The Great Ohio flood of 1884.
Two major storms in different parts of the United States changed the mindset of Writer and Activist for Native Americans Charles Fletcher Lummis.
The First Storm
On February 4, 1884, a heavy rain began to fall on Chillicothe, Ohio, where Charles Fletcher Lummis lived and worked as an editor of the weekly newspaper, the Chillicothe Leader. After thirty hours of continuous rain, the Scioto River, which runs through the city, began overflowing its banks, creating the worst flooding the city had ever known.
Flooded riverfront of Portsmith, Ohio in 1884.
It had been an unusually cold winter, without a customary January thaw. The snow and ice on the ground held much water back from the surging river, but when the rain ended, the ice and snow melted and released a second flooding. Normally a mosquito filled area, mosquitoes now swarmed after the flood, bringing malaria throughout the region.
In his book A TRAMP ACROSS THE CONTINENT, Lummis jokes that the train conductor would call out “Chillicothe! 15 minutes wait for quinine”! Chillicothe, Ohio in 1884 was not a healthy place to live. Lummis had lived in Ohio for two years, and was now wondering if he would have a long life in this unhealthy atmosphere.
Charles Fletcher Lummis.
Fortunately, Lummis was saved by a fellow Ohioan, who had traveled West to make his life in Los Angeles, California.
Harrison Gray Otis had purchased a quarter interest in a fledgling 4-page newspaper serving the small town of Los Angeles, then with a population of around 12,000 persons.
After 2 years, Otis found himself overworked, doing everything himself, from writing to typesetting. He needed help. Otis offered Lummis the job of Editor of the Los Angeles Times and Lummis decided to head West.
Lummis Begins His Famous Walk
Railroad transportation in 1884 was fairly advanced. Lummis could have taken the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Indianapolis Railway from Chillicothe, Ohio to Chicago, Illinois.
Los Angeles train depot in 1869. Lummis could have taken the train to Los Angeles in 1884.
From Chicago he could take the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad through Kansas City directly to Los Angeles.
But instead of taking the train, Charles Fletcher Lummis decided to walk across the whole country to California!
It was more than 3,500 miles to Los Angeles. Lummis thought that walking would allow him to see America, and, along the way, write stories of his adventures for both the Los Angeles Times and the Chillicothe Leader.
Lummis did cleverly use the railroads in one way: He mailed his dispatches by rail to the Times, which would publish his stories as he traveled West.
Lummis’ first story appeared in the LOS ANGELES TIMES on September 15, 1884:
“LUMMIS LEGS: Sixty three miles already traversed and only Three Thousand One Hundred and Thirty Seven yet to walk”.
New Mexico Native American Pueblo Isleta in this photograph taken in 1884 by Charles Fletcher Lummis.
Lummis’ descriptions of America during this transitional time are amazing and filled with adventures and humor.
He walked West to Colorado and then Southwest across The Great American Desert to the totally different world of New Mexican pueblos, giving him a new understanding and respect for Native Americans that totally changed his life.
Becoming A Native American Activist
Several years after this momentous trip, Lummis suffered a stroke from overwork and became partially paralyzed. In desperate need of a quiet place to recuperate, he chose Isleta, one of the New Mexican Native American pueblos.
Tiwa family in Isleta.
There, he was slowly nursed back to health by a friendly Tiwa family, with whom he had made friends. As he recuperated, Lummis became aware of the Federal Government’s treatment of Native Americans, forcing children to give up their Native American customs.
Lummis became an activist for Native American rights. When he returned to Los Angeles, Lummis founded the Southwest Museum, devoted to an appreciation of Native American arts, basketry and culture. All of this, however, was in the future.
The Second Storm
First Street Bridge over the flooded Los Angeles River is washed out in 1884 storm.
As Lummis walked through the heat of the desert in 1884, he had no idea that a disastrous winter rainstorm had inundated Los Angeles and Southern California, almost at the same time as the storm in Ohio.
The Los Angeles River overflowed its banks, just like the Scioto River in Ohio, but there was no ice or snow to hold anything back. Alameda Street, in what is now downtown Los Angeles, was covered with six feet of water. The Los Angeles River washed away barns, houses, railroad cars and livestock. Even caskets floated downstream.the
According to Los Angeles Times records, the El Rancho Hacienda, the estate of the last governor of Mexican California, Pio Pico, in Whittier, was destroyed. Pico had to mortgage his other properties to rebuild it.
