Stanley Yale Beach
Original Content Is © 2013 - Carroll F. Gray

BEACH, Stanley Yale

Letter excerpt, Stanley Y. Beach to Maj. Lester D. Gardner, April 10, 1939 - 1st draft of statement "Cut out anything you don't like." - asks Lester D. Gardner to write for "Jennings records" - weather observations - for August 17, 1901 (error, should be August 14, 1901) and January 17, 1902

(following is the text in Stanley Y. Beach's draft statement, along with the language of the final version)

(Beach's draft version) "He told me of his building a glider and putting an engine in it in Pittsburgh."

(final version) "He told me of his building a steam-driven aeroplane and flying it at Pittsburgh."

(Beach's draft version) "At first he had a small shop where he lived with his family. He had married a Polish (changed to "Hungarian) girl and as she spoke little (changed to "no") German it was amusing to hear them try to understand one another"

(final version) "At first he had a small shop where he lived with his family."

(Beach's draft version) "I met him in May in 1901, several months after he is supposed to have made his successful flights. He never made such claims to me. I published my first description of his power glider in the issue of the Scientific American of June 8, 1901. If I had heard or been told of any such flights, I would certainly have included them in my article."

(final version) "I met him in May, 1901, photographed his machine, and described it in an illustrated article in the issue of the 'Scientific American' of June 8, 1901. This was two months before he is supposed to have made his first successful flight on August 14th."

(Beach's draft version) "Whitehead's temper got the best of him once with me when I called to see him and he tried to strike (changed to "brain") me with an iron bar. After so many failures and when he had failed to make successful flying machine, we had difficulties over the ownership of the gliders, engines, etc. which we had paid for."

(final version) "Whitehead's temper got the best of him on(c)e with me when I called to see him. After so many failures and when he had failed to make his aeroplane take off and fly under its own power, we had difficulties over the ownership of the gliders, engines, etc., which my father had paid for."

(Beach's draft version) "As to the yarn about the Wright Brothers visiting Whitehead - this is shear imagination. I certainly would have heard of it from Whitehead especially in later years when they became world famous. He never mentioned it and it is more of the imaginary stories that are 'remembered'."

(final version) (above excised from final version)

Final Version of Statement, Stanley Yale Beach, undated, ca. April, 1939


In 1901 I was writing for my grandfather's, Alfred Ely Beach's weeklies "The Scientific American" and the "Scientific American Supplement" which were then published and edited by my father Frederick Converse Beach. I had become greatly interested in attempts to build flying machines. I was living in my native town, Stratford, Conn., at the time, and read in the Bridgeport papers about a man named Whitehead who was building a flying machine. As part of my duties as Aeronautical Editor of the "Scientific American", I went to see him and found that he was a German mechanic who had worked for Otto Lilienthal in Germany at the time of his glider experiments. He had emigrated to South America and later came to this country. He told me of his building a steam-driven aeroplane and flying in it at Pittsburgh. I have since learned that he had worked for the Boston Aeronautical Society where he built gliders.

Long after I met him he demonstrated his glider and I took a picture of it in flight which appears opposite page 36 of Miss Randolph's book. Practically all the other pictures of the gliders and airplanes in this book were also taken by me.

I found that he had built an aeroplane that was inherently stable and also was building engines. He built one of 20 horsepower to drive the two propellers of his monoplane and one of ten horsepower to propel it on the ground.

I induced my father to advance money to Whitehead to help him continue his experimentation. I estimate that my father gave him about ten thousand dollars. At first he had a small shop where he lived with his family.

I met him in May, 1901, photographed his machine, and described it in an illustrated article in the issue of the "Scientific American" of June 8, 1901. This was two months before his is supposed to have made his first successful flight on August 14th. I published my first description of his new monoplane in Vol. 84, No. 23 of the "Scientific American" of June 8th, 1901. My article will convince anyone that the "compound engine" shown was inoperative upon "Calcium Carbide" (acetylene) which was supposed to run it. I saw no 10 H.P. engine for ground propulsion, nor any boiler for generating steam, although Whitehead was a believer in steam and claimed to have flown at Oakland, suburb of Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1899 with a steam engine.

