Octave Chanute, a native of France, was retired from a distinguished engineering career and living in Chicago, Illinois, when he began to pursue his life-long interest in aeronautics. His experiments with "gliding machines" began in 1896 and were conducted at Dune Park, Miller Beach, Indiana, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.
Octave Chanute's Multiple-Wing Glider was built to test the possibility of utilizing wings which pivoted fore-and-aft about a vertical axis to control the center of pressure on the wings of the glider, thus providing stability. The strange appearance of this gliding machine with its "oscillating" wings has caused many people to dismiss the concept, especially in light of the later "classic" designs with trussed and "fixed" wings. However, while this glider was hardly successful, in its design can be seen the germ of a idea which would later be used in numerous designs of military jet-powered machines with pivoting movable wing surfaces, notably the F-111 and B-1.
Augustus Moore Herring was hired by Chanute to assist with the 1896 gliding machine experiments at Miller Beach and Dune Park, Indiana. Herring built a Lilienthal-type glider and, along with William Avery, built the Chanute Multiple-Wing Glider and Chanute-Herring Glider which were tested at Camp Chanute. Herring had experimented with a Lilenthal-type glider in 1894 and had earlier served as an assistant to Samuel P. Langley. William Paul Butusov was also present for the tests in 1896 with his own large gliding machine.
The Herring Two-Surface Gliding Machine which was extensively tested at Dune Park in 1896 was an important and significant design. It anticipated the designs of later aeroplanes and clearly set the pattern. The work of Chanute and Herring should be seen as collaborative, for Chanute's engineering skills are evident in the truss bracing used on the gliding machine, while Herring contributed the cruciform Penaud-type tail, as well as the overall scheme.
Octave Chanute's 1902 Three-Surface Oscillating-Wing Folding Gliding Machine tested Chanute's movable wing theory yet again, but this version's wings apparently moved about a spanwise horizontal axis rather than a vertical axis. This meant, in theory, that the operator could alter the angle of incidence in flight, and (so the thought went) control the movement of the center of pressure of the wings. Chanute's 1902 gliding machine was built to Chanute's design by Charles H. Lamson in Long Beach, California, an experienced builder of very large human-carrying kites. After one day of gliding in October of 1902 with Augustus M. Herring as operator, this machine was stored, along with the Wright 1902 Glider, in the loft of the Wrights' workshop at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina, and was, apparently, not tested further.
Octave Chanute went on to be the main enthusiast for the Wright Brothers during their early aerial trials, encouraging them and supplying them with the latest aerial information. By 1900 Chanute had become the center point for various aerial experimenters in Europe and the U.S. His 1894 book "Progress in Flying Machines" was a landmark volume and was the book recommended to Wilbur Wright by the Smithsonian Institution in 1899.
In June of 1897 Chanute and Herring jointly received a patent in Great Britain (#15,221) for a powered version of the triplane glider. Augustus Herring continued his flying machine experiments, adding a small compressed air engine turning two propellers (one pusher and one tractor propeller) in 1898, and apparently made at least one short hop.
While Chanute has been remembered as a towering figure in aeronautics during the years around the turn of the century, Herring was not to be so honored. He is now best remembered for having engaged in questionable business practices during his later association with Glenn Curtiss and for having submitted a seemingly fallacious bid to the U.S. Army to construct a military aeroplane.