Visits to Museums

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NSG Meeting September 9, 2006


Two Reasons to Like


Donovan A. Shilling

It was a refreshing revisit and a first time for a few of the 20 or so members of the New Society of the Genesee that traveled to Hammondsport to explore the many fascinating objects housed in the Glenn Curtiss Museum at 8419, New York Route 54. Arrangements for our tour were made by Emerson Klees, prolific author of many books dealing with the Finger Lakes area, its legends and stories. The sun came out on Saturday, September 9th, 2006, as we entered the museum and were met by John Baldwin, museum guide and relative of Captain Thomas Scott Baldwin, an early “aeronaut” who piloted the California Arrow, a powered balloon.

Mr. Baldwin in turn introduced us to Karen Keenan who guided us with most knowledgeable presentations as we toured the museum. The tour began with a fifteen minute video depicting the remarkable career of Glenn Hammond Curtiss, his inventions and his association with Captain Baldwin and Alexander Graham Bell. During his short life (1878-1930) the “mechanical genius” gave wings to America through his pioneering inventions that traveled on land, water and air.

Hammondsport and it environs have been designated the “Cradle of Aviation.” The museum holds many models and replicas of Glenn Curtiss’s most notable aircraft including the 1908 June Bug, 1913 flying boat, and 1917 JN4D “Jenny.” Of great interest to many were the exhibits of Curtiss’s early bicycles, his wind wagon and vintage motorcycles. On January 23, 1907, Glenn became the “Fastest Man on Earth” while racing his V-8 motorcycle at the amazing speed of 136.36 m.p.h.

Among the exhibits that took our attention were: one dealing with women aviation pioneers, Curtiss’s 1938 Aerocar (a stream lined travel trailer), a 1908 lovingly restored Buick, a 1942 model 91F Buick (#78 of only 85 produced that year) and many of the showcases displaying artifacts related to the area’s local history. Further we were impressed with the spaciousness of the one-floor museum, its wide variety of exhibits and with a handout that noted eighteen of Glenn Curtiss accomplishments including his “ten firsts,” his many awards, including “Father of Naval Aviation” and his unselfish sharing of his ideas and inventions. If one hasn’t yet explored the museum we highly recommend visiting the Curtiss Museum.

For our lunch we drove to Martha and Bill Treichler’s homestead and ate at tables on the lawn. Different members had a chance to read and tell stories. Beth Flory brought two stereopticon viewers and slides of the World’s Columbian Exposition and of for all to see. Jack Kemp brought interesting curiosities, one of them a metal collar with jagged projections, designed we supposed, to protect sheep from wolves. The other was a set of tinned metal tapered cylinders. Members suggested uses. Conversations were entertaining; the weather was delightful.

© 2006, Donovan A. Shilling
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