Claude Grahame-White! A man, a plane, and flight!

Posted by on November 9, 2008


What is it about early aviation that seems so romantic?  Is it boarding a seaplane like in the picture above, our destination unknown, watching the sun fall into a haze of red and gold as we fly into the air?  Did people approach life differently back then?  Was flight itself different?

While it’s impossible to go back in time to see how everyone really felt, it is possible to examine sources from the era that talk about aviation….when flight was new and the latest thing, the “bee’s knees” if you will.  Daily races, excitement, newspaper stories, all exclaimed the fragility and honest astoundingness of this new and mysterious technology that allowed men to fly like birds.



While most Americans probably remember the Wright brothers to some extent, how many of us can recall anyone else?  Jimmy Doolittle perhaps? In our frantic, push-push society of today, I’m afraid that many of aviation’s driving pioneers are being forgotten, relegated to history’s dusty corners.  Neither do people recall the many contests and air races, all of which brought to the forefront the newly formed spectacle of aviation.

One of these early pioneers was a gentleman by the name of Claude Grahame-White.

C. Grahame-White


Much like our own Lindbergh, Grahame-White was the English aviation celebrity of the time.  Known for his consuming interest in aviation, he was a major competitor in early air races.  One race, held in April of 1910, saw him push through a dangerous night flight, trying mightily to catch up to his competitors.  Although failing in this particular contest to capture this Daily-Mail inspired competition, he went on later to win the Gordon Bennett International Aviation Cup race, bringing home the trophy for his club, the Royal Aero Club (4).


Going beyond mere races, his love for flying can be seen best in his spectacular stunt of buzzing the White House, landing his plane on the lawn and inviting Taft to take flight with him.

His later years were mixtures of success and failures.  He was involved in plane design, the aerodrome at Hendon as well as flying in World War I and involvement in defense work.  Suprisingly, at least to me, he moved to America in those postwar years and chose to settle on the west coast.

One of those aviation pioneers who have seemingly slipped from view, his life and drive to aviation pushed it to the forefront of interest and driving innovation in many ways.  While my blog post today can only mention certain highlights, take a look at the links below for much more detailed information on this prize-winning pioneer! I’ll leave you today with a quote from Grahame-White himself:

“…The possibilities of the future are just beginning to unfold themselves.  We see already, however, that flying is to open a new page in the world’s history….” (6)

Have a great day!


RAF: Waddington

Aviation Pioneers

Isle of Man Airport: Information on C. Grahame-White

The Aeroplane by Claude Grahame-White (Google Books)

Air Racing History

Early Aviators (external web site)


(1) American Memory Project: Early Aviation

(2) LOC: Prints & Photographs Division

(3) LOC: Prints & Photographs Division

(4) New York Times, October 30, 1910

(5) LOC: Prints & Photographs Division

(6) The Aeroplane by Claude Grahame-White (Google Books)

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