Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West [NOOK Book]

Overview

The Wright brothers have long received the lion’s share of credit for inventing the airplane. But a California scientist succeeded in flying gliders twenty years before the Wright’s powered flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Quest for Flight reveals the amazing accomplishments of John J. Montgomery, a prolific inventor who piloted the glider he designed in 1883 in the first controlled flights of a heavier-than-air craft in the Western Hemisphere.

Re-examining the history of American...

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Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West

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Overview

The Wright brothers have long received the lion’s share of credit for inventing the airplane. But a California scientist succeeded in flying gliders twenty years before the Wright’s powered flights at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Quest for Flight reveals the amazing accomplishments of John J. Montgomery, a prolific inventor who piloted the glider he designed in 1883 in the first controlled flights of a heavier-than-air craft in the Western Hemisphere.

Re-examining the history of American aviation, Craig S. Harwood and Gary B. Fogel present the story of human efforts to take to the skies. They show that history’s nearly exclusive focus on two brothers resulted from a lengthy public campaign the Wrights waged to profit from their aeroplane patent and create a monopoly in aviation. Countering the aspersions cast on Montgomery and his work, Harwood and Fogel build a solidly documented case for Montgomery’s pioneering role in aeronautical innovation.

As a scientist researching the laws of flight, Montgomery invented basic methods of aircraft control and stability, refined his theories in aerodynamics over decades of research, and brought widespread attention to aviation by staging public demonstrations of his gliders. After his first flights near San Diego in the 1880s, his pursuit continued through a series of glider designs. These experiments culminated in 1905 with controlled flights in Northern California using tandem-wing Montgomery gliders launched from balloons. These flights reached the highest altitudes yet attained, demonstrated the effectiveness of Montgomery’s designs, and helped change society’s attitude toward what was considered “the impossible art” of aerial navigation.

Inventors and aviators working west of the Mississippi at the turn of the twentieth century have not received the recognition they deserve. Harwood and Fogel place Montgomery’s story and his exploits in the broader context of western aviation and science, shedding new light on the reasons that California was the epicenter of the American aviation industry from the very beginning.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Quest for Flight is the most refreshing thesis on the origins of flight associated with John J. Montgomery since the Columbia Pictures movie Gallant Journey in 1946. Craig S. Harwood and Gary B. Fogel, recognized experts in aviation history, have shown through their extraordinary research and detailed documentation that Montgomery refined his theories of flight long before the Wright Brothers. Readers of Quest for Flight will discover that John J. Montgomery is the true 'Father of the Aeroplane' and the first to fly--in California rather than the East. Quest for Flight acknowledges the efforts of many California pioneers, in addition to Montgomery, who experimented with flying machines in these early years of human flight. This important book will change society’s traditional views of American aviation history toward a more informed and objective version of 'the impossible art' of aerial navigation."—Milford Wayne Donaldson, State Historic Preservation Officer, Office of Historic Preservation, California Department of Parks and Recreation

"For nearly a century, with one exception, historians of aviation have only obliquely considered the origins of manned flight in the United States. No longer! Informed and vividly written, Quest for Flight revises the chronology of aviation in America decades prior to 1903 and, in terms of geography, locates its emergence on a far, far shore from Kitty Hawk." —Kevin Starr, author of the series, "Americans and the California Dream"

Harwood (a distant relative of John J. Montgomery) and Fogel (Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego) effectively trace their subject's determined efforts in pioneering aerial navigation. Beginning with Montgomery's initial 1883 flights near San Diego, they chronicle his work through a series of ever-improved glider designs. These tests culminated in 1905 with successful controlled flights in northern California employing tandem-wing craft released from hot-air balloons. The authors also offer a fine exploration of Montgomery's crowded personal life and his interaction with air-minded peers; his nonaeronautical scientific projects; his continuing lack of sufficient research funds; and his inclination to protect his intellectual property with legal challenges; among other topics. Montgomery perished in a crash on October 31, 1911, at the age of 51. An epilog includes an account of his heirs' unsuccessful patent-infringement lawsuits against the Wright-Martin Corporation and the federal government. In 1946 Orville Wright supporters, according to Harwood and Fogel, engaged in a vindictive letter-writing campaign to stop production of a motion picture featuring the life of Montgomery; their efforts failed and Gallant Journey was produced.