The gasoline auto had arrived; he was bringing it up-to-date by operating it as an internal-combustion motor on acetylene. I reported what he said - that it was to run on Calcium Carbide! At that time none had so operated. As it had taken him years to build the "compound engine", it is hardly to be believed that he could construct a boiler and power plant in two months, which he would have to have done in order to fly his "compound (steam) engine" on Aug. 14, 1901. On Decoration Day [May 27, 1901] he said "Calcium Carbide" was to furnish the active power. He experimented with steam and it was "out". Highly explosive acetylene was far more powerful and simpler, since all he now had to do was to drip water on "Calcium Carbide". My brief article entitled: "A New Flying Machine", states succinctly all the inventor (who is shown squatting in front of the machine with his child) had to say about it and its motive power, which was sufficient to prove that then he had no practical, operative internal combustion motor. Hence, we must conclude that the flight of Aug. 14, 1901, like that of Poe's "Steering" balloon supposed to have crossed the Atlantic and to have landed on an island off Georgia (which story my great grandfather, Moses Yale Beach, bought from the post (sic - "N.Y. Post") and printed in his newspaper the "N.Y. Sun") was a mere flight of fancy of the Editor-owner of the "Bridgeport Sunday Herald", Richard Howell.

As Automobile Editor of the "Scientific American", I was well informed about steam and gasoline motors. I simply reported photographically and in writing, what I saw and was told. In later years Whitehead told of experiments with Sulphur dioxid (sic) having a low boiling point and reverted to steam in talking, but never actually returned to it. Steam probably would have flown his plane, but steam he did not have.

With the money advanced by my father he built a much larger aeroplane with an undercarriage or platform to stand on, mounted on four wheel. The small 2-cylinder, 2-cycle motor developed but 40 lbs. thrust - insufficient for the small machine even. I would two (sic - "tow") the machine with my gasoline Locomobile at Lordship Manor, as we wanted to find out what thrust would be required to get it in the air. With John Whitehead aboard, (photos opposite p.36) we found that it would require about 400 lbs. thrust or pull to get it off the ground.

In some of these towing tests the machine left the ground for a few feet, say three to five (as show in the photos) and these towed hops 3 to 4 years after 1901 are the only basis for the "flights" seen by some of those who claim that it flew under its own power at Lordship Manor, Stratford, Conn. It never left the ground under its own power to my knowledge.

"Several experiments have been made but as yet no free flights have been attempted," I wrote in "The Scientific American" of June 8, 1901.

I saw him frequently from 1901 to 1910 and at no time did he ever say that he had flown, even though he built several machines after the date on which he was supposed to have flown.

I attribute the legend of the flight of Aug 14, 1901, to the story that Dick Howell wrote in the "Bridgeport Sunday Herald" four days later. Even Miss Randolph says on page 20 of her book that this story of the supposed flight is jumbled. New York and Boston papers copied this and so the story grew until, on investigation, the facts were found, after which it was never claimed again until thirty-five years later when the glamour of having something to do with pioneer attempts at flying have caused memories to confuse towed flights with self-powered ascents. (See affidavit of Jas. Dickie, p. 87 of Randolph book).

The Whitehead aeroplane had many interesting features. It was inherently stable and could be flown safely always "pancaking" and landing on a level keel. I was so convinced of its value that after experimenting 3 to 4 years, I had my grandfather's firm, Munn & Co., of N.Y. and Washington, apply for a patent on it December 20, 1905 (Pat. 881,837, March 10, 1908.) I also secured the same patent in Austria - the Germany of today. It will be seen from the patents that a half interest was assigned to me. Thus Whitehead's 23 claims in his native land were basic and strong, as only such are allowed in Germany. There are no better patents.

As soon as we found that ten times as much thrust was required as Whitehead had obtained to get the aeroplane off the ground, he said that this time he'd build a big enough engine.

Accordingly, he set to work to make an 8-cylinder, V-type 6x8 motor using steel projectile shells for the cylinder surrounded by copper water jackets. Although of light weight for the 200 H.P. it was supposed to develop, it was much too heavy for his monoplane, so he built a big biplane and installed this engine, driving twin-propellers by means of a rope drive. Poised atop "Tunxis Hill" on a Sunday afternoon in 1908 or 1909, it refused to budge. Subsequently, I installed it in a novel "gliding boat." A connecting rod broke and punctured the crankcase off Norwalk.

Still later, when I had seen a Panhard-Lavassar (sic) automobile motor with concentric valves, I encourage Whitehead to copy some of its features. He did this and built a 4 cylinder, 4x5, 4-cycle water-cooled 30 h.p. motor, that on May 13, 1910, at Lordship Manor, Stratford, Conn., got a Berliot-type airplane which I had built and was testing, off the ground making several hops. These were only a few feet off the ground, but Whitehead deserves credit for building an engine that did actually fly an airplane.

Whitehead's temper got the best of him once ("one") with me when I called to see him. After so many failures and when he had failed to make his aeroplane take off and fly under its own power, we had difficulties over the ownership of the gliders, engines, etc., which my father had paid for. The large aeroplane (glider) was kept on the lawn of my country residence, 1812 Elm St., Stratford, Conn. with its wings folded, and a village humorist told the children it was "Stanley Beach's Flying Machine in which he'd go up and cool off when he got too hot!"

