June 1988

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Curtiss and Canadian Aviation

Exhibit Opens at the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum


Bill Treichler

Mr. Robert W. Bradford, artist and Associate Director of the National Aviation Museum at Ottawa, Ontario, was the honored guest at a Friday, May 20, 1988, preview reception for the new exhibit at the Curtiss Museum, "Curtiss and Canadian Aviation." To be on view until August 28 will be paintings of Mr. Bradford that link Glenn Curtiss with the early development of aviation in Canada.

The largest painting depicts the "Silver Dart" on its flight at Baddeck, Nova Scotia, on February 23, 1909. The painting commemorates the first flight in Canada. The plane was designed and flown by John McCurdy. He was a member of the Aerial Experiment Association which grew out of Alexander Graham Bell's famous kite experiments and Glenn Curtiss' success building engines. Curtiss had visited Bell and his co-workers in Nova Scotia and joined Bell and Thomas Selfridge of the U.S. Army and two Canadians, F. W. Baldwin and John McCurdy in this association to design flying machines.

Selfridge designed the first plane, the "Red Wing," and Baldwin flew it from the ice on Lake Keuka. It crashed after a brief flight. Baldwin designed the second plane, "White Wing," and flew it successfully.

The third machine was Curtiss' project, the famous "June Bug." The fourth plane was the "Silver Dart," designed and flown by McCurdy, first at Hammondsport and then in Nova Scotia. Looking at Mr. Bradford's painting of this event you can imagine that you see Dr. Bell among others on the ground watching the historic flight in Canada.

Closely associated with early flight in Canada, Glenn Curtiss had several ventures making planes there. His first was the Curtiss Aeroplanes & Motors, Ltd. formed in Toronto in 1915. The company was later taken over by the Canadian government and the JN-4 plane was built. This plane came to be called the Canuck to distinguish it from the Curtiss JN-4A built in this country and called the Jenny. One of Mr. Bradford's pictures shows both a Canuck and a Jenny at Beamsville, Ontario, in 1918.

Another picture is of a Curtiss Canada Bomber over Long Branch Aerodrome, Toronto, in 1915.

The Curtiss "F" Flying Boat was used to train flyers at the Curtiss Aviation School at Hamlin Point, Toronto. Mr. Bradford painted this machine as it would have appeared on the water at the school in 1915.

The plane that inaugurated bush flying in Canada was the Curtiss HS-2l. A painting of one of these machines landing at night in the rain at Riviere du Loup, Quebec, during the first trans Canada flight in 1920 depicts the tension the pilot must have experienced maneuvering the plane and judging the distance to the water at night in the rain. Mr. Bradford said when he finished the painting he asked the one remaining flyer who had experienced landing the plane under such conditions if the picture fit his recollections of such a landing. The early pilot said, yes, the painting brought back to him the sensation he had felt at the time, terror.

Shown with the pictures are paintings Mr. Bradford did for a series of Canadian postage stamps. The stamps are shown as well.

Mr. and Mrs. Bradford were present for the evening and mingled with the 125 members and guests of the Museum who were there. Mr. Bradford was presented by Mr. Tony Doherty with a certificate of appreciation for his efforts in helping to put together the exhibit.

Mr. Doherty presented a certificate of appreciation to Joe Swarthout for his years of support for the Museum. Mr. Swarthout has been with Museum from its beginning in 1961 and is just now resigning from the Board of Trustees where he has served as treasurer.

Visit the "Curtiss and Canadian Aviation" exhibit at the Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport and see Robert W. Bradford's paintings along with planes, motorcycles and other local history exhibits always on display.

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