AKA Ferdinand Léon Delagrange
Leon Delagrange
Ferdinand Léon Delagrange
Courtesy of Dr. Russell Naughton
The Pioneers

Delegrange at Savigny 1909
Les Pionniers de l'air - L. Aeroplane - DELAGRANGE - en plein vol
a l'Aerodrome de Savigny-sur-Orge
Moteur ANTOINETTE 50 HP-8 cylindres
Collection of Richard Etherton, 9-8-04
Courtesy of Richard Etherton, 9-8-04
I see you have managed it at last Martin.
'Au Phenix'
Dear Martin,
Received your PC. I thought you had pegged out. Saw this fellow flying last Sunday.
I have H Berry ? I Gerayd ? ?? and the Marquis here. I Kiddup and R Fender has left for Ghent.
Hope you're A 1
As Ever
Leon Delagrange
Courtesy of Richard Etherton, 9-8-04
Back of postcard address:
Herrn Martin Cooper
Gasthaus zur Sonne
Atzenbach ????
     The stamp is dated 16th September 9-10 1909. I do not know for sure but presume this means it was stamped at Courtrai on 16th September 1909. The writing around the stamp is. DEPART COURTRAI (STATION). Maybe it arrived on the 9th and left on 16th.
Courtesy of Richard Etherton, 9-9-04

     This is a typical Belgian postmark for the period. The 9-10 is the time period during the day when it was processed. This is actually a 16 September 1909 postmark. It was mailed from Cortrai.
Courtesy of Dave Lam, 11-14-04

Leon Delagrange
Courtesy of Dr. Russell Naughton
The Pioneers
Via email from "Generic", 4/23/02
     Delagrange was born in 1873 according to the Smithsonian Inst./Natl Air & Space.
     He was a sculptor before becoming one of the earliest of aviators. I spotted one of his sculptings still in existence somewhere here on the internet I can't remember which web site.
     And most noteworthy Delagrange is credited with carrying the first woman, (Madame Therese Peltier), aloft in an aeroplane in 1907. There is some controversy over this since Delagrange's plane, (a Voisin boxkite), did not use ailerons or wing-warping therefore it lacked a lateral control system. The aeroplane had to "slide" into a turn rather than "bank" into a turn like planes do today. Curiously there is still motion picture footage of Delagrange & Henry Farman sliding their aircraft around pylons during pioneer competitions & endurance challenges. So Madame Peltier could not be considered the first woman to fly in a "fully" controllable aeroplane as it would be fair to say she was the first female to go up in a "heavier-than-air-machine".That honor goes to Mrs. Hart O. Berg who flew with Wilbur Wright, (Oct. 1908), at LeMans France. The Wright aeroplane was a laterally controllable aeroplane. You see the difference.

Editor's Note: Don Ulmer has added the following comment to my Guestbook. (1-11-05)
The second photo in Hargraves, The Pioneers, (Edith, (Mrs. Hart O.) Berg (*-*) is Katherine Wright. Note difference in Wilbur Wright's jacket in both photos.
So if you click the link on the "Hart O Berg" name, be prepared to see Katherine Wright with Wilbur.

     Delagrange's death is most curious. His is the first casualty concerning the famous Blériot aeroplane. The particular copy Delagrange had, had been the first of that famous aircraft to be fitted with the 7-cylinder Gnome Rotary. Delagrange had flown this aircraft before with no problem. On the afternoon of Jan. 4 1910 Delagrange took off and every thing seemed alright suddenly he came in for a steep turn, the wings folded, and the aircraft smashed into the ground killing him instantly. Fellow Blériot pilot George Chavez died in an almost similar, and well publicised, fashion in Sept. 1910 when successfully having crossed the Swiss Alps he came in low at Domodossala, (the end of the journey), blipped his Gnome engine and the wings folded on him. It would be nearly two years(and many more deaths) before the Blériot company would recognize a design flaw in the wings of their famous aeroplane. The wing design of the Blériot was successfully & aptly modified in 1912 and crashes nearly ceased. But it was two years too late to help poor Leon Delagrange or George Chavez.
Leon Delagrange
Leon Delagrange
Doncaster, 1909?
Collection of Nigel Rowe, 1-13-07

by Ernest Jones
     November 5, 1907---First flight by Leon Delagrange, thought the machine built for him by Voisin brothers had been previously flown by Charles Voisin in a series of experiments beginning at Vincennes, February 28, 1907. The flights were later made at Issy where, on November 5, 1907, Delagrange himself flew 100m.
     January 20, 1908---With the Delagrange II, similar to the previous one, with Antoinette 50 h.p. engine, he flew 100m.
     March 14, 1908---300m. in 19 secs.
     March 16---Five flights 500-600m.
     March 17---Won first of the 200m prizes by a flight of 269.20m. in 21.2 secs.
     March 20---Competing in rivalry with Farman, he made a circle of about 700m.
     March 21---Took up Henri Farman, FIRST PASSENGER TO FLY IN AIRPLANE. Other flights made up to 1,500m. in 2.5 mins.
     April 10---2,500m., in which the wheels touched for an instant.
     April 11---3,925m., in 6:30, although the flight really lasted 9:15 and covered 5,575m., but the wheels touched. The smaller figure established a NEW WORLD DISTANCE AND DURATION RECORD official, beating Farman's record of 2,004.8 in 3:39 of March 21.
     May 23-31---In exhibitions in Rome, Italy, he made numerous flights up to eight kils. in 9:30 before the king (May 27) and established new official world DURATION AND DISTANCE RECORDS of 16 kils. in 16:30 (June 22) and 17 kils. in 18:30 (June 23).
     June 27-July 10---Flights in Turin. On July 8 he took up Mme. Therese Peltier, FIRST WOMAN TO FLY IN AIRPLANE, and M. Montu.
     Returning to France he began flying again on September 3. On September 5 he flew 10 kils. in 9:40 with a new Antoinette of 50-60 h.p.
     September 17, 1908, he flew 30:26 and again took up Mme. Peltier.
     Flights continued. In August 1909 he flew a Voisin and a Bleriot at Rheims meet in which Curtiss represented America. He had become one of the greatest aviators of his time and flew in a number of meets. An unsuccessful attempt was made to bring him to America.
from July 1908 to December, 1909
     On this page of the Bulletin of the Aeronautic Society you will find the story of the Society's attempts to obtain the services of Delagrange for an exhibition in New York which would encourage public enthusiasm for aviation. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

