James Dickie
Original Content Is © 2015 - Carroll F. Gray

Read more about James Dickie, M. O'Dwyer and Andrew Cellie in this article - "Fabrications, Oversights, Mistake, and 'later admissions'"


Affidavit, April 2, 1937

I, James Dickie, residing at 1257 Kingshighway, Fairfield, Connecticut, depose and declare the following to be true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

I worked with the late Gustave Whitehead when he was experimenting with the construction of airplanes almost from the first of his coming to Bridgeport for a period extending approximately a year. I put small sums of my own money into his experiments, but how much I do not know as I kept no account of it.

The airplane shown in pictures no. 32 and 42 in which my picture appears never flew, to the best of my knowledge and belief. Steam was supplied from a boiler from a boat, made by the Pacific Iron works which weighed about 700 to 1000 pounds. It was about 2 1/2 feet wide, 4 feet long and 3 feet high. It was impossible for the plane, constructed as lightly as it was, to carry such a boiler. Furthermore, (then in handwriting) "the boiler was on the ground a hose carried steam to plane engine." the wheels were of laminated wood, and so far as I can recall had no metal rims. They could not have traveled at any great speed or long distance over the ground. The wings were of cheap canvas and if the plane had traveled in the air at sufficient speed to keep it in the air, the force of the wind through the holes where the canvas was stitched to the bamboo poles would have ripped it from the poles.

I do not believe the plane could have been adapted to a gas motor because of the width between the propellers which was approximately 11 feet. Gustave Whitehead was an average mechanic, however.

I do not know Andrew Cellie, the other man who is supposed to have witnessed the flight of August 14th, 1901 described in the Bridgeport Herald. I believe the entire story in the Herald was imaginary, and grew out of the comments of Whitehead in discussing what he hoped to get from his plane. I was not present and did not witness any airplane flight on August 14, 1901.

[in handwriting)] "I do not remember or recall ever hearing of a flight with this particular plane or any other that Whitehead ever built."

Signed and Witnessed

Stella Randolph typed notes, July 22, 1936

We returned to the Y for a hurried supper and then went to camp on the trail of Jim Dickie. I found him in (I had written to him innumerable letters). He looked like a heavy drinker; was inclined to be brief and "hard boiled" at first, but softened up a little. He declared, however, that Whitehead had never flown or done anything of note, that he had been associated with him about six years and lost considerable money backing him.

Stella Randolph typed notes, March 12-15, 1937

We reached Bridgeport about 3:00 Saturday (March 13th) afternoon. As soon as we had arranged for our rooms we drove out to the home of Jim Dickie. He was not home and his wife was not too cordial but thought he might be back about six o'clock.

We drove about the town, made some purchases and returned to the Dickie home at six o'clock. Mr. Dickie seemed in a friendly mood, and invited me in to show him my pictures. He recognized himself in the pictures No. 32 and 42 (blank). When I asked him whether this plane had ever flown and if he had seen it, according to the Herald account his answer was:

"That plane never flew." It had in it a boiler from the Pacific Iron Works, taken from a boat. It weigh 700 to 1000 pounds. It was about 2 1/2 feet wide, 4 feet long and 3 feet wide. It came out of a sharpie over at Stratford. I never knew Andrew Cellie. The picture in which I appear most prominently was taken near the Gas Capsule Plant (now the Raybestos Plant) corner of Bostwick Avenue and Railroad Avenue. The story of the August 14th flight (1901) which I am supposed to have witnessed is not true. The plane could not fly. The wheels were of wood, laminated, and I do not recall any steel or iron rms.

When asked about the year he worked with Whitehead, Mr. Dickie said that the court records would show because he was arrested for riding his bicycle on the walk hauling bamboo poles for Whitehead. He said he had given his name as John Doe. His father had had a trucking business and he (Dickie) had some money from it. He used to invest a little now and again - he had no idea how much.

Whitehead invented a tide power-mill that would generate electricity. It was tried out at Ash Creek Bridge on Fairfield Avenue. He also built a generator, shooting powder in it to keep up the pressure, but this got too hot.

In the airplane which Dickie is supposed to have seen fly, steam was used. He said he did not believe that gas could be used because there were about 11 feet between the two propellers. The shaft was too long and would warp and bend.

