January 1909

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January 16, 1909: Mackay, David and Mawson become the first humans to reach the South Magnetic Pole

The following events occurred in January 1909:

January 1, 1909 (Friday)[edit]

  • The Old-Age Pensions Act 1908 went into effect in Great Britain, and the first payments were made to qualified persons at least 70 years old and whose income was less than 12 shillings per week.[1] Roughly 490,000 persons received the pension during the first year.[2]
  • Nadir of American race relations: The Disenfranchisement Act of 1908 took effect in Georgia, the last legislation designed to block African Americans from voting. The new law required a "literacy test", whereby a person had to explain the meaning of a section of the state constitution, if he owned less than 40 acres (160,000 m2) of property. Descendants of U.S. or Confederate military veterans were exempt from the test.[3]
  • The City of Honolulu and the County of Oahu were formally incorporated.[4]
  • Born: Barry Goldwater, U.S. Senator and presidential candidate; in Phoenix, Arizona (d. 1998)

January 2, 1909 (Saturday)[edit]

January 3, 1909 (Sunday)[edit]

January 4, 1909 (Monday)[edit]

January 5, 1909 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • Mulai Abd-el-Hafid was acknowledged to be the rightful Sultan of Morocco by France and other European powers. He would reign until 1912, when Morocco was made a French protectorate by the Treaty of Fez.[11]
  • Orville Wright told reporters, "I do not believe the aeroplane will ever take the place of trains or steamships for the carrying of passengers... I believe ultimately the aeroplane may be put to special uses in the carrying of passengers, but never in excess of 10 or 20 persons."[12]
  • Crawford County, Pennsylvania, ordered a 100-day quarantine of the towns of Springboro, Conneautville, Meadville, Brookville and Linesville because of an outbreak of rabies in western Pennsylvania.[13]
  • Methodist minister John H. Carmichael, of Adair, Michigan, disappeared shortly after departing for Columbus. The next day, body parts were found burning inside two stoves inside his church.[14] Though at first it was believed to be the dismembered body of Reverend Carmichael, subsequent investigation determined that the body was of Gideon Browning, and Carmichael was suspected of being a fugitive from murder.[15] The case, which had made front pages across America, ended when Carmichael committed suicide in Carthage, Illinois on January 11.[16]
  • Born: Stephen Cole Kleene, American mathematician; in Hartford, Connecticut (d. 1994)

January 6, 1909 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • The Great White Fleet, consisting of 16 U.S. Navy battleships sailing the globe in a display of American naval power, successfully completed its passage through the Suez Canal, passing from the Indian Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea. It was the largest group of ships to pass through up to that time, and the Canal had been closed to all other traffic. The ships would return to the United States on February 22.[17]
  • Germany assumed control of diamond mining in German Southwest Africa (modern day Namibia). Diamonds had been discovered there on June 23, 1908.[18]
  • "Albertus", a magician who billed himself as superior to Houdini and Brindamoor, nearly drowned after attempting to escape a tightly laced straitjacket after plunging into the waters off of Atlantic City, New Jersey. A crew from the government life-saving station came to his rescue.[19]

January 7, 1909 (Thursday)[edit]

January 8, 1909 (Friday)[edit]

  • The U.S. House of Representatives accepted, 212–35, a committee report condemning outgoing President Theodore Roosevelt, in effect voting to censure him. The same day, the U.S. Senate voted to direct its Judiciary Committee to investigate wrongdoing by the President during the Panic of 1907.[24] Roosevelt had, on December 8, 1908, included in his annual message to Congress the statement that Congress opposed the expansion of the Secret Service because there were "criminals in the legislative branch".[25]
  • Born: Willy Millowitsch; German actor and director, in Cologne (d. 1999)
  • Died: Harry Seeley, 69, British paleontologist (b. 1839)

