abandon skirts!

Harriet Quimby was America’s first licensed female pilot.

At 37, Harriet Quimby already drove her own runabout, held a senior editorial position with New York’s popular Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly and lived as a single woman in Manhattan. Perfecting poise and style in her youthful modeling days also served Quimby well when she stepped into the limelight of another very public career. . .as an aviatrix.

Sensing her place in history, she chose to wear a unique flying costume no one would ever forget. Quimby’s knickerbocker pants, although alternatively disguised as a modest skirt, was not appreciated by all as a fashion statement. In 1911 an editorial ran which quoted a Connecticut Catholic priest who felt the “new woman” was wearing “vulgar” costumes. Quimby ignored this criticism; so secure in her own image she did not even fear the wrath of God.

This priest is also unimpressed by vulgar fashions

Helen Dutrieu, the “Lady Hawk” swooped into the 1911 Nassau Boulevard Air Meet where Quimby also participated. “Her drab colored costume of cravenette serge caught the feminine eye as she swung across the flying field,” wrote the Times journalist. To avoid poking a whalebone through her chest in case of a “crack-up,” the reporter immodestly revealed “Mlle. Dutrieu is always corsetless when she soars. . . Miss Quimby does not take this precaution.”

image of Helen Dutrieu found here

Already famous for her exhibition flying, Harriet Quimby secured her place in aviation history by becoming the first woman to solo across the English Channel in 1912. Although considered so dangerous that a male pilot offered to wear her purple silk flying costume and impersonate her, Quimby’s cross-channel flight was made without mishap. She returned to New York City and less hazardous flying. Ironically, she and her male passenger fell to their deaths just three months later while making an exhibition flight around the Boston Light in Massachusetts.


Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 8:15 am  Comments (42)  
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the bernards and the corrigans

Bernard McFadden was the founder of Physical Culture magazine. He changed the spelling of his name to Bernarr because he thought it sounded like the roar of a lion and Macfadden because it sounded more masculine. You can read a lot more about him at BernarrMacfadden.com where I found this paraphrased extract by Fulton Oursler

“While visiting Rome he met with Mussolini and told him the Italian army’s food bills were too high and the nutriment too low. He said he could give Italy stronger soldiers at half the price. Months later he received a telephone call from Ellis Island telling him a consignment of Italian soldiers were awaiting pickup. He put the young men on a course of physical culture, banning spaghetti, feeding them with cracked wheat and vegetables and putting them through calisthenics. He sent them back to Mussolini much improved and at 1/3 the cost. For this he received an Italian decoration which a few years later he threw away”

image found here

One of his early pupils was Raymond Berna(r)d who started training with him to correct a spinal curvature. He was such an avid student that he became a fitness instructor of the Macfadden method for Hollywood film stars of the 20s and 30s. His physique was noticed and he was first hired as a stunt double in Tarzan the Ape Man, worked his way up to become a star in his own right and changed his name to Ray “Crash” Corrigan.

image found here

Crash made many films, mostly westerns and also appeared in his ape costume in many more, mostly uncredited. In 1937 he bought a ranch which he developed into Corriganville, a location used for films and television shows. It was opened to the public in 1949.

Ray married in the early 1940s, and he and his wife, Rita, had three children. By 1954, the marriage was breaking up. Rita filed for a divorce. The contentious divorce had its amusing aspects. In June, 1954, The Los Angeles Times reported that Corrigan and three detectives had burst into Rita’s motel apartment and found her with another man, Moses Stiltz, who was the ex-foreman at the Corrigan ranch. The Times later reported an 80-m.p.h. car chase between Corrigan and Stiltz which climaxed with both men threatening to file citizen’s arrests charging assault with a deadly weapon. In court, Ray and his wife accused each other of having affairs with workers at the ranch.

Another actor with an interesting history is Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan. He starred as himself in the film, The Flying Irishman after claiming that he set out for California but ended up in Ireland due to a malfunctioning compass.

“Observers were more than a little surprised when Corrigan’s plane banked sharply to the east on takeoff and disappeared into a looming cloudbank over the Atlantic Ocean, the opposite direction of where he was supposed to be headed. They were even more surprised when reports came that, 28 hours and 13 minutes later, Corrigan had landed his little modified Curtiss-Robin monoplane at an airfield outside Dublin, Ireland, and amiably told the workers who gathered around him, “I just got in from New York. Where am I? I intended to fly to California.”

image found here

Published in: on January 20, 2010 at 7:35 am  Comments (30)  
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