(Top) 1900 Cenus for Davenport, IA
showing Eugene Ely son of Nathan D. and
Euma Ely, b October 1886.  (Bottom) 1910
Census for Portland, OR, showing Eugene
Ely (b. 1881) and his wife Mable.  His
occupation is listed as "aeronaut".
Crewmen crowd the top of
the ship's after smokestack,
the boat cranes, foremast,
and other vantage points on
the morning of 18 January
1911, awaiting the arrival
overhead of Eugene B.
Ely's Curtiss biplane.
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of picture
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Quiz #280 Results
Answers to Quiz #280
November 14, 2010
However, this Navy image is reversed.  Note the sailor behind the wing - in the Navy
photo his rating insignia appears to be on his right sleeve (the Navy rating insignia is
worn on the left sleeve only).

Naturally you detected the error and  corrected the orientation. The photo that you
published is CORRECT!

Obviously you caught the Navy's error and rectified it.  Only an authentic quizmaster
would catch a reversed photo and display it correctly.

Good catch, my friend.

George Wright
Encinitas, California

Well I have to confess it was not an intentional act of quiz-genius.  I reversed the
picture so that it would not be picked up by TinEye!  Thanks for the good words.

Colleen Fitzpatrick
Quizmaster General

As far as the orientation of the picture goes, you (and George Wright) are correct. I
had to check out my old uniforms (I still have one of my blues and one of my whites
with insignia) to verify that, but yes…the insignia is on the left arm…meaning that the
“original” I located on the web was in fact reversed (though not sure why THEY did it)
and yours was the true orientation (and I do understand your logic). And yeah, it was
very cool that it was posted exactly 100 years ago to the day at that time.

Keep up the good work.

Carl Blessing
Quizmaster Shellback
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1.  The first landing of an airplane on an "aircraft" carrier.
2.  18 January 1911
3.  He first took off from an "aircraft" carrier on 14 November 1910.
He also took off 18 January 1911 so that he could land.
1.  What did this man just accomplish?
2.  What is the date?
3.  When did he do the reverse?

Click here for
Thanks to long time Quizmaster Bill Hurley for submitting this quiz.
Comment by Quizmaster George Wright
Congratulations to Our Winners!

>>> Mr. Rick and the Quiz Kids <<<

Bob and Venita Wilson                Joyce M. Veness
Daniel E. Jolley                Polly Kimmitt
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Robin Spence                Susan E. Skidmore
Janice M. Sellars                Stan Read
Elaine C. Hebert                Sharon Martin
Gerald Vanlandingham                Frank P. Nollette
Dennis Brann                Wayne Douglas
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Collier Smith                Dr. Charles F. Coates
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Richard Wakeham                Diane Burkett
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Comments from Our Readers
I don't know why but as soon as I saw the photo I immediately recognized it as a pilot
who was taking off of a ship. I must have come across it while searching for other
Quizzes.  This might have been the easiest to solve "EVER".

Thanks for being back; I was having withdrawals last week.                       
 Jim Kiser

Thanks for this historical quiz that "took off" right on my birthday, but one hundred
years ago!                                                                              
Susan E. Skidmore

N.B.   Happy Birthday to you in January! Nice to share your birthday with such a
momentus occasion.  That way, no one every forgets it.  ~ Q. Gen.

Another easy one for me!  As an old Navy man who was stationed on an aircraft
carrier, and a history hobbiest, I knew the setting and circumstances as soon as the
photo loaded.  I just didn't remember Eugene Ely's name, which is a shame for such a
brave man.

Anyway, the photo shows the plane sitting on the cruiser USS Birmingham BEFORE he
took off for the first time from a ship (which I guess means he just accomplished
preparing to fly off!)  The date was Nov. 14, 1910 - exactly 100 years ago (which I
was pleased to see - great timing!)

I assume that "when did he do the reverse" doesn't refer to the fact that you have
reversed the photo (TinEye has made life more interesting for you, hasn't it?)  Mr. Ely
landed onboard the cruiser USS Pensylvania on January 18, 1911.  Sadly, he died about
9 months later, as I'm sure he would have made many further contributions to aviation
and could have been a Great War pilot in history.

It is still amazing to me the military history and contributions of the early Navy ships.  I
was on CVN69, USS Eisenhower, only getting a chance to land on it once (as a
passenger).  I can't imagine how men like Ely, mostly flying planes made of wood,
twine and spit, could have dared attempt things like flying onto a ship for the first time.
Gerald Vanlandingham
I found an account of this event while researching last week's quiz on the HMS Dasher
aircraft carrier.

