Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet - 1910
Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet - 1910
Wilbur Wright
Post card that Wilbur flew at the 1910 Harvard Aero Meet.
Photo Courtesy of Roy Nagl
Ancient Aviators Website
       In some of files of correspondence interesting documents have recently come to light, and among other things a bit of correspondence which should be of great interest, is quoted in full below. This was the report of Lieutenant C. A. Blakely, U. S. Navy, who was sent by the Navy Department to report the meetng of the Harvard Aeronautical Society's Harvard-Boston aviation meet in September, 1910. As we note the remarkable foresight and interest which this report reveals, we are surpised that Captain Blakely, who is the present Commandant at Pensacola, waited until 1935 before he finally took the pilots' course.
Washingston August 26, 1910
1. The Harvard Aeronautical Society will hold Harvard-Boston aviation meet at Boston September 3rd to 14th, 1910. One of the objects of this meet is to bring out the actual possibilities of the aeroplane as an offensive weapon in war, and prizes are to be offered for accuracy in hitting a suitable target with objects dropped from the aeroplanes.
2. You will proceed with the division under your command to Boston, arriving September 1st and remaining until the close of the aviation meet, on or about September 13th, when you will return to your present station.
3. Upon arrival at Boston you will report to the Commandant of the Navy Yard, and will arrange for the patrol of the aviation course by the vessels under your command in accordance with the wishes of the Harvard Aeronautical Society, as far as it may be practicable to do so. During the maneuvers you and the officers under your command will carefully observe and report on the maneuvers of the aeroplanes with particular reference to their possible utilization as offensive weapons in naval warfare or as scouting machines.
4. You will acknowledge the receipt of this order.
Very respecfully,
R. F. Nicholson,
Acting Secretary of the Navy.

The Commander,
First Torpedo Division,
(Through Commandant Naval
Narrangansett Bay, R. I.)
U. S. S. Macdonough,
Newport, R. I.
Sept. 16, 1910

1. In accordance with Department's order No. 27746-17 of Aug. 26, 1910, I have the honor to submit the following report of the maneuvers of the aeroplanes as witnessed at the Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet, Sept. 3 to 13th, with particular reference to their possible utilization as offensive weapons in naval warfare, or as scouting machines.
2. There were three types of aeroplanes and one dirigible present at this meet. The three types of aeroplanes were the monoplane, biplane and triplane. The triplane did not make a successful flight so it will not be given further consideration in this report. The flights of the monoplane, "Bleriot," and the biplane were not only successufl but would be considered by the average person as remarkable. The Bleriot monoplane, operated by Mr. Grahame White, made two flights around Boston Light, a distance of fhirty-three miles, in thirty-four minutes. This machine is easily operated and is considered by many the safest type for development, the centre of gravity being very low with the aviator's seat high up, so that in falling the aviator is likely to wind up on top of the wreckage. Mr. Grahame White informed me that he once fell four hundred feet in his "Bleriot" and the only damage to his person, being a slight scratch on his nose. The "Bleriot," however, has not the sustaining power of the biplane and requires greater speed. And for this reason, in its present state of development, it is not so well suited for scouting purposes as the larger and slower biplane.
3. The different makes of biplanes at this meet were as follows:--Wright, Curtiss, Farman and Burgess. They are all built and operated upon practically the same lines. The Curtiss machine developes a great deal more speed that the Wright machine, but the latter has an ingenious system of wing warping that gives the aviator wonderful control in maintaining equilibrium and maneuvering. Of all the biplanes present, the Wright plane appealed to me as being the most easily handled, the safest, most efficient, most durable and most suitable for scouting. They gained greatly in efficiency by using two propellers, chain driven from a four cylinder, twenty-five horse power engine. Their propellers revolved much more slowly that did the propellers of the other biplanes, which, to get about the same speed, used an eight cylinder, fifty horse power engine. Thus it is seen with half the engine power and two propellors the same result is obtained, as with double the horse power and one propellor. Their stability and slowness are good qualities that a scouting machine should possess. On several occasions during the meet, aviators brought their machines safely to the earth after their engines had stopped, by what is known as gliding. Mr. Johnstone descended safely in this manner in a Wright biplane from a height of eighteen hundred feet.
