In Response to John Brown's Recent Undated Paper
"Evidence for pre-Wright powered flights by Gustave Whitehead"

John Brown Presents His "Evidence"
&
That "Evidence" Is Rebutted

by Carroll F. Gray - Posted February 6, 2015



Introduction :

Whitehead Advocate John Brown recently has been circulating his non-copyrighted presentation of "Evidence for pre-Wright powered flights by Gustave Whitehead."

Although Brown did not intend that his document would highlight the serious shortcomings of the Whitehead flight claims, it does, and contrary to that presumed intention, Brown's document reveals the utter lack of true, reliable and factual "evidence" that Whitehead ever flew.

Brown's document also reveals that he often states his own opinion as "fact" - then his opinion of something apparently becomes a "fact" to be offered as "evidence." It is precisely this sort of false evidence, manipulation of evidence, and posing opinion as fact, which has further eroded the Whitehead claims, beyond even the utter lack of true evidence to support those claims.

Brown's presentation runs 35 pages, 3 of which are a summary of his assertions, 22 of which are "evidence" supporting his contentions and assertions regarding Whitehead, and the remaining 11 pages are devoted to arguments involving whether Wilbur and Orville Wright flew on December 17, 1903, and the nature of the evidence that they did so.

Brown uses a pseudo-legalist framework for his presentation, perhaps intended to convey some element of weight to his "evidence" and positions.

While Brown uses the phrase, he seems not to fully understand what the legal phrase "preponderance of the evidence" means. It is the customary standard of proof in civil cases and family law cases. In his presentation, Brown is giving only one side of the argument, the case for the Whitehead claim… and when only one side of a search for truth is available, how can the "preponderance of the evidence" be determined ? That can only happen when each 'side' of an argument gives its evidence and the trier of fact (in this case the Public) then determines which 'side' of the argument carries greater weight. The corrections and commentary provided in this rebuttal will hopefully give the reader the opportunity to weigh the evidence as to whether or not Gustave Whitehead flew in a powered controlled aerial machine in 1901, or, indeed, whether he ever flew.

What follows is Brown's 3 page summary, in full, with images of Brown's original text in boxes, after which my commentary on and corrections of Brown's summary and supporting "evidence" appear.

What Brown purports to be the "evidence" that Gustave Whitehead flew is the subject of this rebuttal. Brown's comments regarding the Wrights are not the subject of this response, although it should be said that his position with respect to the Wrights and their flights of December 17, 1903, is similarly filled with many examples of distortions, misinformation, and misunderstanding.

For some odd reason, Brown appears to believe that by questioning the 1903 Wright flights he somehow bolsters the case for Whitehead. He devotes one-third of his "Evidence…" statement (excepting the 3 page summary) to various attempts to discredit the Wrights.

It should be obvious that the two events (the flights by the Wrights on December 17, 1903, and the claimed flight by Whitehead on August 14, 1901) have nothing to do with each other in proving the Whitehead claim. In a strange turn of thought, along with a healthy application of distorted logic, Brown seems to believe that by questioning the Wrights' flights, he is elevating Whitehead.

Does Brown really intend to say that discrediting the Wrights accomplishments provides "evidence" that Whitehead flew ? That appears to be his assertion, and it displays a remarkable lack of reason and logic.

Some of the corrections in this rebuttal might seem trivial, yet even minor errors are telling - they indicate how poorly evidence, information and facts have been handled.

                                    -- Carroll Gray

      Certainly, "evidence" exists that Gustave Whitehead flew - newspaper articles say as much - but are they fanciful or truthful ? Are they "straight reporting" or meant as humor - and… are they TRUE ? Witness statements exist, but are they accurate and truthful ? Are the recollections clear as to the dates of the remembered events ? Were the interviews and statements manipulated by people pursuing a pro-Whitehead agenda ?

      So, the "Issue," as Brown states it, is not at all what he believes it to be. The "Issue" really is whether the so-called "evidence" Brown presents is valid, truthful and real - or - is it fanciful, distorted and erroneous.

      Consider this… there is "evidence" - our own observations each day - that the sun and moon revolve around the earth and that the earth as we see it is flat, but the truth is another matter, altogether.


      This is another example of Brown's willingness to link two separate issues together, to find a causal relationship where none exists. Whether or not the 1948 Agreement would prevent - as Brown seems to believe - the Smithsonian from recognizing Whitehead's claim of flight in 1901, the 1948 Agreement would have no impact on whether or not Whitehead flew in 1901.

      This is a side-issue independent of the central question of whether or not Whitehead flew in 1901. Brown seems to encourage the reader to see such fantasized linkages as a means of explaining Whitehead's relative obscurity.

      Also, the 1948 Agreement (it was not a "contract" as Brown calls it) might be, in the opinion of at least one attorney and legal scholar, "unenforceable." A full discussion of this Agreement and other related agreements can be found HERE.


      Brown manages to make several errors in the above paragraph.

* First, the newspaper in question was the Sunday edition of the "Bridgeport Herald" - not - the "Bridgeport Sunday Herald."

* Second, there is no byline on the August 18, 1901 article… we do not know who wrote that article, which is a telling and important matter. Brown has, in the past, asserted that the journalist eyewitness was Richard Howell, the respected editor of the Bridgeport Herald, yet Howell never claimed he was the eyewitness or that he wrote that article - and no one ever did publicly claim it as theirs. So, who was this un-named "eyewitness" ? Detailed articles analyzing the August 18, 1901, article can be found HERE.

