About This Artifact
In the afternoon of January 13, 1913 pilot Harry M. Jones took off from Boston’s Franklin Park Field on what proved to be, for many reasons, a memorable flight to New York. He had on board a mail pouch filled with packages of fruit and nine pots of Boston baked beans which were to be delivered to local officials on stops along his route. The pouch weighed 25 pounds and was the first parcel post carried by air. He flew a Burgess-Wright model B biplane with scheduled landings in Providence, New London, New Haven, Bridgeport and, ultimately, New York City.
His first misadventure occurred shortly after takeoff from Providence when sudden strong cross winds resulted in a crash landing that shattered several of the plane’s wooden ribs which took two weeks to repair. Mechanical problems on the next leg of his flight forced him to land in a field on Walter Fish’s farm in Mystic, Connecticut. The Niantic camp ground was his next stop on February 28 where he ran over rocks that cut his tires—more delay! New Haven was reached on March 4, where he picked up eight letters. After a landing in Bridgeport prolonged by snow, Jones’ flight was interrupted by engine trouble and he crash-landed in a school-yard in Mamaroneck, NY. After another delay for repairs he took off at night for New York, and when he thought he was near the city looked for a place to land. He crash-landed in Flatbush on the grounds of the Lond Island State Hospital at Flatbush. Only slightly injured, dressed in his aviator’s suit with goggles and electrically warmed gloves, he encountered a watchman who was understandably startled by the strange apparition in front of him. Jones, in search of a telephone, was directed to a building but was reportedly warned: “I wouldn’t go there if I was you—they’ll get you!” Undeterred, Jones found a telephone, and, once the mail was retrieved, took the train and subway to New York City and handed it to the city’s postmaster on March 10. Total time for the “flight”? –56 days!
Harry M. Jones survived several more crashes (including one into Narragansett Bay in May 1913) in the early years of flight and passed away in 1973.
Questions for Further Thought
- What motivated early aviators to take to the skies?
- How many of these early pilots were women?
- How rapidly did aircraft and motor design evolve between the time of the Wright Brothers' flight and Jones' in 1913? What were the most significant advances?