Wilbur Wright's Flights in France : Leon Bollee's Photographic Record 1908-1909

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9780071427395: Wilbur Wright's Flights in France : Leon Bollee's Photographic Record 1908-1909

This is a beautifully-illustrated recreation of the one-of-a-kind. It is a never before published photo album presented to Orville Wright in 1920 by the widow of French industrialist Leon Bollee. It includes photos taken during Wilbur Wright's visit to France in 1908-1909. Since the 1970s, the album has been housed in the special collection of the archives of Dayton's Wright State University and with rare exception never viewed by the public. Now, this unique piece of aviation history is finally available to aviation and history buffs and anyone else who appreciates vintage memorabilia. Here are 127 duotone photos enhanced by a handsome four-color presentation. It includes rare images of the Wright Brothers and their aircraft. It coincides with the centennial of the Wright Brothers' December, 1903 flight.

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From the Back Cover:

Fly to another time...

Imagine living in Le Mans, France in 1908. It has been just two short years since the great Santos-Dumont made his first tentative hops in a heavier-than-air flying machine, and aircraft can still barely travel a mile or fly in a closed circle. Yet a determined American has traveled by ship and train to your countryside, importing a construction of canvas and wood, powered by a 30-hp motor. That American, Wilbur Wright, has been telling newspapers for years that his aircraft can fly for miles, and that his ability to control his ship is far beyond those capabilities exhibited by French aviators. But Wright has never flown publicly, nor has he let anyone, outside of family and a few friends and acquaintances, see his ship. If you lived anywhere near Le Mans in those summer and fall days of 1908, like most of your neighbors, you would have hopped on your bicycle or climbed into your horse-drawn wagon, or in rare cases, cranked up your automobile, and gone to see for yourself.

What you would have seen—and been one of the first in the world to see -- is the wonder of manned, controlled, sustained, powered flight, the marvel created by the Wright Brothers that shaped the Twentieth Century.

The thrill of that experience is what this book is all about.

A TRUE COLLECTOR’S ITEM

Celebrating the centennial of the birth of flight, this Collector’s Edition features photographs that have never before been published -- and rarely viewed. Wilbur Wright’s Flights in France is a virtual page-by-page re-creation of a personal photo album presented to Orville Wright, recording his older brother’s stunning achievements in flight in France in 1908 and early 1909. That album was created by the widow of Leon Bollee, an automobile manufacturer, flight enthusiast and Wilbur’s best friend in France. The original album is a treasured artifact in the historical archives at Wright State University.

A Personal Album Reflecting Great Moments in Flight

This Collector’s Edition re-creation of that personal photo album records a little-known -- yet crucial -- chapter in the origins of flight. Highlighted with aptly chosen quotations from Wilbur, Orville, and other members of the Wright family, and edited by leaders at Aviation Week and Wright State University, this wonderful re-creation documents the stunning new benchmarks in flight that Wilbur achieved in France—for duration of time and distance, for altitude, for maneuverability, and even for carrying passengers and training other pilots. It also reflects the shyer, more personal side of a man who charmed kings, queens, factory workers—and a little boy who came each day to watch his hero fly.

France deservedly hailed Wilbur Wright as a conquering hero -- he was the “bird-man” who reached for the stars. With Wilbur Wright’s Flights in France you, too, can be part of his immortal adventure.

FROM THE FLAP

Virtually ignored by the American public following their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, the Wright Brothers were also initially rebuffed by the governments of both the United States and England, whom they tried to interest in their flying machine.

Still hoping for a return on years of work, risk, and personal investment, the Wrights sought to sell their wonderful invention to the government of France. In 1908, in response to French interest, and spurred by the progress of rival French aviators, Wilbur Wright journeyed to France to stage demonstration flights. Wilbur’s search for a suitable locale soon led him to Le Mans, a town southwest of Paris, where the rotund Leon Bollee, owner and operator of one of the first automobile factories, and a notable aviation enthusiast, offered an area of his factory for use an assembly shop. Pleased by the facilities and the hospitality, Wilbur Wright accepted.

Wilbur would spend months there, living in simplicity, while he set up his aeroplane and staged his demonstration flights.