* Third, Brown says the supposed flight took place in Fairfield, Connecticut, yet the August 18, 1901, article states that the site of the supposed August 14, 1901, "flight" was "… back of Fairfield…" - "… beyond Fairfield…"

* Fourth, Brown seems to believe that re-writes of that story, which appeared as "filler" in many newspapers, mean that the story was true. That is neither evidence of fact nor truth.


      The August 26, 1901, Bridgeport Evening Post article actually states that Whitehead "… left this city a few days ago to exhibit his flying machine at Atlantic City during the next six months for which he is to receive $150 per week". There is no mention in that article of any "demonstration flights" as Brown claims. Whitehead was paid to place his machine on static display in the building on Young's Pier in Atlantic City, not to make "demonstration flights"

      It is of interest that the article's headline is "Perfecting His Machine" - not that he had flown while in his machine at Bridgeport, but that his machine had been "tested" at the old trotting park in Bridgeport's "West End." The phrase Brown uses - "On Aug. 26, 1901 the 'Bridgeport Evening Post' reported on its front page another flight by Whitehead" is not true. That is an inaccurate statement of what the article actually says.


      Brown's "Exhibit D" is a short mention of Whitehead in a French publication. Isn't it reasonable to expect that the supposed September 25, 1901, Atlantic City "flight" likely would have been mentioned in an Atlantic City newspaper, or some other regional newspaper ? Why does Brown offer a questionable mention in a French publication as "evidence" and not present a contemporary newspaper account from Atlantic City ? Perhaps because such a newspaper story does not exist, because that supposed "flight" did not happen. Perhaps "favorable winds" never arrived, or more likely, Whitehead's flying machine was not capable of flight.

      The original French that Brown cites reads "Un avion américain - Le nouvel aéroplane construit cet été par M. G. Whitehead de Bridgeport (Connecticut) a ÉU, dit-on, a expérimenté avec succès le 25 septembre dernier."

      Compare Brown's translation of the French…
"An American Airplane - it's been reported that the new airplane built last Summer by Mr. G. Whitehead of Bridgeport (Connecticut, USA) was successfully tested last Sept. 25."
      to this translation…
"An American airplane - a new airplane built this summer by G. Whitehead of Bridgeport (Connecticut) US, they say, was successfully tested on September 25 last."

      Note that in Brown's translation there appears "… it's been reported…" "… was successfully tested…" The more accurate translation states "… they say, was successfuly tested…" There is no mention in the French of "…it's been reported…" and the use of "… they say…" which is meant to conveys a neutral stance on the report, is not included in Brown's version.

      In short, the Revue Universelle was not telling its readers that the supposed "flight" had actually happened, it left room for doubt. Brown, in his translation, removes that doubt and tell his readers that the "flight" certainly did happen.

      This sort of adjustment and manipulation - sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious - of the meaning of printed material to bolster the Whitehead claim, happens with alarming frequency.


      "Exhibit E" - the Bridgeport Herald article of November 17, 1901, does not say that Whitehead had (quoting Brown) "flown twice since his first flight" - what it does say is that the machine Whitehead was then involved with was "modeled after the one in which Mr. White head (sic) made two successful flights recently as described in the Herald at the time. It was with this machine that Mr. Whitehead demonstrated the practicality of his invention during the season in Fairfield." This is clearly referring to the supposed flight of August 14, 1901, and a subsequent "flight."

      Brown places an enlarged section of the article over the face of the article, and thereby hides two interesting paragraphs, the first of which states that… "Since that time two more flights have been made for the benefit of the New York capitalist, whose identity is kept a secret. The new machine is to be a permanent affair and when completed Mr. Whitehead proposes to make good the assertion that he will fly to New York city and return in it. Mr. Whitehead secured capital through the extensive newspaper advertising which he was subjected to recently."

      Consider the absurdity of flying from Bridgeport to New York City in 1901/1902. As if that weren't enough of an indication of how fanciful Whitehead's views were, consider the following in the next paragraph… "After the first flying machine is completed and publicly exhibited, it is proposed to begin manufacture of them in Bridgeport immediately. They can be made with accommodations for six people to sell for $2,000." This paragraph also informs us that the "motor power" is likely to be a "carbide motor" - although "A variety of motor power can be utilized…" So, Whitehead is anticipating that he will be manufacturing aerial vehicles capable of carrying six people in the very near future, "After the first flying machine is completed and publicly exhibited…"

Can Brown really expect people to believe such absurdities as those as "evidence" that Whitehead ever flew ?

Can Brown really expect people to believe such absurdities as Whitehead claiming in 1901-02 that his "No.22" machine could speed along the ground at 50mph and in the air reach 70-100 mph, in winds of up to 100mph ?

      "Exhibit F" - Brown offers the following in the January 26, 1902, issue of the Bridgeport Herald as "evidence" - "… a kerosene motor. He has a carbide calcium motor, which he used last summer when flying…" Brown's reproduction of this article does not allow the reader to actually read the article, what they can read is his enlargement of the bit just quoted. Of course, this article has much more interesting content than a simple repetition that Whitehead was "flying" in 1901. For one thing it tells the reader that Whitehead and his financial backer, Herman Linde, "Owing to a misunderstanding they had about methods and plans of development they separated and now each one is building a flying machine embodying his own ideas."

      The April 2, 1902, issue of the Bridgeport Daily Standard provides more information about the falling out between Whitehead and Linde… "Since Gustave Whitehead and Herman Linde had their disagreement last Spring, after which Mr. Linde withdrew all support from Whitehead, the latter was in a quandary for a while. He did not have the funds necessary to continue his work, and as Linde considered himself victimized he closed up the machine shop which Whitehead had used." Brown does not include this article in his body of "evidence."

