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Funded by Mabel Bell

A replica of the Silver Dart

Alexander Graham Bell is known in aviation circles as the founder of the Aerial Experiment Association, but the Association may never have formed without the financial and organizational support of the inventor’s wife, Mabel Gardiner Hubbard Bell.

Mabel Bell had as keen an interest as her husband in the area of aviation. When Alexander began to experiment with tetrahedral kites in the hopes of discovering a means of achieving heavier than air flight, Mabel provided practical support, such as getting the tetrahedral designs tested and approved by engineers to help win potential investors for the experiments.

Mabel BellUnfortunately, such monetary backing never came, but Mabel continued the work of providing an infrastructure for her husband’s work. In 1907, she was instrumental in helping him gather together in Nova Scotia all the men who would form the Aerial Experiment Association: John A.D. McCurdy, Frederick W. Baldwin, