The present AERO CLUB OF BUFFALO traces its continuous
existence to 1879 - the date the Buffalo Bicycle Club (sometimes known as the
High Wheel Club) was organized, February 22, 1879. It had as active members (the
local pioneers of aviation): Charles Haberer, Joseph Clody, Ed Bull, Arthur
Zimmerman, Major Taylor, Frank Kramer, Reggie McNamara, Alfred Goullet, Norman
Hill, (Ref: Geist - "Cycling as a Hobby" - Grovenor, Div. Erie County Library)
Other local clubs developing ballooning (and blimps) and racing pigeon interests
were the Press cycling club, the Ramblers, the East Side Cyclers, and the
Eldridge Club of Tonawanda. They all reached their period of greatest cycling
activity in the 1880's and then turned their interests to autos while others
went to the air. These cyclists constructed small blimps and used a bicycle with
large propeller styled pedals to motor their way in the air. These "sky
bicycles" made their appearance around Buffalo and barnstormed American cities.
Members of the Carrier Pigeon Club of Buffalo were more interested in the antics
of Otto Lilienthal, a German, than they were in John. J. Montgomery, an
American, who in 1883 with his brother as an assistant, made his first gliding
attempt. Montgomery's first craft was patterned after a seagull, its wings had a
downward slope and a considerable length. Lilienthal's early attempts were along
the lines of wings, which when attached to the arms of the aeronaut and whipped
madly back and forth it was hoped, would take the enthusiast soaring like a
bird, into the air. These early attempts were doomed to failure.
In 1891, Lilienthal's attention was directed to the construction of a biplane
glider - an affair made of peeled willow saplings and cotton cloth, waxed to
make it air tight. The glider was so designed that it provided armrests to
assist the flier. To Lilienthal, must go credit for the first successful soaring
attempts; Montgomery, it will be remembered, had merely glided.
During this period there were trials and failures to fly by the most adventurous
of the Carrier Pigeon Club of Buffalo but it was for Wilbur and Orville Wright
of Dayton, Ohio to persevere. Historians note the pursuits of these two brothers
in reading avidly accounts of Lilienthal's gliding and soaring experiences in
German, and studying with peculiar fascination, Marey's "Animal Mechanization of
Flight in the Animal Kingdom."
On the occasion of the golden anniversary of the first regular meeting of the
AERO CLUB, the late John W. Van Allen, a former president and "dean" of the AERO
CLUB of Buffalo, Inc., recalled that the founders of the club, sparked by the
late John M. Satterfield started regular meetings in 1900. A few years later the
group received its charter as the first U.S. AERO CLUB Chapter from the
Federation Aeronautique Internationale of France, making it the oldest aero club
in America, second oldest in the world.
On July 2, 1900 the Automobile Club of Buffalo was organized, and shared its
club rooms in the Hotel Lennox (North Street) with a dozen air enthusiasts
headed by John. M. Satterfield as their president. They were the charter members
of the present AERO CLUB of Buffalo.
One of the exploits of the AERO CLUB preincorporation enthusiasts was the 1906
flight of the first dirigible over Buffalo.
"Every street car on Main Street was stopped and all the children were let out
of school to watch it. For two hours you couldn't get a telephone connection
because everybody was at the windows."
"After a few years as a group it combined with another group and incorporated
under the laws of the State of New York on March 29, 1910. I am enclosing a copy
of the Certificate of Incorporation, paragraph Second of which outlines under
the title of "PURPOSES", the objects of the group. In the Certificate of
Incorporation you will find the names of the original incorporaters which
represented the most active members of the original group, all prominent men of
Buffalo at the time." From a letter dated December 16, 1953 by John W. Van Allen
to Gordon W. Campbell.