      Also missing from Brown's "evidence" is what an article in the April 5, 1902, issue of the Bridgeport Evening Farmer had to say about the problems between Linde and Whitehead. The headline and subhead for this article read "UNREALIZED DREAMS - Last Flop Of The Whitehead Flying Machine - Herman Linde Had Faith to the Extent of $6,000 but the Air-ship Did not Fly, and He Awoke" This article also reveals that "The trial records the breaking away of a partnership that blasts local hopes of the realization of the flying machine by Mr. Whitehead. Mr. Linde had faith in Mr. Whitehead to the extent of $6,000. That amount of money went away in experimenting, and there is yet no airship. This will be a blow to some of the New York daily papers who have been printing long accounts of the airship and which were amply illustrated. It appears that Mr. Whitehead made a failure of some kind of a boat. After the failure he constructed another, which Mr. Linde thought was a boat similar in all respects to the failure. This made him angry, hence the dissolution, and the unrealized dreams of an airship."

      On the page devoted to "Exhibit F," Brown mentions a January 24, 1937, reprint of the August 18, 1901, Bridgeport Herald article which first stated Whitehead had "flown."

Brown comments…

"On Jan. 24, 1937, The Herald reprinted its original eyewitness report of the first flight under the headline, 'Here’s Proof!'. It was accompanied by an article outlining its cooperation with Harvard University and The Library of Congress to substantiate Whitehead's claim. [Probative value: The Herald's decade-long repetition of the original first flight report disproves the theory of 'credentialed historians' who assert, the Herald report had been intended as a 'joke'.]"

     One of several reasons to contend that the p.5 August 18, 1901, Bridgeport Herald story on Whitehead, titled "Flying," was a joke, is that numerous odd, strange, and humorous stories appeared that same page 5, week after week. Page 5 was apparently not a page devoted to straight news reporting. ("Aviation History," Jan. '14, p 21)

      Brown could have written that the Herald was cooperating with a part-time economics professor at Harvard, John Crane, and Albert Francis Zahm, the chief of the Aeronautical Division of the U.S. Library of Congress and a forceful enemy of the Wright First-Flight legacy. Brown's broad statement that the Herald was cooperating with "Harvard University and the Library of Congress to substantiate Whitehead's claim." is incorrect - it is false and misleading.

      Brown chose to mention "Harvard University and The Library of Congress, as if those institutions themselves were hard at work - working with the Herald - to substantiate the Whitehead claims. Harvard University and the Library of Congress were not, those two partisan individuals, Crane and Zahm, were.

      It's difficult to understand how Brown can see "Probative value" in a reprint - which, by the way, is not an exact reprint, at least one image was not as in the original - for by 1937, Richard Howell, who was the Bridgeport Herald's editor when the first article appeared on August 14, 1901, was deceased, and no one working at the Bridgeport Herald in 1937 knew the story of how the 1901 article came to be published. In short, by 1937 there were no witnesses to the August 18, 1901, article still working at the Herald. Simply because people who were not associated with the Bridgeport Herald in 1901, made the choice to reprint that article in 1937 does not give that reprint any "Probative value," whatsoever.

      Adopting Brown's legalist language, the 1937 reprint therefore is nothing more than heresay evidence, and once removed, at that.

      Likely what Brown means by writing "The Herald's decade-long repetition of the original first report…" is that the reprint, 36 years later (not a "decade"), means that the Herald was serious about its 1901 report - but then, as stated previously, no one was then working at the Herald office who had any knowledge of whether or not that 1901 report had been intended as a joke.

      So, Brown's closing comment on "Exhibit F" - "The Herald's decade-long repetition of the original first flight report disproves the theory of 'credentialed historians' who assert, the Herald report had been intended as a 'joke'." has no relevancy, it disproves nothing.


      Brown highlights this sentence from the September 19, 1903, Scientific American...

"By running with the machine against the wind, after the motor had been started, the aeroplane was made to skim along above the ground at heights of from 3 to 16 feet for a distance, without the operator touching, of about 350 yards."

      However, Brown does not include these two sentences from the same article… "The method of soaring used by Mr. Whitehead consists in running with the aeroplane against the wind, preceded by an assistant who draws it with a rope when it leaves the ground. When sufficient speed is attained, the operator, by tilting the aeroplanes slightly upward, can leave the ground and skim along in the air, as shown in one of the photographs."

      Brown also chooses to not show the photo of a man running downhill pulling a tow rope attached to Whitehead's triplane glider. The configuration of the Whitehead 1903 triplane powered glider seems to stem from the 1898 Herring powered triplane, the design of which was widely known. It is generally believed that in 1898 Augustus Moore Herring managed a short powered hop in his very light biplane glider powered by a small compressed air motor turning one tractor and one pusher propeller, but that effort was not a free flight, powered and controlled, and Whitehead's 1903 experiments with the Whitehead triplane glider were likewise not free flights, out of ground effect (which is the tendancy of a wing near the ground to be held off the ground on a cushion of air). Whitehead's use of a pyramidal tail would have had the effect of "weathervaning" the machine, keeping it from yawing, but also that design would have produced very significant drag, impeding the progress of Whitehead's glider.


      Once again, Brown is sloppy with his details, intentionally or inadvertantly. The newspaper which ran the article Brown mentions was the Bridgeport Daily Standard not the "Bridgeport Standard" as Brown states.