January 9, 1909 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole, led by Ernest Shackleton, arrived further south than any prior expedition, at 88°23' S, within 97 nautical miles (180 km; 112 mi) of the Pole. On the 6th, Shackleton had realized that he did not have enough rations left to reach the pole, but planted the flag of the United Kingdom within less than 100 nautical miles (190 km). The crew then made its way back to Nimrod.[26]
  • Colombia formally recognized the independence of Panama, which had seceded in 1903 with the help of the United States. Under the terms of a trilateral treaty, Panama would pay "rental" to Colombia at the rate of $250,000 per annum for ten years, and the United States would give Colombia special privileges in the use of the canal.[27]
  • The Mauritanian emirate of Adrar became a French protectorate. Emir Shaykh al-Hasana was deposed and replaced by Sidi Ahmad wuld Ahmd 'Ayda.[28]
  • The very first issue of La Follette's Weekly Magazine was published, and opened with an article by Lincoln Steffens. Founded by U.S. Senator Robert M. La Follette, the new magazine billed itself as "A publication that will not mince words or suppress facts, when public welfare demands plain talk, about public men, legislative measures, or social and industrial wrongs.". La Follette's Weekly Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 1. In 1929, it would be re-branded as a monthly magazine and become The Progressive.
  • Born: Anthony Mamo, the first President of Malta (1974 to 1976); in Birkirkara (d. 2008)

January 10, 1909 (Sunday)[edit]

  • In Sion, Switzerland, 40 worshippers were killed and 60 others injured when their church collapsed during services. The pillars of an ancient crypt beneath the church had given way.[29]
  • The explosion at the Leiter Colliery in Zeigler, Illinois killed 26 coal miners. Only two men survived the blast.[30]

January 11, 1909 (Monday)[edit]

January 12, 1909 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • A mine explosion at Switchback, West Virginia killed at least 105 men and trapped another 100. The blast, which occurred at 8:30 in the morning, happened fifteen days after 51 men had been killed at the same mine (December 28, 1908).[35]
  • Died: Professor Hermann Minkowski, 44, Polish mathematician and colleague of Albert Einstein and David Hilbert (b. 1864); from sepsis from appendicitis. Less than four months earlier, Minkowski had presented the mathematical framework, now known as "Minkowski spacetime", by which Einstein's theory could be explained. Before he could extend his work, however, he became ill late in 1908 and developed peritonitis. Legend has it that on his deathbed at the hospital in Göttingen, he lamented, "What a pity that I have to die in the age of relativity's development."[36]

January 13, 1909 (Wednesday)[edit]

  • Determined to make one more demonstration of his toughness in his last months in office, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt set off to ride 100 miles (160 km) on horseback in one day. Accompanied by his military aide, Captain Archibald Butt, Navy Surgeon General Presley M. Rixey, and Surgeon C. D. Grayson, President Roosevelt set out at 3:40 a.m., riding to Warrenton, Virginia, and returned to the White House, the last 30 miles (48 km) in a blizzard, at 8:40 that evening.[37] The press, however, gave him credit for only 98 miles (158 km). When reporters asked him for a quote, the President replied, "It was bully."[38]
  • Carrie Nation, infamous for her destruction of American saloons, was arrested at Newcastle upon Tyne for vandalizing a British pub. Nation, on a visit to the United Kingdom, was later released on bail.[39]
  • Born:

January 14, 1909 (Thursday)[edit]

  • A methane explosion and fire at a coal mine in Ajka, Hungary, killed 55 miners.[40] A museum would be erected at the site of the Armin Akna coal mine in 1965, along with a memorial plaque.[41]
  • Died:
    • Arthur William à Beckett, 64, English journalist, playwright and author (b. 1844)
    • Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, 60, Imperial Russian Navy officer who commanded the Second Pacific Squadron and saw most of his ships sunk in the disastrous Battle of Tsushima, during the Russo-Japanese War (b. 1848). Rozhestvensky died in exile after having been court-martialed and taking full responsibility for the loss.

January 15, 1909 (Friday)[edit]

  • At Seoul, religious leader Na Cheol proclaimed the revival of the religion of Taejonggyo, announcing edicts for the worship of Dangun as the father and future savior of the Korean nation. According to tradition, Dangun Wanggeom (also called Tan'gun) had been the incarnation of the god Hanul and founded the Kingdom of Korea in 2333 BC. Japanese troops occupying Korea worked to suppress the nationalist religion.[42]
  • Born:
  • Died: Saint Arnold Janssen, 71, German Roman Catholic priest and missionary who founded the Society of the Divine Word (b. 1837); Janssen would be canonized in 2003 by Pope John Paul II.

