The Flight Of The (Curtiss) Bumble Bee, Chautauqua, NY


Hamburg, United States

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In late May 1914, flyer A. J. Engel began his airmail runs around Lake Chautauqua in Western New York State… a feat of derring-do that made him a popular & high-profile figure whose arrival was eagerly anticipated by all & sundry. His plane was the funny little Curtiss Hydro-Aeroplane, built in nearby Hammondsport, NY, & specially equipped to carry pouches of postcards-only mail. His route took him around the lake, with stops at Celoron (at the south end, just outside of Jamestown, & birthplace of Lucille Ball), Bemus Point (where a cable-driven car ferry still plies the ‘narrows’ of the lake, despite the relatively recent construction of a bridge between Bemus & Stow, which ‘narrows’ give the lake its ‘bag-tied-in-the-middle’ appellation), Chautauqua Institution, & Mayville (at the northern end of the lake; county seat of Chautauqua County).

Engel continued his runs throughout the summer of 1914, ending his historic flights on September 7, as scheduled. This photograph was taken at some point during Chautauqua’s summer season (end of June to end of August) by my grandfather, George W. Elson. The plane had been pulled up onto the children’s bathing beach near the famous Miller Bell Tower, one of Chautauqua’s iconic structures. I have another shot of a very distant Bumble Bee coming in over the lake by the ferry dock & bell tower, but that one needs a LOT of work before it’s RedBubble- (or any other Bubble-) ready.

This very plane can now be seen at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, & more about this wonderful (& ‘wonder’ about sums it up) aeronautic adventure can be seen here. A more extensive article with many more stupendous photos (not sure if any of my family members are in any of them) is on this page.

Artwork Comments

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