What surprised him greatly was the warmth with which he was greeted by the French. Thousands of French citizens traveled for miles each day, often by foot or bicycle, in the hope of seeing Wilbur fly. One 70-year-old man rode his bicycle 30 miles from home every day for nearly a week to observe Wilbur and his wonderful flying machine.

Later, the crowned heads of Europe also came -- Queen Margherita of Italy, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, and King Edward VII of England. "Princes and millionaires are as thick as fleas," Wilbur wrote home to Dayton, Ohio, in astonishment.

"I seem to have become a sort of popular hero here," Wilbur wrote to his sister Katharine. He told her there was even a popular song celebrating his exploits: The merry tune "Il Vol" (It Flies) was on everyone’s lips.

It had to have been a happy time for Wilbur, those months at Le Mans and then later at Pau. And we know it was, if not from the serious face that that looks back at us from these photographs then from the enthusiastic reports he sent home.

These are the days and months this book records -- days and months of incredible achievement in early aviation, and new records for height, distance, control, and time in the air.

Wilbur Wright’s Flights in France is a careful re-creation of the annotated photographic album covering these events, a recordassembled by the wife of Leon Bollee.

Sadly, it was a memorial album. For just 3 years after his return from France, Wilbur succumbed to typhoid fever and died at the age of 45. His patron Leon Bollee followed him into death the following year.

But Wilbur Wright’s French admirers did not forget the bold American who, on their shores, demonstrated America’s supremacy in the air. A memorial statue, which stands today beside the Le Mans Cathedral was dedicated in 1920. Pictured in these pages, that memorial shows a man reaching for the heavens.

It was following the dedication of that memorial that the widowed Mme. Bollee presented her album to Wilbur’s younger brother, Orville Wright.

Superbly edited and annotated by Stanley W. Kandebo, Aviation Week Assistant Managing Editor for Technology, and Dawne Dewey, Head of the Special Collections and Archives at Wright State University, where the original album resides, and introduced by Claude Carlier, Director of the Sorbonne University’s Center for Aeronautics and Space History, this unique Collector’s Edition recreates a time so memorably you will feel as if you were there.

As you open Wilbur Wright’s Flights in France and see a full-color photographic reproduction of the cover of that album, you begin a journey to a different era, one that will become very real to you. An intimate experience of public events, this album carries you through some of the most momentous events in early aviation. It takes you as well into the heart of a friendship, and in his own words and images, into the heart of a great man.

There is no other document like Wilbur Wright’s Flights in France. It stands alone as a unique testament to a special human being and his spectacular achievements. "Unique" and "special" are inadequate words for this fine Collector’s Edition. For Wilbur Wright’s Flights in France will notch a place in you memory that will endure forever.

This book celebrates the spirit of Franco-American cooperation in advancing aviation. This same spirit is the hallmark of the book’s financial sponsor, CFM International, one of the world’s most successful jet engine makers. Like the Wright Brothers’ first aeroplanes, CFM was created in 1974 to fulfill a dream. Today, a CFM-powered aircraft takes off every four seconds, and the company serves as a model for international cooperation. The spirit lives on.

CFM International is a 50/50 joint company between Snecma Moteurs of France and General Electric Company of the USA.

About the Author:

Stanley W. Kandebo is Assistant Managing Editor for Technology at McGraw-Hill’s Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine. He has spent nearly twenty years as a reporter covering aerospace and defense issues. Educated as an engineer at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New Jersey Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania, he spent his early career as a design engineer in the aerospace industry, working on a number of weapons projects, including the Harpoon and Tomahawk cruise missile programs. He is an avid admirer of the Wrights and a serious collector of aerospace autograph and manuscript material.

Dawne Dewey is Head of Special Collections and Archives for the Wright State University Libraries in Dayton, Ohio, and principal curator of the Wright Brothers Collection and other aviation history collections housed there. Ms. Dewey has served as consultant on a number of Wright Brothers projects, exhibitions, and movies, and was the editor of the Bishop Milton Wright Diaries published in 2000. She holds a master’s degree in Public History from Wright State University, where she also teaches archival theory and practice in the graduate program.

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Stanley W. Kandebo, Dawne Dewey
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