Whitehead would wound gullas and leave them in the basement until they died of infection, in order that he might study their movements. He had a shop on Cherry Street in front of his house in front of a little church. Another shop was built later in the corner of Cherry and Pine Street about a year later. Whitehead was an average mechanic.

DelCamp made welding on the engine made from projectiles. Whitehead built a power kite 12 feet across with advertising on it for Smith's store at the West End. Decamp was the grandfather of the acetylene welding plant. He made his own oxygen. His son is in either Danbury or Norwalk. He had a plant at the end of Moody's mill.

Whitehead came to Bridgeport about 1900 or 1901. I was with him from the first of his coming about a period of a year.

John Brown of the Hitchcock Gas Engine Company at the foot of California Street used to me [be] a mechanic apprentice in the Coulter and McKenzie Machine Shop when Whitehead was getting his work done there. A man named Berg was mechanic in charge of this shop. These two men might know quite a bit about Whitehead.

About 80% of the metals used by Whitehead came from Chapin and Banks on Water Street.

As for the Stratford flights, there was a bluff on the farm where they were supposed to have flown. It was about 25 or 30 feet high. The plane would leave that and settle again to the ground right away. It did not fly.

COPY of part of letter from Harry H. Ford

May 18, 1949

Smithsonian Institution
National Air Museum
Washington, D.C.

Attn. Mr. Paul Edward Garber

Dear Mr. Garber:

Thanks for your good letter of 5-12-49, upon receipt of which I sent for my friend James Dickie, who, I believe knows all about the intimate facts concerning the activities of Whitehead which were supposed to have taken place about 1901, the writer did not know this man so far as I can remember but Dickie tells me that he devoted between one and two years ad considerable money to the development with Whitehead, these two men are pictured in a book - Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead by Stella Randolph, a copy of this book I have before me now, Dickie stated that he desired to deal in facts and not to belittle anyone - on page 87 is an affidavit signed by James Dickie and he goes on to say - The experimental plane and Steam Engine was constructed here in Bridgeport, steam was supplied by a Boiler built by the Pacific Iron Works of this city - the weights and detailed construction of both Engine and Boiler were given to me but I would prefer Mr. Dickie tell them to you in his own way as he expects to be in Washington in the next 30 days and would be glad to give you the facts personally, he is a good mechanic & a nice chap & I believe you will enjoy talking with him.

* *** *



Harry H. Ford

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

I do not recall any difficulty with Dickey and Cellie.

Eric Hildes-Heim to Junius W. Harworth, August 3, 1961

I only interviewed Mr. Dickie, now an old contractor, who found Whitehead cruel because he broke wings on seagulls to watch their flight attempts.

Junius W. Harworth to Eric Hildes-Heim, August 7, 1961

Now a swing at Mr. Dickie. I was present many times when G.W. snared seagulls tieing (sic) a string to one leg and releasing them to watch each fly away. He watched with keen eyes and many remarks were most interesting to me. He compared the flight to those made by the great twelve-foot wing spread of south Atlantic albatross which he spent hours on deck to watch. G.W. was shangheid (sic) aboard an Australian grain carrier while at a German seaport, a life-angle of his which was most adventurous and interesting to hear. G.W. was a kind individual; never angry, was deeply religious proven in his last years, broken in spirit and body but selling Bibles from door to door. Frustrations of many years duration perhaps dwarfed his senses and he finally passed on October 10, 1927. When happy, his violin gave forth, and I can truthfully state that G.W. NEVER broke any gull's wing or leg as Dickie falsely testified.

Dickie, slightly scurrilous, was often reminded by G.W. to desist and pay more attention to his duty and work and not bother other workers during working hours with his stories. Resentment often was shown by Dickie, a feeling apparent and quite pronounced to date, hence his abject remarks and affidavit appearing in the G.W. book.

I distinctly remember him boarding a Southport-Bridgeport trolley at Ash Creek when I was returning from the Fairfield Aluminum Fdry., and standing on the rear platform, pulling out a screw drive[r], he loudly let all know how smart he was in getting a Fairfield single cylinder motor going, by the simple adjustment of a screw. Wonder if he remembers the incident, and whose motor he 'doctored.'

Junius W. Harworth to Stella Randolph, August 13, 1953

James Dickie cannot be trusted...