Check out our fully interactive online travel guide or request a printed version for all the great activities, places to stay and dine in Corning & Finger Lakes, Steuben County, NY.
Glenn H. Curtiss Museum
Aviation History in Hammondsport, NY
Ever felt an intense need for speed? Glenn H. Curtiss certainly did. In fact, he held the title of "Fastest Man on Earth" for four years of his life. Everything he did revolved around engines. And everything the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum does revolves around teaching the world about his great accomplishments.
Born in Hammondsport, NY in 1878, Curtiss's inquisitiveness was evident at an early age. He showed great mechanical ability and drive, and by the time he reached his teen years, he had become obsessed with bicycles and the speed that came with them. A champion bicycle racer, he progressed to designing and building his own bikes. By 1902, along with three employees, Curtiss was manufacturing motorcycles under the trade name, "Hercules." It was on January 23, 1907, in Ormond Beach, Fla., that Curtiss and his V8-powered motorcycle were officially clocked at 136.3 mph, making him the fastest man on earth. A replica of this bike can be seen at the Glenn Curtiss Museum.
Glenn H. Curtiss - An Aviation Pioneer
Curtiss was first exposed to aviation when famed balloonist, Thomas Scott Baldwin, wanted to power a lighter-than-air ship, and came to Curtiss for a V-twin motorcycle engine. Curtiss's engine enabled the air ship to fly. Baldwin's "California Arrow" became the first successful dirigible in America in 1904.Three years later, Glenn Curtiss began his aviation career as a member of the Aerial Experiment Association, a group focused on getting a man to fly. The Wright Brothers had already made their historic flight, but had not done so publicly – something Curtiss was more than willing to do. Using knowledge gained from a few controlled test flights, Curtiss built the "JuneBug," and on July 4, 1908, he piloted the plane across Pleasant Valley for a distance of 5,090 feet. This flight was the first in America to be officially recognized, pre-announced, and observed by an audience. Curtiss became affixed in the public eye as the foremost aviation pioneer and was later awarded U.S.pilot's license No. 1.
July 1911 marked a huge leap forward in aviation technology. It was then that Navy Lt. Theodore Ellyson traveled from California to Hammondsport to take delivery of the Curtiss A-1 Triad, the first naval airplane. Ellyson had taken flying lessons from Curtiss in San Diego and had become U.S. Naval Aviator No. 1. In the months leading up to the Navy officially investing in aviation, Curtiss, along with his pilot Eugene Ely, had been successful in flying off a ship as well as landing a hydroplane next to the USS Pennsylvania. Curtiss is recognized as the "Father of Naval Aviation."
Experience the Early Days of Aviation
The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum is home to hundreds of priceless artifacts relating to both early aviation and local history. The Finger Lakes museum features a 750-seat theater, as well as a special events area and gift shop. A restoration shop allows volunteer craftsman the perfect opportunity to learn and build, just as Curtiss once did. Museum visitors will see a full-scale reproduction of the first naval aircraft as well as a 1912 "Pusher," a 1913 "Model E" flying boat, a 1917 "Jenny," a 1919 "Seagull" flying boat, and a 1927 "Robin." Also on display are antique toys, tools, boats, fire equipment, home furnishings, and much more.