Jack Vilas  
Dated June 25, 1913
Collection of Ellie Wright, 4-14-08

July 9, 1913
     Determined to be the first birdman to span the 60 miles of blue water that stretches between St. Joseph and Chicago, L.A Vilas a wealthy Chicago Sportsman, left St. Joseph yesterday afternoon at 2:40 in a new type of flying boat and landed at Grant Park in Chicago at 4:10, having been an hour and a half on the trip.
      He was accompanied by Will Bastar, a Benton Harbor young man, as a passenger. Vilas arrived in St. Joseph Saturday and set up his new craft at Silver Beach. After a few trial flights he started for Chicago yesterday, with young Bastar as a passenger, amid cheers of thousands who gathered on the beach at St. Joseph to witness the start.
     The craft was built by Curtis Brothers. It is neither an aeroplane nor hydroplane but is called a simple flying boat. Vilas has flown as high as 4,000 feet in the machine and under favorable weather conditions can make between 100 and 125 miles per hour.
from the Tricity Record, Watervliet, Michigan
Transcribed by Lawrence L. Blily - 11-06-03

Thought you might be interested in this item from our local newspaper. Would have submitted it earlier, but I was trying to bring it up directly from the "archives" with no success. Typical. I have attempted to copy it exactly as it came from the Tricity Record, which is published and printed in Watervliet Michigan. It was taken, as noted, from the weekly Hartford Day Spring of July 9, 1913. I was curious and went on line, yes, to Google, and learned a lot including finding your website. I was especially attracted to the "Curtis Brothers" error in the story!
Vilas was quite a man. Deserving of more universal recognition.
Lawrence L. Blyly
Hartford, MI
     One of the many episodes in the eventful early aviation years of Anthony Stadlman was his crash into Lake Michigan and his rescue by another Early Bird, Jack Vilas
     Stadlman, Vilas and some other fliers were making frequent flights out of Chicago at the time, and Stadlman was testing a plane which he expected to use for passenger flights over the lake. Taking off from the water in his hydroplane in the sight of thousands on Chicago's north shore beaches, he skimmed over the lake, rose higher into the air, circled, and suddenly plunged into the water to the horror of the onlookers. Immediately launches and motor boats took off for the scene, but Jack Vilas and C. M. Voight, who had been watching from the hangar, took to Jack's airboat and beat them to Tony's rescue. They landed on the water nearby and were able to extricate Tony from the wires of the plane and took him ashore, injured by not seriously.

     Walter wrote in his journal: "I received a letter from a friend of mine, Jack Vilas, in Chicago. He owned a Curtiss F-Boat of his own and had a friend, Stewart McDonald, who was having a Curtiss boat built and needed a pilot. He asked if I'd be interested in the job. I hadn't soloed the Curtiss boat at North Island yet, because I didn't have the money to put up the bond, but Raymond Morris, his instructor at North Island, said to take the Chicago job anyway and bluff it out."
     In May, Walter rode the day coach to Chicago. When he arrived he found the boat wasn't set up yet. Jack Vilas said not to worry, when it was ready, he would test hop it before Walter had to fly it. Then Vilas was called out of town. Before he left he took Walter aside and told him, "If there's a strong wind from the west or from the shore, don't try to test it."
     "But Jack, there are always strong winds in Chicago," Walter joked. When the plane was ready, the wind blew strong for seven days, coming in from the west.
     "The owner couldn't understand why I wouldn't try it out.l Finally one night, he really got mad and said if he could find another pilot in town that night who would fly it, I wouldn't have a job the next day.
     Fortunately, he couldn't find anyone, and the next day the wind switched to a lazy east wind. I made two test flights and then proceeded to carry several of his friends for rides. Luckily, none of them knew how inexperienced a pilot I was."

This from Jo Cooper's PIONEER PILOT

     Much of the historic data on pioneer aviation would have been lost had it not been for the Early Bird Society which had its origin at the Air Races in Chicago in 1928. A group of pioneer flyers headed by Jack Vilas and Ernest Jones got together and decided it was time to form an organization to keep track of pioneer flyers, to work out some safe place to store and exhibit their records, historic data, souveniers, and pictures and to preserve these for posterity before it should be too late. They also resolved to bring all possible pressure to bear for the return of the original Wright aiplane to the United States from England, where Orville Wright had allowed it to be shipped after a misunderstanding with the Smithsonian Institute about the wording on a plaque placed there in memory of Dr. Langley, another pioneer of aviation.
This from Edith Dodd Culver's TAILSPINS, A Story of Early Aviation Days


  Jack Vilas EB Card  
Early Bird Membership Card
Collection of Harry Jones, 7-17-07
     Found this while going through my files and did a little internet search and found you. My Dad and Jack were fishing buddies for many years, both in Wisconsin and Florida.
Harry L. Jones

via email from Peter Bodman, 5-1-07
     My sister, Nancy Bodman Mantz, sent me website info on my Uncle Jack, who was my grandmother's (Eleanor Vilas McNally) brother. How I remember those days in the '60s, when Uncle Jack would take me up at Palwaukee or Sky Harbor Airport and give me my first lessons! He's been gone for many years, but I'll never forget him. I never knew, but suspect, that Vilas County, Wisconsin, is named after him, especially because of the firewatch programs he initiated there using airplanes. My sister has a copy of "My Life."
Peter Bodman

  Jack Vilas  
  Jack Vilas
Collection of Ellie Wright, 4-14-08

     If you search the net for "Jack Vilas +aviation", using Google, (11-2-04), you will find about 46 links. Among the most helpful are the following:
     This website offers a number of interesting features including; Who We Are, What's New, Hall of Fame, Nominations and Forward in Flight, the History of Aviation in Wisconsin, a book which may be purchased in their "Shop.". To see a listing of all of the aviators who are honored in the "Hall of Fame," just click on:
Hall of Fame

     You will find that Jack Vilas was inducted in the year 2000, Pioneer. You can read his biography by clicking on his name

My Life
My Life--to My Children.

by Jack Vilas
Product Details
List Price: $45.00
  Book Description:
Privately printed, Jack Vilas, 1934. Hardback, no dust jacket. Deep maroon cover with gold lettering on the cover. Paper title on spine has been removed. Lots of photographs. Pages are browning, but still a very nice copy. End pages quite darkening. Underlining on the last page. This is a fascinating account of a fascinating life, written for his children and dedicated to Ariel, Jack and Sue. Bookseller Inventory #R3-56
Bookseller: Dorothy Eady Brown (Birmingham, AL, U.S.A.)

  Book Found
Dear Ralph,
     Thank you for the valuable information you shared with me, because the book is now mine! I was in northern Wisconsin at the Boulder Junction History Day this past weekend when a gentleman had a petition going hoping to see how much interest there would be in a Jack Vilas Day. (This is in Vilas County by the way.) There is a State historical marker at Trout Lake near where we were that details the forest fire patrol plane of Jack Vilas. Anyway, this elderly gentleman said, "With all the water around here wouldn't it be neat to have an antique pontoon plane fly-in to honor Jack Vilas?" I'm starting to gather information to help him literally get it off the ground.
     Anyway, I will keep your e-mail and address so I can make a copy of the book cover. I understand that it is spotted and worn but maybe those can be touched up in your computer.
Let's keep in touch.
Mary J. Schueller
PS Check out my Rustic Books website

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