January 16, 1909 (Saturday)[edit]

  • Edgeworth David, Douglas Mawson and Alistair Mackay became the first persons to reach the South Magnetic Pole—or rather, it reached them. The three geologists had arrived at a spot at 72°42' S the day before, and had determined with a magnetic dip compass that the dip was only 15 feet (4.6 m) from vertical. As described by Stonehouse, "There, they calculated that within 24 hours the shifting pole would come to them."[43] The Union Jack was planted at the spot and the explorers made their way back to the ship Nimrod.[44]
  • Born: Ethel Merman, American singer and actress; as Ethel Zimmerman in Queens, New York City (d. 1984)

January 17, 1909 (Sunday)[edit]

  • In Russia, a police decree issued banning music in all cinemas. The ban, which was soon rescinded, is believed by film historian Yuri Tsivian to have been an attempt to "extort bribes from exhibitors, since by that time music was already felt to be an essential accompaniment to films."[45] However, censors continued to ban the playing of music during the showing of any newsreels of the Tsar or his family.[46]

January 18, 1909 (Monday)[edit]

  • Robert Franklin Stroud of Juneau, Alaska, shot and killed Charlie Von Dahmer. Convicted of manslaughter at 18, Stroud spent the rest of his life in federal prisons. While in Leavenworth, where he murdered a guard, he raised canaries and authored two books, Diseases of Canaries and Stroud's Digest on the Diseases of Birds. He would be immortalized as The Birdman of Alcatraz in a book and a film of the same name. However, by the time that he was transferred to Alcatraz in 1942, his work with canaries had stopped. Stroud died on November 21, 1963.[47]
  • Congressman William Willett, Jr. (D-N.Y.) denounced outgoing President Theodore Roosevelt, in terms so outrageous that the House voted 126–78 to terminate his speech. The Washington Post described the speech as "so bitter and sensational that it seemed as though its author had raked the dictionary for adjectives to vilify the chief executive".[48] By the time that he said "the Gargoyle is about to grin its last grin", he was being ruled out of order, and he skipped to the end to say "the Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning will be out of power on March 4th." By voice vote on January 27, the House expunged the speech from the Congressional Record for "language improper".[49]

January 19, 1909 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • The Jersey Devil returned to the Pinelands of Southern New Jersey at 2:00 a.m., after an absence of more than 35 years. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Evans of Gloucester City told a reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin that the winged lizard had spent ten minutes on the roof of their woodshed. The Bulletin story, and an accompanying sketch, were soon picked up by papers across the nation.[50] The Washington Post described the creature as having "a head like a collie dog, and a face like a horse... a long neck, wings about 8 feet long, and it whines at intervals. Its tail is described by one Jerseyman as 'glowing like a coal of fire'. The Post commented that "Chills are running up and down the South Jersey spine like a monkey on a stick".[51] The mysterious creature became a fixture of the state's folklore, and is now the mascot for Newark's National Hockey League team.
  • After a personal appeal from President Roosevelt, California Governor James Gillett met with state legislative leaders to stop further progress on anti-Japanese legislation. "There can be no doubt that the Japanese Government is acting absolutely in good faith in its endeavor to prevent its people from emigrating to our country", said the Governor, "and in my judgment it would be a serious mistake while they are so doing to enact any laws directed against the Japanese people."[52] A bill proposed to limit Japanese-American residents of San Francisco to residing in its Chinatown district, to bar their children from attending public schools, and to bar them from serving as directors of a corporation.[53]
  • Born: Hans Hotter, German opera singer; in Offenbach am Main (d. 2003)

January 20, 1909 (Wednesday)[edit]

January 21, 1909 (Thursday)[edit]

January 22, 1909 (Friday)[edit]