Lummis Arrives in Southern California
Examining Lummis’ book, I was able to trace his route in California on a current map of California, starting at the town of Dagget in the Mojave Desert. Lummis’ path leads up the mountains, through the Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino Mountains. When he finally reached the seaward side of the mountains, Lummis was astonished at what he saw.
“It was the last day of January,” Lummis wrote, “the ground was carpeted with myriads wild flowers, birds filled the air with song, and clouds of butterflies fluttered past me.”
For Californians like me, Lummis could be describing our wildflower-covered hillsides after super heavy rainstorms like El Nino. Plant life, dormant during Southern California’s lengthy droughts, springs to life after our infrequent rainstorms. Lummis thought all this was normal. He thought this is the way California always is.
Mission San Gabriel late 1800’s.
Lummis walked to Mission San Gabriel and met his new employer, the hard working Harrison Grey Otis, who came out the eight miles from Los Angeles to meet him. Lummis looked a wreck, but the two men got on just fine and Lummis began editing the Los Angeles Times the very next morning, February 1, 1885.
After crossing the country, Lummis wound up in what seemed to him a rain nurtured land, beautiful and fruitful. He had met Native Americans, whose culture would nurture his body and spirit in his time of need. He had discovered a vision of the American West and decided to stay.
A TRAMP ACROSS THE CONTINENT by Charles Fletcher Lummis has become world famous.
I have narrated it as an audiobook for Listen2Read audiobooks.
Free Preview: http://listen2read.com/a-tramp-across-the-continent/
When you have downloaded and listened to his tale, I think you will agree with his many fans that Lummis is a fascinating American writer.
A TRAMP ACROSS THE CONTINENT is available for download into your smartphone or computer here at Listen2Read.com, or at Audible.com, GooglePlay.com, I-Tunes.com, the Barnes and Noble Audiobook app, Scribed.com, and in Canada at Tune-in.com. You can purchase a regular or Mp3 CD version right here on our Listen2Read website or on Amazon.com.
Offshore oil drilling platform
Gasoline is costing you and me more and more each day. It is possible that a tiny country in South America might eventually help lower our gasoline price, and, at the same time, eliminate much of it’s terrible poverty. The country is Guyana and I’ve become interested in it because it is where my audiobook “Jungle Peace” takes place. http://listen2read.com/jungle-peace/
Because the world uses more and more oil, discovering more oil keeps the price stable.
William Beebe collecting plant and animal specimens in what was then British Guiana
A new Discovery in an old Country
Silently bubbling off the shore of a land, where author William Beebe was busy observing Jaguars, capturing huge snakes, avoiding army ants, watching for rare birds and exploring a fascinating and dangerous jungle that could take his life at any moment, was oil.
This black gold, wouldn’t be discovered until a hundred years later. Drilling the seventh well in Guyana began last January 2018. It is a big deal for Guyana and, maybe for us!
Steve Greenlee, President of ExxonMobil, expects eventual Guyana production to exceed 500,000 barrels per day. One analyst expects pumping to last for nearly 43 years.
Sudden riches for a poor country
When the actual pumping begins in 2020, the Guyana government expects to be collecting $300 million in petroleum funds yearly. Some people estimate this figure could go up to $5 billion a year by the end of the decade. That’s a lot of oil and a lot of money. No wonder there’s a new Hard Rock Café in the Guyana capitol city of Georgetown.
Stabroek Marketplace, Georgetown, Guyana, where a new Hard Rock Cafe is opening.
Everybody speaks English in Guyana. The laws and basic culture of Guyana are British, descending from the days of British colonization. Guyana broke away and became a republic relatively recently, in 1970.
The population of Guyana is composed mostly of Africans brought to the country as slaves and set free in 1824, and people from North India, hired as indentured servants, under 5 year contracts to work in the sugar industry, rice fields, and the Bauxite and Gold mines. Culturally, it is an uncomfortable mix filled with tension. Each ethnic group is wooed and catered to by politicians who make, as politicians do, a lot of promises.
Who will benefit from oil money
Kaieteur Falls on the Potaro River in central Guyana
The discovery of oil will bring jobs to Guyana where the unemployment rate hovers around 11%. It is one of the South America’s poorest countries. 60% of the educated Guyneans simply leave the country for better futures overseas.
It is exciting that a new, prosperous oil industry about to take hold could make it possible for Guyana to become a reasonably prosperous country.
Oil exploration is a very costly business. In addition to the high cost of discovering and drilling, ExxonMobil gave Guyana an $18 million signing bonus.
