Sunday, April 28, 2013

Gustave Whitehead flew first!

Forty-three years ago in 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day, This past Saturday (April 27), I participated in my first Earth Day celebration event. I joined my former high school teacher Andrew Kosch at Fairfield Ward High School, where he was there talking about (as he is wont to do) Gustave Whitehead, a local resident who in 1901 — two years before the Wright brothers — flew a motorized air craft.

Andy has always been a parachutist and ultra-light plane enthusiast. Back when I was still in high school, Andy first began talking about Gustave, who flew in the Bridgeport/Fairfield area a full two years prior to the Wright brothers. Andy has spent most of the years between then and now attempting to get Gustave his proper credit for this magnificent feat.

ICONIC_cover-1Andy even constructed a replica of Gustave’s “Old #21” and flying it way back in 1986. Andy has done a great amount of research about Gustave, even interviewing someone who (as a young lad) worked with Gustave on the plane and witnessed it flying. For my own part, I recall, back in high school, talking with Andy about Gustave and saying that it would be cool to produce a comicbook about Gustave. Well, it took me 36 years but I finally was able to write a short story about Gustave Whitehead. It appeared in a a graphic album called Iconic that was published by The Comics Arts Guild. that graphic album is still available for sale (it also contains short stories about a number of historic, legendary, and/or mythic figures).

Well, recently an an Australian researcher who works in the aviation industry in Germany named John Brown was doing some research for The Smithsonian Channel was commissioned to research flying cars. During that research he came across Whitehead’s name, and descriptions of his craft — as well as of his flight and after investigating the matter came to the conclusion that Gustave Whitehead actually did fly prior to the Wright Brothers. Brown then went on to publish his research in the 100th anniversary edition of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, one of the foremost publications about aviation in the world. In the March 8, Brown acknowledged that Whitehead flew his No. 21 aircraft more than two years before the Wright brothers left the ground at Kitty Hawk.

Needless to say this greatly pleased Andy. When I spoke to him after the story broke in the local press he told me that he was going to be exhibiting his replica of Old #21 at Ward and invited me to join him and sell copies of my comic. So I then pulled my Gustave Whitehead story out of the Iconic graphic album and turned it into a stand-alone 8-pager that we are going to use to help promote Gustave's accomplishments, and (hopefully) turn it into a full-sized 32-page comic which we want to then distribute to schools in Conn.

One of the reasons that Gustave’s accomplishments have not been recognized is because of a long-standing contract between the Smithsonian and the heirs of Orville & Wilbur Wright (all of which was reported in the book History by Contract), by William J O'Dwyer). Well, I (with the help of my buddies over at Pronto Comics — who published my first stand-alone comic, Hot Girl and Totally Hot Girl) was able to publish First in Flight, my 8-page comic story about Gustave Whitehead and how he flew Old #21. The art on the Whitehead comic is by Rick Lundeen, and that book will also be available on IndyPlanet ($2.00).

Well, the books made it in time (I wasn't sure they were going to make it, so I produced a smaller B&W version that I’m selling for $1.00), and I made it to the Earth Day event. In addition to Andy and several members of the Connecticut Air & Space Center in Stratford, CT there was also Anne Fiyalka, a local woman who — as a teen — got the opportunity to fly with famed aviator, Amelia Earhart.

Needless to say, the day was glorious (one of the first really nice days we’ve had around here all year thus far), and there was a very receptive crowd that was amazed that the history that we all learned, wasn’t quite true. Anyway, we had a great day, I was able to sell quite a few copies of my comic, and Andy informed me that he’ll be doing another “green” event with Old #21 in August here in Norwalk at Taylor Farm Park and invited me to join him for that event as well.

Next weekend, I’ll be at the Bronx Heroes Comicbook Convention which will be held at The Bronx Library Center (310 E Kingsbridge Rd Bronx, NY 10458;
718.579.4257) on Sat. May 4th through Sun. May 5th, 2013. I also hope to be attending the Kids Comicbook Convention on Saturday, May 11 at Bronx Community College (the show runs from 10 a,m to 6 p.m.) and have copies of the comic there as well.

Now, here are some photos from Earth Day at Fairfield Ward High School:

Anne Fiyalka and Andrew Kosch and at Earth Day, Fairfield Ward High School, standing in front of a replica of Gustave Whitehead's "Old #21"

Anne Fiyalka who actually flew with Amelia Earheart as a teen, inside Gustave Whitehead’s Old #21.

Gustave Whitehead exhibit at Earth Day at Fairfield Ward High School, April 27, 2013

Gustave Whitehead’s Old #21

Gustave Whitehead’s Old #21

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