Skylark

Howard Mansfield, Author University Press of New England $26 (264p) ISBN 978-0-87451-891-7
The considerable entertainment value of Mansfield's account of a forgotten aviation pioneer who was also an inventor, a liar and a swindler derives more from the absorbing subject than the author's workmanlike telling. Harry Atwood (1884-1967), a graduate of the Wright Brothers flying school in Dayton, Ohio, attracted attention with his headline-grabbing exploits, including a daredevil flight over New York City, during which his biplane was buffeted by dangerous winds, and a trip to Washington, D.C., at the end of which he landed his plane on the White House lawn. Mansfield (In the Memory House) draws on aviation history as well as interviews with several of Atwood's children to produce a straightforward account of Atwood's checkered career. After he gave up exhibition flights, Atwood patented a wide variety of inventions, including an ""airmobile""--a four-passenger aircraft built from a single birch tree that would sell for the price of a Chevrolet. Atwood embarked on a long career of failed inventions, bankruptcy and court cases brought by angry stockholders who believed they had been cheated. Mansfield provides an engaging account of early aviation history, and his book evokes the early part of the century when Americans embraced the promise of technology, when progress--even in the form of an airmobile--seemed possible and limitless. B&w photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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