First Northern Ohio Airplane Flight Was in Bratenahl
At 7:30 on the Tuesday evening of June 28, 1910, Captain William A. Mattery cranked the gasoline engine on his little aeroplane, climbed in between the uprights, and rose into the air. He circled Bratenahl’s Country Club golf links twice at a height varying from five to ten feet. When an essential wire grew slack, Mattery shut off the engine, and the machine landed smoothly to the ground. This was the first-ever airplane flight in or near Cleveland.
Captain Mattery’s machine was one of the smallest aeroplanes in the world. It measured about twenty-five feet from tip to tip of the wings and about the same length. Its wings were of yellow silk, stitched tight on a hollow metal frame. Slender wires adjusted the wings and the tail.
The flight was unannounced, but about two-hundred people gathered at dawn on the golf course, the present location of Haskell Homes.
Mattery was busy straightening wires and testing in a tent all day. Jeptha Wade, Jr., an intrepid balloonist, and others interested in aeronautics flocked to the tent in the morning. Clevelanders who are about to build aeroplanes of their own dropped in now and then to take pointers from him.
Mattery said he would be tinkering pretty much of the day. He didn’t anticipate a real flight until the breeze off the lake died down an hour or so before sunset, but there would be experimental ascents through the morning and afternoon.
Capt. Mattery was only twenty-six. He was born in Germany and spent his life there and in the United States. His wife was only twenty-four, the daughter of E. E. Peters, one of the owners of Riverview Park in Chicago.
Mrs. Mattery stayed close to the tent throughout the day. When her husband left the tent, she remained to guard his treasure. Mrs. Mattery knew more about aeroplanes than the average citizen knew about bicycles.
There was no mystery in flying for her. When a visitor asked how many revolutions the propeller makes a minute, she responded without hesitating, “more than 2,500.” She explained how the aviator steers with his hands and balances the wings with his back, strapped to a lever.
She said the public had not learned the difference between an aeronaut and an aviator and went on to explain, “An aeronaut flies on an airship, which hangs from a gasbag. The whole ship is lighter than air. An aviator flies in a heavier-than-air machine.”
Mrs. Mattery often takes trips through the air. She said that there’s fun riding in an aeroplane, but she could not stand riding in an elevator.
“Elevator seems tame compared to an aeroplane, doesn’t?” she said. “Well, I get out of an elevator as soon as I can. I can’t catch my breath in them. But I can stay up in an aeroplane for hours.”
“There’s one trouble about an aeroplane – you have to keep watching the engine, and there’s no room to move. Between an aeroplane and a balloon, I’ll take a balloon every time – just swing through the clouds in a basket; you don’t know you’re moving; you can eat, or read, or play cards and feel at home in a balloon, but there’s no comfort in an aeroplane.”
“Trips are another objection to an aeroplane,” said Mrs. Mattery. “It spoils the complexion. The soot and the smoke drop from the overhead engine,” she says,” and when you get to the ground, your skin is black and rough and leathery.”
“People often ask me whether I’m not nervous when my husband flies. I tell them ‘No,’ but the truth is I used to be, but I’ve learned to control myself. I just reason that if a person’s time has come, you can’t save yourself – there’s as much danger on the street. My husband is brave, and he is wiry, He has fallen more than once, and although he has been badly battered, he always comes out lucky. So, I reason that a person is safe till their time comes. I force myself to believe that. It’s the only way I can keep from being nervous.”