Harriet Quimby

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Harriet Quimby
Harriet Quimby 054.png
Quimby circa 1912
Born (1875-05-11)May 11, 1875
Arcadia, Michigan, U.S.
Died July 1, 1912(1912-07-01) (aged 37)
Squantum, Massachusetts, U.S.
Occupation Writer, aviator
Parent(s) Ursula (née Cook) and William Quimby

Harriet Quimby (May 11, 1875 – July 1, 1912) was an early American aviator and a movie screenwriter. In 1911, she was awarded a U.S. pilot's certificate by the Aero Club of America, becoming the first woman to gain a pilot's license in the United States. In 1912, she became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Although Quimby lived only to the age of thirty-seven, she had a major influence upon the role of women in aviation.

Early life and early career[edit]

A historical marker has been erected near the now abandoned farmhouse in Arcadia Township, Manistee County, Michigan where Quimby was born. After her family moved to San Francisco, California, in the early 1900s, she became a journalist. She moved to New York City in 1903 to work as a theater critic for Leslie's Illustrated Weekly and more than 250 of her articles were published over a nine-year period.[1]

Quimby became interested in aviation in 1910, when she attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament on Long Island, New York[1] and met John Moisant, a well-known aviator and operator of a flight school, and his sister Matilde.[citation needed] On August 1, 1911, she took her pilot's test and became the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviator's certificate.[1][2] Matilde Moisant soon followed and became the nation's second certified female pilot.[3]


In 1911 Quimby authored seven screenplays or scenarios that were made into silent film shorts by Biograph Studios. All seven were directed by director D. W. Griffith. Stars in her films included Florence La Badie, Wilfred Lucas, and Blanche Sweet. Quimby had a small acting role in one movie.[4]

Vin Fiz[edit]

The Vin Fiz Company, a division of Armour Meat Packing Plant of Chicago, recruited Quimby as the spokesperson for the new grape soda, Vin Fiz, after the death of Calbraith Perry Rodgers in April 1912. Her distinctive purple aviator uniform and image graced many of the advertising pieces of the day.[5]

English Channel[edit]

On April 16, 1912, Quimby took off from Dover, England, en route to Calais, France and made the flight in 59 minutes, landing about 25 miles (40 km) from Calais on a beach in Hardelot-Plage, Pas-de-Calais. She became the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel.[6] Her accomplishment received little media attention, however, as the sinking of the RMS Titanic the day before consumed the interest of the public and filled newspapers.[7]


On July 1, 1912, she flew in the Third Annual Boston Aviation Meet at Squantum, Massachusetts. Ironically, although she had obtained her ACA certificate to be allowed to participate in ACA events, the Boston meet was an unsanctioned contest. Quimby flew out to Boston Light in Boston Harbor at about 3000 feet, then returned and circled the airfield.[8] William Willard, the organizer of the event and father of the aviator Charles Willard, was a passenger in her brand-new two-seat Bleriot monoplane. At an altitude of 1,500 feet (460 m)[9] the aircraft unexpectedly pitched forward for reasons still unknown. Both Willard and Quimby were ejected from their seats and fell to their deaths, while the plane "glided down and lodged itself in the mud".[10]

Harriet Quimby was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York. The following year her remains were moved to the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.[citation needed]


The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome's restored and flyable Anzani-powered Blériot XI, which bears the Blériot factory's serial number 56, and the still-current registration number N60094, could be the aircraft that Quimby was flying in 1912 during the Boston Aviation Meet.[citation needed] The previously wrecked aircraft that now is flown at Old Rhinebeck was found stored in a barn in Laconia, New Hampshire, in the 1960s and fully restored to flying condition, most likely by Cole Palen, ORA's founder.[citation needed]

A 1991 United States airmail postage stamp featured Quimby.[11] She is memorialized in two official Michigan historical markers, one in Coldwater, and one at her birthplace in Manistee County.[12] In 2012 Quimby was inducted into the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame.[13]



Selected coverage in The New York Times[edit]

  • The New York Times, May 11, 1911, page 6, "Woman in trousers daring aviator; Long Island folk discover that miss Harriet Quimby is making flights at Garden City"
  • The New York Times, August 2, 1911, page 7, "Miss Quimby wins air pilot license"
  • The New York Times, September 5, 1911, page 5, "Girl flies by night at Richmond fair; Harriet Quimby darts about in the moonshine above an admiring crowd"
  • The New York Times, September 18, 1911, page 7, "Women aviators to race; the Misses Moisant, Quimby, Scott, and Dutrieu at Nassau meet"
  • The New York Times, September 28, 1911, page 2, "Miss Quimby's flight"
  • The New York Times, April 17, 1912, page 15, "Quimby flies English Channel"
  • The New York Times, June 21, 1912, page 14, "Woman to fly with mail; Miss Quimby Plans Air Trip from Boston to New York"
  • The New York Times, July 2, 1912, page 1, "Miss Quimby dies in airship fall"
  • The New York Times, July 3, 1912, page 7, "Quimby tragedy unexplained"
  • The New York Times, July 4, 1912, page 7, "Services for Harriet Quimby to-night"
  • The New York Times, July 5, 1912, page 13, "Eulogizes Harriet Quimby"
  • The New York Times, July 7, 1912, magazine, "When aviation becomes not only dangerous but foolhardy"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Tallman, Jill W. (August 2, 2011). "Harriet Quimby profile". AOPA Pilot. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ AOPA Pilot: 41. May 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "An American Lady Aviator". Flight. August 26, 1911. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 
  4. ^ Internet Movie Database, Harriet Quimby (and links therein); accessed April 16, 2009.
  5. ^ Holden, Henry M. "Vin Fiz reborn". Airport journal. Retrieved August 14, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Miss Quimby Flies The Channel"Flight 20 April 1912
  7. ^ New York Times, [1] ; accessed 2009.04.16.
  8. ^ Harriet Quimby Crash at Squantum
  9. ^ Biography, findagrave.com; accessed May 10, 2015.
  10. ^ "Harriet Quimby profile". centennialofflight.net. Retrieved May 10, 2015. 
  11. ^ 50 cent Quimby airmail stamp.
  12. ^ Michigan Historical markers
  13. ^ Melanson, Alana (May 16, 2012). "Fitchburg pays tribute to first woman to fly across English Channel". Fitchburg, Massachusetts: Sentinel & Enterprise. Retrieved May 16, 2012. 

External links[edit]