Eugene Burton Ely: born Oct 21, 1879 at Williamsbug, IA died in plane crash at Macon,
Georgia on October 19, 1911. he is buried at East York Cemetery, Williamsburg,

He married a Mabel Hall in 1906 in San Francisco. They moved to  Portland, OR.  They
are in the April 28, 1910 Census of  21 E. 7th St.: married 3 years with no children.
Eugene work as an automobile salesman for E. Henry Wemme a Portland, Oregon
entrepeneur.  This is where he got started with his flying history.

First aircraft carrier takeoff: USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, VA on Nov. 14, 1910.
First aircraft carrier landing: USS Pennsylvania at San Francisco, CA on Jan. 18, 1911.
I found contest photograph by googling "Eugene B. Ely" findagrave. Carrier photos are
available on
www.navsource.org.                                                          Mike Dalton

Surprised, though, because before this quiz I didn't think anyone tried landing aircraft
on aircraft carriers until after WW1.  Learned something!         
Dr. Charles F. Coates

I have not figured out yet whether it was the same airplane, but it certainly seems to
have been the same model. My guess is that Glenn Curtiss would have provided Ely
with as many planes as he needed.

Other sources show this image reversed. If I have time I'll see if I can find evidence of
correct orientation.

http://www.eugeneleeslover.com/USNAVY/First_Carrier.html attributed this photo to
the 1910 Norfolk event.

Fascinating stuff. As always, thank you.  I still tend to look at 1911 from the vantage point
of my youth, 1950s-60s. It's very difficult to place this at nearly a century
Interesting quiz.  I found it interesting that he was born in Williamsburg, Iowa... just 40
minutes from here.   The town is more noted for the fact that it has an outlet mall, than
the fact that it is the birthplace of a historical figure.  Isn't that always the case?
Evan Hindman
Anyone who has the "This day in history" gadget on his Google home page got this
one for free.  I read all about it just before I looked for your quiz! Nice mirror image
picture, by the way.                                                                   
Mike Swierszewski

As a Navy retiree, I got this one very quickly (not immediately, though, to be honest). I
still had to get the details, and for confirmation by looking for a duplicate picture
(although this picture is actually reversed).                                          
Carl Blessing

You shall have to start making these Quizzes harder, Colleen! The photo was a dead
give-away for those like me with an interest in military aviation.      
Richard Wakeham

Good quiz! Recognizing a really important contribution to military history. Have a great
Richard W. Steinmann Jr.

Nuts, I just saw the quiz master.  Off to the phone to call him.  He didn't tell me he had
put in a quiz.                                                                                  
Richard Hurley

I related this quiz to the one several years ago with beer drinking Larry and the weather
balloons...it comes as no surprise with this gang they liked the Larry one better!!
Mr. Rick and the Quiz Kids

N. B.  I am sure that with all the beer that Larry drank, he probably THOUGHT he
was landing on an aircraft carrier.  ~ Q. Gen.

I thought that was why you posted it - because of the centenary. My first thought was
that it was Bill Cody who was the first to fly off a ship, but soon located Ely.  I knew it
was in the USA although all major advances in carrier-operations since have been
British inventions.                                                                     
Richard Wakeham
How Charles and Collier Solved the Puzzle
Sailors' uniforms, old style planking typical of first
landing strips on aircraft carriers, arresting hook on
plane undercarriage, possible US navy ship in
background, and  pre-WW1 plane suggested first
landing on a ship.  Googled for first aircraft carrier
landing.  Surprised, though, because before this
quiz I didn't think anyone tried landing aircraft on
aircraft carriers until after WW1.  Learned

Dr. Charles F. Coates

My method: I recognized the setting was a ship, so,
"plane, ship, accomplishment" led me to Google
"first aircraft landing on a ship" and the top return is
the above Navy webpage, which includes a flopped
version of your pic.

Collier Smith
You caught an error in the published image and corrected it - good job.

