Gustave Whitehead (born "Gustav Albin Weißkopf" on January 1, 1874, at Leutershausen, Germany) first became interested in flight while he was a youngster in Bavaria, Germany. He made parachutes made of tissue paper and studied birds at close range. When he was 13, he leapt from a roof attached to a pair of cloth wings. He also reportedly met and assisted Otto Lilienthal
with his glider experiments for a short period of time, but that did not happened. Lilienthal's glider experiments didn't begin until 1891 by which time young Whitehead had traveled to Brazil and was working as a sailor. Whitehead moved to the U.S. in 1893 and immediately began to actively pursue his dream of flight. In 1897, Whitehead (he anglicized his name upon his entry into the U.S.) built a flapping-wing glider, which did not glide, for a member of the Boston Aeronautical Society, and soon thereafter constructed a Lilienthal-type glider with which he had limited success.
In 1896 E. I. Horsman of New York, New York, hired Whitehead to advise him on construction of kites and Lilienthal-type gliders which Horsman sold at his large toy store. By 1898 Whitehead was married with a child and living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where one person affirmed he made a flight in a steam-powered machine for about a half-mile during April or May of 1899. This assertion is almost impossible to believe, for in addition to the remarkable distance supposedly flown, the flight's sole witness claimed to have gone along for the ride. No record of this "flight" has been found. That Whitehead built a steam-powered aeroplane while living in Pittsburgh is not in doubt, he did. That it did not fly in 1899 (with one or two people aboard) is also certainly not in doubt. By 1900 Gustave Whitehead and his family were living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Whitehead found employment as a mechanic, and where he continued his aerial experiments.