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Curtiss Aeroplanes entertain York crowd during 1912

Curtiss Biplane in Flight over a Field (1909 Photo from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Curtiss Biplane in Flight over a Field (1909 Photo from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

On August 31, 1912, a Curtiss Biplane, piloted by Charles K. Hamilton, entertained during six flights at the York Fairgrounds. One flight raced a York-made car around the track and another flight extended over the city; it was the first time many had ever seen an aeroplane in flight.

The above Library of Congress photo shows a Curtiss Biplane in flight over a field. Between 1909 and 1913, it was the type of aeroplane Glenn Curtiss used for racing and demonstration flights at fields and fairgrounds across the country. Such was the case during the first aviation meet in York, as shown in the following ad appearing in the August 31, 1912, issue of The York Daily.


This aviation meet was under the auspices of the York Motor Club. At that date, the clubhouse of the York Motor Club was in Springettsbury Township; it was in a building that still stands today at 2025 East Market Street.

One of the features, each day of the two-day aviation meet, was a five-mile race, aeroplane versus automobile. By 1912, the Aeroplanes of Glenn Curtiss were on par with the Aeroplanes of the Wright Brothers. The following Library of Congress photo shows close-up details of the Curtiss Biplane and also includes a 1909 photo of Glenn Curtiss; standing in center, next to one of his pilots, F. L. de Riemsdyk.

F. L. de Riemsdyk and Glenn Curtiss standing by Curtiss Biplane (1909 Photo from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
F. L. de Riemsdyk and Glenn Curtiss standing by Curtiss Biplane (1909 Photo from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

A Curtiss Biplane raced against a York-built car; the Kline-Kar. One might wonder why the race was not against the more established York-made car; a Pullman Automobile. In all likelihood, the indirect connection, via the Kirkham Motor Manufacturing Company, between Curtiss and Kline-Kar was responsible for the paring. This connection was explained in my post of last week.

Continue reading for a full report of the first day of the aviation meet at the York Fairgrounds. 


An article on Page 1 of the September 2, 1912 issue of The York Daily reported on the activities at the York Fairgrounds during the first day of the aviation meet:

6 Flights at Fair Ground

Hamilton Flirts with Death by Feats at Aviation Meet

Wins Race with an Auto

Beckwith Havens is called away and Aviator Lucky will take his place in Exhibition Today—Second Aeroplane Arrives

The aeroplane proved its superiority for speed over the automobile in a race between Charles K. Hamilton, flying an 80 horse power Curtiss Biplane, and John Menker, driving a 6-60 Kline-Kar, in one of the events of the first aviation meet held on the fair ground Saturday afternoon under the auspices of the York Motor Club.

Hamilton’s time for the five miles was 7-minutes and 41-seconds; the auto covered the distance in 7-minutes and 47-seconds. In the race, which proved the most interesting event on the card for the afternoon, Hamilton could easily have made a mile a minute over the course, but instead he kept outside of the track with the exception of in front of the grand stand.

Hamilton made six flights in three of which he performed feats such as the dip and sharp turning as well as speed. One of the flights was made over part of the city. The noise made by the powerful engine was plainly heard by residents of the West End, some of whom were badly frightened until they became aware of the source of it. As the machine passed over the streets, every head was turned skywards, many having never seen an aeroplane in flight.

The last trip in the air was for altitude and Hamilton arose over 2,000 feet. In all his trips he made perfect starts and landings. To miss seeing this part of the performance is to lose one of the most interesting features of the day.

Beckwith Havens, the young aviator who was to have participated in the flights in another machine, arrived Saturday, but the biplane in which he was to fly was held up in Harrisburg, while the Curtiss manager was making every effort to trace it. It had been transferred from the United States to the Adams Express Company at Baltimore, and was carried on through York.

Havens was willing to take a filght in Hamilton’s machine, but as the latter is sole proprietor of the biplane and Manager Gammon would not be responsible for it in case of an accident, the flight was made by Hamilton himself in order not to disappoint the crowd of over 1,000 persons that were scattered over the fair ground.

Havens was called to another point by the Curtiss Company yesterday and his place will be filled by an aviator by the name of Lucky, who is in the city. The second aeroplane was taken to the grounds yesterday and was ready to fly last evening.

The first flight today will be made about 2 o’clock. Both birdmen will be in the air at one time and will vie with each other in doing feats of daring, the odds being in Hamilton’s favor as he is one of the most widely known and most daring aviator in the business.

This is the second in a series of posts about the 1912 Aviation Meet, at the York Fairgrounds; related posts are:

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts