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October 2, 2021

Rare Photos of “Early Bird” Aviators by Alfred Husmann

Through his friendship with Alfred Solbrig, son of pioneer aviator Oscar A. Solbrig, Alfred Husmann of Davenport, Iowa became an enthusiastic witness to the test flights and exhibitions of the “Early Bird” flyers. (The “Early Birds” were an elite group of individuals who piloted aircraft prior to the date of December 17, 1916).

“Early Bird” aviators by Alfred Husmann

Oscar Solbrig had received training at the Glenn Curtiss flight schools in Hammondsport, NY and San Diego, CA, and by 1914 was successfully flying his home-built Curtiss pusher biplane over the city of Davenport. His wife Mary served as his mechanic (or “mechanician”) and accompanied him on the exhibition circuit.

In addition to the Solbrigs, Alfred Husmann had an opportunity to see Lincoln Beachey, Rene Simon, Katharine Stinson, and Charles Lindbergh at exhibitions in the Quad Cities, and reports in his reminiscences that he once serviced Amelia Earhart’s Stanley Steamer automobile at his station when she was enroute from Cedar Rapids to Chicago.

The photos in this album from the State Historical Society of Iowa are a sampling of images from a photo album (on a variety of subjects) that belonged to Alfred Husmann.

Bleriot monoplane of Rene Simon, French aviator who toured the U.S. in 1911-1912 with Moisant International Aviators, Davenport, Iowa, 1911

Alfred Solbrig, son of aviator Oscar A. Solbrig, sitting in his father's Curtiss hydroaeroplane, on banks of the Mississippi River beside the Crescent railroad bridge, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1912

Model airplanes in flight, 1912. These probably belonged to the Oscar Solbrig family

Oscar A. Solbrig's Curtiss hydroaeroplane being towed out of the Mississippi River with rowboat, near Davenport, Iowa, circa 1912

Oscar A. Solbrig in his Curtiss pusher biplane, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Wreckage of one of Oscar A. Solbrig's Curtiss pusher biplanes, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Two views of Oscar A. Solbrig testing his Curtiss pusher biplane at the Mile Race Track, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914. Photo at left shows Solbrig's wife Mary, an airplane mechanic, guiding the wing

Two views of Oscar A. Solbrig at wheel of his Curtiss pusher biplane (No. 2), near Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Lincoln Beachey in his Curtiss pusher biplane with Gnome rotary motor, Davenport, Iowa, September 1914

Mary and Oscar A. Solbrig in hydroaeroplane beside Mississippi River, presumed to be Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Oscar A. Solbrig with Curtiss pusher biplane, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Oscar A. Solbrig's wife Mary with Curtiss hydroaeroplane. Mary served as Oscar's mechanic, or as she preferred to be described "mechanician". Presumed to be Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Alfred Husmann seated in Oscar A. Solbrig's Curtiss pusher biplane, presumed to be Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914. Gentleman pushing plane unidentified, may be Solbrig's son Alfred

7 Alfred Husmann, an aviation enthusiast whose friendship with Oscar and Mary Solbrig's son Alfred gave him access to the family's early planes, flight tests, and exhibitions, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Mechanic hand propping plane at flying exhibition. Location may be Clinton, Davenport, or DeWitt, Iowa. Female aviator unidentified (possibly Katharine Stinson or Ethel Dare), circa 1914

Oscar A Solbrig's daugher Hope seated in her father's hydroaeroplane under Crescent railroad bridge, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1914

Stunt flyer Ethel Dare who performed at the Davenport, Iowa fairgrounds, circa 1914

Barnstormer event, De Witt, Iowa, circa 1915

Biplane "Lois" at West Davenport aviation field, circa 1916

Unidentified flyers. Woman may be stunt flyer and wingwalker Katharine Stinson who appeared in an exhibition at Clinton, Iowa in 1916. Plane is named "Chanute" for pioneer aviator Octave Chanute

Oscar A. Solbrig in his Benoist biplane, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1917

Oscar A. Solbrig's Benoist biplane, Clinton, Davenport, or Bettendorf, Iowa, circa 1917

Oscar A. and Mary Solbrig with Bleriot tractor biplane, Davenport, Iowa, circa 1917


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