4. A type of engine known as the "Gnome" engine, that was new to the American aviators, was carried by the Farman aeroplanes. This engine is a seven cylinder, rotary, air cooled gas engine developing about sixty horse power. Its weight is one hundred and forty pounds giving about one horse power for every two and one-third pounds. The shaft is fixed and the engine revolves with the propellor and is capable of giving from one thousand to fifteen hundred revolutions depending on the size and pitch of the propellor. The engine is cut out of a solid block of chrome steel, each cylinder being very thin and having circumferential corrugations to increase the cooling surface. The saving in weight, due to the light construction of the engine and the elimination of water as a cooling agent, is an important step in the development of the aeroplane where weight is a great factor. Up to the present stage of development of the aeoplane, no muffling arrangement has been fitted to the engines, consequently they can be heard in flight a considerable distance. Plans are on foot to develop a suitable muffler. In this respect the "Gnome" engine is at a slight disadvantage as it would require a muffler for each cylinder.
5. One of the most spectacular performances was the bomb dropping. The outline of a battleship was marked out with white-wash on the field, the funnels about fourteen feet in diameter representing bulls eyes. Plaster of paris bombs were dropped from a height of not less thatn one hundred feet, and in some cases bulls eyes were made. This phase of the bomb dropping was very pleasing to the spectators, but in my opinion was of little value in demonstrating the utility of the aeroplane as a weapon to be used against battleships, as ample protection could be easily provided against a hit, and the aeroplanes, at a height where there would be a probablility of hitting the battleship, would be well within reach of rifles and shrapnel. In this connection it must be rememgered that what goiese up must come down, and shrapnel and rifle bullets may become a menace to one's own forces, and for this reason some sort of a pyrotechinic bomb set to explode at a great height might be utilized. The chance of hitting a battleship, or any restricted target of reasonable dimensions, from a height sufficient to insure to the aviator immunity from injury by the battleship's weapons is very small. I understand that several mechanical devices are being perfected for bomb throwing. For still air a considerable degree of accuracy might be obtained, but this condition is rarely found., Under ordinary condition a bomb might travel through several wind strata of varying strengths and, consequently, be deflected from the target. Just before the close of the meet, two aviators arose to eighteen hundred feet and dropped five eggs each at a target. The first five were not located after having been dropped. Three of the next five were located by chance, as one of them struck the tonneau of an automobile about six hundred feet away from the target. Future development of the aeroplane may give reasonable ground for believing that there is efficiency in the aeroplane, as as bomb thrower, where the target is more of less restricted.
6. The dirigible made only one flight. The performances of the aeroplanes completely overshadowed the one performance of the dirigible. I have not much faith in the dirigible as an offensive weapon, but it might be used to advantage as a scouting machine. The success of its flight depends far more on the weather conditions, than does that of the aeroplane. I believe that the aeroplane could easily choose its vantage poiints and destroy a dirigible.
7. The passenger carrying ability of the biplane was tested several times during the meet. On Thursday the 8th of September, I had the pleasure of accompanyng Mr. Chas. Willard in a flight in his Curtiss special. During this flight, while at an altitude of about four hundred feet, not only could I see clearly the outlines of everything in the vicinty bt the coast line of Squantum Point and of the islands in the near vicinity, spread before me as clearly as it they had been drawn on a blue print. If I had had cross ruled paper and pencil, I could have traced in these outlines with ease and a fair degree of accuracy. By ascending to a height of two thousand feet, the field of observations would have been greatly increased. I could not fail to grasp the location of prominent points with reference to surrounding objects. This was impressed upon me as I passed over one of the grand stands, when I noted the peculiar angles which the other ones made with the one directly under me. Had I been standing on the ground I could not have told this angle within two or three points. The sensation produced by an aeroplane flight is quite naturally different from those attending all other means of locomotion, in fact is is quite indescribable. The dizzy sensation that I have often felt while standing on top of a high buildfing, or precipice, was entirely absent and I thoroughly enjoyed the flight.
8. The Wright machines showed great durability by going up as high as fifty-three hundred feet and remaining in the air over three hours. In fact all of the aeroplanes, that were operated successfully for scouting purposes, both ashore and afloat. They could also be used against any army as a demoralizer, by sending them over the enemy's camp or lines to drop small dynamite bombs, pebbles, nuts, bolts or what not. In this case accuracy would not be required.
