Frederick Marriott

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For the politician, see Fred Marriott (politician).

Frederick Marriott (c. 1805 – December 16, 1884) was a publisher, early promoter of aviation and creator of the Avitor Hermes Jr., the first unmanned aircraft to fly by its own power in the United States. He was described as "an English gentlemen, of eccentric habits, much shrewdness and enterprise, and entire originality" by the publisher of the newspaper Northern Indianian on March 19, 1874. Marriott is credited for inventing the term "aeroplane," and intended to build an air transport system that would bring people from New York to California without the perils of the normal voyage of the 19th century. The company he formed (with Andrew Smith Hallidie) in 1866 was named the Aerial Steam Navigation Company.[1]


  • 1856–1928 San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser.
  • London Illustrated News.
  • Pacific Coast Mining Journal.
  • 1867–1876 California China Mail and Flying Dragon.
  • 1854–1855 California Mail Bag.
  • California News Notes.

Frederick Marriott is credited as the publisher of the San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser, which was subtitled, "The Authorized Organ of the Aerial Steam Navigation Company". One of the lead columns of the News Letter was named "Town Crier" and was written by Major Ambrose Bierce.[2]

While Marriott's name was mentioned in one reference as a founder of the London Illustrated News, this does not seem to be the same publication as the Illustrated London News, which was initiated in 1842 in London, at a time when Marriott was already an established publisher, but not, seemingly, associated with the News. The early history of the Illustrated London News[3] does not mention Marriott.

The California China Mail and Flying Dragon was a Chinese language publication and one of the first sources of advertisements encouraging Chinese emigrants to work on the Western railway. It was subtitled, "Issued Every China Steamer Day."

The California News Notes was illustrated and many of the woodcuts, typically depicting the linkages of various railway lines, remain popular with collectors.

As a publisher, Marriott was one of the first to print works from Mark Twain in his newspapers.

First flight[edit]

In 1841, in London, England, Marriott was one of three board members of the Aerial Transit Company (the other two were John Stringfellow and William Samuel Henson). Marriott was responsible for the illustrations and publicity campaign for their planned airship, the "Ariel". The airplane captured the imagination of the public and the company constructed and flew a small glider, but after a failure to build a larger working model and lacking funds, the company failed. Henson married and relocated to the United States, while Stringfellow continued aeronautical experiments. Marriott moved to California during the Gold Rush of 1849.[4]

Hermes Avitor Jr., replica, Hiller Aviation Museum

The Hermes Avitor Jr. was built in the basement of the publishing building largely by candlelight and was flown at Emeryville, California's Shellmound Park racetrack. According to a Scientific American journalist (July 31, 1869) the aircraft took about 6 minutes to fill with air and flew at about 5 miles per hour. On a subsequent flight, however, the aircraft burned completely and was lost. A replica of the craft is displayed at the Hiller Aviation Museum.[5] This was not a manned craft.[6]

Black Friday, a stock market crash during 1869 ended the efforts of Marriott to fly a lighter-than-air craft, although he did work on a heavier-than-air triplane in the mid-1870s. John Joseph Montgomery was inspired by these experiments and became a significant figure in the history of flight.

Frederick Marriott died in San Francisco, CA on December 16, 1884.[2]



  1. ^ Williams, Reub (1874-03-19). "A Warsaw Boy in London". Northern Indianian (YesterYear in Print). 
  2. ^ a b "Frederick Marriott". The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Retrieved January 20, 2007. 
  3. ^ "The Early History of The Illustrated London News". The Illustrated London News Home Page. 
  4. ^ 'How invention begins' By John H. Lienhard, Oxford University Press US, 2006, pages 26-29, ISBN 0-19-530599-X
  5. ^ "Avitor". Hiller Aviation Museum web site. 
  6. ^ [1]