      Furthermore, the article does not say that the two photos were "on display at an exhibition…" This is what the article actually says "If anyone doubts that Gustave Whitehead has been able to fly a limited distance at least, with his aeroplane, such doubt can be dispelled by viewing the photographs of his flight in the south window of Lyon & Grumman's hardware store on Main Street." The photos were in the window of a hardware store not at an exhibition, and given the date of the Daily Standard article it is most probable that the photos were of Whitehead under his glider… but even so, he would not have been flying, since the photos of him under his glider were faked, by hanging the glider from wires. More on this topic can be found HERE.


      In early 2013 Brown stated that by using "forensic analysis" he had identified the blurry photo as "… obviously…" showing Whitehead in flight in 1901 aboard his No. 21 machine.

      Fox News reported :

"'The photo has been enlarged 3,500 percent,' Brown said. 'It validated the blurry picture, and the analysis confirms the numerous early press reports on Whitehead's flight as well,' he claims. 'He had the only monoplane. It's a high-wing monoplane, and it has a big mast in the middle. It's obviously his plane.'"

      John Brown has now backed off from his "forensic analysis," perhaps after reading these articles HERE, where the reader may examine the matter of the 1906 exhibition photo in detail, as well as Whitehead's use of faked glider photos.

      Notice that on March 24, 2013, John Brown wrote…

"I claim to have uncovered a photo of Gustave Whitehead in powered flight more than 2 years before the Wright brothers."

      and that...

"Many of my findings are attributable to modern technologies. I used: … - forensic photo analysis to identify the photo of Whitehead in powered flight (I’m saving the best quality versions for an upcoming documentary)."

      Now, in 2015, writing about that same photograph, John Brown states…

"Panorama photos of that exhibit exist, however, when enlarged, individual photos on display are too blurred to be positively identified. The only persons claiming to know for sure what the blurred image shows are Wright proponents."

      In 2013 John Brown was certain of what that photograph showed and repeatedly told the media in Europe and the US that he knew it was a photo of Whitehead flying in his 1901 machine… that is until he was proven to be wrong, then, instead of admitting his embarrassing and obvious error he simply moved on as if his botched analysis and that of his "forensic photography experts" had never happened.

      Perhaps inept use of those modern technologies is the reason so many of Brown's findings are totally wrong and thin on facts.

      More than once, Brown poses two false choices, either this or that, both of which are absurd. He apparently does this to give weight to his own opinion of an event or fact. So, he tells us that either all journalists made "the same mistake" or somehow the journalists were all involved in a conspiracy. Obviously, there are a range of possibilities beyond those two ridiculous choices. It's instructive to notice this, given how frequently Brown seeks to advance his position by use of false choices and subtle ridicule.


      As in his "Exhibit J," Brown poses two false choices, either this or that, both of which are absurd. One possibility, which Brown seems to not recognize, is that people in 1901 had no complete notion of what a "flight" was, and to someone seeing Whitehead's 1901 machine hopping into the air for short distances, they might well have believed they had witnessed a "flight." However, such hops and jumps had been accomplished before Whitehead, prior to 1901, and in any case, hopping or rebounding into the air does not constitute making a true flight.

      One of the witnesses Brown cites did not say what that witness is purported to have said. Those interviewing that witness changed the wording of what was said, to make what was clearly a near-silent glide, into a noisy powered flight.

      In 1999, the "Stanford Journal of Legal Studies" sponsored a presentation by Prof. of Psychology Barbara Tversky and Law Prof. George Fisher titled "The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony" in which several points relevant to any discussion of Whitehead witnesses were raised.

      As Laura Englehardt wrote, "The introduction of false cues altered participants’ memories." and "Memory is affected by retelling, and we rarely tell a story in a neutral fashion. By tailoring our stories to our listeners, our bias distorts the very formation of memory—even without the introduction of misinformation by a third party." In sum, "Eyewitness testimony, then, is innately suspect."

      The Whitehead witness statements are being reviewed in great depth, to see if any other such manipulations happened. Once that review has been completed, an analysis of the witness statements will be posted.

      Brown's treatment of Richard Howell is another example of how polluted and muddy the Whitehead witness waters are. Brown quotes the August 18, 1901, Bridgeport Herald article and places the quote next to an image of the Herald's editor, Richard Howell (which image appears to have taken from this web site), effectively stating that Richard Howell was the "journalist" who wrote that August 18, 1901, Herald story. However, as noted earlier, there is not a shred of first-hand evidence that Richard Howell wrote the unattributed story - there is no byline on that story - there is only a single hearsay comment linking the two, a comment which was made after Howell's death. It is difficult to understand why Howell would not claim the story as his own, if he had written it.

      This Howell matter is yet another example of Brown inflating an item into a full-blown and hard-set "fact" - yet it all still hangs on a very slender thread.

      Brown wisely did not include the testimony of James Dickie in his list of eyewitnesses. For one thing, Dickie (the August 18, 1901 Herald story places him at the site - one of only two people other than Whitehead and the journalist - where Whitehead supposedly made his pre-dawn flight). Dickie was emphatic that he was not there, and did not witness Whitehead fly. Dickie's testimony is central to understanding that the August 18, 1901, Herald story was not true. Further, Dickie's testimony was manipulated to make it appear jumbled. An article discussing the August 18, 1901, Herald story and Dickie's very important testimony can be found HERE.

      Since Brown believes the Whitehead claims should be subjected to a legal process leading to an historical truth, he should be aware - but appears to not be - that eyewitness testimony is not completely credible, and is subject to many distortions. The following is what "The Innocence Project" has to say about eyewitness testimony…

"Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in 72% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated."


