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The Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation

The Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A dramatic chronicle of a pivotal moment in the history of aviation.

By 1910—seven years after the Wright brothers first lifted a plane off the ground at Kitty Hawk—America and the world were transfixed by the danger and challenge of mastering the air. Yet which form of flight would predominate was far from clear—dirigibles, balloons, and airplanes all had their passionate advocates. Emblematic of this uncertainty, the precursor of the U .S. Air Force owned one plane and two dirigibles.

During the seventeen days in October 1910 that Gavin Mortimer vividly recounts in Chasing Icarus, the question of primacy in the air was on full display, after which the future of aviation was never in doubt. The great dirigible America, captained by Walter Wellman, lifted off from New Jersey and for several turbulent days attempted to be the first flying machine to cross the Atlantic. From St. Louis, ballooning teams from around the world took off in pursuit of the Gordon Bennett I nternational Balloon Cup, given to the team that traveled the farthest distance, with a denouement featuring Americans Alan Hawley and Augustus Post that would stun the country. And at the famed racetrack at Belmont Park, New Y ork, huge crowds gathered to watch airplane pilots race above the oval and attempt to set speed, altitude, and distance records. Newspapers everywhere, even in the smallest of towns, made headlines of the results, and the public treated all aviators as matinee idols.

Interweaving the dramatic narratives of these three astonishing events, bringing to life powerful personalities (the ruthlessly competitive Wright brothers, the debonair Englishman Claude Grahame-White, the ultra-confident John Moisant), Gavin Mortimer reveals the pioneers of flight as fitting descendants of the legendary Icarus, risking all in pursuit of glory. Chasing Icarus captures both a pivotal moment in the history of aviation and the end of the gilded era that would soon descend into the devastation of World War I ; indeed, within four years dogfights over France had replaced air shows.

Gavin Mortimer is the author of The Great Swim. He has written for a wide range of publications, from Esquire to the Daily Telegraph, from BBC History to the Observer. A long distance swimmer, he lives in the south of France.
By 1910—seven years after the Wright brothers first lifted a plane off the ground at Kitty Hawk—America and the world were transfixed by the danger and challenge of mastering the air. Yet which form of flight would predominate was far from clear—dirigibles, balloons, and airplanes all had their passionate advocates. Emblematic of this uncertainty, the precursor of the U.S. Air Force owned one plane and two dirigibles.

During the seventeen days in October 1910 that Gavin Mortimer vividly recounts in Chasing Icarus, the question of primacy in the air was on full display, after which the future of aviation was never in doubt. The great dirigible America, captained by Walter Wellman, lifted off from New Jersey and for several turbulent days attempted to be the first flying machine to cross the Atlantic. From St. Louis, ballooning teams from around the world took off in pursuit of the Gordon Bennett International Balloon Cup, given to the team that traveled the farthest distance, with a denouement featuring Americans Alan Hawley and Augustus Post that would stun the country. And at the famed racetrack at Belmont Park, New York, huge crowds gathered to watch airplane pilots race above the oval and attempt to set speed, altitude, and distance records. Newspapers everywhere, even in the smallest of towns, made headlines of the results, and the public treated all aviators as matinee idols.

Interweaving the dramatic narratives of these three events, bringing to life powerful personalities (the ruthlessly competitive Wright brothers, the debonair Englishman Claude Grahame-White, the ultra-confident John Moisant), Gavin Mortimer reveals the pioneers of flight as fitting descendants of Icarus, risking all in pursuit of glory. Chasing Icarus captures both a pivotal moment in the history of aviation and the gilded era that ended when World War I began.

“Mortimer weaves his story among the fates of the America, the balloon racers and the aviators who wowed the crowd at Belmont.  The result is a fascinating mix of adventure, friendly competition, bitter rivalry, and even celebrity gossip.”—BookPage

“Mortimer brings to life these early aeronautic pioneers and gives us a unique insight into the publics love affair with aviation at the dawn of its Golden Age.”—Ballooning