9. A a scouting machine, the aeroplane appealed to me very strongly. In a slow moving aeroplane an observer could get all the information to be had concerning location of ships, coast lines fortifications, bodies of men, and such like, and could be practically immune from interference by the enemy. A camera could be used to great advantage and the installation of a small wireless set capable of communicating ten or fifteen miles is entirely possible. It is impossible for an observer at the present time to estimate the distance of an object high in th air without the aid of a range finder, and an aeroplane two thouseand feet in the air presents a small and uncertain target. Operating as it does in a very light mediium, the aviator can easly in a very few seconds change his altitude, or his position laterally, so that he would baffle the most expert marksman. When Mr. Grahame White made his flight around Boston Light, his return to the field was anxiously awaited. When he appeared over the high ground fo Squantum Point, I overheard one spectator say that he looked like a small dragon fly, another remarked that he looked like an eagle. One said that he was 500 feet above the hill, another 1000 feet. In an incredible short time he was over our heads. It was easy then to see the difficulties in estimating the distance of an aeroplane when there is no object near with which to compare it. The human eye is so accustomed to association of objects in making estimates, that it is lost when called upon to judge the size and distance of aeoplanes in flight.
10. I do not confine its utility, as a scouting machine, to land, for I believe that with the development of the aeroplane will come a machine that can be carried and flown from aboard ship. In a wind blowing twenty-five miles an hour, Mr. Grahame White in his Farman Machine arose from the ground in twenty-six feet. With this same wind at sea and the battleship steaming twelve knots, an aeroplane would have no trouble in launching and rising; and against the same wind, the ship making the same speed, an aeroplane could easily land on the quarter deck. The Wright machines demonstrated their ability to land in a designated spot by three attempts, the widest from the mark being about 15 feet, the nearest 5 feet.
11. Another feature that appealed to me was the statement of several aviators that they could see bottom in considerable depth of water when passing over in their machines, One aviator claimed that he was certain he could see distinctly enough to locate a submarine laying on the bottom in a ten fathom depth.
12. From what I could gather in conversation with the aviators, they do not know the possibility of the aeroplanes in combating various conditions of weather. Mr. Grahame White says that he has flown in a wind of forty miles an hour without any special concern as to his safety and others agreed that they are now flying in stronger winds than they did last year. A year ago I attended the St. Louis Aero Meet where there were three aeroplanes scheduled to make flights, only one of which succeeded in getting off the ground for more than a few hundred feet, although many attempts were made. In view of that fact, I consider the maneuvers at the Harvard-Boston Meet as most remarkable, as every machine readily responded to the will of the aviator and all who came to the grounds as skeptics went away marvelling.
Very Respectfully
C. A. Blakely,
Lieutenant, U. S. Navy,
Commanding and Division
Navy Department
Washington, D.C.
from Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP - June, 1937, Number 20
Harvard-Boston's Great Aero Meet - Boston, Mass. Aug 19.
Daily Journal and Tribune, Knoxville, Tennessee:
August 19, 1910,
Via email from Bob Davis - 9-2-03
     "No aviation meet held in this country and probably none yet held in the world has had such a representative list of aviators as is assured in the Harvard-Boston aero meet, September 3 to September 13, according to the list of entrants to date announced tonight. The entry list is truly international and includes seventeen individual aviators and eleven types of air navigating machines. There is certain to be keen competition for the $40,000 hung up as prizes in a dozen events. The entrants follow:
  Walter Brookins
Arthur Johnson
Glenn H. Curtiss
Charles F. Willard
M. Didier Masson
A.V. Roe,
J. Graham White
William M. Hilliard
J. M. All_as
Ernest P. Lincoln,
Clifford D. Harmon
Captain Thomas Baldwin
Jacques Delesseps
Dr. W. P. Christmas,
John G. Stratton
Horace F. Kearner
Greely S. Curtis
Wright biplanes
Wright biplanes
Curtiss biplanes
Curtiss biplanes
Vendome aeroplane
Roe Triplane
Farman biplane & Bleriot monoplane;
Herring-Burgess biplane
Harvard biplane;
Christmas biplane
Burgess-Curtiss aeroplane
Pfitzer monoplane
Bleriot monoplane
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