The only problem might be that small countries with sudden oil discoveries do not have very good track records of handling sudden wealth- Venezuela and Nigeria comes to mind.
William Beebe was a world famous orenthologist and adventurer. His fans included President Theodore Roosevelt
It is up to the government of Guyana to provide structural support – pipelines, distribution points, processing facilities, shipping docks. Who will get these contracts? What is a fair price? There are a lot of hands stretched out waiting to help. Let’s hope the Guyanese navigate the troubled seas of graft and corruption.
An daring and adventurous scientist
Plant and animal life float on the Sargosso Sea
In 1918, the passengers on board the ocean liner “Yamaro” gathered on the deck to see an amazing sight described by Beebe in “Jungle Peace”. Beebe, was strapped into a harness, attached to a cable. He was slowly being precariously lowered beyond the anchor locker to just above the water line. He was studying, first hand, the Sargasso Sea through which the liner cut at a rapid pace. As he dangled there, the water spray in his face, he was collecting pieces of the plant life plant growth floating on top of the waters. It was just another days work for Beebe.
A hundred years later, what is important is not what is on the sea, but what is under it.
PS: I loved “Jungle Peace” the moment I read it. I have become a William Beebe fan. He will transport you to another world, in another time, with a lite, colorful writing style that made him famous. In fact, President Theodore Roosevelt was also a fan and wrote the Afterward of this book.
Kilauea erupts on the Big Island of Hawaii (USGS).
The frightening television pictures of the volcano Kilauea erupting on the Big Island of Hawaii have been tragic, as the lava flow wipes out homes. All of our hearts go out to the islanders, who have or may lose their homes as fissures open up unpredictably.
Lava flow wipes out Big Island road a few years ago (USGS).
I remember, years ago, driving completely around the Big Island, then suddenly, I couldn’t, because an eruption and lava flow simply wiped out the road. Later, it was a surreal experience as we actually walked out over the freshly hardened lava flow, glowing only a foot or two from us, feeling the heat from the moving orange glow of fresh lava. Some people would go there at night with flashlights. This is nature at its wildest.
Mark Twain an Early Visitor
At this writing, the Volcanoes National Park has been temporarily closed to the public and guests at the Volcano House Hotel have been relocated. Mark Twain stayed at Volcano House in 1866, when it was more rustic than now. Twain wrote:
Mark Twain in his younger days.
“ I have seen Vesuvius since, but it was a mere toy, a child’s volcano, a soup kettle compared to this. Here was a vast perpendicular walled cellar, nine hundred feet deep in some places, thirteen hundred in others. The illumination was two miles wide and a mile high; and if you ever, on a dark night and at a distance, beheld the light from thirty or forty blocks of distant buildings all on fire at once, reflected strongly against over-hanging clouds, you can form a fair idea of what this looked like.”
Kilauea erupts on the Big Island of Hawaii (USGS).
Jack London and his wife Charmian visited the Kilauea volcano in 1907. London didn’t include the visit in his book “The Cruise of the Snark,”
although he describes a trip in detail to the extinct volcano, Haleakala, on Maui. But Charmian, a talented writer herself, wrote about their visit to Kilauea:
“Perched on the ultimate, toothed edge, we peered into a fearsome gulf of pestilent vapors rising, ever rising, light and fine, impalpable as nightmare mists from out of a pit of destruction. If the frail-seeming ledge on which we hung had caved, not one of us could have reached the bottom alive- the deadly fumes would have done for us far short of that.”
Isabella Byrd An Early Visitor
Looking down into the lava lake (USGS).
In 1886, the English writer Isabella Byrd rode side-saddle up the long trail from Hilo to the edge of the volcano and looked down. She wrote to her sister back in Scotland:
“What we did see was one irregularly shaped lake, possibly 500 feet wide at its narrowest part and nearly half mile at its broadest, divided in two by low banks of lava. On our arrival eleven fire fountains were playing joyfully around the lake.”
“This lake, the Hale-mau-mau, or house of everlasting fire in Hawaiian mythology, the abode of the dread goddess Pele’, is approachable with safety, except during an eruption.”
The Old Hawaiian Beliefs
Pele’ is, in Hawaiian mythology, the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes. She is a female spirit and it was believed that the eruptions and explosions of Kilauea were directed by Pele’ herself.
