by M. Mouillard
I had already tested approximately the working of my aeroplane by jumping down from the height of a few feet. I knew that it would carry my weight, but I was afraid to experiment in the wind before the home folks, and time dragged wearily with me until I knew just what the machine would do.
I did not want to expose myself to possible ridicule, and I had succeeded by a series of profound combinations and pretexts in sending everybody away, and as soon as their backs were turned, I strolled into the prairie with my apparatus upon my shoulders.
Nearby there was a wagon road, raised some 5 feet above the plain.* * * Then came a little puff of wind, and it also came into my head to jump over that ditch. I used to leap across easily without my apparatus, but I thought I might try it armed with my aeroplane; so took a a good run across the road and jumped the ditch as usual.
But, oh, horrors! Once across the ditch my feet did not come down to earth; I was gliding on the air and making vain efforts to land, for my aeroplane had set out on a cruise. I dangled only one foot from the soil, but, do what I would, I could not reach it, and I was skimming along without the power to stop.
At last my feet touched the earth. I fell forward on my hands, broke one of the wings, and all was over; but, goodness, how frightened I had been! I was saying to myself that if even a light wind gust occurred, it would toss me up 30 to 40 feet into the air, and then surely upset me backward, so that I would fall on my back. This I knew perfectly for I understood the defects of my machine. I was poor, and I had not been able to treat myself to a more complete aeroplane. All's well that ends well. I then measured the distance between my toe marks and found it to be 138 feet.
Here is the rationale of the thing. In making my jump I acquired a speed of 11 to14 miles per hour, and just as I crossed the ditch I must have met a puff of the rising wind. It probably was traveling some 8 to 11 miles per hour, and the two speeds added together produced enough pressure to carry my weight.
I cannot say that on this occasion I appreciated the delights of traveling in the air. I was too much alarmed, and yet never will I forget the strange sensations produced by this gliding.
courtesy of Steve Remington - CollectAir
EDITOR'S NOTE: Why aspiring aviators left home for their secret exploits is suggested by the diary of M. Mouillard (1865) in explanation of the occasional discovery of new Early Birds.
If you search the net using Google in "M. Mouillard", you will find about 36 links. One of the most comprehensive is:
SALUTING THE MEN AND WOMEN OF AVIATION HISTORY
Another of the more interesting ones is the following.
by Octave Chanute
This site provides the entire classic book by Octave Chanute online. If you have the time, and are sufficiently interested, you can read the whole book by just clicking on the title. If you prefer to go directly to the entries involving M. Mouillard, just click on this:
If you have any more information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper