Who was “Mr. Knabenshue”?

Roy Knabenshue (cropped from MS216_08_01_07e)

Roy Knabenshue (cropped from MS216_08_01_07e)

If you have been following our Twitter or Facebook, where we post (among other things) entries from Bishop Milton Wright’s diaries from 100-years-ago-today, then you have no doubt seen several references to one Mr. Roy Knabenshue lately. For instance:

Tuesday, September 7. Mr. Knabenshue came and staid all day…

Wednesday, September 15. We went to Centerville and back in Knabenshue’s automobile…

Thursday, September 16. Mr. Knabenshue died with us. In the evening, we went out to the flying ground at Sim’s Station, in Knabenshue’s automobile. He sups and lodges with us. I saw two flights at Sims. There are about 24 students of flying under Rhinehart’s instruction.

Roy Knabenshue was the Wright Company’s exhibition team manager during the time that they had an exhibition team, from 1910 to 1911.

Roy Knabenshue (photo # MS216_08_01_08b)

Roy Knabenshue (photo # MS216_08_01_08b)

In 1910, the Wright brothers hired Roy Knabenshue, an experienced balloon and airship pilot, to manage an exhibition flying team. Although the Wrights were not eager to enter the “mountebank business,” as they referred to stunt flying and exhibitions, they recognized that an exhibition team would add to their income. The Wright exhibition team first performed at Indianapolis, Indiana, in June 1910. It stayed in business until November 1911, when the deaths of several team members prompted the Wrights to discontinue it.

Another name you will see a few times in upcoming posts is that of Walter Brookins. Brookins, or “Brookie,” was one of the first members of the exhibition team. Unlike some of the team members, who came from all over the country, Brookins was a local West Side Dayton boy whom the Wrights had known for years. Brookins was one of the earliest students at the Wright School of Aviation or simply the “Wright Flying School.”

Walter Brookins (photo # MS216_08_01_07a)

Walter Brookins (photo # MS216_08_01_07a) – click to enlarge



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Selfridge Crash Described in New Acquisition

On this day — September 17 — in 1908, Lt. Thomas Selfridge became the first person to die in a powered airplane crash. He was the passenger in a plane piloted by Orville Wright, who was demonstrating the Wright Flyer for the U.S. Signal Corps at Ft. Myer, Virginia. Selfridge was killed and Orville was seriously injured when a propeller blade snapped, and the plane plummeted to earth from a height of about 75 feet.

Orville's crash at Ft. Myer, Virginia, on Sept. 17, 1908 (MS-1, photo # 47-55)

Orville’s crash at Ft. Myer, Virginia, on Sept. 17, 1908 (MS-1, photo # 47-55)

We recently acquired a letter that describes the Selfridge crash. Mrs. Mary D. Winter, wife of Dr. Francis A. Winter of the U.S. Army Medical Corps, witnessed the crash and conveyed her thoughts on the incident to her friend, Mrs. Bliss, wife of General Tasker H. Bliss. The letter is dated September 19, 1908, two days after the crash.

Portion of a letter from Mrs. Winter to Mrs. Bliss, Sept. 19, 1908, describing the Selfridge crash at Ft. Myer, Virginia.

Portion of a letter from Mrs. Winter to Mrs. Bliss, Sept. 19, 1908, describing the Selfridge crash at Ft. Myer, Virginia.

In the portion describing the accident, Mrs. Winter wrote:

Dr. Winter left here on Thursday morning [September 17] on the ninety mile test ride but gets home this afternoon…so he was not here when that horrible accident occurred to Mr. Wright’s aeroplane & poor Mr. Selfridge was killed. I saw it & I can’t get the picture of it & the horror of it out of my mind. The machine moved with the freedom & ease of a bird & I had seen it so often that I had gotten no feeling that there was any danger in it – so much so that I was really crazy to go up in it myself.

Mr. Wright’s faith in his machine & his courage even undaunted so I suppose he will soon be at it again. He is in the hospital here & his sister is with him.

We are glad to have added this item to our collections, as it gives yet another perspective regarding that terrible accident and contributes another small piece of evidence for telling the Wright Brothers’ story.

You may also be interested in reading this letter that Orville’s sister Katharine wrote about the accident.

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This Weekend: The Great Wright Brothers Aero Carnival

You are invited to the Great Wright Brothers Aero Carnival this Saturday, September 12, 2015, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Everyone is invited to this free event hosted by the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, National Park Service.

We will be there with an exhibit about the Wright Brothers’ activities at Huffman Prairie, including the tests and trials in 1904-1905 that made their airplane practical, as well as the Wright School of Aviation, where they trained U.S. military aviators from 1910-1916.

Great Wright Brothers Aero Carnival 2015

Graphic courtesy of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park , National Park Service

The Aero Carnival celebrates the general time period of the Wright brothers going from the 1890’s to the 1930’s and 40’s. The event showcases the work of the brothers in the development of practical flight and highlights some of the changes that have occurred since then. The event provides a fun way to explore the Huffman Prairie Flying Field, its environment, and the time period the brothers lived in. It also is a way for organizations with similar purposes to reach out to the general public. Huffman Prairie Flying Field is where Wilbur and Orville Wright turned their idea of powered flight into a practical, usable machine between 1904 and 1905. The Flying Field is where the brothers trained the next generation of aviators between 1910 and 1916 and today the area is part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Activities include bouncy houses and carnival games for the kids and a simulator of the 1911 Wright Model B airplane. There will be exhibits by a number of organizations and agencies from throughout the Miami Valley. There will be a silent film shown in the replica hangar along with commentary by Paul Glenshaw from the Wright Experience in Virginia. Seven static aircraft will be on display as well as a glider and hot air balloons. There will also be radio controlled model planes flying and sheep herding demonstrations.

The Aero Carnival is presented by Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park in partnership with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the National Aviation Heritage Alliance.  For more information call the park at 937-225-7705.

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