In 1819, the old native religion and its beliefs was forbidden on the Hawaiian Islands with the advent of Christian Missionaries and the creation of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
In 1824, Pele’s reputation was challenged. High Chiefess Kapi’olani, a highly literate and educated member of the Hawaiian Royal family, whose second cousin was the great Kamehameha I, descended into the Kilauea’s Halemaumau crater. She deliberately picked the forbidden berries and recited aloud a Christian prayer. The fact that Pele’ did not kill her was used as an example of the superiority of her faith. In fact, Lord Tennyson wrote a poem about it:
“Kapi’olani ascended her mountain… and crying ’I dare her, let Pele’ avenge herself!
Into the flame-billow dash’d the berries and drove the demon from Hawaiee.”
Ground cracks Leilani Estates (USGS).
That storied event took place 194 years ago. So, with the passage of time, modern progress, world wars etc., you would think the story of Pele’ would be treated as a curious old time myth. And yet, just last week, CNN reported that ”many native Hawaiians believe the lava is a physical embodiment of the volcano goddess Pele’. ”
The belief in Pele’ is more widespread than one might imagine. A few years ago, I met a badly bruised gentlemen in a motorized wheel chair, legs in casts, arm in a sling, bandages around his head. He was once the picture of health and now he was a wreck. I asked him what happened.
“ I was in a terrible, terrible accident,” he said with a shaky voice. “There has been a death in the family and we have lost much of our income.”
When I told him I was sorry, he looked me in the face and said, “The bad luck is all our fault. We brought it on ourselves. It is the curse of Pele’.”
He then told me of the curse of Pele’. It is taboo for anyone to remove lava rock from the Hawaiian Islands as a souvenir or for any reason.
“We were foolish,” he said. “ On our last visit to the Big Island, we packed some lava rocks in our suitcases for our garden at home. We removed them from the island and Pele’ has cursed us with bad fortune.” He said this looking directly into my eyes with all the seriousness of a man making a confession.
I asked him if he couldn’t remove the curse by bringing the lava rocks back to Hawaii. “No, no,” he had tried that and it didn’t change his family’s fortunes or improve his health. “Once you anger Pele’ you are cursed forever.”
I honestly didn’t know what to say.
Lava surface flow (USGS).
A few years later, having lunch at Volcano House, I was telling the Pele’ curse story to some people. One of the gentlemen told me that recently he mailed a package to the U.S. Mainland and happened to be at the Hilo Post Office.
As he navigated the Post Office, he couldn’t help noticing a number of packages being processed, which were all addressed to:
United States Post Office
Big island, Hawaii, USA
Jokingly, he said to the post office clerk, “Does Pele’ get her mail here?”
“Oh, yes,” came the reply. “Many visitors take lava from the island as souvenirs. Then they hear about Pele’s curse. They can’t afford another trip to the islands, so they mail the lava back to Pele’ at the post office to try to remove any curse. And we get them.”
“What do you do with them?”
“Oh, we open the packages, take out the lava rocks and scatter them around the island. So the lava really does come back.”
So, Pele’ continues to be alive in many minds. By the way, I don’t think it is a good idea to remove any lava rocks, or any rocks from the Hawaiian Islands. Bad manners, you know.
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PS: Our Listen2Read audiobook of the month is “The Cruise of the Snark” by Jack London. If you ever dreamed of having a sailing adventure – this wild South Seas true story is a textbook of what NOT to do. You can download it at the link at the bottom of the page.
154 years ago this month, April 14, 1865, Mary and Abraham Lincoln invited a young couple to join them to see the popular English comedy play “Our American Cousin.” As it turned out, the simple, kind invitation doomed the recipients to madness and death after they witnessed President Lincoln’s assassination.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL COUPLE
Colonel Henry Reed Rathbone, guest of the President and First Lady.
The invitation was gratefully received by Major Henry Reed Rathbone and his fiancée, Clara Harris. Theirs was a somewhat complicated relationship. Through parental death and remarriage, they were technically stepbrother and stepsister, but not related by blood.
Clara Harris, fiancee of Henry Reed Rathbone, a guest of Mary and Abraham Lincoln.
Henry and Clara fell in love and were engaged to be married, but the outbreak of the Civil War delayed the ceremony. Rathbone served in the Northern Army with distinction and was raised to the rank of Major.
The couple had become friends of Mary and Abraham Lincoln, so the invitation to the theatre was a welcome one, but not surprising.
ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT LINCOLN
The Presidential party entered Ford’s Theater a little after the play began and was acknowledged by the audience’s warm applause. The comedy continued.
