Friday, August 14, 2015, was the 114th anniversary of the mythical fictional fabled first flight of Gustave Whitehead (born Gustav Weisskopf). Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman's recent book, Gustave Whitehead - First in Flight (ISBN-10: 0692439307), attempts to prove that Whitehead flew a powered aerial craft in 1901. In the following essay, I examine the first sentence of Chapter 2 of her book, to see what it reveals about Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman's manner of presentation, and state my opinions about her handling of the "evidence" she presents… - Carroll F. Gray
© 2015 Carroll F. Gray
Posted: August 14, 2015
Ms. Susan O'Dwyer-Brinchman's book, Gustave Whitehead - First in Flight (May 2015 - ISBN-10: 0692439307), presents her best evidence that Gustave Whitehead/Gustav Weisskopf flew in 1901, and 1902 and later. There are widespread problems with her book, both in the material she chooses and in the manner in which she presents that material. The problems range from lack of credibility to mischaracterization of the material, and her presentation is very often sprinkled with biased statements, unsupported opinions and is many times skewed in directions unsupported by evidence - in politics, the technique is called "spin." She also demonstrates a novelist's flare for knowing what someone is thinking, not based on diaries or notebooks or quotes, but based on the 'that's-what-they-must-have-been-thinking' model of writing. Consider Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman's opening sentence of Chapter 2, as she presents the article Flying which appeared in the August 18, 1901, edition of the Sunday Bridgeport Herald newspaper. The anonymously written article purported to tell the story of a flight made by Gustave Whitehead on August 14, 1901, and is considered by Whitehead advocates to be a central piece of "evidence." Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman begins her "Chapter 2 - First Flights on August 14, 1901" with the following sentence… "THE EVIDENCE
When he felt ready to conduct a sustained, manned test flight 'for the record', [sic] Gustave Whitehead invited the popular, trusted, local sports editor Richard 'Dick' Howell of the Bridgeport Sunday Herald [sic] to be present; undoubtedly so the widely read weekly newspaper would publish the results in its sole weekly edition, documenting the event." So, she begins her presentation by stating Whitehead's frame of mind "When he felt ready…" yet she has absolutely no supporting evidence as to what his frame of mind was - she is speaking for Whitehead, not ever a good thing to do in a written work that seeks to be scholarly. Her use of the phrase "for the record" (and in quotes) also assumes to know why he was trying a flight, yet she has no supporting evidence as to why Whitehead tried to conduct a flight that night (if, indeed he did try to do so - there is no serious evidence that Whitehead did, except for the highly suspect Herald article). So, not even halfway through this first sentence we have Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman telling us what Gustave Whitehead was thinking and what his motives were, all with no supporting evidence to back her statements as to his thinking or his motives. She continues "… Gustave Whitehead invited the popular, trusted, local sports editor Richard 'Dick' Howell of the Bridgeport Sunday Herald [sic] to be present; undoubtedly so the widely read weekly newspaper would publish the results in its sole weekly edition, documenting the event." In claiming that Richard Howell was invited to and present at the supposed test of Whitehead's machine, it seems Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman is trying to boost the article's credibility by associating it with Howell. Howell is not mentioned in the article, not as the writer of the article and not as a witness to the supposed events. The simple fact is, however, that there is not a single instance of Richard Howell ever stating or claiming that he was invited to or present for the supposed event or that he wrote the August 18, 1901, Flying article. Recall that the article was anonymously written. Howell had ample opportunities to associate himself with the August 18, 1901, Flying story yet he did not. In 1928, amid the continuing international cascade of press attention on Charles A. Lindbergh, who flew solo across the Atlantic in 1927, the Bridgeport Herald published a paperback book written by "Dick" Howell, titled Tales From Bohemia Land a compilation of short stories about many of the colorful characters Howell had known during his 40 years at the Bridgeport Herald. However, one of the most flamboyant and colorful of the characters in Bridgeport during the time of Howell's tenure is conspicuously absent from his book - Gustave Whitehead is not mentioned, not even in passing, not even referred to obliquely. The back cover of Howell's little book of true stories states (in part) "Here are real characters as picturesque and bizarre as ever graced the pages of our best fiction."… and no Whitehead ! The omission of Whitehead from Howell's 1928 book of colorful characters is all the more striking when we consider that "Gus" Whitehead passed away in October of 1927, just before Howell's book was published, and that Lindbergh's epic flight had made the nation "air-minded." It seems odd, to say the least, that Howell wouldn't include Whitehead as a memory of that time in August 1901 when he, Howell, witnessed Whitehead flying - but then the fact that Howell didn't include him is yet more evidence that Howell was not the "eyewitness reporter" that Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman claims he was. It also is another indication that the Flying article was a hoax. Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman's use of the word "undoubtedly" is worthy of examination, also. She states that Whitehead invited "Dick" Howell (yet she has zero direct evidence he did), and then, based on that totally unproven assertion, she states that Whitehead did so "undoubtedly" so there would be a newspaper record documenting the event. So, she once again tells the reader what the inner motives of Whitehead are, with not a whit of evidence to back up her assumption - she is guessing and speculating as to his motives for an action (inviting Howell) which is totally unproven - there is not a whit of direct evidence that Howell was invited or that he was present or that he wrote the August 18, 1901, article. Thus, in this one opening sentence, which begins the longest chapter of her book (81 pages), Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman has - without a shred of direct evidence - stated Whitehead's inner thoughts and motives and - again, without a shred of direct evidence - involved Richard "Dick" Howell in the story. Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman states her assumptions and speculations as facts, which they are not. A reader might be charitable and wonder is this is, perhaps, one isolated example of enthusiasm leading Ms. O'Dwyer-Brinchman astray. It's not. These same tactics are found throughout her book. Other serious problems include selective editing of "evidence," excuse-making, rationalizations, suppression of items and period articles that are not supportive of the Whitehead claims, and literally many dozens of assumptions along the line of her use of the baseless "undoubtedly" in that first sentence of Chapter 2.