Roy Knabenshue’s Airship – 1907

Roy Knebenshue’s Airship

Brockton, Massachusetts – 1907

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A 1907 postcard view of Roy Knabenshue's airship

A 1907 postcard view of Roy Knabenshue’s airship

Brockton Fair Postcard Roy Knabenshue

Brockton Fair Postcard
Roy Knabenshue

Knabenshue’s Airship

Brockton, MA – October 6, 1915

Brockton, Massachusetts – October 6, 1915 


   balloon  On the afternoon of October 6, 1915, two men, Emil Olsen, and Berton Eager, were scheduled to give performances at the Brockton Fair by jumping from a balloon using parachutes.  Eager went first, rising to the appointed altitude and making a successful drop.

     About an hour later it was Olsen’s turn.  As an estimated crowd of 35,000 people looked on, Olsen rose from the fairgrounds after declaring that he was going to do his friend “one better”.   His plan was to jump using four parachutes, only using one at a time. 

     After the balloon had risen to several thousand feet, Olsen made his jump.  The first parachute opened perfectly, which he then dropped away from and opened the second, which also opened as it should.  The third did likewise, but for some reason the fourth failed to open while Olsen was still about 5,000 feet in the air.  At first the crowd though it was all part of the act, but after a few seconds realized something was wrong.  Olsen plummeted to the ground and landed in an open area just outside the fairgrounds.   

     Mr. Olsen was 22-years-old, and lived at 244 Shawmut Avenue, Boston, Mass.

     Source: Vermont Phoenix, “Killed At Brockton Fair”, October 8, 1915

Roy Knabenshue’s Airship – 1907

Roy Knabenshue’s Airship – 1907

A 1907 postcard view of Roy Knabenshue's airship

A 1907 postcard view of Roy Knabenshue’s airship

      Roy Knabenshue (1875-1960) was an early aviator known for his airship flights.   Among his many accomplishments, he was the first to successfully fly an airship in New England. The following article appeared in the Falmouth Enterprise on September 14, 1907

     “The first successful flights of any airship in New England were made by Roy Knabenshue at Brockton fair last year.  During the four days of the fair Knabenshue made nine successful flights, making a record never before equaled.  This year Knabenshue will be an attraction at the Brockton fair Oct. 1, 2, 3, 4 and promises some aerial feats never before shown in this country.  This year the Brockton fair offers its patrons $40,000 in purses and attractions; every department larger and better than ever and many new attractions never before seen on any fair grounds.  The Martland band, Salem cadet band, and Milo Burke band, three of the best bands in New England, will furnish inspiring harmony; Babcock will loop the loop and leap the gap, a thrill to make thrillers thrill; a stage show of 15 top-line acts are a few tips of the coming biggest, busiest and best of out-door shows.” 

     A New York Times article dated August 7, 1906,  told of a balloon flight over New England made by Roy Knabenshue and Dr. Julian P. Thomas.  It was described as “one of the most successful balloon trips yet undertaken in this country.”  The purpose of the voyage was to test a new guide rope and “water anchor”

     The trip began at night in New York City, under the light of a bright moon which made for great visibility.  After a few miles they encountered fog conditions, and hailed a startled boat crew to ask their location.   They stopped over for breakfast in Noank, Connecticut, before proceeding along the Connecticut coastline, eventually reaching Massachusetts.  They came down at a location known as Brant Rock in the town of Marshfield.    As the balloon alighted, winds dragged it towards the water until its movement was halted by the anchor.  The two men then climbed out and secured it to a fence.  The only injury was a minor cut to Mr. Kanbenshue’s head.   

     There is more information about Mr. Knabenshue to be found at other internet sites.  

Update: November 25, 2017

     In early October of 1907, Roy Knabenshue was performing at the Danbury Fair in Danbury, Connecticut, when the motor to his airship suddenly failed while he was in the air.  With no way to control the ship, he was forced to descent, and came down in a tree.  Knabenshue was not hurt.

     Source: The Daily Morning Journal And Currier, (New Haven, Ct.), October 12, 1907   

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