An Airplane!

An Airplane!

On September 29, 1910, my grandmother, Ethel Ryan Downing, hitched up the buggy and took her month old son Orville [I never asked why he was named Orville. I don’t think he was named for Orville Wright but the plane was being hyped when he was born.] to town where she picked up her sister Cora Ryan Lipp, seven months pregnant. They stopped by their mother’s house but Lillie Margaret Wood Ryan absolutely refused to accompany them. She thought the plane might somehow harm her seven week old daughter, Ethel and Cora’s youngest sibling. Lillie didn’t think her daughters should go either. They weren’t afraid though and drove the buggy out to the big field on the south edge of town to see a real airplane.

There was a big race that day. The Wright Brothers bi-plane piloted by Walter Brookins, raced the Illinois Central train from Chicago to Springfield, a distance of 187 miles. Wilbur Wright was on the train. $10,000 was at stake.

The plane stopped twice to refuel, the second time in Mt. Pulaski, Illinois. Brookins lost a wheel on takeoff but he won the race.

The New York Times of September 30, 1910, proclaimed the news: Longest American Flight by Brookins; With Two Stops He Goes in Wright Biplane from Chicago to Springfield, 187 Miles. Loses Wheel, But Goes On. Declares It Was a Trying Experience. Believes Chicago to New York Race Is Practicable.

Later a pilot named Lindbergh would fly the mail over about the same the route as he flew the mail from St. Louis to Chicago with stops in Springfield and Peoria.

Ethel was one of Lida’s daughter-in-laws.

More pictures of the plane-train race here.

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