Inwood in Aviation History

by Cole Thompson

I was near Inwood-on-the-Hudson when I noticed a tiny speck in the air far up the Hudson. It was coming like the Twentieth Century Limited, and I knew right away that it was Curtiss. On it came, all the time getting bigger and bigger, and off Riverdale I begun to hear the whirring of propellers. I just stood there on the bluff and looked and wondered. I could not move.” -Description of Isham Park landing. (New York Times, May 30, 1910)

Aviator Glenn Hammond Curtiss shattered the long distance flight record when he landed on the current site of Isham Park in northern Manhattan in 1910. (New York Times, May 30, 1910)

Aviator Glenn Hammond Curtiss shattered the long distance flight record when he landed on the current site of Isham Park in northern Manhattan in 1910. (New York Times, May 30, 1910).

On December 17, 1903 Orville Wright took to the skies above the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. He and his brother Wilbur conducted their experimental flight tests in total secrecy.  While obsessed with flight, the Brothers Wright were equally concerned with securing their patents. The Wright brothers had true cause for concern.

Fast on their heels was another American inventor and business competitor named Glenn Hammond Curtiss.

Glenn Curtiss, Library of Congress photo.

Glenn Curtiss, Library of Congress photo.

A true modern hero, Curtiss blazed into the 20th century atop a roaring motorcycle. Traveling 136-miles per hour on a bike of his own design, Curtiss not only set a world record but earned the title, “the fastest man alive.

Once Curtiss took to the skies no one could keep him on the ground–not the Wright Brothers and their army of lawyers, not the nay-sayers, not even the laws of physics.

Treated like a crown prince in Europe, Curtiss couldn’t sell a single airplane in the United States without paying royalties to the Wrights who owned every conceivable copyright concerning manned flight.

But while Orville and Wilbur had the courts on their side, Curtiss’ airplanes could out fly and out maneuver any machine the Wrights put in the air.  In fact, the Wright’s planes were quickly becoming obsolete.

Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and his Albany Flyer.

Aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and his Albany Flyer.

Then, in the spring of 1910, Curtiss showed the Wrights and the rest of the world who really owned the skies.

Incredibly, Inwood would play a starring role in the early history of aviation…
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