An exhibition pilot for the Wright Brothers landed his plane on the South Lawn of the White House today in 1911. Now WE know em


Harry Nelson Atwood was born on November 15, 1883.

Harry graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as an electrical engineer.

He built a successful business near Boston and became rich with the sale of two different electric meter designs to General Electric.

Atwood then became interested in flying and trained as a pilot at the Wright Brothers Flying School near Dayton, Ohio.

Straight out of flight school in May of 1911, Harry Atwood became the chief flight instructor for William Starling Burgess whose Burgess Company built a variety of airplanes, including licensed Wright aircraft.

Within three months of his first lesson, Harry flew a record-breaking 576 miles from Boston to Washington, DC.


Then, after flying over the nations capital on July 14, 1911, Harry Atwood landed his licensed Wright Brothers airplane “Moth” on the South Lawn of the White House. President William H. Taft greeted 26-year old Atwood and awarded him a gold medal from the Washington Aero Club recognizing “a new chapter in the thrills of the flying art” long before the adaptation of the Congressional Gold Medal or the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

After this highly publicized event, a prize of $10,000 was offered to Atwood to fly between Chicago and Milwaukee which he undertook on August 10, 1911.

Then, between August 14, 1911 and August 25, 1911, Harry Atwood flew 1,256 miles from St. Louis to New York, making 11 stops and spending 28 hours 31 minutes in the air.

In 1912, Harry Atwood signed on with the General Aviation Corporation as their chief flight instructor. The company purchased an old race track in Saugus, Massachusetts and converted it into a flight instruction school which they named after Atwood.

On May 31, 1912, Atwood made the first airmail delivery in New England. He flew about five miles from Atwood Park to the Lynn, Massachusetts Town Commons where he dropped a sack of mail from the plane. The sack was then retrieved by a Lynn postal employee and driven to the post office.

Soon, Harry realized it was more fun doing exhibition flights, so on June 10, 1912 he quit General Aviation’s Atwood flight school.

After a divorce from his wife Sarah Jenkins, Harry married Ruth Satterthwaite on March 2, 1914.

When Ruth died in October of 1920, Harry married the widow of her brother, Helen Satterthwaite. They divorced after only 90 days.

Harry then married his fourth wife, Mary Dalton, however she died during the birth of son Harry, Jr. in 1930.

Harry then married his housekeeper Nellie Pickens.

Harry Atwood died July 14, 1967 of natural causes in Murphy, North Carolina at the age of 83.

A biography of Harry was published in 1999 entitled “Skylark.”

Now WE know em


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