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Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the… (edition 2014)

by Lawrence Goldstone (Author)

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Member:MilitaryAviationML
Title:Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies
Authors:Lawrence Goldstone (Author)
Info:Ballantine Books (2014), Edition: 1st, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:aviation history

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Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies by Lawrence Goldstone

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The Wright Bros were not quite the American heroes we thought they were. Yes, they were our first powered fliers but they spent the decade after their history-making flight in a protracted legal battle over patents. The sued pioneer pilot and aircraft maker Glenn Curtiss and virtually anyone else who wanted to build an aeroplane that could be safely controlled. The Wrights, especially Wilbur, and Curtiss could have advanced aircraft design much further than they did but instead spent too much time with attorneys. Goldstone tells us that Wilbur was a design genius, but let himself be taken over by the desire to monopolize flying. Curtiss was a successful engine designer and builder who eventually created better aircraft than the Wrights.

Goldstone wanted to balance the story between the harrowing tales of early dare-devil air shows, the continued legal wrangling over the Wright's "wing warping" patent and the story of how early planes were designed and tested. People who are more interested in the details of early aircraft design and manufacture will be wanting for more. The tales of early air-show pilots is compelling, the details of the sad legal wrangling not so much. ( )
  Mark_Bacon | Jul 24, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The only thing I knew about the Wright brothers was that they had flown at Kitty Hawk. But there is so much more to their story. You get the whole picture in Birdmen and you see how their efforts and triumphs fit into early aviation. Goldstone starts with balloons and gliders and shows how the jump was made to heavier than air powered flight. There are some technical details on how the machines worked but it is delivered in a way that will not lose anyone. It is interesting to see what happened after that famous first flight. And following the course of the development of aircraft and the way that it was affected by the legal and personal battles of everyone involved is interesting as well. You get to know the people involved both in designing the aircraft and in flying them. It is a story that is oddly divided between the excitement of daredevil flying and the almost tedious details of patents and court battles but Goldstone does a good job of keeping the pace up so it doesn’t drag and it remains an interesting story right to the end. ( )
  bedda | Apr 26, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Birdmen by Lawrence Goldstone takes an in depth look at the people who made heavier than air flight possible. When I was a child, the answer to this question was simple: The Wright brothers, and it all started with the Kitty Hawk flight in 1903. Technological advances are rarely that simple. They are typically messy, competitive, and even litigious.

Modern day airplanes are exquisite corpses built on the technological advancements that different inventors and companies have made. Birdmen focuses on the individual pieces of the puzzle of flight. Besides the Wrights, there was Curtiss, Baldwin (inventor of the parachute), Chanute, Langley and others.

While there is some biographical information too the life stories take a back seat to the discussion of their research. For anyone interested in the mechanics of flight, the business of being on the leading edge of technology, and the fine art of getting and keeping government contracts. On the flip side is the heavy price of lawsuits, the never ending need to boost one's brand, the growing need for capital, and the ever expanding competition.

For the Wright Bros. business, the desire to stay privately owned, with tight control over patents and publicity, and trouble adapting to an ever changing business model. Ultimately the things that put the Wrights on the top in the beginning, were the same ones that brought an unfortunate end to the company.

My one complaint with the book is that it seems to drag near the end. To fill the book out beyond 400 pages, the book includes some brief biographies of early superstar flyers. While I am also interested in the likes of Harriet Quimby and John Moisant, I was reading Birdmen for the business and engineering stories. ( )
  pussreboots | Nov 8, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this one. I knew the basics about the Wright brothers and the name Glenn Curtiss was familiar but I really didn’t know anything about their years long battles in the courts and in the eyes of the general public.

After Kitty Hawk the Wrights seemed to spend more time trying to protect what they saw as a very broad interpretation of the patent application they filed. They used the court system to claim royalties they felt other aviation pioneers owed them. In their eyes every plane that existed or flew owed them licensing and royalties.

On the other hand it was a time of rapid innovation and a large number of other inventors and daredevils were experimenting with aircraft and expanding the limits of flight. While the Wrights sought to protect what they’d done, these other people were developing their own methods and machines. Whether or not any of them really borrowed or stole ideas from any others may never be known.

The battles over the next decade took place in courtrooms as much as it did in the air over exhibitions and daring airshows. In the end the patent wars probably slowed down the development of aircraft and aviation but by the time World War I began the military became the primary driver of aircraft development.

