Henry Gatling and His Flying Machine

James Henry Gatling and his Flying Machine . Image copyright F. Roy Johnson and from the State Archives.

James Henry Gatling and his Flying Machine . Image copyright F. Roy Johnson  and his family, and held by the State Archives.

On July 15, 1816, Henry Gatling, inventor of an early flying machine and brother of Richard Gatling of Gatling gun fame, was born in Hertford County.

In interviews, Gatling claimed the flight of the turkey buzzard as his inspiration. The bird, he observed, could soar for long intervals with only slight wing movements. To try to mimic this method of flight, he developed a flying machine with hinged triangular wings that could be moved with wires.

Gatling selected hand-cranked engines with blower-type wooden blades in front of each wing. The blades blew air to the underside of the wings to keep the plane aloft until necessary momentum was achieved.  Anticipating the ground maneuvering needs of aircraft, Gatling placed large wooden wheels at the front and a smaller one under the tail of his “aeroplane.”  The completed contraption was about 18-feet long with a 14-foot wingspan.

A reproduction of the Gatling Aeroplane. Image courtesy of the Murfreesboro Historical Association, Inc.

A reproduction of the Gatling Aeroplane. Image courtesy of the Murfreesboro Historical Association, Inc.

Gatling performed a number of ground and air trials of his airplane the summer and fall of 1873. Eyewitnesses to machine’s 1873 first (and only) trip through the air recalled an approximately 100-foot flight from a raised platform, with the plane descending rapidly suggesting that it was actually more of a “glide” than a “flight.” The descent left the machine badly damaged, and Gatling never made the repairs necessary to attempt further flights.

The flyer garnered wide press attention in 1872 and 1873. One article claimed that the machine was “destined at some future day to eclipse the [his brother’s] famous gun, and fly triumphant over time, space, and water.”  There is little doubt that the statement reflects the inventor’s aspirations on both counts.

Gatling was murdered on his property in September 1879.  The airplane, which had been stored in a barn, was destroyed by a fire in 1905.

A group of enthusiasts in Murfreesboro have built what they believe to be an accurate replica of the Gatling flying machine.

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The Flood of 1916 and Unprecedented Destruction in Western North Carolina

Asheville's railroad yard after the 1916 flood. Image from the State Archives

Asheville’s railroad yard after the 1916 flood. Image from the State Archives

On July 14, 1916, the worst flood in western North Carolina’s history occurred after six days of torrential rain. In one 24-hour period the region saw more than half of a normal year’s total rainfall. The 22 inches of rain that fell that day set the record for the most rainfall in a single day in the United States.

Because the ground was saturated, most of the water immediately filled streams and rivers, causing them to reach flood stage in just a few hours. Eighty people lost their lives and the property damage surpassed $22 million, $1 million of that in Asheville alone.

Asheville and Hendersonville were completely cut off from the outside for weeks. Railroad tracks that were not destroyed had their supports washed out from under them, leaving tracks eerily suspended over mud-covered ravines—895 miles of track were rendered useless.

Everyone was taken by surprise at the speed with which the water rose. People were stranded in trees when their cars or homes were overwhelmed and they had nowhere else to go. Industrial plants along the rivers were swept away and landslides engulfed homes.

For most of western North Carolina this flood remains the benchmark for disasters.

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Homegrown Raleigh Powerhouse, CP&L

A CP&L steam plant on Jones Street in Raleigh, circa 1925.
Image from the State Archives.

On July 13, 1908, the Carolina Power & Light Company (CP&L) was chartered.

The corporation, with a customer base primarily in Raleigh, was the result of a merger of the Raleigh Electric Company, the Central Carolina Power Company and the Consumer Light and Power Company. Within a few years, CP&L owned or controlled local power companies in Oxford, Henderson, Asheville and Goldsboro.

The interior of the Blewett Falls Hydroelectric Plant, circa 1920-1930. Image from the N.C. Museum of History

The interior of the Blewett Falls Hydroelectric Plant, circa 1920-1930. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.

In the early part of the 20th century, electric streetcar systems operated by companies that would become part of CP&L were an integral part of the utility’s business and played an important role in the development of suburban neighborhoods in Asheville and Raleigh. After World War I, the company benefited from the demand created by the proliferation of electrical appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and stoves that were once were considered luxury items.

To generate power for electricity, CP&L used coal, oil and water until the 1960s, when the company built its first nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The company constructed costly nuclear plants in Brunswick and Wake counties before scaling back its production of nuclear energy.

In 2000, CP&L merged with Florida Progress Corporation form Progress Energy, and Progress in turn merged with Charlotte-based Duke Energy in 2012.

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The Grove Park Inn and Its Host of Prominent Guests

The Grove Park Inn while still under construction. Image from
UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library.

