Those Daring Young Men…

These three old real photo postcards were found in a trunk in Roseville, California a number of years ago and offer a view of the very tentative nature of early flight.

The Aircraft in question seems to be a Curtiss Model D Headless Pusher which would date the photographs to sometime around or after 1912. Whether or not they depict an actual sequence of events of a given day and relating to a specific aircraft is hard to say but such events certainly did occur with frightening regularity. The pilot can clearly be seen sitting proudly at the wheel of his flying machine and although I have found other images of him at the helm of the same aircraft I have yet to be able to attach a name to him. Captions that accompany those images seem to make him out to have been a pilot employed by the Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company as opposed to an independent pilot.

Curtis Pusher 1

Above: “Before going up.” Photo: Edward T. Garcia collection.

(based on the rather unique way he wears his hat and his facial features this “Daring young man” may be (I stand to be corrected if I error on this point) Canadian born pilot John Alexander Douglas McCurdy (1886-1961) who was instrumental in helping Glenn Curtiss start Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Company. He later became the 20th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.)

Curtis Pusher 2

Above: “Up.” Photo: Edward T. Garcia collection.

Each of the three cards as a period pencil notation on the back that express a slightly morbid sense of humor in their brevity. The first simply states: “Before going up”. The second card in which the aeroplane appears almost like a small insect reads: “Up” and the third “Down…End”. The fate of the pilot is as uncertain as his name and one hopes that he was able to walk away from the shattered pile of sticks and canvas to fly another day.

Curtis Pusher 3

Above: “Down…End” Photo: Edward T. Garcia collection.

Note: Although these three photos were found in Roseville, California they probably originated with a family that had moved to the Roseville area from Mason City, Iowa.

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