Glenn H. Curtiss

Speed Demons Rejoice


Many of the most influential moments in human history never make it into history books. Which means some of the most important contributions to our lives were made by people whose names we’ll probably never learn.

People like Glenn Curtiss who drew aeronauts, balloonists, and inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell to the small town of Hammondsport in the early 1900s making it the “Cradle of Aviation.". For it was there that most experimentation and advancements in aviation took place prior to WWI. Defying Gravity - The Unknown Cradle of Aviation.

“Speed demons will rejoice in a trip to the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, to geek out on motorcycles and planes.” - Perri O. Blumberg, Country Living


A Museum Dedicated to the Fastest Man on Earth - Travels with Darley

At the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, you can view dozens of vintage motorcycles and planes. Learn about Curtiss’s many contributions as a motorcycle and aviation pioneer, as well as his generous spirit which fortified his reputation with locals: generating a profound respect that is still prevalent throughout the community.

Curtiss invited the public to witness history-in-the-making by holding the first publicly announced flight in country. And his record-setting flight along the Hudson in 1908 revealed that flying might be more than the crazy dream of thrill-seekers and daredevils, but a viable means of transportation.

The museum, which much like the man is something truly remarkable that has somehow managed to fly below the radar of most folks, contains a priceless collection relating to early aviation and regional history. In addition to wonderful displays and exhibits, visitors are welcome to visit the Restoration Shop, talk with volunteer craftsman, and watch them work on historic aircraft.

“The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, a veritable Smithsonian of early flight and experimentation . . .”  –  Malerie Yolen-Cohen, Huffington Post

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.

For a truely unique reception, you can even host a destination wedding at this museum. With on-site catering and beautiful scenery, a reception here is sure to be remarkable and memorable.