The original photo is from the Navy history site
http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h77000/h77588.jpg >.
Carl Blessing (above)
Quizmaster Shellback
of Quiz # 182
Nov 2, 2008

Sailor from
"reversed" picture
used for the quiz
Note position of insignia on sleeves.
Many clues that the picture was taken on
an "aircraft carrier".
First Take Off from a Ship
November 14, 1910: Loading Curtiss
pusher on 83-foot sloping deck of
Cruiser USS Birmingham; here Eugene
Ely made first ship take-off. On January
18, 1911, Ely landed on 120-foot deck
built on USS Pennsylvania, took off again
57 minutes later.  --
Golden Wings: A
Pictorial History of the United States
Navy and Marine Corps in the Air
Martin Caidin, p 5.
November 14, 1910:  Eugene Ely, 24, a
civilian pilot, took off in a 50-hp. Curtiss
plane from a wooden platform built over
the bow of the light cruiser USS
Birmingham (CL-2). The ship was at
anchor in Hampton Roads, Va., and Ely
landed moments later on Willoughby Spit.
Preparing to load Eugene Ely's airplane on
the SS Birmingham, November 1910.
Eugene Ely's Curtiss airplane on the
take-off platform on SS Birmingham
November 1910.
Telegram from Captain Charles F. Pond,
Commanding Officer of USS Pennsylvania
(Armored Cruiser # 4), sent on 7 January
1911 inviting civilian aviator Eugene B. Ely
to come aboard the ship on the following

Presumably, this invitation was for the
purpose of making arrangements for Ely's
historic first landing on Pennsylvania,
which took place on 18 January 1911.
Seated in his Curtiss pusher
airplane, probably during the
San Francisco aviation meet in
January 1911. During this
meet on 18 January, Ely flew
out to USS Pennsylvania and
made the first airplane landing
on a warship. Sign in the
center background reads
"Tetrazinni Day".
First Take Off from a Ship
At the Mare Island Navy Yard, California,
in January 1911, after she had been fitted
with a temporary wooden deck in
preparation for Eugene Ely's airplane
landing attempt. Ely landed his Curtiss
pusher biplane on board the ship on 18
January, the first airplane landing on a
warship. The landing deck, 120 feet long
and 30 feet wide, was inclined slightly to
help slow the plane as it landed, and had a
thirty-degree ramp at its after end.
Eugene B. Ely's Curtiss pusher airplane
approaches the landing platform on USS
Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4), in
San Francisco Bay, California, 18 January
1911. Another armored cruiser is
anchored beyond Pennsylvania.
With Captain Charles F. Pond, USN,
Commanding Officer of USS
Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4),
shortly after landing his airplane on board
the ship, in San Francisco Bay, California,
18 January 1911. Ely's wife, Mabel, is
second from the left. The woman at right
is probably Captain Pond's wife.
Eugene B. Ely's Curtiss pusher biplane
nears the landing platform on USS
Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4),
during the morning of 18 January 1911.
The ship was then anchored in San
Francisco Bay, California.
Eugene B. Ely's Curtiss pusher biplane
about to alight on the landing platform on
USS Pennsylvania (Armored Cruiser # 4),
during the morning of 18 January 1911.
The ship was then anchored in San
Francisco Bay, California.
Note that Ely has his elevator down to
compensate for an unexpected updraft the
plane encountered as it came over the
landing platform's after end.
Eugene B. Ely's Curtiss pusher biplane
lands aboard USS Pennsylvania (Armored
Cruiser # 4), during the morning of 18
January 1911. The ship was then
anchored in San Francisco Bay, California.
The plane has now caught the first lines
of the arresting gear, and sandbags at the
ends of the lines are being pulled along
the landing platform as the plane moves
Eugene B. Ely
After his success
Ship's Commanding
Officer, Captain Charles
F. Pond, (front row, left
center), with some of the
guests and dignitaries on
board to observe Eugene
Ely land his Curtiss
pusher biplane on the ship, during the morning of 18
January 1911. They are standing at the forward end
of the temporary landing platform built over the
ship's stern. The canvas safety barriers in front and
behind them were intended to catch the plane and
pilot in case he overshot the landing zone.
Mrs. Mabel Ely, wife of the aviator, is near the right
end of the group, wearing a light colored coat.
Seated in his Curtiss
pusher biplane, just before
taking off from USS
Pennsylvania (Armored
Cruiser # 4) to return to
land, 18 January 1911.
Earlier in the day he landed
on the ship's deck, the first
time an airplane had landed
on a warship. Note Ely's flying attire, including a
leather helmet and rubber inner tubes worn around
his shoulders as a life preserver.
Eugene B. Ely
October 21, 1879 - October 19, 1911
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Burton_Ely and www.airracinghistory.freeola.com/PILOTS/Eugene%20Ely.htm
Read more

Eugene Ely's historic flights.