      Brown states, correctly, that the wing used on Whitehead's 1901 machine "… was an almost exact replica of the same wing Otto Lilenthal used…" The problem, of course, is that the wing Otto Lilenthal used only needed to support his weight and the weight of his glider. Whitehead's wings were expected to support Whitehead's weight, the weight of the engines, propellers, fuel, wheels, and hull-like fuselage. Whitehead also used different material to construct his wings than Lilienthal had used. For example, Whitehead used bamboo fishing poles for ribs, Lilenthal did not.

      Perhaps most importantly, Whitehead placed his bamboo fishing rod ribs on the top ot the wings, and so disrupted the airflow, which reduced those wings' lift. This leads to the simple and nearly inescapable conclusion that the wings on Whitehead's 1901 machine were not adequate to the task, and would have generated less lift than did Lilienthal's wings of similar design.

      Finally, Brown appears to be unaware that the Lilienthal brothers made and used wings of several different designs between 1891 and 1896.


      Brown's "Exhibit M" appears to be a complete signed, notarized statement by Charles R. Wittemann, who purchased two engines from Whitehead and who, with this brother, built aeroplanes for others.

      However, the statement Brown displays is not complete, it has been selectively edited, without notice to the reader. This is not an acceptable thing to do, especially when done by someone who has complained of selective editing by others.

      One sentence Brown chose not to include is the following…

"These Whitehead engines were 2 cycle gasoline engines, with water cooled jackets. They ran for periods up to 10 minutes or until they over heated."

      There is no reason to believe Charles R. Wittemann's statement is anything but true to his recollections. However, Brown's note that "no witness tesimony carries greater weight that an independent expert appointed by the US President to a national body." deserves some critical comment. Why would Brown believe that a presidential appointment to a national body gives testimony of the person appointed "greater weight" ?

      Certainly such an appointment is an honor, but how would that translate into giving that person's testimony additional weight as evidence ? This is another example of something Brown apparently does often, mention a tangential fact which then transfers greater authority to a person's comments.

      There obviously is no linkage between Charles R. Wittemann serving on a presidentially appointed committee and what he has to say about Whitehead.

      Not all experienced Pioneer Era aeroplane builders and aviators agreed with Wittemann's opinion that the Whitehead 1901 machine "… was capable of stable flight." Wittemann, it should be noted, never saw the Whitehead 1901 machine in person.

      Otto Timm, who gave Charles Lindbergh flight instructions and who built an aeroplane in 1911, and who in 1938 built a replica of the Whitehead 1901 machine, had this to say about Whitehead's 1901 machine…

"The ship hadn't a chance of getting into the air with or without an operator. It was not aerodynamically stable. It lacked proper controlling devices, including a rudder. The inventor did not understand the shifting of the center of pressure and other fundamental problems which the Wright brothers mastered." "But, our experiments show that the plane would have crashed within the first few yards of flight - if it rose from the ground at all."

      Another one of Whitehead's machines which failed to rise from the ground was a 120-propeller helicopter powered by the second Whitehead engine the Wittemann brothers bought. Charles R. Wittemann stated "In the spring of 1909 I completed a helicopter for Lee. S. Burridge, President of the Aeronautical Society of America and bought a second Whitehead engine for this helicopter." Burridge eventually sued Whitehead for the money he'd put into the project and won a Superior Court judgment against Whitehead for $1,240.

      The complete unabridged statement by Charles R. Wittemann can be found HERE.


      Brown's "Exhibit N" is confusing, intentionally or by happenstance. Brown cites p.298 of the January 1907 "Illustrierte Aeronautische Mittheilungen (sic)" as his source, yet there is no p.298 in the January issue.

      The text he uses is found on p.298 of the August 1907 issue. Brown also cites the source as "Illustrierte Aeronautische Mittlungen(sic)" - the correct title of the publication is "Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen."

      A large photograph titled "Aeronautical Exhibition, New York, Dec. 1906" is the main visual on "Exhibit N," yet the source of that photo is not identified.

• Is it found in the January 1907 "Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen" ? No.

• Is it found in the August 1907 "Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen" ? No.

      A page-by-page search of all issues of "Illustrierte Aeronautische Mitteilungen" for 1907 failed to locate the photo featured in "Exhibit N."

      The photo shows someone with his back to the camera, whom Brown identifies as German journalist Carl Dienstbach. He was a prolific writer on aeronautical topics during the early part of the 20th century, and was known by almost all others then involved with aeronautics. In the photo he appears to be talking with Whitehead at a table displaying aeronautical "Models." A man Brown identifies as "William J. Barker, USPTO" also appears to be chatting Dienstbach and Whitehead. As Brown displays that photo, it has no caption.

      There is a photograph in the 4-⅓ page article, which shows some of the exhibits at the 1906 Second Aero Club of America Exhibition, but it is not the top photo in Brown's "Exhibit N" and neither is it the second photo shown in "Exhibit N."

      Brown does not tell us the source of that photograph, either. Interestingly, what Brown appears to say is a Whitehead flying machine is identified in the bottom photo as a "Wind Wagon," meaning a land vehicle driven by a propeller. Also, it appears Brown has mistaken the sign reading "Motor of 'BAT' Machine Which Flew" as referring to the engine mounted in the "Wind Wagon." It appears that this sign refers instead to the Whitehead two-cylinder 'steam-engine' on display at the exhibition.

      Taken altogether, "Exhibit N" is a confused presentation, which hardly constitutes "evidence" that Whitehead made a flight in 1901.


      "Exhibit O" is, perhaps, the most revealing of all of Brown's "evidence" even though it consists of nothing more than two photos taken from videos and two lines of text.

      Other than the two lines of text telling where and when the videos were taken, Brown offers the reader no explanation of what he is showing as "evidence." This might seem peculiar until it's realized that the "Two replicas of Whitehead's 1901 aircraft" were nothing of the kind - they weren't replicas at all.