“Mortimer chronicles a pivotal moment in the history of aviation. Seven years after the Wright brothers' famed Kitty Hawk flight, it was unclear whether the future lay in dirigibles, balloons or airplanes. The author looks at three events in October 1910 that tested the mettle of each technology: Walter Wellman's attempt to fly the America from New Jersey to England; the competition among airplane fliers (the word 'pilot' was not yet in use) for the International Aviation Cup, held in Long Island; and the contest to see which balloonist could travel the farthest distance from St. Louis, Missouri. The America flew about 1,000 miles, the longest trip ever for a dirigible, before crashing into the Atlantic Ocean, and balloonists Alan Hawley and Augustus Post covered more than 1,200 miles from Missouri to the woods of Quebec. Above Belmont Park, N.Y., however, fliers demonstrated the airplane's superior speed and maneuverability. Flying planes was undeniably dangerous—several men died in accidents during the competition—but the amazing show guaranteed that the airplane would dominate aviation from then on. Mortimer expertly interweaves the three stories, vivifying each event with a riveting combination of historical detail and novelistic suspense. He does especially fine work in rendering Hawley and Post's ordeal after their balloon went down; lost in the Canadian forest, the men were faced with brutal weather and dwindling food supplies. Mortimer also paints an unforgettable portrait of roguish British flier Claude Grahame-White, famed for daredevil exploits and a rakish manner, and deftly portrays the famed Wright brothers as mean, petty and litigious. Enjoyable, accessible technological history, further enlivened by colorful character sketches of some of the most interesting figures in the early days of flying.”—Kirkus Reviews

“British author Mortimer persuasively argues that three aeronautic events in 1910 vouchsafed the primacy of U.S. aviation and the triumph of heavier-than-air flight. Interweaving the events—Walter Wellman's failed attempt to cross the Atlantic in his dirigible, America; the International Balloon Cup Race, which embarked from St. Louis; and the country's first international aircraft contest, held above the Belmont Park racetrack in New York—Mortimer effectively places the reader at the vital center of all three. He enlivens the narrative with interesting details, such as navy department opposition to aviation as a military application and the flying records set and lost daily at Belmont Park. The author excels in depicting both the pilots and the New York City society swells attracted to aerobatic thrills, and he takes a dim view of the Wright Brothers at Belmont Park, portraying them as greedy entrepreneurs who devoted as much time looking for possible patent infringers as offering honest competition to their peers. His evocative final chapter outlines the advances in aviation and its cost in lives. A singular contribution to early aviation history.”—John Carver Edwards, Library Journal

Review:

In 1910, the year of the events in Gavin Mortimer's "Chasing Icarus," airplanes were still such novelties that there was no universally accepted term for the people who flew them. Among the choices were "birdmen" and "jockeys," but "pilots" had yet to be borrowed from the world of the barge and riverboat. Mortimer's tantalizing subtitle, "The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation,"... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Synopsis:

In October of 1910, only four years before the outbreak of World War I, nobody knew whether planes, dirigibles, or balloons would prevail. Within a period of seventeen days, this question was on prime display, as the dirigible America tried to cross the Atlantic; huge crowds gathered at horse-racing tracks to watch airplanes race around overhead; and ballooning teams from around the world took off from St. Louis in pursuit of the Bennett International Balloon Cup, given to the balloon that traveled the farthest. The dramatic denouement would stun the country and lay the foundation for the air force. In Chasing Icarus, Gavin Mortimer has plumbed original and primary sources to paint a vivid picture of the launching point of flight, and an indelible portrait of the late-Edwardian world about to explode into war.

Synopsis:

A dramatic chronicle of a pivotal moment in the history of aviation.

By 1910—seven years after the Wright brothers first lifted a plane off the ground at Kitty Hawk—America and the world were transfixed by the danger and challenge of mastering the air. Yet which form of flight would predominate was far from clear—dirigibles, balloons, and airplanes all had their passionate advocates. Emblematic of this uncertainty, the precursor of the U .S. Air Force owned one plane and two dirigibles.

During the seventeen days in October 1910 that Gavin Mortimer vividly recounts in Chasing Icarus, the question of primacy in the air was on full display, after which the future of aviation was never in doubt. The great dirigible America, captained by Walter Wellman, lifted off from New Jersey and for several turbulent days attempted to be the first flying machine to cross the Atlantic. From St. Louis, ballooning teams from around the world took off in pursuit of the Gordon Bennett I nternational Balloon Cup, given to the team that traveled the farthest distance, with a denouement featuring Americans Alan Hawley and Augustus Post that would stun the country. And at the famed racetrack at Belmont Park, New Y ork, huge crowds gathered to watch airplane pilots race above the oval and attempt to set speed, altitude, and distance records. Newspapers everywhere, even in the smallest of towns, made headlines of the results, and the public treated all aviators as matinee idols.

