give any information concerning our work to some other officer of the U S Army if desired. We have, at Hammondsport, New York, an aerodrome available for experimental purposes, which won the Scientific American Trophy July 4, 1908, by flying one kilometre in a straight line. We have another improved aerodrome upon the same model which is expected to take the air in about two weeks at Hammondsport, New York. We have also at Beinn Bhreagh, Near Baddeck, Nova Scotia two other aerodromes partly completed, of entirely different construction which will probably be ready for trial in the early part of November. We shall be glad to submit all these aerodromes, and the whole past work of the Association, to any officer properly detailed by the War Department, and afford him every opportunity for making experiments with our machines.

  • (Signed) Alexander Graham Bell Chairman of the A.E.A.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF WAR TO BELL, War Dept., Washington, D.C., Oct. 17, 1908:— I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, by reference from the White House, of your letter addressed to the President under date of 5th instant, regarding work of the Aerial Experiment Association, and to express appreciation of your courteous offer in placing the technical information of this Association at the disposal of the War Department. The different types of aerodromes which the Association has available have been noted, and an officer will be detailed from the U.S. Signal Corps to witness special flights of aerodromes at Hammondsport, N.Y., in accordance with your suggestion, upon being informed of the dates upon which such flights are to take place. The death of the young officer referred to by you is deplored by all. (Signed) Robert Shaw Oliver, Assistant Secretary of War.

THE US ARMY Beinn Bhreagh, Oct. 22, 1908:— In response to my letter to the President of the United States (Bulletin XIII pp 32–33) I have received a communication from the Asst. Secretary of War to the effect that the War Department will detail an officer from the Signal Corps to be present in Hammondsport when the experiments with the new aerodrome are to be tried. I would suggest that both the June Bug and the Silver-Dart should be placed in condition for flight and that every information should be given to the officer who will succeed Lieut. Selfridge as the observer of our experiments in the interests of the United States Army. A.G.B.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy's Silver Dart at H.Q. Hammondsport, N.Y., Sept., 18, 1908.

Aerial Experiment Association Drome No. 4 McCurdy’s Silver Dart at H.Q. Hammondsport, N.Y., Sept., 18, 1908.


War Department, Washington, D.C., Dec. 17, 1908:— A telegram has just been received at this office from Mr. J.A.D. McCurdy, Secretary of the Aerial Experiment Association, informing us of two successful flights of the “Silver-Dart” to-day, one of them extending one mile and three-quarters. Permit me to extend congratulations on this important achievement, and I regret that, due to pressure of public business just at present, it is not possible to have an officer of the Signal Corps present during these tests.

  • (Signed) James Allen Brigadier General, Chief Signal Officer of the Army.






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