Leon Delagrange
Grande quinzaine d'Aviation           Spa 1909
M Delagrange
Collection of Dave Lam, 8-3-07

from Dave Lam, 11-14-04
     Delagrange earned French License # 3 on 4 January 1909 in a Voisin aircraft.

     If you search for "Leon Delagrange" using Google, (9-20-03), you will find about 170 links. to sites which reference the career of Leon Delagrange, using the Google search engine. Some are very brief, others a bit more detailed, many with photographs.
Ferdinand Léon Delagrange (1873-1910)
     This webpage on Dr. Russell Naughton's "The Pioneers" website, is perhaps the most comprehensive collection of links and some beautiful photographs which are available. From there, you will be able to access most of the information which is online. You can access his site by clicking on the title above.
       If you have the time and are interested in learning more about his life and career, you have a wealth of links to follow which should answer most of your questions.  

Leon Delagrange
Leon Delagrange
4 janvier 1910
7 La dernier Envolée avant la Chute.
"The last takeoff before the Fall"
Collection of Dave Lam, 10-10-05

Aeronaut's Body Crushed, De Lagrange is Instantly Killed at Bordeaux, France, in Presence of a Great Crowd of Spectators.
Tragedy Results from Maneuvering his Monoplane too Quickly in Stiff Wind.
Daily Journal and Tribune,
Knoxville, Tennessee: January 5, 1910,
Transcribed by Bob Davis - 9-2-03
"Bordeaux, France, Jan. 4.      Leon DeLagrange, the French aviator, among the foremost of those who have set out to conquer the air, was instantly killed here today while making a flight in the presence of a great crowd of spectators. A strong uncertain wind prevailed, but with characteristic daring De Lagrange faced it in the same monoplane in which he made a record of fifty-three miles an hour at the Doncaster meeting last October. He circled the aerodrome, seeming to have his machine under good control and yet at times it heeled dangerously to the wind. On the third round, when at a height of between sixty and seventy feet he increased his speed. He swung wide at the turns, but at the lower of the aerodrome he attempted to describe a sharp curve. The machine was seen to sway. The left wing was broken and the right wing immediately collapsed. The aeroplane came plunging to the earth and it turned half over as it fell, with the aviator clinging to the seat. In this way it crashed to the ground, with De Lagrange beneath the heavy motor crushing out his life. The mechanicians are at a loss to explain the exact cause of the accident. They are merely able to say that it resulted from maneuvering too quickly into the puffy wind. The monoplane was doubly braced at the essential points and had been given a careful examination before ascending. Sought the Michelin Cup - The occasion was an attempt to win the Michelin cup. He did not succeed in beating Henry Farman's record for distance, but he did establish a new distance record for monoplanes and a new world's speed record. He covered 124 miles in two hours and thirty-two minutes, maintaining an average speed of approximately forty-nine miles an hour. De Lagrange had been a well klnown automobilist and was one of the first men in Europe to take up aviation. His feats soon attracted wide attention and he is said to have been offered a guarantee of $10,000 if he would visit the United States.
Flight at Doncaster      In October last De Lagrange made a flight at Doncaster, Eng., establishing a speed record for one mile and 800 yards in one minute and 47 1/5 seconds. His first public flight was made March 16, 1907, at Bagatelle, France, when he ascended in a bi-plane. The machine moved thirty feet in the air and descended. Some days later De Lagrange made a flight of 453 feet carrying a passenger. He continued experiments with a bi-plane and visited Rome in 1908 made a flight in the presence of royalty. Soon afterward at Turin he took a woman passenger on a brief trip. On September 6, 1908, he beat the then existing time record by traveling 15 2/5 miles in 29 minutes and 53 seconds. In May 1909 at Juvisy, he won the LaGatiner prize making 3 6/10 miles in 10 minutes and 18 seconds. He entered the competitions at Rheims in August last, appearing for the first time in a monoplane. He captured the tenth prize for speed and the eighth prize for distance. In September last he visited Denmark and made a flight of 15 minutes before King Frederick. De Lagrange's first really sensational flight and the one that made him a contender for all prizes was accomplished at Doncaster on October 26, 1909. At that time he flew six miles in seven minutes 36 seconds or at a rate at times of over fifty miles an hour. On November 5, 1907, he fell with his aeroplane while giving an exhibition at Issy. The machine was smashed, but the aviator escaped with a few cuts and bruises. It was also at Issy that De La Grange narrowly escaped crushing a crowd of spectators who had taken possession of one end of the field during his exhibition. This accident happened in May, 1908. De LaGrange was travelling at high speed close to the ground. The aviator promptly shut off the power and in descending collided with an automobile. The name of De LaGrange is the fourth to be added to the list of those killed in a motor power aeroplane within fifteen months."
Bob Davis
Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this pioneer aviator
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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