Thomas Scott Baldwin

Last updated
Thomas Scott Baldwin
Thomas Scott Baldwin.jpg
Born(1854-06-30)June 30, 1854
Marion County, Missouri
Died May 17, 1923(1923-05-17) (aged 68)
Buffalo, New York
Resting place

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington, Virginia
Nationality United States
Occupation Balloonist
Spouse(s) Cary Poole
Parent(s) Jane and Samuel Yates Baldwin

Thomas Scott Baldwin (June 30, 1854 May 17, 1923) was a pioneer balloonist and U.S. Army major during World War I. [1] He was the first American to descend from a balloon by parachute.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Parachute device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere

A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong fabric, originally silk, now most commonly nylon. They are typically dome-shaped, but vary, with rectangles, inverted domes, and others found. A variety of loads are attached to parachutes, including people, food, equipment, space capsules, and bombs.


Early career

He was born on June 30, 1854 to Jane and Samuel Yates Baldwin. [2] He worked as a brakeman on the Illinois railroad, then joined a circus working as an acrobat. In 1875, he started an act combining trapeze and a hot air balloon. [3]

On January 30, 1885 he made one of the earliest recorded parachute jumps from a balloon. Baldwin repeated the feat on multiple occasions as a paid entertainer, netting $1500 from one dangerous jump over the water from 600 feet at Rockaway Beach in August 1887 marred by parachute difficulties. [4]

Rockaway Beach, Queens Neighborhood of Queens in New York, United States

Rockaway Beach is a neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens. The neighborhood is bounded by Arverne to the east and Rockaway Park to the west. It is named for Rockaway Beach, which is the largest urban beach in the United States, stretching for miles along the Rockaway Peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean; the beach itself is run and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The neighborhood, with 13,000 residents as of 2010, was once known as the "Irish Riviera" because of the large Irish American population in the area.

Powered balloons

In 1900, Baldwin created a small pedal-motorized powered airship. It never served as anything more than a curiosity. In 1902-1903 he supervised the construction of California Eagle, based on the ideas of August Greth and financed by the American Aerial Navigation Company of San Francisco. It utilized a De Dion-Bouton engine and paddle propeller based on marine technology so prevalent in airship design in the period. After collaborating with Greth and John J. Montgomery in 1903-1904, Baldwin acquired sufficient knowledge to begin his own independent airship project. [5]

De Dion-Bouton French automobile company

De Dion-Bouton was a French automobile manufacturer and railcar manufacturer operating from 1883 to 1953. The company was founded by the Marquis Jules-Albert de Dion, Georges Bouton, and Bouton's brother-in-law Charles Trépardoux.

In June and July 1904, Baldwin built an aerodynamic cigar-shaped hydrogen-filled dirigible California Arrow , using a 7 hp (5.2 kW)Hercules motorcycle engine manufactured by Glenn H. Curtiss. With Lincoln J. Beachey as pilot, California Arrow made the first controlled circular flight in America[ citation needed ] on August 3, 1904 at Idora Park in Oakland, California. In October and November, 1904, the aircraft was piloted by Roy Knabenshue at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Expositionin St. Louis, Missouri. [6]

Oakland, California City in California, United States

Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California, United States. A major West Coast port city, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third largest city overall in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth most populated city in California, and the 45th largest city in the United States. With a population of 425,195 as of 2017, it serves as a trade center for the San Francisco Bay Area; its Port of Oakland is the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay, the entirety of Northern California, and the fifth busiest in the United States of America. An act to incorporate the city was passed on May 4, 1852, and incorporation was later approved on March 25, 1854, which officially made Oakland a city. Oakland is a charter city.

In August 1908, after several test flights at Fort Myer, Virginia, the Army Signal Corps paid Baldwin US$10,000 for a dirigible that could be used for sustained and controlled navigation. Baldwin created a dirigible that was 95 feet (29 m) long and powered by a new, more powerful Curtiss engine. The Army bought it and designated it Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1. Baldwin picked up the sobriquet, "Father of the American Dirigible". He received the Aero Club of America's first balloon pilot certificate.[ citation needed ]

Fort Myer place in Virginia listed on National Register of Historic Places

Fort Myer is the previous name used for a U.S. Army post next to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, and across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Founded during the American Civil War as Fort Cass and Fort Whipple, the post merged in 2005 with the neighboring Marine Corps installation, Henderson Hall, and is today named Joint Base Myer–Henderson Hall.

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" due to its status as the first English colonial possession established in mainland North America and "Mother of Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born there, more than any other state. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2017 is over 8.4 million.

Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1

Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1 was the first powered aircraft ordered for the Signal Corps by the Aeronautical Division of the United States Army. The purchase of SC-1, a dirigible designed by Thomas Scott Baldwin, was the result of urgings by Chief Signal Officer Brigadier General James Allen. After seeing Baldwin demonstrate a dirigible at the St. Louis air meet in 1907, Allen had urged the U.S. Army to buy a dirigible, as many European armies had dirigibles by the turn of the century.


Baldwin flying near the McKinley Bridge Capt. Thomas Scott Baldwin in flight near the McKinley Bridge. 10 September 1910.jpg
Baldwin flying near the McKinley Bridge

In 1910 Baldwin designed his own airplane, and it was built by Glenn Hammond Curtiss. It used a 25 horsepower (19 kW), four-cylinder Curtiss engine that was later replaced by a Curtiss V-8 engine.

