Thomas Scott Baldwin

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Thomas Scott Baldwin
Thomas Scott Baldwin.jpg
Born (1854-06-30)June 30, 1854
Marion County, Missouri
Died May 17, 1923(1923-05-17) (aged 68)
Occupation Balloonist
Spouse(s) Cary Poole
Parents Samuel Yates Baldwin

Thomas Scott Baldwin (June 30, 1854 – May 17, 1923) was a pioneer balloonist and U.S. Army major during World War I.[1] He was the first American to descend from a balloon by parachute.

Early career[edit]

He was born on June 30, 1854 to Jane and Samuel Yates Baldwin.[2] He worked as a brakeman on the Illinois railroad, then joined a circus working as an acrobat. In 1875 he started an act combining trapeze and a hot air balloon.[3] On January 30, 1885 he made one of the earliest recorded parachute jumps from a balloon.

Powered balloons[edit]

In 1900, Baldwin created a motorized balloon. He used a motorcycle engine built by Glenn Hammond Curtiss and an aerodynamic cigar-shaped, hydrogen filled, balloon. He created the dirigible "California Arrow", which underwent the first controlled circular flight in America on August 3, 1904. The aircraft was piloted by Roy Knabenshue at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.[4] The Army Signal Corps paid him $10,000 for a dirigible that could be used for sustained and controlled navigation. Baldwin created a dirigible that was 95 feet (29 m) long and powered by a new, more powerful Curtiss engine. The Army bought it and designated its first dirigible "SC-I" (Signal Corps Dirigible Number 1). Baldwin picked up the sobriquet: "Father of the American Dirigible." He received the Aero Club of America's first balloon pilot certificate.

Airplane[edit]

In 1910 Baldwin designed his own airplane, and it was built by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. It used a 25 horsepower (19 kW), four-cylinder Curtiss engine that was later replaced by a Curtiss V-8 engine.

On September 10, 1910 Baldwin made history with the first airplane flight over the Mississippi River. The St. Louis flight started just east of Bellefontaine Cemetery. Baldwin and his Red Devil plane took off at 5:11 p.m. 200,000 citizens lined the riverfront on both sides to watch the red biplane fly from the north St. Louis field and land in Illinois across the river from Arsenal Street. On the return flight, the aviator astounded the crowds by flying under both the Eads and McKinley bridges at fifty miles per hour. Baldwin landed at 6:05 back at his starting place.

Baldwin flew it at an air meet in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 7, 1910 and October 8, 1910 then took his airplane to Belmont, New York. He put together a company of aerial performers including J.C. "Bud" Mars and Tod Shriver in December 1910 and toured countries in Asia, making the first airplane flights in many of those locations. The troupe returned to the United States in the spring of 1911.

Red Devil[edit]

Baldwin's Red Devil, located at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

When he returned from the Pacific tour, Baldwin began testing a new airplane at Mineola, New York. The new aircraft was similar to the basic Curtiss Pusher design but was constructed of steel tubing instead of wood. The aircraft was constructed by C. and A. Wittemann of Staten Island, New York, and was powered by a 60 horsepower (45 kW), Hall-Scott V-8. It was capable of 60 mph (97 km/h). Baldwin named his new aircraft the "Red Devil III", and thereafter each of his designs would be called a "Baldwin Red Devil". Tony Jannus flew actress Julia Bruns in a Red Devil on October 12, 1913, in a New York Times Derby.

Baldwin at the wheel of the Red Devil

In 1914 he returned to dirigible design and development, and built the U.S. Navy's first successful dirigible, the DN-I. He began training airplane pilots and managed the Curtiss School at Newport News, Virginia. One of his students was Billy Mitchell, who would later become an advocate of American military air power.

When the United States entered the World War I, Baldwin volunteered his services to the United States Army. He was commissioned a captain in the Aviation Section, U. S. Signal Corps and appointed Chief of Army Balloon Inspection and Production. Consequently, he personally inspected every lighter-than-air craft built for and used by the Army during the war. He was promoted to the rank of major during the war.

After the war, he joined the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, as a designer and manufacturer of their airships.

Death[edit]

He died on May 17, 1923, in Buffalo, New York, at the age of 69.[5][6][7] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

Aero Club of America licenses[edit]

  • Balloon Pilot Certificate #1
  • Airship Pilot Certificate #9
  • Airplane Pilot Certificate #7[8]

Legacy[edit]

Baldwin was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1964.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dirigible Anniversary". New York Times. October 28, 1944. Retrieved 2008-05-05. "Forty years ago this week the first successful flight of a dirigible airship in this country was made. A. Roy Knabenshue took off from the aeronautic concourse of the St. Louis World's Fair grounds in Capt. Thomas Scott Baldwin's "California Arrow," and a ..." 
  2. ^ a b "Thomas Scott Baldwin". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  3. ^ "Baldwin Red Devil". Retrieved 21 October 2010. 
  4. ^ "Baldwin's Airship Makes A Successful Flight". The New York Times. 31 October 1904. 
  5. ^ "Died". Time (magazine). May 28, 1923. Retrieved 2008-08-05. "Major Thomas Scott Baldwin, 69, pioneer in aviation and the inventor of the parachute." 
  6. ^ "Major Baldwin, Pioneer Balloonist.". New York Times. May 18, 1923. Retrieved 2008-05-05. "Thomas Scott Baldwin of Quincy, one of the pioneer flyers and in this country, died in the ... Hospital here ..." 
  7. ^ "Major Baldwin". Time (magazine). May 28, 1923. Retrieved 2008-08-05. "Next in the air but on a bed of sickness Major Thomas Scott Baldwin died in Buffalo at the age of 69. Long associated with aeronautics, " Cap " Baldwin was the originator of the parachute and was the first man to dare descend in one—in San Francisco in 1885. For many years he flew and manufactured balloons, dirigibles and planes. In 1893 he operated at the World's Fair in Chicago the first balloons owned by the United States Army. During the war he was Chief of the Army Balloon Inspection Service." 
  8. ^ Aeronautical Society of America (1911). Aeronautics the American magazine of aerial locomotion 8: 222. 

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