Texas: First In Flight

A Little Bit of Texas History – First in Aviation

Jacob Brodbeck took to the air in powered flight 40 years before the Wright brothers set off for Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Jacob Brodbeck took to the air in powered flight 40 years before the Wright brothers set off for Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

I know you now question my sanity. The Wright brothers thought they were first. That’s why the state motto of North Carolina is “First in Flight”. Well, I am of sound mind when I say, the Wrights were not first in flight.

German inventor and Texas immigrant Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck did it first. A matter of fact. A matter of recorded history. Jacob’s spring-powered aircraft flew ~100 feet and the Wright brothers reciprocating engine equipped aircraft flew only 120 feet.

It was in 1865—a whopping forty years before the infamous Wright brothers conquered gravity—that a schoolteacher by the name of Jacob Brodbeck took to the skies for the first time in human history.
It was in 1865—a whopping forty years before the infamous Wright brothers conquered gravity—that a schoolteacher by the name of Jacob Brodbeck took to the skies for the first time in human history.

For scale, let’s use a football field. Jacob landed on the 33-yard line while the Wrights landed on the 40-yard line.

“On September 20, 1865, pioneer aviator Jacob Friedrich Brodbeck may have made the first flight in an airplane–almost forty years before the Wright brothers–in a field about three miles east of Luckenbach. The Württemberg native settled in Fredericksburg in 1847. He had always had an interest in mechanics and inventing; in Germany he had attempted to build a self-winding clock, and in 1869 he designed an ice-making machine. His most cherished project, however, was his “air-ship,” with a propeller powered by coiled springs. The 1865 model featured an enclosed space for the “aeronaut,” a water propeller in case of accidental landings on water, a compass, and a barometer. The machine 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. Another account, however, says that the initial flight took place in San Pedro Park, San Antonio, where a bust of Brodbeck was later placed. Yet another account reports that the flight took place in 1868, not 1865. All the accounts agree, however, that Brodbeck’s airship was destroyed by its abrupt landing, although the inventor escaped serious injury. After this setback, his investors refused to put up the money for a second attempt, and he embarked on an unsuccessful fund-raising tour of the United States. Brodbeck returned to Texas and lived on a ranch near Luckenbach until his death in 1910.” – TSHA Online

Picture: RockwallConservative.me
Picture: RockwallConservative.me

God bless Texas.

John White
Rockwall, Texas

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