On September 10, 1910 Baldwin made history with the first airplane flight over the Mississippi River. The St. Louis flight started just east of Bellefontaine Cemetery. Baldwin and his Red Devil plane took off at 5:11 p.m. 200,000 citizens lined the riverfront on both sides to watch the red biplane fly from the north St. Louis field and land in Illinois across the river from Arsenal Street. On the return flight, the aviator astounded the crowds by flying under both the Eads and McKinley bridges at fifty miles per hour (80.5 km/hr). Baldwin landed at 6:05 back at his starting place.

Baldwin flew it at an air meet in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 7, 1910. He spoke to State University of Iowa engineering students on October 11, 1910 [7] and flew demonstrations at the Iowa City, Iowa fairgrounds on October 12–13, 1910. The flight on October 12 was unsuccessful. On October 13, he flew two flights, one of which was photographed by Julius Robert Hecker. [8] On the second flight he did not gain sufficient altitude and the plane was damaged on a barn but he was uninjured. [9] He then took his airplane to Belmont, New York. He put together a company of aerial performers including J.C. "Bud" Mars and Tod Shriver in December 1910 and toured countries in Asia, making the first airplane flights in many of those locations. The troupe returned to the United States in the spring of 1911.

Red Devil

Baldwin's Red Devil, located at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Baldwin Red Devil 1.jpg
Baldwin's Red Devil, located at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

When he returned from the Pacific tour, Baldwin began testing a new airplane at Mineola, New York. The new aircraft was similar to the basic Curtiss Pusher design but was constructed of steel tubing instead of wood. The aircraft was constructed by C. and A. Wittemann of Staten Island, New York, and was powered by a 60 horsepower (45 kW), Hall-Scott V-8. It was capable of 60 mph (97 km/h). Baldwin named his new aircraft the "Red Devil III", and thereafter each of his designs would be called a "Baldwin Red Devil". Tony Jannus flew actress Julia Bruns in a Red Devil on October 12, 1913, in a New York Times Derby.

Baldwin met Cecil Peoli at a model aircraft competition and offered to teach him to fly. At seventeen, flying a Baldwin-designed biplane, Peoli qualified at the Mineola, Long Island airfield on June 22, 1912, becoming the youngest person to gain a pilot's license. [10] [11] Baldwin sponsored Peoli flying a Red Devil on the U.S.-Canada exhibition circuit in 1912 and 1913. [12]

Baldwin at the wheel of the Red Devil Thomas Scott Baldwin (LOC).jpg
Baldwin at the wheel of the Red Devil

In 1914 he returned to dirigible design and development, and built the U.S. Navy's first successful dirigible, the DN-I. He began training airplane pilots and managed the Curtiss School at Newport News, Virginia. One of his students was Billy Mitchell, who would later become an advocate of American military air power.

When the United States entered the World War I, Baldwin volunteered his services to the United States Army. He was commissioned a captain in the Aviation Section, U. S. Signal Corps and appointed Chief of Army Balloon Inspection and Production. Consequently, he personally inspected every lighter-than-air craft built for and used by the Army during the war. He was promoted to the rank of major during the war.

After the war, he joined the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, as a designer and manufacturer of their airships.


T.S. Baldwin died on May 17, 1923, in Buffalo, New York, at the age of 68. [13] [14] [15] He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, with full military honors.

Aero Club of America licenses


Baldwin was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1964. [2]

See also

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  1. "Dirigible Anniversary". New York Times. October 28, 1944. Retrieved 2008-05-05. Forty years ago this week the first successful flight of a dirigible airship in this country was made. A. Roy Knabenshue took off from the aeronautic concourse of the St. Louis World's Fair grounds in Capt. Thomas Scott Baldwin's "California Arrow," and a ...
  2. 1 2 "Thomas Scott Baldwin". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 6 April 2011.
  3. "Baldwin Red Devil" . Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  4. "Baldwin Jumps Again," New York Times, Aug. 30, 1887, pg. 12.
  5. Harwood, Craig; Fogel, Gary (2012). Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.[ page needed ]
  6. "Baldwin's Airship Makes A Successful Flight". The New York Times. 31 October 1904.
  7. October 12, 1910 Daily Iowan,
  8. "Capt.Thomas Baldwin in his flight at Iowa City Aviation Meet., the old Johnson County Fairgrounds, October 13, 1910" in Iowa Digital Library
  9. October 14, 1910 Daily Iowan,
  10. "Girl Aviator Tumbles". New York Times. June 23, 1912. p. 15.
  11. Aero Club of America. Douglas Taylor & Co. 1916. p. 66.
  12. "Youngest Aviator Killed When Biplane Collapses". New York Tribune. April 13, 1915. p. 3.
  13. "Died". Time . May 28, 1923. Retrieved 2008-08-05. Major Thomas Scott Baldwin, 69, pioneer in aviation and the inventor of the parachute.
  14. "Major Baldwin, Pioneer Balloonist". New York Times. May 18, 1923. Retrieved 2008-05-05. Thomas Scott Baldwin of Quincy, one of the pioneer flyers and in this country, died in the ... Hospital here ...
  15. "Major Baldwin". Time . May 28, 1923. Retrieved 2008-08-05. Next in the air but on a bed of sickness Major Thomas Scott Baldwin died in Buffalo at the age of 69. Long associated with aeronautics, " Cap " Baldwin was the originator of the parachute and was the first man to dare descend in one—in San Francisco in 1885. For many years he flew and manufactured balloons, dirigibles and planes. In 1893 he operated at the World's Fair in Chicago the first balloons owned by the United States Army. During the war he was Chief of the Army Balloon Inspection Service.
  16. Aeronautical Society of America (1911). Aeronautics the American magazine of aerial locomotion. 8: 222.Missing or empty |title= (help)