John Whitehead
Original Content Is © 2013 - Carroll F. Gray


(spelling as in original)

(page 1)

Eagle Bay, B.C. August 6, 1934.

Miss Stella Randolph

Dear Miss Randolph

Your letter of the 21st July at hand.

I have been very much surprised to find any one interested in my brother's early aviation work.

I will give you all the facts as far as I know them and it should be to the point as I have associated with my Brother in aviation experiments from April 1902 to 1906.

My Brother has dreamed about flying, believed in the possibility of human flight in his early boyhood and at the age of 13 made his first wing to try gliding. Of course his first attempt was a failure. At the age of 14 or 15 he left Germany and eventually got to the states at wich (sic) date I don't know as we did not correspond, It was in February 1902 I heard from a brother in Germany of our older Brother (Gustave's) whereabouts at Bridgeport. As I was interested in flying machines I took soon a train for Bridgeport, Conn., from California. where I had been employed at the time.

(page 2) Arriving at Bridgeport beginning of 1902, I found my brother living at 241 Pine St. He still had the flying machine he told me he had succeeded in flying a short distance at a height of about 30-40 feet some place in Long Island. He told me also he could have flown farther if his motor had not broke down beyond repairs. It was for this reason, also as he had no money to secure patents, or tryed (sic) to keep things secret, he did not duplicate his flight shortly after. The exact date I don't know but it happened in the summer or fall of 1901. My brother had been associated a few months before my arrival at Bridgeport with a Mr. H. Linde, they had about 4 - 6 Aeroplanes of the same type as flew before under construction in a small shop near the crossing of (??) and Hancock Ave, Bridgeport, Conn. They never completed them as they had a falling out over something or another.

As I seen the Machine you are most interested in I can give you a very good description of it as I have a very good recollection about it. If you could secure a copie (sic) of a Sunday supplement of the New York Herald previous to my arrival at Bridgeport (April 1902) I surmise sometime in 1901."

(page 3) In one of those supplement was over a page devoted to this particular Aeroplane and if I remember right, there was a picture of it also. As I remember 33 years the shape size of Machine and Motor and material build thereof was as follows. The main body was the shape of a flat bottomed row boat about 18 ft long and 3-1/2 ft wide at the middle walls about 3 ft high, stern & bow pointed, bottom build of light wood sides ["wides"] skeleton from of wood covered with canvas, wings extending about 20 ft from body on each side at body side about 10 ft wide narrowing toward tips wings were foldable had at least 6 pairs of bamboo ribs, when spread was held firm with rope on extended bow sprit, from each rib to bottom of body also from end ribs to a sort of mast in center of body. Rudder was a combination of horizontal and vertical fin like affair, the principle the same as in up to date Aeroplanes. For steering there was a rope from one of the foremost wingtip rib to the one opposed over a pully in front of operater a lever was connected to pully the same pully controlled also the tail rudder at the same time. For ground transportation, to get a running start the Machine was resting on 3 small Bicycle wheels 2 in front 1 in back.

The Motor of said machine was a 4 cylinder 2 cycle Motor...

(page 4) ... of an opposed type, resembling a 2 cycle Motor build by the Van Auken ["Aucken"] Co at Bridgeport for Speed boats.

As my Brother never had much backing, therefore had to earn money for his experiments, and had to work at his hobby in spare time. This motor was sort of crude more so as the internal combustion engines was just in its infancy in fact there was nothing light enough to be suitable for aironautical experiments. Will try to make a sketch of machine also motor.

Cylinder of Motor was made of gas pipe 4 inch diameter. 5 inch stroke, piston of cast iron cylinder head and bottom was of Steelplate (in pairs for 2 Cylinder on each side Heads and bottom was held together by steelrods (studs) Connectingrods of Steelrods. The possibility of this motor was it had no Crank case as an ordinary 2 Cycle Motor, but had longer Cylinder and dependable one it Crankcase compression on the lower side of the Cylinder under the piston it looked more like a Steam engine, than a gas motor. The Connecting Rods were directly connected to Propeller shaft. Propeller was constructed of Spruce wood was about 8 feet long and 18 - 20 inch at its widest. Was made parts [struck out] in a very modern fashion by..."

(page 5) ... placing say about 6 Spruce board of the required length on top of each other then bore a hole for the shaft then spread the boards on top each about an inch or so father from the last to get the required width then shape them smooth and varnish them.

Engine was laying on a few crossbeams across the gunwale of body and propeller shaft was extending over bow of boat body sufficient to allow the propeller to turn.

The Engine [struck out] Motor was never tested as to Horsepower developed in my estimation it had from 20-25 horsepower.

As I said before I never seen the Machine in question fly myself, but in the light of later experiences I have absolutely no doubt it was able to demonstrate the possibility of dynamic flight. My brother never gave me it actual weight (I don't know if he know it himself) but I know a man could lift one end off the ground, what lets me guess it weight about 300 - 400 lbs complete.

After my arrival at Bridgeport my Brother and myself intended to build an other Motor for said Engine [struck out] Machine as the original was...

(page 6) ... broken but as we had little money between ourselves, we made little progress. At that time some lighter than Air inventor of Fresno, Cal. gave my Brother an order for a 40 Horsepower lightweight gas motor. As my Brother has little knowledge in cost of construction he ask so ridiculous price he lost money on the contract and so for months to come he build light weight motor of the 2 cycle type for others, as he never charged very much for them he never had any money left over to enable him to spend some for his own ideas, so it came about he never could build a better engine for his own Machine.

As his original plane was left out in weather for want of cover the material deteriorated and we did not consider it safe to use plane again but designed and build an bigger plane of different type than the original one a byplane in front with a longer shipshape body and two small foldable wing attached to backpart of body. We build a 40 horse 4 Cylinder 4 Cycle gasoline Motor for some weighing about 150 lbs but found we had not sufficient power the raise machine.

(pages 1 through 6 not included in The Story of Gustave Whitehead - Before The wrights Flew Stella Randolph, 1966)

(page 7) Had the plane towed by a Locomobile care (sic) to find trust (sic - "thrust") required and found we needed about 60 horsepower.

Meanwhile the Wright Brothers had demonstrated the possibility of human flight, that gave my brother quite a jolt as he had his heart set on solving the problem.

Later we started to build a 200 horse 8 cylinder 4 cycle V shape motor Cylinders of shell casings Weight about 500 lbs. Mr. St. Beach of Stratford, Conn. A part Backer of my Brother insisted of giving the motor a trial in a Speedboat and promptly broke the motor up by advancing the spark too much. I got married at that time, the panice (sic - "panic") of 1907 came on, so I drop'd (sic) out from further experiments, and left Bridgeport 1911 for B.C.

What further experiments my Brother made after this I don't know as we corresponded very little. I hope this will give you an insight of my Brother's experiments and actual doing, if you really intend to find more details I think you would get them from some Clipping Office covering Clippings about Aviation between1900 and 1903 I know my Brother got quite a lot of clippngs about himself at that time from an office in New York.

(page 8) I hope you will excuse my writing as I am writing very seldom nowadays, besides I never learned english in School.

If I can give you more detailed information please write again.

Perhaps there is not sufficient proof about his flight, but he surely deserves some credit for the years he believed and worked on the problem of aerial navigation before many others believed in the possibility of human flight. He and his family went through many hardships on account of his faith and devotion to the problem. I for myself have spend many a months earning in trying to help him in his coal (sic - "goal").

I hope you will at least give him some pages in your Book of early aerial navigation.

Hoping to hear from you again I remain yours,


John Whitehead
Eagle Bay B.C.