How the flight came about and Eugene Ely was chosen as pilot.
Eugene Burton Ely (October 21, 1879 - October 19, 1911) was an aviation pioneer,
credited with the first shipboard aircraft take off and landing. Ely was born in
Williamsburg, Iowa and raised in Davenport, Iowa. He attended and graduated from
Iowa State University in 1904. Following graduation, he moved to San Francisco,
California, where he was active in the early days of the sales and racing of automobiles.

Ely was born in Williamsburg, Iowa and raised in Davenport, Iowa. He attended and
graduated from Iowa State University in 1904. Following graduation, he moved to San
Francisco, California, where he was active in the early days of the sales and racing of

He married Mabel Hall on August 7, 1907, he was 27 and she was 17 which meant the
marriage required her mother's consent. They relocated to Portland, Oregon in early
1910, where he got a job as a salesman, working for E. Henry Wemme. Soon after,
Wemme purchased one of Glenn Curtiss' first four-cylinder biplanes and acquired the
franchise for the Pacific Northwest. Wemme was unable to fly the Curtiss biplane, but
Ely, believing that flying was as easy as driving a car, offered to fly it. He ended up
crashing it instead, and feeling responsible, bought the wreck from Wemme. Within a
few months he had repaired the aircraft and learned to fly. He flew it extensively in the
Portland area, then headed to Winnipeg to participate in an exhibition, moving to
Minneapolis, Minnesota in June 1910, where he met Curtiss and started working for
him. Ely received federal pilot's license #17 on 5 October 1910.

In October, Ely and Curtiss met Captain Washington Chambers, USN, who had been
appointed by George von Lengerke Meyer, the Secretary of the Navy, to investigate
military uses for aviation within the Navy. This led to two experiments. On November
14, 1910, Ely took off in a Curtiss pusher from a temporary platform erected over the
bow of the light cruiser USS Birmingham. The aeroplane plunged downward as soon as
it cleared the 83-foot platform runway; and the aircraft wheels dipped into the water
before rising. Ely's goggles were covered with spray, and the aviator promptly landed
on a beach rather than circling the harbor and landing at the Norfolk Navy Yard as
planned. Following this flight, Ely was made a lieutenant in the California National
Guard to qualify for a $500 prize offered to the first reservist to make such a flight.
Two months later, on January 18, 1911, Ely landed his Curtiss pusher airplane on a
platform on the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay. Ely
flew from the Tanforan airfield in San Bruno, California and landed on the
Pennsylvania, which was the first successful shipboard landing of an aircraft. This
flight was also the first ever using a tailhook system, designed and built by circus
performer and aviator Hugh Robinson. Ely told a reporter: "It was easy enough. I think
the trick could be successfully turned nine times out of ten."

First fixed-wing aircraft landing on a warship: Ely landing his plane on board the USS
Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay, 18 January 1911.

Ely communicated with the United States Navy requesting employment, but United
States naval aviation was not yet organized. Ely continued flying in exhibitions while
Captain Chambers promised to "keep him in mind" if Navy flying stations were created.
Captain Chambers advised Ely to cut out the sensational features for his safety and the
sake of aviation. When asked about retiring, The Des Moines Register quoted Ely as
replying: "I guess I will be like the rest of them, keep at it until I am killed."

On October 19, 1911, while flying at an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, his plane was
late pulling out of a dive and crashed. Ely jumped clear of the wrecked aircraft, but his
neck was broken, and he died a few minutes later. His body was returned to his
birthplace for burial.

He continued his tour of the nation during 1911, then with star billing. At the Georgia
State Fairgrounds in Macon on October 19, 1911, Ely was flying his routine when
something went wrong. He was seen fighting to maintain control while diving from
several hundred feet, but the plane crashed near the grandstand. Ely jumped clear of the
wrecked aircraft, but his neck was broken, and he died a few minutes later. At 25, in a
notable flying career lasting only 18 months, Ely died of a broken neck when he was
thrown from his seat. More tragically, the crowd was unruly and rushed to the
wreckage to strip souvenirs from the airplane and pieces of clothing from his body. His
body was returned to his birthplace for burial.

In 1933, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, in recognition of his contribution to naval aviation. An exhibit of
retired naval aircraft at Naval Air Station Norfolk in Virginia bears Ely's name, and a
granite historical marker in Newport News, Virginia, overlooks the waters where Ely
made his historic flight in 1910 and recalls his contribution to military aviation, naval in