Friday, May 9, 2014

Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies

Title:  Birdmen:  The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies
Author:  Lawrence Goldstone
Publication Information:  Ballantine Books, Random House Publishing Group. 2014. 406 pages.
ISBN:  034553803X / 978-0345538031

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "No lead is insurmountable if you stop running before you've reach the finish line."

Birdmen is the history of the years-long fight over patents to the technological advances that made sustained human flight possible. It is the story of the Wright Brothers and those who competed with them. It is the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright as individuals, as pioneers, and as businessmen. It is a history of aviation and its growth in the United States.

The book begins with the statement of Wilbur Wright's death in 1912 at the age of 45. The stated cause of death was typhoid fever. However, to the Wright family, "Wilbur had been as good as murdered, hounded to his grave by a competitor so dishonest, so unscrupulous, so lacking in human feeling as to remain a family scourge as long as any of them remained alive. Glenn Curtiss."

Such a beginning sets the tone of intensity for this feud that continued over the course of a decade. The historic flight of the Wright Brothers took place in December of 1903. Wilbur Wright died in 1912. The court battle continued until a year after Wilbur Wright's death. Its impact helped define American aviation.

This book presents a detailed, researched account of this decade-long fight. It includes note references to the research documents. The final copy will also include an index (the review copy includes a placeholder). The review copy also includes a few pictures, but not too many.

The level of detail is the making and the downfall of this book. The story is a fascinating one. The details make the history complete, with names and dates and chronologies. Yet, at the same time, the level of detail makes the book slow reading. A lot of history has been written as a narrative story, making it more engaging to read; this book reads more like the history book it is.

 I would recommend this book as a source for research. I would also recommend this book to anyone with an interest in aviation, in the Wright Brothers, and in a broader scope, US history as impacted by the work of these pioneers.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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