Bert Papp
Original Content Is © 2013 - Carroll F. Gray



PAPP, Bert
12 years old in 1901

Interview given to Stella Randolph, July 16, 1934

The first plane made on Pine Street had collapsible wings, of bamboo fishpoles. You could fold the wings back like a bird's. I recall one time when we nearly flew. If we had had rubber wheels we would have succeeded, but we were always hampered by lack of funds. That time we had just old flat wooden disks. We ran until we were over the edge of a cliff, and then stopped. The motor was overhead, and when I cut the switch it did not stop. I had to shut the gas off the gas line, and we stopped just at the edge. Mr. Whitehead didn't want to make another attempt. I said, "Either we fly tonight or we never fly at all !" and I threw down my tools and quit, never going back to him. After that I worked in the machine and tool shop...

Indeed Mr. Whitehead deserves credit for his early work, credit which he never received, and I would be glad to do anything to help you.


The Story of Gustave Whitehead - Before The Wrights Flew, Stella Randolph, 1966, p.90-91

Another glider flight, recalled by Bert Papp, was so successful that it became a failure. On either side of the glider Bert and his brother, Andy, raced downhill, each holding an end of a rope attached to a glider wing. Young Harworth was racing with them, carrying the glider until such time as the wind would pick up both him and the glider. When it did, the two brothers continued their course for a time, but the wind became quite gusty, lifting the glider still higher until Andy felt that he was about to be taken up too. He dropped his rope with haste, while Bert continued holding his. The glider tilted, spilling Harworth to the ground. He was unhurt. The glider, too, settled down to the earth undamaged.


Stella Randolph typed notes, July 16, 1934

I recall a great deal that Mr. Whitehead did. I worked with him almost constantly from the time he first came to Bridgeport, and although I was very young, I learned a great deal. We used to be up two and three o'clock in the morning working with the machine and discussing them. My family didn't seem to object. They knew I was learning something. I love machinery. I always did, and am still at it. I learned enough from being with Mr. Whitehead so that when at fourteen I went to the shop to work I earned $2.00 a day. Indeed Mr. Whitehead deserves credit for his early work, credit which he has never received, and I would be glad to do anything to help you.

He experimented first in one of his earliest machines with ammonia. I remember. He exhibited his machines at different places too, to raise funds to continue his experiments. I remember distinctly that he exhibited at Johnstown, and no doubt he did at Pittsburgh, although I cannot remember it distinctly. I cannot recall Mr. Pruckner working with him in the yard on Pine Street; perhaps I would if I heard the name as the Hungarians pronounce it. I remember a later machine, a helicopter with 180 propellers, I think.

The first plane made on Pine Street had silk collapsible wings, on bamboo fish poles. You could fold the wings back like a bird's. I recall one time when we nearly flew. If we had rubber wheels we would have succeeded, but we were always hampered by lack of funds. That time we had just old flat wooden discs. We ran until the wheels were over the edge of a cliff and then stopped. The motor was over head and when I cut the switch it did not stop. I had to shut the gas off the gas line and so stopped just at the edge. Mr. Whitehead was steering the machine. That was the nearest I recall coming to flying. I never saw Mr. Whitehead fly now flew with him. That night, it was getting dark and Mr. Whitehead didn't want to make another attempt. I said, "Either we fly tonight or we never fly at all," and I threw down my tools and quit and never went back to him. After that I worked in the machine and tool shop.

I recall a later date, about 1906 or 1907 when he tried to fly and all the factories shut down and a great crowd went out to Beachside Park to see him. The Wrights came along and flew over a scaffold about 1905 or 06. That is the first flight I can recall in Bridgeport.

The Y.M.C.A. should know about it. Mr. Whitehead used to lecture and give exhibits there. My brother and a fellow named Miller worked on the planes too. Miller is dead now. Galenbushe worked on it too. He should be able to tell you a great deal. Another Miller used to help finance Mr. Whitehead. A fellow named Snake-eye used to be around a lot, but I cannot recall his real name. He worked with Mr. Whitehead some, but his main interest was in the boats. He had a scheme for oiling the boats and keeping them afloat with that, then the airplane wings would help carry the boat along. He was from Long Island.

Then there was Buffalo Jones. (Zane Grey writes of him in "The Plainsman") He had an idea for a propeller. I saw Mr. Whitehead receive a roll of bills from him and heard Buffalo Jones say that if he developed it there would be that much for him again. Instead, your father started to make one up for him, then got started on some helicopter or something. That was where he made a big mistake. The same idea was tried out for water power on Ash Creek and it was wonderful. Now it is being used in Chicago, I understand, in connection with the city water works.

I recall one time when young Horvath dropped about 40 feet out of a glider. My brother and I each had a rope on either side, pulling it; Mr. Whitehead was in back steering it with a rope at the back. The plane rose and my brother thought he was going up too, I suppose, anyway he dropped his rope. Of course that made the glider tilt and young Horvath tumbling down.



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