About Harriet 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
A historical marker has been erected near the now abandoned farmhouse in Arcadia, 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.
She became interested in aviation in 1910, when she attended the Belmont Park International Aviation Tournament on Long Island, New York and met John Moisant, a well-known aviator and operator of a flight school, and his sister Matilde.
On August 1, 1911, Quimby took her pilot's test and became the first U.S. woman to earn an Aero Club of America aviator's certificate. Matilde Moisant soon followed and became the nation's second certified female pilot.
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.
The Vin Fiz Company, a division of Armour Meat Packing Plant of Chicago, recruited Harriet as the spokesperson for the new grape soda, Vin Fiz, after the death of Calbraith Perry Rodgers in April 1912. Her distinctive purple aviatrix uniform and image graced many of the advertising pieces of the day.
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 had become the first woman to pilot an aircraft across the English Channel.
Her accomplishment received little media attention, however, as the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15 (the day before) consumed the interest of the public and filled newspapers.
On July 1, 1912 Quimby 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. 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) 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".
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.
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.
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.
A 1991 United States airmail postage stamp featured Quimby. She is memorialized in two official Michigan historical markers, one in Coldwater, and one at her birthplace in Manistee County, Michigan.
In 2012 Quimby was inducted into the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame.
Blériot XI monoplane