At 10:15, while the Presidential party was watching the play, John Wilkes Booth slipped, unnoticed, into the Presidential box. He placed a derringer pistol at the back of President Lincoln’s head, shot him once and attempted to leap out of the Presidential box onto the stage.
Lithograph depiction of John Wilkes Booth shooting President Lincoln as he watched the play with Mary Lincoln, Colonel Rathbone and Clara Harris.
Dagger Booth used to slash Colonel Rathbone’s arm.
Major Rathbone grabbed hold of Booth, but the assassin held a dagger and wildly slashed Rathbone from his elbow to his shoulder. Still, the wounded Rathbone clung to Booth catching hold of Booth’s coat, throwing Booth off balance as he leaped out of the box onto the stage, so that as he hit the stage Booth broke his leg. Rathbone cried out to the theatre audience “Stop that man! Will no one stop that man!”?
A crowd was banging against the door to the Presidential box. Rathbone saw that Booth had propped a plank against the door to keep it from
Dr. Charles Leal, 23 years old, was the first Doctor to reach President Lincoln.
opening. He quickly removed the plank, allowing a young 23-year-old Union Army medical doctor named Charles Leale to come to the President’s aid. President Lincoln was lying in the arms of his wife, who pleaded to Dr. Leale: “Please Doctor, Do what you can.”
As the heavily bleeding Rathbone looked on with his fiancée, Clara, Dr. Leale examined the President. Leale first thought the President had been stabbed, but quickly found the gunshot wound.
(You can hear Dr. Leale’s version of how he tried to save the President in our audiobook “LINCOLN’S LAST HOURS. ” It is the actual first person narrative by Dr. Leale from the moment he entered the Presidential box until Lincoln’s death the next morning. It is riveting listening.)
THE MADNESS BEGINS
John Wilkes Booth.
While everyone was focused on Dr. Leale trying to save the President, something terrible was building inside Major Rathbone’s mind as he watched Leale’s desperate efforts. He had had the assassin in his hands! He was holding onto him! Yet Booth had torn away and escaped! Rathbone had seen, close up, face to face, the twisted anger on the face of John Wilkes Booth and the image haunted him.
Rathbone mentally tortured himself: Could he have done something more to save the President? Could he have done something to capture Booth, instead of letting him get away? Did his failure to act, in some unknown way, mean he was a failure?
Lincoln being moved from Ford’s Theatre across the Street, painted by a German immigrant artist Carl Bersch (Smithsonian)
Eventually, Dr. Leale ordered the President be moved from the theatre to a rooming house across the street. He felt that carrying the President to the White House for treatment would be too much for the President.
Henry and Clara followed the somber group across the street into the rooming house, where Lincoln was placed on a bed. Another doctor finally examined Rathbone and discovered the wound he had received was very severe. At this point, Rathbone collapsed from loss of blood.
CLARA’S BLOODY DRESS
Clara Harris Rathbone.
Clara later remembered that “Poor Mrs. Lincoln, all through that dreadful night would look at me with horror and scream ’Oh! My husbands blood, my dear husband’s blood’…It was Henry’s blood, not the President’s, but explanations were pointless.”
Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone were married on July 11, 1867. The couple had three children. Henry pursued a military career and rose to the rank of Colonel. They made their home in Washington D.C.
HAUNTED BY MEMORIES
But the memory of that April night in 1865 continued to haunt Henry Rathbone. He began drinking heavily. He began acting strangely. He began gambling. To Clara’s horror, he began having affairs with other women.
To make things worse, every year, on the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, newspaper writers would contact Rathbone and ask him how he felt about the death of President Lincoln. Did he feel guilty because he couldn’t save the President?
Clara wrote to a friend, ”I understand his distress…as soon as people get wind of our presence, we feel ourselves become objects of morbid scrutiny. Henry.. …imagines that whispering is more pointed and malicious than it can possibly be.”
Henry began to resent Clara’s attention to their children and threatened to divorce her and take the children with him.
In 1882, Henry Rathbone was appointed U.S. Consul to the Province of Hanover and the family left Washington D.C. to make a new home in Germany. The new location and atmosphere didn’t help
A TRAGIC ENDING
On December 23, 1883, Henry Rathbone fatally shot his wife Clara and attempted to kill their children. He then stabbed himself 5 times in the chest in an attempt to commit suicide, but survived. Rathbone was committed to the asylum for the criminally insane in Hildesheim, Germany, where he died on August 14, 1911. He was buried next to his wife in the Hildesheim cemetery.
Dr. Charles Leale in later years.
