Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies

Lawrence Goldstone. Ballantine, $28 (448p) ISBN 978-0-345-53803-1
Goldstone (Lefty: An American Odyssey) delivers a riveting narrative about the pioneering era of aeronautics in America and beyond, centering on the intense rivalry between Wilbur and Orville Wright and Glenn Hammond Curtiss. At the dawn of the 20th century, while the Wrights were experimenting with flight at Kitty Hawk, Curtiss was designing engines and motorcycles in upstate New York. The controversial meeting of these competing tinkerers, at the Dayton Fair in 1906, spawned years of legal wrangling during the course of bitter patent wars. Meanwhile, excited masses packed the grandstands to witness the world’s newest sport wherein “spectacle coexisted with death.” According to Goldstone, the implacable animus of the Wrights towards Curtiss persists to this day as a proxy feud, since “historians of early flight tend to deify one and demonize the other.” Goldstone also profiles a slew of early aviators, including masterful daredevil Lincoln Beachey and powered flight’s first of many fatalities, U.S. Army Lt. Thomas Selfridge. This is a well-written, thoroughly researched work that is sure to compel readers interested in history, aviation, and invention. Goldstone raises questions of enduring importance regarding innovation and the indefinite exertion of control over ideas that go public. Photos. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/20/2014
Release date: 05/06/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 303 pages - 978-0-345-53804-8
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-345-53805-5
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