VERDICT A solidly researched biography of a little-known turn-of-the century aerodynamicist and flyer compellingly framed against the broader tapestry of Western science and aviation. Highly recommended.—— John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland (for Library Journal)

“In this fascinating and well-researched work, authors Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel take on a significant challenge: revising the traditional narrative of U.S. aviation history and shifting its geographical origins from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the Otay Mountains of Southern California. As their research indicates, the ranks of the founding fathers of U.S. aviation should include a prominent place for their work's subject, California scientist John J. Montgomery, whose applied experiments with gliders during the 1880s and '90s, based on his observations of birds, stake a powerful claim for his inclusion alongside more famous early aviation pioneers like Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers. Well-written and containing many beautiful sketches, as well as previously unpublished photographs and diagrams, Quest for Flight should be read by anyone interested in the development of aviation in the United States in particular, and in California history in general. —Technology and Culture

“Montgomery’s pioneering work on gliders certainly was state-of-the-art, especially in the 1880s. The authors make a good argument for recognizing Montgomery as one of those who helped set the stage for the invention of powered, heavier than air flight and that California was an early location for some advanced aviation research.”—Western Historical Quarterly

Library Journal
Harwood (a distant relative of John J. Montgomery) and Fogel (Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego) effectively trace their subject's determined efforts in pioneering aerial navigation. Beginning with Montgomery's initial 1883 flights near San Diego, they chronicle his work through a series of ever-improved glider designs. These tests culminated in 1905 with successful controlled flights in northern California employing tandem-wing craft released from hot-air balloons. The authors also offer a fine exploration of Montgomery's crowded personal life and his interaction with air-minded peers; his nonaeronautical scientific projects; his continuing lack of sufficient research funds; and his inclination to protect his intellectual property with legal challenges; among other topics. Montgomery perished in a crash on October 31, 1911, at the age of 51. An epilog includes an account of his heirs' unsuccessful patent-infringement lawsuits against the Wright-Martin Corporation and the federal government. In 1946 Orville Wright supporters, according to Harwood and Fogel, engaged in a vindictive letter-writing campaign to stop production of a motion picture featuring the life of Montgomery; their efforts failed and Gallant Journey was produced. VERDICT A solidly researched biography of a little-known turn-of-the century aerodynamicist and flyer compellingly framed against the broader tapestry of Western science and aviation. Highly recommended.—John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806187839
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 10/17/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 634,783
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author


Craig S. Harwood is the great-great-grandson of Zachariah Montgomery, John J. Montgomery’s father. A native Californian, he is an engineering geologist with twenty years’ experience as a technical writer.

Gary B. Fogel,a native of San Diego, is CEO of Natural Selection, Inc., a computer science firm, and the author of Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface and Acknowledgments xi

1 The Allure of California 3

2 The Earth and Vaulted Sky 11

3 Tutors in the Art of Flying 21

4 Wings over Otay 28

5 The Internal Work of the Wind 33

6 The Path to Recognition 46

7 Chicago, a Forum for the Outsider 52

8 Other Pursuits 61

9 A California Impetus 69

10 A Rude Awakening 79

11 Going Public 88

12 Tragedy 102

13 Wings in Tandem 115

14 Baptism by Fire 126

15 Birds of Prey 141

16 Evergreen 151

Epilogue 160

Notes 179

Glossary 209

Bibliography

Archival Collections 213

Primary-Source Correspondence 215

Books and Articles 216

Select Publications and Lectures That Mention John Joseph Montgomery 220

Patents Held by John J. Montgomery 226

Index 227

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