      They both have a strong resemblance to the Whitehead No. 21 of 1901, but beyond that resemblance they differed from the 1901 machine in many important features. Both had modern high-revving engines turning modern high-efficiency propellers, and both had modern pilot controls, something the 1901 machine did not have. They had heavy wheeled undercarriages which served to lower the center of gravity, and the wing bracing wires were different in number and placement.

      Importantly, the pilots of the two modern versions were not standing, as Whitehead said he was when he supposedly flew, leaning his body to control the machine in flight. The pilots of the modern-day versions of the Whitehead 1901 machine chose (wisely, it must be obvious) to not stand and to not attempt to control the machine in flight by leaning their bodies while standing.

      It must be asked, why didn't Brown have more to say about these "replicas" as "evidence" that Whitehead flew in 1901 ? One reason might well be that Brown realizes that the "replicas" are not evidence at all - they prove next to nothing at all about whether Whitehead's 1901 machine could fly. He likely included the two photos with no explanantion to imply - rather than clearly state - that they were evidence that Whitehead flew in 1901. Had he said that in writing, he would find himself on the losing end of an argument.

      When he considered the question of whether or not the tests of replicas can be used as evidence that Whitehead flew, Horst Philipp, the German test pilot who was aboard the German-built version of the Whitehead 1901 machine, reached the following conclusion (notes and emphasis added) :

"The airframe of the Flying Machine Gustave Whitehead No.21 is capable of flight. The design concept provides inherent in-flight stability. [Note: this is after strengthening the wing ribs and supports and other significant and necessary modifications were made to the original wire bracing and wire rigging design, to prevent "static instability" "which caused the wing to collapse like an umbrella in a storm." [Note: this catastrophic collapse of the wings happened during towed testing, with the wings built as close to the original design as was possible "The cause of the difficulties proved to be structural deficiencies in both the original design and the reproduction."]

The thrust required, and which Whitehead claimed he had available, has yet to be demonstrated with the original propulsion system installed.

A positive result would mean that there is a high degree of probability that the eyewitness reports were correct and that Whitehead actually did fly the No 21.

Until such evidence is forthcoming, however, any claim that the Flying Machine No 21 with Whitehead on board did, or did not fly, is premature at this stage and can only be accepted as a personal opinion."

      The following is taken from a long article on the Whitehead 1901 machine. For more reasons why the "replicas" have no value as evidence of whether or not the Whitehead 1901 machine could fly, read the article found HERE.

      The modern-day renditions of No. 21 used for flight testing have surface areas close to the published value of 450 sq. ft., yet allocate the surface areas between wings and tail differently.

      The Kosch-Whitehead No. 21A machine used 450 sq. ft. total surface area, but had 90 sq. ft. of tail surface and 360 sq. ft. of wing area, 180 sq. ft. for each wing, meaning over 40 sq. ft. were added to the surface area of the tail.

      The HRFC-GW-Weißkopf Nr.21B built by the German "Historical Flight Research Committee Gustav Weißkopf (Whitehead)" "HFRC-GW" had 400 sq. ft. of wing surface (200 sq. ft. each) and 60 sq. ft. of tail surface area - adding an additional 10 sq. ft. over the original area.

      The HRFC-GW-Weißkopf Nr.21B relied on modern conventional flight controls, including a stick for control of pitch and yaw, and deformation of the wing by use of pedals for roll control, none of which was present on the original No. 21. The addition of roll control and yaw control are significant differences between the HRFC-GW-Weißkopf Nr.21B and No. 21.

      The differences in surface area between the modern versions and the original No. 21 call into serious question the results of tests of modern No. 21-type machines. The total surface area of an aerial machine is a major factor of whether or not that machine will lift off and fly, other factors being lift and angle of incidence of the aerofoil used, total weight, total head resistance and thrust, among other factors.

      Additionally, the Nr.21B machine made use of modern 3,200 r.p.m. engines (No. 21's propellers ran at 700 r.p.m.) turning modern "toothpick" propellers, significant departures from the design of the original No. 21 Condor - as well as using control systems not found on No. 21 - that alter the flight characteristics and performance of the machines.

      As a result, flight data derived from testing No. 21A and most especially the Nr.21B machine, with its many modifications based on modern understanding of structures and aeronautics, should be considered provisional. The free-flights of No. 21A and the Nr.21B are not evidence that No. 21 made controlled, powered flights.


      Brown's "Exhibit P" provides some insight into either how sloppy Brown's research can be, or, perhaps, how purposefully Brown suppresses unwanted information.

      The "AT NEW YORK" image of "Exhibit P: Whitehead motors in planes, ads and shows, worldwide" is taken from the February 1911 issue of AERONAUTICS, p. 47, and Brown tells us it shows a Whitehead engine installed in a Wittemann biplane, displayed at an exhibition in New York. The AERONAUTICS article continues on p.48, and text on that page describes the Wittemann aeroplane. This is what the article states about the engine of the Wittemann aeroplane :

      "The powerplant is an Elbridge 4-40 'Special' driving a Gibson propeller 7 by 6 ft pitch."

So, there is no mention of a Whitehead engine in the AERONAUTICS article.

      Still one more example, below the Wittemann aeroplane in "Exhibit P" shows the (Michael) "Paridon Machine" biplane taking off on July 2, 1910, powered by (if we are to believe Brown) a Whitehead engine… or we can believe the Elbridge Engine Co., which published a booklet in 1910 carrying stories of the aviators who were flying using Elbridge engines… and there we find Michael Paridon and his "Paridon Machine" powered - not by a Whitehead engine, but by an Elbridge 4-40 engine.

