Joe Seymour – First Aeroplane Flight In New England?

Joe Seymour – First Aeroplane Flight In New England?

By Jim Ignasher


     On June 24, 1910, The Providence Journal reported, “Joe Seymour, in a private test at Narragansett Park last evening, accomplished the first successful aeroplane flight ever made in New England.” Narragansett Park, a.k.a. Narragansett Trotting Park, was a race track that once existed between present-day Park Avenue, that Gansett Avenue, and Spectacle Pond, in Cranston, Rhode Island. Seymour accomplished his feat in a Curtis bi-plane.

     There is some debate as to this actually being the first airplane flight in New England.  There seems to be mounting evidence that Gustave Whitehead flew an airplane in Connecticut in 1901, two years before the Wright Brothers.  And a recently discovered (Woonsocket) Evening Call article dated April 23, 1910, described the flight, and subsequent crash, of Greely S. Curtis at Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  While Seymour’s flight may not have been the first in New England, it might have been the first for Rhode Island. 

     Mr. Seymour had arrived at the park earlier in the day in preparation for an exhibition he was to give. However, mechanical difficulties prevented him from flying until it was nearly dark.  Not wanting to disappoint the two-hundred or so spectators who had gathered, he decided to make a test flight once around the park, but never climbing above an altitude of 200 feet. 

     According to the Providence Journal, “He maintained this altitude for about 200 feet and then descended easily, bringing the craft to a stop at almost the exact spot from which it had been started.”

     Seymour may also have been the first to wreck an airplane in Rhode Island. The following morning it was reported, “Joseph Seymour, the aviator, was severely hurt, and his Curtis aeroplane badly wrecked at Narragansett Park late yesterday afternoon, when the machine going 30 miles an hour, crashed into a post hidden in the grass, while Seymour was attempting to alight.”    

     After wrecking, Seymour contacted the Herring Aeroplane Factory in Massachusetts, and ordered two replacement propellers.  Oddly enough, they just happened to have two in stock that would fit his aircraft.  This was good news, for otherwise they would have had to be custom made – out of wood – which would take considerable time. 

     Such early flights were still considered newsworthy for 1910.  On the day Seymour crashed his plane, it was reported that a man named William Hilliard had flown a Burgess bi-plane for a distance of three miles while maintaining an altitude of just seventy-five feet in Newburyport, Massachusetts. 

    From Rhode Island, Mr. Seymour went to Garden City, Long Island, where he took part in another air exhibition in July.  Unfortunately, bad luck followed him there and he crashed again while making an in-flight turn.  The following September, Seymour’s plane was nearly hit in mid-air by another aircraft while flying at yet another exhibition.

Update February 14, 2017

     An article that appeared in the New York Tribune on March 2, 1910 stated that A. M. Herring and W. Starling Burgess, of the Herring-Burgess company, made a successful flight at Marblehead, Massachusetts, the day before.    


Providence Journal, “Aviator Soars In Air In Night Flight Here”, June 24, 1910, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Seymour, In Biplane Crashes Into Post.”, June 25, 1910, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Rushes Aeroplane Repairs”, June 26, 1910, Pg. 2

New York Times, “Aeroplane Hits Post”, June 25, 1910

New York Times, “Three-Mile Flight In Five Minutes”, June 25, 1910

New York Times, “Seymour Machine Wrecked”, July 28, 1910

(Woonsocket) Evening Call, “Airship Damaged”, April 23, 1910, Pg.1

New York Tribune, “New Style Flier – Herring And Burgess Have A Successful Trial At Marblehead”, March 2, 1910

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