  • The National Conservation Commission released its final report. President Roosevelt endorsed it as "one of the most fundamentally important documents ever laid before the American people". Later, Roosevelt would comment that the report "was not only the first inventory of our resources, but was unique in the history of Government in the amount and variety of information brought together. It was completed in six months. It laid squarely before the American people the essential facts regarding our natural resources..."[57]
  • Born:

January 23, 1909 (Saturday)[edit]

  • The steamer Republic, with 461 people on board, began sinking 26 miles (42 km) out to sea, shortly after being struck by the SS Florida. Except for 6 people killed in the collision, everyone was saved because the Republic had the latest technology, a wireless telegraph. Jack Binns sent the CQD distress signal that was picked up at a rescue station at Siasconset, Massachusetts, then relayed to other ships.[58] At 15,378 tons, the Republic was, at the time, the largest ship to have been lost. The wreckage would be located in 1981.[59] Binns briefly became a worldwide celebrity.[60]
  • Centered at Darb-e Astaneh in the Lorestān Province of Iran, an earthquake destroyed 64 villages and killed more than 6,000 people.[61] More recently, the 2006 Borujerd earthquake struck the same region on March 31, 2006.
  • The Tottenham Outrage, an armed robbery and double murder, occurred in Tottenham, Middlesex, and Walthamstow, Essex. It was perpetrated by two anarchists,[62] Paul Helfeld and Jacob Lepidus, who both later committed suicide.[63] Twenty-five casualties were reported, two fatal and several serious.

January 24, 1909 (Sunday)[edit]

  • Robert H. Goddard first realized the potential for explosives to raise a rocket, as he described it, "without employing the air". His insight, recorded in a daily journal, was that "if an explosive... is burned in tubes in such a way that all its energy is converted into kinetic energy of the particles expelled and the body propelled, it is, theoretically, possible to obtain propulsion". Goddard's discovery paved the way for space exploration.[64]
  • Born: Martin Lings, British Islamic scholar; in Manchester (d. 2005)
  • Died: Petre S. Aurelian, 75, Romanian engineer and politician who served as the nation's Prime Minister for four months in 1896 and 1897 (b. 1833)

January 25, 1909 (Monday)[edit]

  • The White House Conference on the Care of Children was convened in Washington by President Roosevelt. Attended by 200 prominent personages, including Jacob Riis, Jane Addams, Booker T. Washington, and Theodore Dreiser, the conference led to a significant social reform in America. As one commentator would later note, "Reform meant an end to orphanages, the beginning of direct aid to 'parents of worthy character,' allowing children to remain in their homes, or, in time, foster homes."[65]
  • At Dresden, Richard Strauss's opera Elektra was performed for the first time. The production, based on the Greek myth as adapted by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, was not well-reviewed at the time, but is now considered one of Strauss's greatest works.[66]

January 26, 1909 (Tuesday)[edit]

  • In Heidelberg, German astronomer Max Wolf discovered SN 1909a, the first supernova observed from Earth in the Pinwheel Galaxy, and only the 11th observed overall.[67] The nova itself happened more than 27 million years earlier in the galaxy, located that many light years distant, in the direction of Ursa Major.[68]
  • A trial in British India brought out a conspiracy to set up an independent kingdom there.[56]

January 27, 1909 (Wednesday)[edit]

January 28, 1909 (Thursday)[edit]

January 29, 1909 (Friday)[edit]

  • Henderson Cremeans, of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, died while walking home from a grocery store. His death made headlines across the nation, because he was reportedly 115 years old. Cremeans, said to have been born in 1794, was never verified as a supercentenarian, nor was his mother, who was said to "have died at the age of 120". He reportedly was survived by 70 grandchildren, 131 great-grandchildren, and 19 great-great-grandchildren, and "he never tasted liquor or tobacco in his life".[71]
  • A minor tremor shook the Spanish city of Málaga. The Associated Press soon reported that a tidal wave had destroyed Barcelona.[72] By Sunday, it was confirmed that "the reports emanating from England relative to a disastrous earthquake and a tidal wave are untrue".[73]

January 30, 1909 (Saturday)[edit]

January 31, 1909 (Sunday)[edit]