So, there is no mention of a Whitehead engine in the Elbridge Engine Co. booklet.

      By the way, Michael Paridon paid $864 for the Elbridge 4-40 from Rochester, New York, and bought $1,464 in parts from the Wittemann brothers on Staten Island.

      The third photo in "Exhibit P" which Brown presents as an aeroplane powered by a Whitehead engine, actually is. The Curtiss-type biplane was built in mid-1910 by the Wittemann brothers, Staten Island, for Charles W. Miller of Chicago, Illinois, and the second of only two Whitehead engines the Wittemanns bought from Whitehead was put into the Miller machine. The one (and apparently only) attempt on record by Miller to fly the machine at an exhibition (on July 4, 1910, at Monmouth, Illinois) did not go well. Miller struggled for 90 minutes to take off but the machine wouldn't lift - because, reports stated - of engine trouble. Charles R. Wittemann, who had firsthand knowledge of the Whitehead engines, stated "They ran for periods up to 10 minutes or until they over heated."

      The fourth and last photo Brown offers as "evidence" is of a ca.1910 Curtiss biplane taking off at an unstated location in, Brown tells us, "New Jersey." The biplane is supposedly powered by a Whitehead engine, although no proof of that assertion is offered.

      Brown offers 16 ads (from 1910-1911) which appeared in aviation publications promoting the Whitehead engine. If Brown is trying to convince the reader that the Whitehead engine was advertised, it was, for a short time.

      The lack of production, the Whitehead engines' habit of overheating and the availability of competing engines of greater reliability soon meant that any hope Whitehead and his associate, George A. Lawrence, might have had of selling a significant number of Whitehead engines soon evaporated.

An exhaustive listing of 36 aeroplane engines then being manufactured
in the US in 1911 does not mention a Whitehead engine.

      Brown has a problem concerning Whitehead engines, on the one hand he is saying Whitehead was a manufacturer of aeroplane engines which were sold "worldwide" for some 14 years, but then, if that were true, where are the mentions of all those engines installed in aeroplanes ? One simple way for Brown to resolve that problem would be to declare Whitehead engines were installed where they weren't.


      It is almost beyond understanding why Brown would state that the Wright control system was an "… essentially identical system…" to that of Whitehead's mentioned in the December 1902 issue of "Aeronautical World," since the two systems have next to nothing in common. One possible explanation might be that Brown wishes to link the Wrights and Whitehead in a way which reflects poorly on the Wrights and this was a means of attempting to do so. Whatever his motivation, he has chosen a remarkably poor bit of "evidence" to support the case for Whitehead.

      The Whitehead system was described as consisting of an unspecified number of levers which...

"… regulate the force of compressed air which actuates them [Note: here the wings are called "aeroplanes"] in order to deflect the aeroplanes so as to incline or steer a circular course without shifting the position of the ballast or aëronaut. The tail or rudder will likewise be lowered or raised by means of compressed air controlled by levers."

      Here is the wording in the Wright Patent (No. 821,393) which Brown has selected as describing an "… essentially identical system…" Compare the two and notice how very different they are…

"11. In a flying-machine, two aeroplanes, each normally flat and elongated transversely to the line of flight, and upright standards connecting the edges of said aeroplanes to maintain their equidistance, the connections between such standards and aeroplanes being by means of flexible joints, in combination with means for simultaneously imparting to each of said aeroplanes a helicoidal warp around an axis transverse to the line of flight and extending centrally along the body of the aeroplane in the direction of the elongation of the aeroplane, a vertical rudder, and means whereby said rudder is caused to present to the wind that side thereof nearest the side of the aeroplanes having the smaller angle of incidence and offering the least resistance to the atmosphere, substantially as described."

• First - there is no compressed air device linked to levers (which seems an essential part of the Whitehead system).

• Second - the "rudder" on the Whitehead machine is the same as the horizontal tail surface, not what is commonly thought of as a rudder. Note the wording… "The tail or rudder will likewise be lowered or raised…" the "tail or rudder" is said to only move up or down, not left and right as in a normal rudder.

• Third - the Wright rudder is a vertical rudder which moves right and left, not up and down, which, in conjunction with the warping of the wings controls the turning of the flying machine.

• Fourth - the Whitehead system mentions that the compresed air system will help turn the machine instead of "…shifting the position of the ballast or aëronaut." In Whitehead's view, prior to this compressed air scheme, turning of a machine was thought best accomplished by moving ballast or having the standing "aeronaut" shift position.

      It ought to be self-evident that the two systems are not "… essentially identical…" and that the Wrights did not use Whitehead's control system for their flying machine, and further, that the Wright Patent was not based on the December 1902 article in "Aeronautical World."

      The peculiar notion that Brown states - that the two systems are "essentially identical…" - makes this writer wonder about the thought process Brown brings to this effort to promote the Whitehead claim through use of strange "evidence" such as this.

      Incidentally, for those who doubt that Whitehead saw his machines as automobiles, there is this sentence in the "Aeronautical World" article…

"The machine will run on the ground as an automobile, as illustrated in cut [Note: image] of the old machine above." The machine pictured is the one generally known as Whitehead's 1901 machine, the "No. 21" - which is in this article, for some reason, is referred to as his "No. 23" machine.

