Harvard-Boston's Great Aero Meet - Boston, Mass. Aug 19.
Daily Journal and Tribune, Knoxville, Tennessee:
August 19, 1910,
Via email from Bob Davis - 9-2-03
     "No aviation meet held in this country and probably none yet held in the world has had such a representative list of aviators as is assured in the Harvard-Boston aero meet, September 3 to September 13, according to the list of entrants to date announced tonight. The entry list is truly international and includes seventeen individual aviators and eleven types of air navigating machines. There is certain to be keen competition for the $40,000 hung up as prizes in a dozen events. The entrants follow:
  Walter Brookins
Arthur Johnson
Glenn H. Curtiss
Charles F. Willard
M. Didier Masson
A.V. Roe,
J. Graham White
William M. Hilliard
J. M. All_as
Ernest P. Lincoln,
Clifford D. Harmon
Captain Thomas Baldwin
Jacques Delesseps
Dr. W. P. Christmas,
John G. Stratton
Horace F. Kearner
Greely S. Curtis
Wright biplanes
Wright biplanes
Curtiss biplanes
Curtiss biplanes
Vendome aeroplane
Roe Triplane
Farman biplane & Bleriot monoplane;
Herring-Burgess biplane
Harvard biplane;
Christmas biplane
Burgess-Curtiss aeroplane
Pfitzer monoplane
Bleriot monoplane

E Lillian Todd
Miss E. L. Todd in her plane with Didier Masson - 1910
Collection of Dean Unger

New York Woman's Years of Effort Are at Last Crowned with Success.
     After years of effort, Miss E. Lillian Todd, of No. 131 West Twenty-third street, realized her ambition yesterday, when she had the pleasure of seeing a biplane, the work of her hands and brain, fly across the Garden City aviation field.
     After having the machine built numerous times, Miss Todd, about four months ago, announced that she had a biplane which she thought would fly. She then tried to get an engine, but met with repeated defeat, as the engines which she tried were not suitable. Finally a modified Rinek motor was declared satisfactory.
     A good sized crowd was on hand to witness the first attempt to fly the biplane. Mr. Didier Masson was the aviator. He ran the machine across the ground, then went to the air for twenty feet and made a turn at the far end, returning to the starting place, where he was enthusiastically received by Miss Todd and the crowd.
     The upper planes of the biplane are shaped somewhat like a bird's wings when in flight, while the lower planes are level. The chassis is about five feet high.
This clipping from the New York Herald, Nov 8, 1910
is from the collection of Dean Unger

     To read the rest of the story, which offers more photographs, click on the title above.

Didier Masson
Collection of William Goltman, 2-4-05

Didier Masson
Member of the Ivan R. Gates "Flying Circus"
Lyons, Iowa (now part of Clinton) at the Lyons Fair Grounds
on May 18 & 19, 1912.
Collection of William Goltman, 2-4-05

Didier Masson
Collection of William Goltman, 2-4-05

Air-Sea Engagement

Didier Masson's 1913 attack on a Federalist gunboat at the behest of Mexican rebels was one of the earliest airstrikes carried out against a naval vessel.
By David H. Grover
Originally published in the AVIATION HISTORY Magazine Reproduced courtesy of David H. Grover, 1-3-06

"Didier Masson sat in the pilot's seat and warmed up his open biplane on a primitive runway in the hills of the Mexican state of Sonora. He was apprehensive over what was about to take place. A French citizen who had entered Mexico illegally from the United States, he was not concerned that he was about to become a participant in a revolution of a country in which he had no stake. Ideologies were no problem to a mercenary, and it was clearly Masson's passion for flying, not his passion for the revolutionary cause, that had taken him to Mexico. His concern, instead, was that he knew very little about what his new flying assignment would demand of him in terms of skill, and even less about how much danger was involved."
Editor's Note:

     This lead paragraph was excerpted from the article "Pioneering Air-Sea Engagement" which I found by doing a search on the net for "Didier Masson." back in 1997 On the entry page of the article were found several photos, as well as a link to the full text of the article from the AVIATION HISTORY magazine. In the full length article, which was a fascinating story of this attack on a naval vessel by an aeroplane, were several references to other Early Birds including,
Glenn L. Martin, Edwin C. Parsons, Phil Rader and Gustavo Salinas.
      Sadly, between the time I found it on the net in 1997 and the current date, (1-3-06), it disappeared. However, with the help of the waybackmachine.org website, I was able to recover the entire story from their archieve. Then, with the help of the internet, I was able to contact the author, David H. Grover, who has kindly allowed me to reproduce a copy of his article on this website. To read the full text of the article, click on:
Pioneering Air-Sea Engagement

