Saturday, August 27, 2011


North Carolina license plates reads "First in Flight" because of the Wright Brothers first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. on December 17, 1903. School children throughout the world read in history books that this event was the first powered airplane flight ever. But is that correct? Some in Texas say: "Not True".

December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, NC
Flew 120 feet. Time, 12 seconds. Orville Wright at the controls
Photo LC-USZ62-6166-A - Library of Congress


Jacob Brodbeck, a German settler who established himself in Fredericksburg in 1847 as the second teacher at the Vereins Kirche could be the first person to have flown a powered air-ship in America. Jacob moved to San Antonio in 1863 and became a school inspector. There he worked on his plan to create a flying "air-ship". Soon he had a working model of his invention that had a rudder, wings, and a propeller powered by coiled springs. After showing his working model at local fairs he was encouraged to build a full-sized version of his craft that could carry a man.  His funding came from local men, including Dr. Ferdinand Herff of San Antonio, H. Guenther of New Braunfels and A. W. Engel of Cranes Mill, who bought shares in his project. Jacob promised to repay them within six months of selling the patent rights to his machine.

His full-sized airship, which featured an enclosed space for the "aeronaut," a water propeller in case of accidental landings on water, a compass, and a barometer, and for which Brodbeck had predicted speeds between 30 and 100 miles per hour.  The flight took place in San Pedro Park, in San Antonio and was said to have risen twelve feet in the air and traveled about 100 feet before the springs unwound completely and the machine crashed to the ground, although the inventor escaped serious injury.  A bust of Brodbeck was later placed in San Pedro Park.

After this setback, his shareholders refused to put up the money for a second attempt, so he traveled across the US on a fund-raising tour. His proposals failed to persuade his audiences to invest in his plan after his papers were stolen in Michigan. Brodbeck returned to Texas and lived on a ranch near Luckenbach until his death, on January 8, 1910, six years after the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk. No drawings or blueprints of Brodbeck's craft have survived. He was buried on his property near Luckenbach.

This brings us to the end of this article with a question of what to believe. Do we trust the facts in history books? Or do we search for more information and come to our on conclusions?  Does Texas deserve a commemoration in history for being first in flight? These questions I leave with you to decide.

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