Author John Zobel Visits Martin Mitchell, Exploring the Bluemont
Connection to Early Flight
By Susan Freis Falknor
Author John Zobel of Seattle visited Martin Mitchell December
5, 2016, to fill in his mental picture of Jerome Fanciulli,
publicist of early flight, who worked for aircraft pioneer
Glenn Curtiss from 1909-1912.
Zobel came to Bluemont in search of insights on Fanciulli--to
better understand what went on at a personal level among
the players in the ambitious, risky, fast-moving, acrimonious,
lawsuit-riddled, small world of those who explored the development
of man-guided flight.
By the time the Fanciullis came to Bluemont in 1943, Fanciulli
was working as a Baltimore-area Ford dealer, landing contracts
for fleets of trucks to the government.
As a young man, Bluemonter Martin Mitchell began by cutting
Fanciulli's lawn and eventually became his trusted driver.
Martin's daughter Sandy Cochran joined the meeting to share
her own youthful recollections of Fanciulli, who died in
Zobel looked over Martin's collections of commemorative
exhibition pamphlets, magazine articles, and post cards
from Fanciulli. (For more on the Bluemont early flight connection,
see our earlier story: "Bluemonter Jerome Fanciulli,
Publicist of Early Flight," [http://bluemontva.org/article20151016Fanciulli.html
Zobel is writing a biography about early flyer Eugene Ely who,
in on November 14, 1910, became the first to make a ship-to-land
flight. The ship -- a U.S. Navy light cruiser, the USS Birmingham
in San Francisco Bay-- was fitted out for the takeoff with a temporary
platform across the bow. As Zobel relates in a follow-up email
to his visit:
"I ran across Ely's name by accident six years ago while
doing research for a novel. The centennial of his historic ship
flights (1910-1911) happened to be coming up just then, so my
father (Hiller B. Zobel) and I decided to write an article about
it. Here's the link to the article: http://bit.ly/pFcGas ("Those
Magnificent Men: 100 Years Of Naval Aviation: A century ago, a
skilled and fearless stunt pilot landed a wire-and-wood aircraft
on a ship's deck -- and introduced the era of naval aviation,"
by Hiller B. Zobel and John H. Zobel, American Heritage, Winter
"My forthcoming Ely biography is called Gods in Machines:
Eugene Ely and the Road to the Sky. I maintain an early-aviation
blog of the same name, which you can find at www.johnzobel.com.
It has vignettes of many other early aviators; the 8/5/16 entry,
"Air Mail," is about Earle Ovington, who sent the postcard
to Jerome Fanciulli that's among Mr. Mitchell's items."
|John Zobel (left) & Martin Mitchell, 12-08-2016
Ely flew for Curtiss from the summer of 1910 to October 1911,
when killed in a flying accident two days short of his 21st birthday.
Although he performed in Curtiss's famous open-air demonstrations,
Zobel pointed out, Ely was not among the daredevils like Lincoln
Beachy who mainly "wanted to find out what a guy could do
with an airplane."
Ely was trying to move over to the nascent manufacturing side
of the airplane business when he died.