  • The New York World announced a $10,000 prize, largest to that time, for the first person who could, before October 10, 1910, fly the 135 miles (217 km) from New York to Albany, whether in an airship or an airplane, as part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. Glenn Curtiss won the contest, on May 29, 1910, in a biplane.[75]


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  2. ^ Macnicol, John (2002). The Politics of Retirement in Britain, 1878–1948. Cambridge University Press. p. 162.
  3. ^ Fleischmann, Arnold; Pierannunzi, Carol (2007). Politics in Georgia. University of Georgia Press. pp. 70–71.
  4. ^ Reports of the Department of the Interior for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1916. p. 495.
  5. ^ Jerome Chen, Yuan Shih-k'ai (1859–1916) (Stanford University Press, 1961), pp98-99
  6. ^ Randall Herbert Balmer and Lauren F. Winner, Protestantism in America (Columbia University Press, 2005), p232
  7. ^ Dirk Käsler, Max Weber: An Introduction to His Life and Work (University of Chicago Press, 1988), p15
  8. ^ "Stromboli in Eruption"; "Armed Bandits Fight in Ruins", New York Times, January 4, 1900, p1
  9. ^ Riffenburgh, Beau (2004). Nimrod. London: Bloomsbury Publications. p. 266. ISBN 0-7475-7253-4.
  10. ^ Geoffrey W. Bromley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1995), p569
  11. ^ Henry Woldmar Ruoff, ed., The Standard Dictionary of Facts (Frontier Press Company, 1922) p612
  12. ^ "Limit to Air Travel", Washington Post, January 6, 1909, p1
  13. ^ "A Rabies Quarantine", New York Times, January 6, 1900, p1
  14. ^ "Burns Minister in Church Stoves", New York Times, January 7, 1909, p1
  15. ^ "Believe Pastor Not Slain, But Fugitive", New York Times, January 8, 1909, p1
  16. ^ "Preacher a Suicide; Confessed Murder", New York Times, January 12, 1909, p1
  17. ^ Mark Albertson, U.S.S. Connecticut: Constitution State Battleship (Tate Publishing, 2007), p61
  18. ^ Minerals Yearbook (United States Bureau of Mines), p762
  19. ^ "Bound, Dives Into Ocean", New York Times, January 7, 1900, p1
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  21. ^ www.earlyaviators.com
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  23. ^ Kodaikanal Observatory 1901–1951 (India Meteorological Department, 1951), p10
  24. ^ "House Returns Roosevelt Blow", New York Times, January 9, 1909, pp1-2
  25. ^ Colleen J. Shogan, The Moral Rhetoric of American Presidents (Texas A&M University Press, 2006), p69; "Roosevelt Message Stirs Up Congress", New York Times, December 9, 1908, pp1-2
  26. ^ Charles Morris, Finding the North Pole (W.E. Scull, 1909) pp448-49
  27. ^ Charles W. Bergquist, Coffee and Conflict in Colombia, 1886–1910 (Duke University Press, 1986), pp243-44
  28. ^ "Mauritanian traditional states".
  29. ^ "Church Falls In; 40 Killed", New York Times, January 11, 1909, p1
  30. ^ "26 Dead in Leiter Mine", New York Times, January 12, 1909, p1
  31. ^ "Canadian Treaty Signed", New York Times, January 12, 1909, p1
  32. ^ New York State Conservation Commission, Second Annual Report of the Conservation Commission 1912 pp209-221
  33. ^ "Guillotine Ends Four Murderers", New York Times, January 12, 1909, p4
  34. ^ "Taft and Sherman Formally Elected", New York Times, January 12, 1909, p6
  35. ^ "105 Dead in Mine; Caught by Explosion", New York Times, January 13, 1909, p2
  36. ^ Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times (HarperCollins, 1984), pp159-160
  37. ^ William C. Braisted and William Hemphill Bell, The Life Story of Presley Marion Rixey, Surgeon General, U.S. Navy 1902–1910 (Kessinger Publishing, 2006), pp132-133
  38. ^ "98-Mile Ride Bully, President Declares", New York Times, January 14, 1909, p1
  39. ^ "Carrie Nation Arrested", New York Times, January 14, 1909, p1