Interweaving the dramatic narratives of these three astonishing events, bringing to life powerful personalities (the ruthlessly competitive Wright brothers, the debonair Englishman Claude Grahame-White, the ultra-confident John Moisant), Gavin Mortimer reveals the pioneers of flight as fitting descendants of the legendary Icarus, risking all in pursuit of glory. Chasing Icarus captures both a pivotal moment in the history of aviation and the end of the gilded era that would soon descend into the devastation of World War I ; indeed, within four years dogfights over France had replaced air shows.

About the Author

Gavin Mortimer is the author of The Great Swim. He has written for a wide range of publications, from Esquire to the Daily Telegraph, from BBC History to the Observer. A long distance swimmer, he lives in the south of France.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802717115
Subtitle:
The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation
Publisher:
Walker & Company
Author:
Mortimer, Gavin
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
Aviation - History
Subject:
United States - 20th Century (1900-1945)
Subject:
Aeronautics -- United States -- History.
Subject:
Flight - History - 20th century
Subject:
Aviation - General
Subject:
Military - Aviation
Subject:
Social history
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20100706
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16 p. bandw insert
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
Transportation » Aviation » General

The Chasing Icarus: The Seventeen Days in 1910 That Forever Changed American Aviation
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$ In Stock
Product details 320 pages Walker & Company - English 9780802717115 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
In October of 1910, only four years before the outbreak of World War I, nobody knew whether planes, dirigibles, or balloons would prevail. Within a period of seventeen days, this question was on prime display, as the dirigible America tried to cross the Atlantic; huge crowds gathered at horse-racing tracks to watch airplanes race around overhead; and ballooning teams from around the world took off from St. Louis in pursuit of the Bennett International Balloon Cup, given to the balloon that traveled the farthest. The dramatic denouement would stun the country and lay the foundation for the air force. In Chasing Icarus, Gavin Mortimer has plumbed original and primary sources to paint a vivid picture of the launching point of flight, and an indelible portrait of the late-Edwardian world about to explode into war.
"Synopsis" by ,
A dramatic chronicle of a pivotal moment in the history of aviation.

By 1910—seven years after the Wright brothers first lifted a plane off the ground at Kitty Hawk—America and the world were transfixed by the danger and challenge of mastering the air. Yet which form of flight would predominate was far from clear—dirigibles, balloons, and airplanes all had their passionate advocates. Emblematic of this uncertainty, the precursor of the U .S. Air Force owned one plane and two dirigibles.

During the seventeen days in October 1910 that Gavin Mortimer vividly recounts in Chasing Icarus, the question of primacy in the air was on full display, after which the future of aviation was never in doubt. The great dirigible America, captained by Walter Wellman, lifted off from New Jersey and for several turbulent days attempted to be the first flying machine to cross the Atlantic. From St. Louis, ballooning teams from around the world took off in pursuit of the Gordon Bennett I nternational Balloon Cup, given to the team that traveled the farthest distance, with a denouement featuring Americans Alan Hawley and Augustus Post that would stun the country. And at the famed racetrack at Belmont Park, New Y ork, huge crowds gathered to watch airplane pilots race above the oval and attempt to set speed, altitude, and distance records. Newspapers everywhere, even in the smallest of towns, made headlines of the results, and the public treated all aviators as matinee idols.

Interweaving the dramatic narratives of these three astonishing events, bringing to life powerful personalities (the ruthlessly competitive Wright brothers, the debonair Englishman Claude Grahame-White, the ultra-confident John Moisant), Gavin Mortimer reveals the pioneers of flight as fitting descendants of the legendary Icarus, risking all in pursuit of glory. Chasing Icarus captures both a pivotal moment in the history of aviation and the end of the gilded era that would soon descend into the devastation of World War I ; indeed, within four years dogfights over France had replaced air shows.

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