“Origin of Flight in Dune Country” presented by National Park Ranger Cliff
Goins took members and guests of the Duneland Historical Society through a
brief history of flight and the story of Octave Chanute at the society’s
November meeting at the Library Service Center.
Man’s dream of flying goes back to Greek mythology and will be celebrated
with the centennial of the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers at
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903.
But before powered flight many men had experimented with gliders. Octave
Chanute chose the Indiana dunes as the place for his tests. He was living in
Chicago and the dunes offered steady winds, a place where a glider could be
launched in any direction, and sand for soft landings.
Chanute was born in Paris in 1832 and came to the United States with his
father in 1838. He was educated in New York schools and became a civil
engineer, designing the Chicago stockyards and supervising the construction
In 1894 he published “Progress in Flying Machines” and in 1896 began his
glider tests in the dunes. He brought his gliders from Chicago by train and
assembled them on site. From June 22-July 4, 1896 he and his partners were
at the beach in Miller. After some disappointing trials, they returned to
Chicago and worked on their gliders before coming to Dune Park (now the site
of Midwest Steel) on August 21, 1896 where they remained until September 25.
Using a biplane design, his companions William Avery and Augustus Herring
made repeated flights of more than 200 feet. Their glider “Katydid” made a
record 369-foot flight in 13 seconds and for the moment it was the most
successful heavier-than-air flying machine in the world.
Among Goins’ pictures were shots of a glider with Herring as passenger and
of the group’s camp at Dune Park.
On May 13, 1900 Wilbur Wright wrote to Chanute about his research and the
men exchanged hundreds of letters before Chanute’s death in 1910. Chanute
visited Kitty Hawk during some of the Wrights’ early tests but was not there
for the successful flight.
It was recalled that the late Howard Johnson, who was a DHS member, told of
hearing from his grandfather, Charles Bradley, that Chanute would bring
glider parts to Bradley’s shop for repairs.
Officers for 2004 for the Duneland Historical Society were elected. They are
Betty Canright, president; Eva Hopkins, first vice-president; Joan Costello,
vice-president/program; Fran Meyer, recording secretary; Audrey Lipinski,
corresponding secretary; Marilyn Cook, treasurer; and Nancy Hokanson, Ascher
Yates, Bertha Still, Dorothy Weidman Mayers, Nancy Vaillancourt, Rita Newman
and Jane Walsh-Brown, board members.
The next meeting will be February 19, 2004.