On July 12, 1913, the Grove Park Inn opened on Sunset Mountain near Asheville. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan delivered an opening address officially welcoming guests and indicating that the inn was “built for the ages.”

The brainchild of Edwin W. Grove, a Missouri pharmacist often called the “father of modern Asheville” because of the extensive development work he did in the city, the inn was designed by Fred L. Seely. Seely was an adherent of the Arts and Crafts movement, and that’s evident in the inn’s distinctive architectural style.

The Inn’s opening banquet on July 12, 1913.
Image from UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library.

Construction on the building with its original 156 guest rooms took less than a year, thanks to the large crew of 400 laborers and 20 Italian stonemasons who worked 10-hour days to ensure the project’s speedy completion.

Over the years, the inn has played host to a number of notable personalities including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and exiled Philippine president Manuel L. Quezon, who established the headquarters of a government-in-exile for the Philippines at the inn.

An extensive renovation in the 1980s increased the hotel’s size to include 510 guest rooms, 40 meeting rooms, 2 ballrooms, 4 restaurants, a full-service sports center and a number of other facilities. It continues to attract guests from around the world today.

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Gaston Means, Con Man, Swindler and Hoax Artist

Gaston Means in court. Means is in the center of the photograph with his head tilted toward the camera. Image from the Library of Congress.

On July 11, 1879, private detective, bootlegger and all-around con man Gaston Means was born in Concord.

The son a prominent lawyer, Means attended UNC and worked as a schoolteacher and traveling salesman before moving to New York to work as a private detective in 1911. For the next 20 years, Means was involved in a variety of dubious activities from stealing money from a widow to advancing the German government’s interests in the U.S. while the country was still neutral during World War I.

Among his most famous hoaxes was his publication of the book The Death of President Harding, which falsely asserted that Harding had a been a central player in all the scandals of his administration and accused First Lady Florence Harding of murdering the president. Another was his involvement in the Lindbergh baby case, where he swindled a wealthy heiress out of thousands of dollars by insisting he could recover the child.

It was the Lindbergh case which ultimately brought him down. Following it, Means was captured, convicted of grand larceny and sent to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to serve a 15-years sentence. He died there in 1938.

Means’ gained national infamy after FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote an article about him for The American Magazine. Hoover called Means “the most amazing figure in contemporary criminal history.”

The cast of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire includes a character based on Means’ life.

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Broadcast Journalist David Brinkley, Native of Wilmington

Chet Huntley (left) and David Brinkley (right) anchor NBC’s coverage of the 1960 presidential election. Image from the Hugh Morton Collection at UNC Libraries

Chet Huntley (left) and David Brinkley (right) anchor NBC’s
coverage of the 1960 presidential election. Image from the
Hugh Morton Collection at UNC Libraries

On July 10, 1920, broadcaster David Brinkley was born in Wilmington.

Brinkley got his start reporting with the Wilmington Morning Star in 1938. After serving briefly in the Army, Brinkley was hired by the NBC radio network as a news writer partly for his knack for “writing for the ear.” In 1956, he was paired with Chet Huntley to cover the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The two proved so popular that NBC tapped them to anchor the evening television news program The Huntley Brinkley Report.  The program went on to become the number one rated evening newscast of the 1960s. Brinkley reported from Washington, D.C. and Huntley from New York. In 1981, Brinkley went to work for ABC and hosted a Sunday morning interview program This Week with David Brinkley.

The title of his 1995 book, David Brinkley: 11 Presidents, 4 Wars, 22 Political Conventions, 1 Moon Landing, 3 Assassinations, 2,000 Weeks of News and Other Stuff on Television and 18 Years of Growing Up in North Carolina, reflects the breadth of his career.

Among Brinkley’s accolades are 10 Emmys, three George Foster Peabody Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Brinkley died at his home in Texas in 2003 at the age of 82. He is buried in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.

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Lutheran Leader J. G. Arends

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On July 9, 1807, minister, educator and founder of the North Carolina Synod of the Lutheran Church J. G. Arends died in Lincolnton.

Born in Germany in 1740, Arends arrived in Rowan County in 1773 to become a Lutheran teacher. When the minister who served the area left in 1774, Arends was ordained to take his place.

Arends traveled extensively throughout the western part of North Carolina ministering to those who otherwise had no other form of pastoral care. By the end of his ministry he had served 19 churches, most of which he helped establish. Although many in the Lutheran Church in North Carolina were supportive of the Crown, Arends dedicated himself to the cause of American independence.

Responding to the “outburst of intensive religious activity” and the “alarming deterioration of both faith and morals” during revivalism known as the Second Great Awakening, Arends and other Lutheran ministers in North Carolina saw the need to organize and bring authority to the Lutheran Church. They met in Salisbury in May 1803 to form the North Carolina Synod of the Lutheran Church. It was only the third Lutheran synod in America, and Arends was elected the group’s first president.

He died four years later.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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