Farman in Flight, 1910
Collection of Denys Tabuteau


Early in 1910, in San Diego, California, Bernard Roehrig had the Baker Machine Works fabricate a beauriful copy of the Paulhan Farman, equipping it with a 6-cylinder, 60-hp engine. Waldo Waterman spent quite a bit of time around Baker's watching the Farman's construction, and upon its completion it turned out to be a better aeroplane than its owner was a pilot. Roehrig teamed-up with one of Paulhan's Dominguez teammates, Didier Masson. They first did exhibition flying at Imperial Beach and then, in the fall of 1910, moved up to the Playa del Rey Motordrome, near Venice, southwest of Los Angeles. This was the first of the very popular steeply-banked, wooden-planked automobile speedways - and its infield was ideal for exhibition flyers. Roehrig won the Los Angeles Times' "Harrison Gray Otis" gold medal for being the first Californian to stay aloft in excess of a minute, and thereafter faded from the scene.
     Didier Masson continued exhibition flying. Then he got involved as a mercenary in the Mexican Revolution, earning the dubious distinction of being the first to drop bombs for real in the Americas - in May, 1913, over Guaymas Bay. In 1916 he was one of the heroes of the Lafayette Escadrille.
From WALDO: Pioneer Aviator
by Waldo Waterman
with Jack Carpenter
Arsdalen, Bosch & Co., 1988

B. F. Roehrig

     Bernard Francis Roehrig, born July 5, 1880, wrote Treasurer Post; "Can't take it any more--too much pain. Leaving you tomorrow. Good luck to all the Early Birds."
     On March 2 he walked into the Sacramento River at Woodland, Calif., in surcease from the suffering endured of late years from muscular and intestinal troubles. He is survived by three sons, one, Louis E. Roehrig, lives at 161 No. Second Ave., Upland, Calif.
     Early in 1909, before Paulhan came to Los Angeles for its first exhibition, Roehrig and Charles F. Walsh had begun building airplanes. The summer of 1910 he had completed a beautifully contructed Farman-type, with stick control, whose workmanship exceeded that of its prototype. After trials with a six cylinder air cooled Cameron auto engine flights were finally made in July of 1910. With Walsh's Curtiss type the two established a windy camp at Imperial Beach, adjoining Coronado Heights on the south, here George E. A. Hallett visited Sundays and helped Walsh with his three cylinder Elbridge. Blanche Scott had completed her transcontinental auto trip and the local Overland agent arranged with Roehrig to celebrate her achievement in a flight with Roehrig but during the day the machine was crashed and the evening's flight was off.
     In the fall Roehrig won the Knabenshue Cup, flying some four miles, ]with a new Elbridge engine. The cup was offered for the first California machine to fly a thousand feet under a California pilot.
     At the second Los Angeles meet, beginning Dec. 24, 1910, Roehrig was an entrant but cracked up his plane the first day. After its close, he teamed up with Didier Masson, who had come to America with Paulhan, and flights were made at Bisbee and Globe, Ariz. Passenger carrying was a feature but the returns were insufficient and the tour quickly ended.
     No more of his biography has been ascertained but he must have achieved what many of us have, perhaps, missed. Only last year he sent his friends his brochure "The Secret of Happiness, the most precious thing in the world."
courtesy of Steve Remington - CollectAir

  Recommended Further Reading:
WALDO: Pioneer Aviator
A Personal History of American Aviation, 1910-1944
by Waldo Dean Waterman
with Jack Carpenter
Arsdalen, Bosch & Co.

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