Potter Hotel
from the Penny Postcards from California,
A USGenWeb Archives Web Site
Didier's Wife, Marian
via email from Beverly A. Cowell, 7-6-05
Hello Mr. Cooper:
     I spoke with my mother last night. Mr. Masson's wife's name was Marian. She was a good friend of my grandmother. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Masson fell on hard times. Upon seeing the state of Mrs. Masson's refrigerator (a lot of dog food for a woman who didn't own a dog), my grandmother started having her over for supper. Mrs. Masson would spend the night and have breakfast also before being driven home with a load of leftovers. Mrs. Masson, being a very proper woman, usually brought with her a hostess gift, usually something she had embroidered. I have two pictures and several tablecloths, napkins, and table runners, etc. that she made, most likely, during her many travels.
      I know that the Masson's were co-owners of the Potter Hotel in Santa Barbara before it was destroyed either by fire in 1923 or by the earthquake in 1925; I'm not sure which. I don't know more than this but will speak with my mother more this weekend.
     My husband and I recently built a house and are still unpacking. When I find my camera I will photograph the items that I have and will send them to you.
     In the meantime, I hope the above information helps at least a little bit.
Editor's Note: I thank Bev for sending this source of insight into the later life of Didier's wife. Also, her mention of the Potter Hotel offered a fascinating glimpse into another feature of his life, after aviation.
      The postcard which shows "Hotel Potter" comes from the USGenWeb Archives website and is just one of many fascinating postcards from the period which can be enjoyed by a visit to the site.
      If time permits, I suggest that you put "Hotel Potter" +"Santa Barbara" into a search engine and visit some of the 178 links which appear.

     If you search for "Didier Masson +aviation" using the Google search engine, (3-22-06), you will find about 159 links. Among the most interesting are the following. However if time permits, and you are sufficiently interested, you should visit some of the other sites.

Who was Didier Masson?
     Just recently, (3-21-06), I received the following email message.:

I have added a page about where Didier Masson is buried. Unfortunately, he lies underneath another tomb. I have contacted the French Cosulate to see if we can perhaps do something to mark his grave.
I have a web page with the basic info and photos of his burial place. You can see it at:
Who was Didier Masson?
Ed Bertschy
Art Director
Securaplane Technologies

     When you visit this website, you will find that Ed has made a copy of Didier's obituary available to us. It offers a comprehensive revue of his life and career and includes a large photograph of him in his plane. It is obvious that Ed has done a lot of basic research regarding the current burial place of Didier and hopefully we will be able to help him in his project to confirm its identity and to erect a more suitable monument to this pioneer aviator.. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.

The Foreign Aviators of the Division of the North
The Mexican REVOLUTIONARY FIGHT from 1910 to 1920 constituted one of the first wars of this century in which the airplane was used as a battle weapon. The Italian Army was first in using the airship in war during its conquest of the Turkish territory of Cirenaica and Tripolitania between 1911 and 1912. They also used it against the belligerent forces that fought in the War of the Balkan Mountains from 1912 to 1913,1
     Almost immediately, these " Constitutionalist " rebels tried to smuggle an airplane across the border in an attempt to provide air support to their dispersed armed groups that fought in the north of Mexico. The airplane they acquired in this manner was a twin-engine Martin Pusher equipped with a Curtiss motor of 75 horsepower. It then comprised the entire airforce of the Army of the Northwest of Alvaro Obregón. With this airplane, piloted by the French Didier Masson and the Mexican Gustavo Salinas Camiña, several bombings were carried out in the summer of 1913 and the spring of 1914. As part of the rebel operations in the regions the northwest of Sinaloa and Nayarit, the airplane attacked several groups of naval forces and infantry. Three other Moisant military single-engine airplanes in tandem, designed by Harold Kantner for the Moisant Aviation School and Company, were dispatched to Chihuahua to be united with that portion of the Constitutionalist forces.
Editor's Note:
The article excerpted above is a treasure of information on several of the Early Birds. It is written in Spanish and I will try to translate the relevant portions as time permits. In the meantime, if you read Spanish, I highly recommend that you go to the original by clicking on the Title


and GUTS
by Bill Rhode
Lloyd Geraldson
The Story of the Gates Flying Circus.
Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970.
ISBN 0-8046-1424-5

Sample of Contents
Transcribed by Bob Davis, 7-9-05
"Ivan Gates became interested in aviation in 1911 and built home-made gliders. The new, sensational appealed to him. He bought the rebuilt wreck of a Green Pusher plane and taught himself to fly. He had a bunch of contracts in his pocket to fly the Green at early exhibitions when a serious auto acident prevented him.
The noted French flier Didier Masson was over here in 1912 and Gates persuaded Masson to fly for him and fufill the contracts. Masson was a big hit.
Gates then added Nels J. Nelson, Fred Hoover, and Bird Boy Art Smith to his entourage."
"In the flambouyant years of the Early Birds just before the war, Gates booked exhibitions for Bob Fowler, Harry Blakely, Harvey Crawford, Thad Kerns and Tom Gunn."

via email from Troy Tate, 11-1-07
      I'm curious if Didier Masson was the French pilot who crashed into motorcycle boardtrack racer Joe Wolter at Oakland, Ca. Motordrome January 7, 1912. Niether rider or pilot were seriously injured and Masson flew again the same day after repairing the left wing of his plane. The article was in the New York Times in 1912 but did not give the first name of the pilot. Even Goodyear Rubber Company took notice since both the motorcycle and the plane were clad with Goodyear tires. Even the plane's covering was a Goodyear Product. I can't find any other info about this incident and am curious what type of plane he was flying. The paper said he had taken it up 7,500ft.
Editor's Note: I suspect that the brief note in the description of the book cited above, probably confirms that Didier Masson was indeed the pilot named in the New York Times article. At least the circumstantial evidence is persuasive. If you can confirm or refute this conclusion, please contact us.

Didier Masson was born February 23 1886, He died in 1950
From Personal communication from Pete Jones, 5-10-08
The Early Birds of Aviation
Roster of Members, 1996
If you have any information on this early flier,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper
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