Curtiss, Glenn

Curtiss, Glenn (Hammond)

(1878–1930) aviator, inventor; born in Hammondsport, N.Y. Starting with a youthful interest in racing and improving bicycles, he moved on to motorcycles; he had his own motorcycle factory by 1902 and in 1905 he set a world speed record of 137 mph on a self-designed motorcycle; that same year he helped to build the first dirigible for the U.S. Army. In 1908, in his June Bug, he was the first American to make a public airplane flight over one linear kilometer; a competitor of the Wright Brothers, he continued to set many new records for flight. In addition to gaining the patent in 1911 for the aileron, he effectively invented the hydroplane and flying boat; in 1919 the NC-4 he built for the U.S. Navy made the first transatlantic flight. During World War I his Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company produced over 5,000 "Jennies" (JN-4's). Recognized as one of aviation's major pioneers, in his later years he moved on to working with automobiles, designing a streamlined trailer, and developing real estate in Florida.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.