  40. ^ "Mine Horror in Hungary". Washington Post. January 14, 1909. p. 1.
  41. ^ "Alsó Csinger Coal Mining Museum Ajka Information and Photographs". Archived from the original on 2009-06-15.
  42. ^ Hyung Il Pai, Constructing "Korean" Origins: A Critical Review of Archaeology, Historiography, and Racial Myth in Korean State-formation Theories (Harvard University Asia Center, 2000), pp266-67
  43. ^ Bernard Stonehouse, "British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition 1907-9", Encyclopedia of Antarctica and the Southern Oceans (John Wiley and Sons, 2002), p39
  44. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-21. Retrieved 2009-01-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  45. ^ Yuri Tsivian (Alan Bodger, trans.), Early Cinema in Russia and Its Cultural Reception (Routledge, 1994) p67
  46. ^ Id. at 80
  47. ^ "Birdman of Alcatraz", alcatrazhistory.com
  48. ^ "Roosevelt Scored- Representative Willett Makes Sensational Attack", Washington Post, January 19, 1909, p1
  49. ^ "Expunge Willett's Speech", New York Times, January 28, 1900, p2
  50. ^ Charles H. Hapgood and David Hatcher Childress, Mystery in Acambaro: Did Dinosaurs Survive Until Recently? (Adventures Unlimited Press, 2000), p61
  51. ^ "'Leeds Devil' Loose", Washington Post, January 22, 1909, p2
  52. ^ "Roosevelt Kills Bills on Japanese", New York Times, January 20, 1909, p1
  53. ^ "California Bills Stir Japan's Press"; "Bills Against Japanese", New York Times, January 12, 1909, p1
  54. ^ David Cowan, Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes That Shaped a City (Lake Claremont Press, 2001), pp121-122; "Trapped By Flames, 53 Perish on Lake", New York Times, January 21, 1909, p1
  55. ^ "Important GM Dates: 1897–1909". Archived from the original on 2000-10-16. Retrieved 2009-01-20.
  56. ^ a b c The American Year Book 1910, p828
  57. ^ Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography (C. Scribner's Sons, 1913), pp409-410
  58. ^ William H. Flayhart, Disaster at Sea (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005) pp206-210
  59. ^ Daniel Berg, Wreck Valley: A Record of Shipwrecks Off Long Island's South Shore and New Jersey (Aqua Explorers Inc, 1990), p116
  60. ^ Mark Sullivan, Our Times 1900–1925, vol. 4: The War Begins 1909–1914 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1932), p.541-543
  61. ^ N. N. Ambraseys and C. P. Melville, A History of Persian Earthquakes (Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp69-72
  62. ^ The Independent 30 July 2014
  63. ^ Cesarani, David (27 June 2003). "Face has changed but fear remains". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  64. ^ David A. Clary, Rocket Man: Robert H. Goddard and the Birth of the Space Age (Hyperion, 2004), p28,
  65. ^ Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Miles to Go: A Personal History of Social Policy (Harvard University Press, 1996), p26
  66. ^ David Ewen, Music for the Millions – The Encyclopedia of Musical Masterpieces (Read Books, 2007), p544
  67. ^ "Messier Object 101".
  68. ^ "List of Supernovae".
  69. ^ Charles H. Sheldon, A Century of Judging (University of Washington Press, 1988), pp56-57
  70. ^ The Tribune Almanac and Political Register 1910, p385
  71. ^ "Dies at Age of 115 Years", Washington Post, January 30, 1909, p1
  72. ^ "City of Barcelona Wiped Out By Earthquake and Tidal Wave", Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg), January 30, 1909, p1
  73. ^ "Spain's Earthquake Does Little Damage", New York Times, January 31, 1909, pC-5.
  74. ^ "Lincoln's Head on Coins", New York Times, January 31, 1909, p.10
  75. ^ Henry Serrano Villard, Contact! The Story of the Early Aviators: The Story of the Early Aviators (Courier Dover Publications, 2002) p.94