I enjoyed learning about the early aviators and the near insane daredevils that risked (and lost) their lives to extending the limits of flying. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Oct 28, 2014 |
Interesting account of the battles over the control of aeronautics before and during the early years of flight. Focusses on the Wright brothers and their relationship with Glenn Curtiss. ( )
  addunn3 | Sep 22, 2014 |
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At 3:15 AM on May 30, 1912, Wilbur Wright died peacefully in his own bed in the family home at 7 Hawthorn Street in Dayton, Ohio, surrounded by his father, Milton; his sister, Katharine; and his three brothers, Lorin, Reuchlin, and Orville.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 034553803X, Hardcover)

From acclaimed historian Lawrence Goldstone comes a thrilling narrative of courage, determination, and competition: the story of the intense rivalry that fueled the rise of American aviation.
 
The feud between this nation’s great air pioneers, the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, was a collision of unyielding and profoundly American personalities. On one side, a pair of tenacious siblings who together had solved the centuries-old riddle of powered, heavier-than-air flight. On the other, an audacious motorcycle racer whose innovative aircraft became synonymous in the public mind with death-defying stunts. For more than a decade, they battled each other in court, at air shows, and in the newspapers. The outcome of this contest of wills would shape the course of aviation history—and take a fearsome toll on the men involved.
 
Birdmen sets the engrossing story of the Wrights’ war with Curtiss against the thrilling backdrop of the early years of manned flight, and is rich with period detail and larger-than-life personalities: Thomas Scott Baldwin, or “Cap’t Tom” as he styled himself, who invented the parachute and almost convinced the world that balloons were the future of aviation; John Moisant, the dapper daredevil who took to the skies after three failed attempts to overthrow the government of El Salvador, then quickly emerged as a celebrity flyer; and Harriet Quimby, the statuesque silent-film beauty who became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. And then there is Lincoln Beachey, perhaps the greatest aviator who ever lived, who dazzled crowds with an array of trademark twists and dives—and best embodied the romance with death that fueled so many of aviation’s earliest heroes.
 
A dramatic story of unimaginable bravery in the air and brutal competition on the ground, Birdmen is at once a thrill ride through flight’s wild early years and a surprising look at the personal clash that fueled America’s race to the skies.
 
Advance praise for Birdmen
 
“A riveting narrative about the pioneering era of aeronautics in America and beyond . . . a well-written, thoroughly researched work that is sure to compel readers interested in history, aviation, and invention. Goldstone raises questions of enduring importance regarding innovation and the indefinite exertion of control over ideas that go public.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Superbly crafted . . . strengthened by fresh perspectives, rigorous analyses, comprehensible science, and a driving narrative.”Library Journal (starred review)

Birdmen is so much more than the story of man’s leap into the clouds. Exhilarating, exasperating, and inspiring in equal measure, the Wright brothers’ tale is a parable for modern times, told in fascinating detail and gripping prose by Lawrence Goldstone.”—Dr. Amanda Foreman, author A World on Fire
 
“Meticulously researched and illuminating, Birdmen unveils the forgotten flyboys who gave America an invention to win wars, spread peace, and advance her destiny—air power.”—Adam Makos, internationally bestselling author of A Higher Call

“The history of human flight goes way beyond the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk. Lawrence Goldstone skillfully tells the rest of the story about the dreamers history has forgotten, and it’s a helluva story superbly told. Birdmen is a wondrous journey from takeoff to landing.”—Bill Griffeth, author of By Faith Alone

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:24 -0400)

"The feud between this nation's great air pioneers, the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, was a collision of unyielding and profoundly American personalities. On one side, a pair of tenacious siblings who together had solved the centuries-old riddle of powered, heavier-than-air flight. On the other, an audacious motorcycle racer whose innovative aircraft became synonymous in the public mind with death-defying stunts. For more than a decade, they battled each other in court, at air shows, and in the newspapers. The outcome of this contest of wills would shape the course of aviation history--and take a fearsome toll on the men involved. Birdmen sets the engrossing story of the Wrights' war with Curtiss against the thrilling backdrop of the early years of manned flight, and is rich with period detail and larger-than-life personalities: Thomas Scott Baldwin, or "Cap't Tom" as he styled himself, who invented the parachute and almost convinced the world that balloons were the future of aviation; John Moisant, the dapper daredevil who took to the skies after three failed attempts to overthrow the government of El Salvador, then quickly emerged as a celebrity flier; and Harriet Quimby, the statuesque silent-film beauty who became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. And then there is Lincoln Beachey, perhaps the greatest aviator who ever lived, who dazzled crowds with an array of trademark twists and dives--and best embodied the romance with death that fueled so many of aviation's earliest heroes. A dramatic story of unimaginable bravery in the air and brutal competition on the ground, Birdmen is at once a thrill ride through flight's wild early years and a surprising look at the personal clash that fueled America's race to the skies" --… (more)

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