The godfather of naval aviation, or if you prefer, the father of the modern American aircraft industry, Glenn Curtiss, had no lifelong affair with flying; he started off quite successful at making motorcycles. His move into aviation came courtesy Thomas Baldwin, builder of dirigibles and a showman, who first began to use Curtiss engines for his blimps. Curtiss became increasingly fascinated with engine-powered flights, forming, along with Alexander Bell and several others, the Aerial Experiment Association. With the help of his association members he designed and built his first commercial aircraft.
On this day, June 16, in 1909 Glenn Curtiss sold the very first airplane in the United States. The Aeronautic Society of New York bought his Golden Flyer for $5,000. Curtiss himself flew it for the press from Morris Park in the Bronx.
After that first sale the AEA formed a partnership with Augustus Herring to manufacture and sell their airplanes. Although the Curtiss-Herring airplanes had aspects close enough to be infringing on the design of the Wright Brothers, they continued exhibiting the airplane press and spectators alike. After Curtiss’ Golden Flyer appeared on the cover of Scientific American for the second year in a row, Wilbur Wright filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against the company, and a few days later against the Aeronautic Society to prevent them from exhibiting the plane. It was the first shot in what would become known as the “Patent War” between the aviators.