Doctor Charles Leale’s life had a different outcome. Over the years, he had chosen not to speak of his efforts to save President Lincoln. However, two years before Rathbone’s death, in 1909, when Leale was 67 years old, a group of Civil War Veterans invited Leale to their gathering to make a speech about his role on that night in April 1865.
Leale reached into his notes and found a copy of the report he made to his superiors detailing, moment to moment, what he did and how he felt. That speech is presented as his narrative in our audiobook recording, “Lincoln’s Last Hours.”
The memory of horrible events like the assassination of a beloved President may leave the newspaper pages, but it never disappears from human memory. Events hang on and on in people’s minds, and the memory can lead some into reflection, like Leale and others, like Rathbone, into madness.
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PS: Dr. Leale’s first person narrative, describing his actions after President Lincoln’s assassination, makes for riveting listening. As performed by actor Andre Devin, it is almost like being there. It can be downloaded from I-tunes, Scribed, Playster. To download from Audible.com:
There is a single CD version available from Amazon and directly from us at Listen to Read:
Wright flying machine circles the Eiffel Tower in 1909.
It’s Women’s History Month and I’ve been researching some of the women pioneers of aviation. Perhaps the most famous woman aviator was Amelia Earhart and I have been fortunate enough to publish an audiobook of one of her memoirs, “20 Hrs. 40 Mins.” But Earhart followed a long line of women pioneers.
Consider, for example, the French actress Raymonde de Laroche, who looked up one day in October,1909, and saw the miracle of a lighter than air machine flying high in the air above Paris, making a circle around the Eiffel Tower.
THE FIRST WOMAN TO FLY A PLANE
Raymonde de Laroche, the first woman to pilot an aeroplane in 1909.
The flight impressed Raymonde de Laroche, who was a socially connected lady. One evening she dined with her friend, Charles Voisin, who, with his brother, built aeroplanes at Chalons, 90 miles from Paris. He agreed to give her flying lessons– but there was one big problem: his currently available aeroplane had only one seat and carried no passengers.
The solution: Voisin would teach de Laroche by yelling at her over the sound of the motor. She would sit in the plane, he would be close to the plane on the ground, yelling instructions on how to operate the controls, to keep the plane even and level once it was in flight. However, Voisin forbade Laroche to actually take off into the air, because that would be too dangerous.
Raymonde de Laroche pilots her Voisin at the Reims, France air show
But Raymonde de Laroche had an independent mind. On October 22, 1909, once she gained confidence in operating the plane on the ground, there was only one other thing for her to do – fly! She took off into the air and flew the aeroplane 10 to 15 feet above the ground for a distance of about 300 yards, before safely bringing the plane back to earth to the exasperated Voisin.
De Laroche poses with her Voisin aeroplane.
Raymonde de Laroche didn’t know it at the time, but she had become the first woman to fly an airplane. There had already been women passengers in a plane flown by a man, but Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman to actually fly a plane by herself. Five months later, she formalized her position by obtaining a Pilot’s License, becoming the world’s first licensed female pilot, receiving the Aero-Club of France License Number 36. Women of Aviation Worldwide Week is held on the week of March 8 in her honor and to raise awareness of the opportunities in aviation for women during Women’s History Month.
THE FIRST AMERICAN WOMAN GRANTED A PILOTS LICENSE
Harriet Quimby flying an early aeroplane.
A year later, in August 1911, the first American Woman pilot received a US Pilot’s license from the Aero Club of America. Her name was Harriet Quimby. Before she began flying, Quimby had a successful career as a theatre critic for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine, a very popular weekly of the time.
Quimby also wrote screenplays for films that were directed by pioneering director D.W. Griffith for Biograph studios in New York, before the industry moved West.
Crowds cheer Harriet Quimby after she successfully lands in France.
On April 16, 1912, Harriet Quimby became the first woman to fly the English Channel from Dover, England to Calais, France, about 22 miles. This followed the flight in 1909 of the first man to fly the Channel, Louis Bleriot. In fact, Quimby borrowed one of Bleriot’s aeroplanes for the flight. Her flight time was one hour and nine minutes. Quimby’s accomplishment should have made her an international heroine, but, sadly, the Titanic disaster took place the day before and wiped her news out of the papers.
“In my opinion, there is no reason why the aeroplane should not open a fruitful occupation for women. I see no reason why they cannot realize handsome incomes by carrying passengers between adjacent towns, why they cannot derive incomes from parcel deliveries, from taking photographs from above or from conducting schools for flying.”
THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN GRANTED A PILOT LICENSE
The first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license was Bessie Coleman, who was also part Native American. Coleman obtained her International Pilots License in 1921 and she did it the hard way. The daughter of two southern sharecroppers, Coleman grew up in poverty, but she knew how to work hard and she saved her money.
Because of racial prejudice, Coleman was denied entry to American flying schools. So, this amazing woman traveled to France, learned to speak French and studied at the Coudron Brothers flying school at Le Crotoy.
Then Coleman returned to the United States to establsh her own flying school, to teach black women how to fly. As she put it:
Bessie Coleman stands on a plane she flew in 1922.
“The air is the only place free from prejudice. I decided Blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly. If I can create the minimum of my plans and desires, there shall be no regrets. I refused to take for an answer.”
American women have been deeply involved in aviation from the very beginning. Katherine Wright, sister to Wilber and Orville Wright, was instrumental in the Wright Brothers experiments and the establishment of their company.
Amelia Earhart (right) with her flying instructor Neta Snook.
Probably the most famous American Woman pilot was Amelia Earhart, an adventurous young woman, who had taken up flying as a hobby and was well known in flying organizations. Earhart supported herself as a Social Worker at the Dennison House, a settlement house in Boston.
In 1927, after Charles Lindbergh successfully flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean and became a national hero, Florida socialite Amy Guest felt that whatever a man could do, a woman could do.
Amelia Earhart in leather coat she wore crossing the Atlantic.
Guest made plans to be the first woman to travel by plane across the Atlantic Ocean. She bought a plane and hired a pilot, Wilmer Stutz, and mechanic, Louis Gordon. Mrs. Guest saw herself as being only a passenger – but still the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Eventually, her family persuaded her not to take the risk and Amelia Earhart, was chosen to take her place and join the crew on this very dangerous flight.
Mrs. Guest engaged the services of Charles Lindberg’s publicist, George P. Putnam, to handle the publicity of the Earhart flight, because of his success in publicizing Lindberg’s flight and the post flight excitement.
The news of an American Woman successfully crossing the Atlantic electrified the American population and, in particular, American Women. Amelia Earhart became a heroine and a symbol of Women’s progress toward equality. A few years later Earhart made a solo filght across the Atlantic Ocean. She wrote:
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is mere tenacity. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”
If you would like to see the actual take off of Amelia Earhart in her historic flight across the Atlantic in the “Friendship,” I have obtained the film and have included it in a promotional video for our Listen 2 Read audiobook by Amelia Earhart, “20 Hrs 40 Mins, Our Flight in the Friendship,” where she describes her life and her historic flight.
Here is the link: http://listen2read.com/20-hrs-40-mins/
Sadly, all of the above women, except Katherine Wright and Neta Snook, perished in air crashes during this very experimental time in the history of fight. But all of these women aviation pioneers were blessed with a dream and did whatever it took to pursue their dream. And I believe that anyone who follows their dream is an inspiration for all of us.
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PS: Our audiobook of Amelia Earhart’s “20 Hrs-40 Mins, Our Fight in the Friendship” read by Leslie Walden, is available as traditional CD and an Mp3CD as well as a digital download. As a gift, it might inspire someone. Here is a link:
Galapagos Islands seals.
Our confident, high stock market reminds me of another high stock market early in 1929. That was when one of my environmental heros, Gifford Pinchot, buoyed with financial confidence a rising stock market gives, planned the adventure of a lifetime.
Gifford Pinchot and tuna catch.
Financial security and the end of his Governorship of Pennsylvania presented Pinchot with a unique opportunity to carry out a boyhood dream. He would purchase a large sailing ship, hire a crew, bring experts on board and put out to sea with his family.
There were giant sea bats to watch, sharks to avoid, Galapagos turtles to study, lava flows to cross, birds to photograph and lap dragons to catch. Grand adventure for adults, and a wonder for their 13 year old son, Giff, and his friend from Pennsylvania, Stiff.
Pinchot bought a used ship, refitted her and gave her a new name, “Mary Pinchot,” after his mother. The family set out on an ambitious journey, sailing west to the Galapagos Islands and then to the South Seas, independent, free, but with no one to turn to in case of danger.
A misjudgment caused damage to the ship’s rudder, requiring them to sail nearly 900 miles off course for repairs, through open seas that could turn against them at any moment, but they made it.
President Theodore Roosevelt with top hat stands with Gifford Pinchot.