      This is apparently the first stipulation Brown mentions, referring to Whitehead, Dr. Tom Crouch said… "He apprenticed, as it were, with the Daimler company, he was an engine builder and a machinist, I think, in his heart of hearts."

      and this is the second stipulation Brown mentions

(Dr. Crouch referring to Whitehead) "One of the first aeronautical positions that Whitehead had, after arriving in this country, was with the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory. It's a neat place located on the Great Blue Hill outside Boston, and it used to be Harvard's meteorological observatory. In the 19th century European countries had meteorological observatories and we had a few in this country. The most important was at Blue Hill… … and apparently one of the first things that Whitehead did, aeronautically, was to take a job as a kite builder with the Blue Hill Observatory."

(Dr. Crouch referring to Whitehead) "I did some work in the historical records of the Blue Hill Observatory, which are at Harvard, and I was working on aeronautical enthusiasts who worked at Blue Hill, and I didn't see Whitehead's name at all, but in fact, given the photographs and a couple of newspaper articles, I don't doubt that in fact he did start out there, it was the logical place, because so many of those guys were interested in flying machines."

      and as for the Boston Aeronautical Society,

(Dr. Crouch referring to Whitehead) "Around 1897 he's looped away from that early kite work and he's gone to work for one of the most interesting early aeronautical organizations, you can see the Boston Aeronautical Society. It had been founded by a group of wealthy Bostonians, you can see Samuel Cabot's picture up there, he was one of the famous Cabots and Lowells and so on, who ruled social Boston, and James Means a wealthy shoe manufacturer and a string of other interested folks…" "… some of whom were associated with Harvard, all of them in the Boston area and all of them interested in experimenting with flying machines. These guys were looking for a mechanic as they called it, to build machines the ideas for which they'd come up with and Gus Whitehead is the fellow they hired."


      Since the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory did not come under Harvard University until some 17 years later, in 1912, long after Whitehead worked at Blue Hill, Brown is wrong when he states "… Whitehead worked at Harvard's Blue Hill Observatory…" It isn't clear if Brown is intentionally mis-stating that Blue Hill Observatory was under Harvard University in 1894-95, perhaps to elevate Whitehead's standing, or whether he is unaware that Harvard was not involved until 1912.

      Is Brown saying that the Whitehead No. 21 "flying machine" set the "technological principles" for modern aircraft ? That is an amazingly naïve thing to say, especially for someone who works in the aviation field, as Brown says he does.

      Are we supposed to see the Whitehead machine as the first in a line leading to modern aircraft ? Is that what Brown is telling us ?

      Taking Brown's points in order…


Currently, there are some 38,000 commercial and business jet aircraft and commercial jet aircraft converted to military use. Jets are "pusher" aircraft, not tractor aircraft, they do not pull the aircraft through the air, they push - so…

      * "Almost all aircraft flown today…" do not have a tractor powerplant, and the Whitehead machine was not the first to use a tractor powerplant design.

Felix du Temple de la Croix patented a flying machine monoplane design in 1857 which featured a tractor propeller and powerplant.
      * "Almost all aircraft flown today…" do have rear elevators, but the Whitehead machine was not the first to have such an arrangement (if the Whitehead machine did have a moveable rear elevator).

The "Henson ARIEL Steam Carriage" design of 1843 utilized a rear elevator for pitch control and a vertical rudder for yaw control. The Whitehead machine had no rudder and the design of the rear horizontal surface on the Whitehead machine appears to be copied from the "Henson ARIEL Steam Carriage" design.
      * "Almost all aircraft flown today…" are monoplanes, but the Whitehead machine was not the first to have a monoplane design.

The "Henson ARIEL Steam Carriage" design of 1843 utilized a rigid high-wing monoplane design of advanced design, with internal and external bracing and tapering wing spars, while the Whitehead machine had loosely-braced inadequately supported bamboo-ribbed wings which were far less practical.
      * "Almost all aircraft flown today…" do have wheeled undercarriages, but the Whitehead machine was not the first to have a wheeled undercarriage.

The "Henson ARIEL Steam Carriage" design of 1843 utilized a practical three-wheeled undercarriage, the Whitehead four-wheeled design was far less practical.


      * "Almost all aircraft flown today…" do utilize dihedral for lateral stability, but the Whitehead machine was not the first to utilize dihedral.

In 1810 Sir George Cayley published his three-part treatise "On Aerial Navigation" which discussed the beneficial effect dihedral has on lateral stability, and which stated that lift, propulsion and control were the three necessary elements to successful flight. Cayley was apparently the first person to realize that truth and to write about it.


Conclusion :

At first glance, John Brown's Paper "Evidence for pre-Wright powered flights by Gustave Whitehead" appears to be impressive - the full document contains newspaper articles, photos, and other graphics - but on closer inspection, Brown's "evidence" begins to evaporate, as one after another of Brown's assertions and interpretations reveal themselves to be false, or half-truths or completely misinterpreted.

Brown's Paper makes one unsupported statement after another, as in the case of stating that the Bridgeport Herald's editor, Richard Howell, was the person who wrote the discredited article "Flying" on August 18, 1901. The only basis for such a statement is hearsay from one person some 36 years after the article was published. To read what Brown says, you'd believe it had been proven Howell wrote that article - but that has not been proven and Howell, as noted, never claimed that article as his own work. This is just one of many such assertions in Brown's "Evidence" which is totally unsupported.

Judging by the content of John Brown's "Evidence for pre-Wright powered flights by Gustave Whitehead" - if that is the very best "evidence" Brown can muster - the case for Gustave Whitehead having flown in 1901, or having ever flown at all, is an extremely weak case.

Given Brown's preferred legalistic framework for his Paper, perhaps Brown's next attempt should be to throw the Whitehead claims on the mercy of the court of public opinion and hope for an overly sympathetic jury.

Click HERE to review John Brown's Paper "Evidence for pre-Wright powered flights by Gustave Whitehead"



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