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The Octave Chanute Pages

Reprinted from
The Chicago Tribune
June 24, 1896

Octave Chanute's glider experiments in the dunes of Miller beach immediately attracted a goodly number of people, locals and reporters alike. The following appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on June 24, 1896, only two days after Chanute first arrived in Miller.
This article is presented to indicate the interest that Chanute's experiments generated at the time, not the accuracy of the reporter's story. It should be noted that he mistakes the Lilienthal glider for the 12-surfaced 'Katydid' in the third paragraph.


Chicago Experts Make Experiments on Indiana Soil.


What Octave Chanute Has Hopes of Accomplishing.


Satisfactory Use Made of the Lilienthal Aeroplane.


   If a lake steamer had cruised by the beach opposite Miller's, Ind. yesterday, the passengers would have had a good opportunity to see men flying through the air, borne not exclusively on the wings of the wind but apparently sustained by twelve gigantic white swans. Octave Chanute, No. 413 Huron Street, ex President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and three companions were practicing aerial navigation with a Lilienthal aeroplane. Mr. Chanute, who is regarded as an authority in aerodynamics, has closely followed the experiments of Otto Lilienthal of Berlin, Germany, and he recently determined to duplicate them and go ahead on the same lines, in the hope of evolving a machine which would be able to sustain a man safely in the air and which would be under perfect control. Temporarily the question of the motive power is out of consideration. Monday morning, Mr. Chanute, A. M. Herring, William Paul and William Avery, all of Chicago, took an early Lake Shore train for Miller's, thirty miles south of the city. The natives had their curiosity highly excited by the enormous amount and queer shape of luggage of the party. Mr. Chanute and his friends went to a little hotel and left their personal belongings, but had their other things conveyed over to the beach, about one mile east of the station.

Curiosity of Natives

   Some of the natives could not resist the temptation to follow and saw a tent erected under the protection of the highest of the hills near the lake shore. Soon the other bundles were unwrapped and what looked for the world like a three-mast schooner's rigging was erected with sails set, on the sand. The natives waited patiently for the boat to be brought out, thinking a sail on the lake was in prospect. A panic struck them when they saw Mr. Herring mount the odd shaped affair and sail through the air. "Jess watch," tittered one of the natives, "I'll be bound it won't be long afore he'll come down from the that 'ar high hoss." Mr. Herring disappointed this prophet, and fulfilled every expectation of himself and Mr. Chanute. He succeeded in floating quite a distance in the air. The wind was not favorable, and the experiments were resumed yesterday. This time a number of comparatively long rides were made by all the younger members of the party. Mr. Herring sailed over eighty feet, measured horizontally, while falling only twenty feet. This was in the face of the wind, as none of the experimenters are yet willing to turn themselves loose before a breeze as stiff as that blowing yesterday in the neighborhood of the lake.

Two Devices Are Used

   Mr. Chanute has two machines, one very nearly like the Lilienthal machine and another designed on different lines by himself. The Lilienthal machine is in appearance like six pairs of birds superposed. It consists of twelve wings of oiled nainsook silk stretched tightly over a spruce and willow frame. Each upper pair of wings is connected with a lower pair by a . . . of the same material about three feet long and a foot wide. The wings are a little less than seven feet long and are in a measure diamond- shaped. The machine is about 15 feet long and 14 feet wide, and weighs 32 pounds and has a spread of 180 square feet. It is curved about as much as a birch canoe. Mr. Chanute's own machine which has not yet been fully tested, is formed of two large wings stretched on curved spruce sticks eight feet each way, with a fin nine feet long and four feet high. In the rear, and a kite shaped tail hinged on. Its weight is also thirty-two pounds. It has a spread of 107 square feet, and is spoon shaped, being nineteen feet from the tip to tip. It will be tried today if the wind is not too unfavorable.

Lilienthal Machine's Test

  The Lilienthal machine is apparently easy to operate. It was carried yesterday to the brow of the smooth, sandy hill and Mr. Herring, who had the most experience of any of Mr. Chanute's assistants in work of this kind, placed his arms over the two parallel bars made for the purpose, and while the others balanced it in the air started on a run down the steep slope. Within ten yards Mr. Herring's feet were lifted off the ground and he went sailing over the valley. With every gust of the wind, he would have to shift his weight to keep the machine going straight. The greatest difficulty is right there. The wind shifts so suddenly at times that no one can move fast enough to keep up with it. On this account both Mr. Herring and the others who essayed the wings of Pegasus came to grief. However, they met with no harm, as the machine always fulls right side up and descends quite gradually.

On the Plan of a Kite

  A small model with a spread of 7.2 square feet was also operated. It was sailed as a kite without a tail. There isn't a small boy in the country that would not be proud to own a kite like this, for it can be made to rise from a valley while the operator stands on a hill. Mr. Chanute was desirous of making the experiment without the knowledge of the press and sought Miller's on that account. "The trouble with most men that have experimented on this subject is that they have bitten off too much at once," he said. "This is only one phase of the subject. After a man is able to guide and control a machine in the air, it may, perhaps be found less difficult than has been feared to secure a motor that will not consume too much fuel for its lifting power." Lilienthal's experiments began in 1888 and have been continued ever since. Some of his machines have found their way to almost every country in Europe and to the United States, but few except the inventor have been able to master the problems of their manipulation.


Newspaper and Eyewitness Accounts

1896 1897 1898
June 24 - Chicago Tribune
August 2 - Chicago Tribune September 5 - Times-Herald November 11 - Elmira, NY 
Daily Advertiser
September 8 - Chicago Tribune September 8 - Times-Herald
September 11 - Chicago Chronicle September 12 - Times-Herald
September 12 - Chicago Tribune
September 28 - Chicago Record
October 3 - Westchester Tribune