THE PIONEERING ENVIRONMENTALIST
Gifford Pinchot is one of my environmental heros because of his work with President Theodore Roosevelt, establishing the National Forest Service and saving the Grand Canyon as well as other National monuments from development. To honor his memory, the United States Government established a Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Oregon.
Family members on the voyage included Pinchot’s wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, a politically savvy woman, who made her mark as one of the founders of the League of Women Voters. They also brought along their thirteen year old son, Giff, and his friend, Stiff Stahlnecker.
The Pinchot adventure began as they sailed out of New York Harbor on March 31, 1929, less than a week after the Federal Reserve Bank warned of excessive speculation in the New York
Gifford PInchot with the San Blas Island Indians.
stock market. As the Pinchots reached the Caribbean, National City Bank pledged 25 million dollars to support the sliding stock prices.
The pledge worked and a panic was averted. But steel and automobile production were winding down. Something bad was stirring.
As the Pinchots visited Grand Cayman, Isla de Providencia and Isla de San Andre and crossed through the Panama Canal, the stock market stabilized.
Cornelia Bryce Pinchot climbing from the dinghy onto one of the Galapagos Islands.
TO THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Sailing south in the Pacific, what a thrill it must have been for the Pinchot expedition to visit the famed Galapagos Islands alone, without a tour group, having a free hand to examine the fascinating life at their own pace.
They were walking in the footsteps of twenty-six year old Charles Darwin, whose zoological discoveries on the Islands, ninety-four years earlier, led to his theory of evolution. Now it was Gifford Pinchot’s turn to discover and collect and theorize.
During the summer of 1929, as the stock market gained 20 points, the Pinchots left the Galapagos to cross the wide Pacific and visit the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago and Tahiti. They were collecting specimens and writing extensive field notes.
The Pinchots’ son Giff at the wheel of the “Mary Pinchot.”
Pinchot considered this journey to be partly a scientific expedition and brought with him ornithological and zoological experts, “for adventure, seasoned with science is the very best kind,” he wrote.
Along with the scientists came a photographer, Howard Cleaves, who shot many still images and motion pictures of the adventure. Later, a movie of the journey was produced and exhibited in theatres and shown in private gatherings, accompanying free talks by Cornelia Pinchot.
Gifford Pinchot tries to handle a lap dragon.
PINCHOT AUTHORS A BOOK ON THE ADVENTURE
Gifford Pinchot wrote a fascinating adventure book of the expedition, titled: “TO THE SOUTH SEAS.”
When I first read it I knew it would make a great audiobook, not only because it was a great adventure, but also because of Pinchot’s entertaining style of writing. It was a pleasure to read and a pleasure to record. “TO THE SOUTH SEAS” by Gifford Pinchot is the 17th audiobook I have produced for our Listen 2 Read American Adventure Library.
THE STOCK MARKET CRASH OF OCTOBER 1929
The Pinchot adventure ended in Tahiti on October 15, 1929. The Pinchot party took a passenger ship from Tahiti back to San Francisco. On October 24th, while they were on the high seas, returning home, the stock market began to crash. It was called “Black Thursday.” In a few days, the market worsened into “Black Tuesday.” By the time the Pinchots reached San Francisco, they were less rich than when they began the adventures.
The world had changed during their South Seas summer and the American economy had collapsed. When they attempted to sell their ship, “The Mary Pinchot,” it took a very long time to find a buyer. Sadly, they sold her for less than half of what they paid for her.
The Mary Pinchot under full sail.
Still, the Pinchot expedition was highly successful. It had discovered new lizard, fish, and mollusk species. Their discoveries, collections and field notes contributed greatly to the science of zoology and ornithology. And, of course, they had memories to last a lifetime.
See pictures of the Pinchot expedition and hear free samples of our audiobook at: http://listen2read.com/to-the-south-seas/
You can join the Pinchots on their grand adventure by purchasing a digital download or an Mp3CD of our audiobook, “TO THE SOUTH SEAS.”
© 2018 Listen2Read.com
Over the years, I have voiced many commercials and TV shows based on Clement Moore’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas.”
Last year, I recorded the original poem and I offer it to you with
Best Wishes for the Holiday Season!
Dear Member of the Listen To Read Audiobook community:
Here is a little free Halloween gift for you.
Just for fun, I recorded “The Terrible Old Man,” a classic, short gothic horror story,
written by the very disturbed H.P. Lovecraft in 1921.
It’s about ten spooky minutes long. Here’s the YouTube link:
Happy Halloween from all of us at Listen2read Audiobooks
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