At this period we had the advice of Henry Alonzo House Sr. of Bridgeport, Conn., who was with Sir Hiram Maxim and who actually developed, built, and tested the Maxim machine at Baldwyns Park, England in 1895 or thereabouts - the first lifting of a power-driven aeroplane. If he had thought or believed that Whitehead was able to build a machine that could fly, he would have supported him generously.

My impression of Whitehead was that he was a good mechanic with a desire to build a machine that would fly. He knew how to build gliders and had a general idea about the requirements of an airplane that would be maneuverable. His idea was to have it inherently stable. To turn it he used a rudder and unbalanced power of two propellers.

Again, I say that I do not believe that any of his machines ever left the ground under their own power in spite of the assertions of many persons who think they saw them fly. I think I was in a better position during the 9 years that I was giving Whitehead money to develope his ideas, to know what his machine could do, than persons who were employed by him for a short time or those who have remained silent for thirty-five years about what would have been an historic achievement in aviation.

In conclusion I want to give the pioneer Gustave Whitehead the credit to which I know him to be entitled.

1. He built many gliders and patented an aeroplane that was inherently stable.

2. He built many lightweight engines one of which actually lifted a Bleriot-type monoplane off the ground.

He certainly deserves a place in early aviation, due to his having gone ahead and built extremely light engines and aeroplanes.

The former were marvels of power for their light weight. The 5-cylinder kerosene one, with which he claims to have flown over Long Island Sound on Jan. 17th, 1902, was, I believe, the first Aviation Diesel. It, at least, brought such a flight within the realm of possibility.

As for the patented aeroplane, in the movie thriller "Men with Wings" an inventor like Whitehead takes off and flies successfully in a batlike monoplane that is practically a duplicate of the latter's 1901-1902 machine.

Of my own knowledge, from many experiments and tests, I know that the aeroplane patented by him was inherently stable, laterally and longitudinally, and that it would always make a "pancake" landing instead of a nose dive.

This fact alone would have saved many lives if this slow but safe type had been employed in the early days.


Letter excerpt, Ernest L. Jones to Junius W. Harworth, March 20, 1950

I might mention that Beach does not appear to be friendly to Whitehead yet he, of all men, should know what happened as he and Whitehead worked together, and Whitehead was at Morris Park when I was there in 1908. It is also strange that Whitehead then did not tell us there about his earlier exploits... why, I do not understand.

Letter excerpt, Junius W. Harworth to Ernest L. Jones, April 22, 1950

W had an agreement with S.Y. Beach that as long as Beach was financing W (16 dollars per week) W as to see to it that only Beach would get the story of events. This is why we never notified the Press. Beach wrote for his Dad's Scientific American and wanted the scoop. W himself was always against publicity particularly where such publicity would create a curious crowd of people. ... W had a very quick temper and verball (sic) squalls with Beach and others was quite common. Beach at all times insisted that W inform him about proposed flights. W often told me that Beach wanted credit for the suggested design of the plane. W would not consent to this and it created momentary hard feelings. When I last spoke to Beach, about 1931 at his N.Y. apartment he vehemently denounced W and would not give W credit for what he had done. Miss Randolph will tell you that Beach treated her rather cold. It was his nature. He was headstrong and demanded all things be his way. I knew him first hand for I acted as his chauffeur for many summer months. His family life was not of the best, then too he was brought to trial for fatally injuring a man with his car. This cost him considerable in funds. He also was not true to his wife as I as his chauffeur drove Beach and his cook and housekeeper many times. Trips on cold clear evenings out into the country. I merely mention all this to show that Beach was not his full self. Many things upset him. When W spent Beach's money for shop equipment, Beach became furious. He wanted his money spent solely for plane parts. It was a difficult situation. Perhaps during one of these misunderstandings Beach talked to the Wrights in a way that was disparaging to W.

Letter excerpt, Ernest L. Jones to Clarence M. Tyler, Jr., Carnegie Institute of Technology, July 10, 1950

It is strange that the Whitehead claims were not made until so late. I knew Whitehead when he was working with Stanley Beach in New York 1908-9 but W. never talked about his work and at that time no one of us who knew him had any idea of his record. Beach belittles W. and claims he never flew but I discount all Beach testimony. I know him too.

Letter excerpt, Ernest L. Jones to Ethel Beckwith, Sunday Herald, December 14, 1951

"Beach spent some money with him, as you will read, but Beach is no longer friendly to the late Whitehead; nor do I take much stock in Beach as a witness.. as I have known him too, all these years. He is feuding with Scientific American established by his father or grandfather??"