Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Friday, November 04, 2016

When Were the First Aeroplanes Seen Over the Skies of Pelham?

Aviation was still in its infancy in early 1917.  Indeed, the famous inaugural flight by the Wright Brothers had occurred barely thirteen years before on December 17, 1903.

World War I was raging in Europe.  The aeroplane was playing an increasingly important role in that war.  Indeed, the following year as the War drew to an end, Orville Wright famously noted to a friend that "The aeroplane has made war so terrible that I do not believe any country will again care to start a war."

For a few years previous to 1917, all of Pelham and, indeed, the nation, were enthralled with the exploits of early members of the Aero Club of New York including Clifford B. Harmon, the man who developed Pelhamwood.  In fact, the same year Harmon developed Pelhamwood, Harmon established a new amateur record for flight duration in a Farman biplane when he flew thirty-one times around a course at Mineola, Long Island, remaining aloft for one hour and five minutes, covering about forty-five miles.  See HARMON'S LONG FLIGHT, Daily Journal and Tribune [Knoxville, TN], Jun. 29, 1910.

April, 1917 was a momentous month in the history of aviation.  It is known as "Bloody April."  The Royal Flying Corps of Great Britain lost 245 aircraft while supporting the Arras Offensive during World War I.  Early that month, on April 6, 1917, the United States entered the war.  At that time the United States Marine Corps aviation group had a total strength of seven officers, 43 enlisted men, and a handful of aeroplanes.

Also at that time, Pelham was located in a rather strategic location.  Just off its shores was Fort Slocum on Davids Island.  Further to the southwest down Long Island Sound was Fort Schuyler on Throggs Neck.  This strategic location may explain why Pelham experienced such an "unusual sight" (as reported in a local newspaper) on the morning of Friday, April 20, 1917.

At about 10 o'clock in the morning, two aeroplanes passed over the Village of North Pelham.  The flying machines were from an unspecified "government post on the Sound" and were "scouting" along the Westchester County shores according to a news report that described the event as "an unusual sight."  These two aeroplanes were biplanes.

So far, no record has yet been located showing that any airplane flew over Pelham any earlier than April 20, 1917.  For now, it is at least possible that this was the first time an airplane flew in the skies above our Town of Pelham.

World War I Recruitment Poster Showing
U.S. Military Biplane Likely Similar to Those
That Passed Over Pelham on April 20, 1917.
NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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The brief news reference below provides the basis for today's posting to the Historic Pelham Blog.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.


Two Aeroplanes Seen.

Friday morning about 10 o'clock the residents were treated to an unusual sight when two aeroplanes passed over the village.  The machines were from a government post on the sound and were scouting along the Westchester county shores in the manoeuvres."

Source:  HAPPENINGS IN NORTH PELHAM . . . Two Aeroplanes Seen, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Apr. 23, 1917, p. 7, col. 3.  

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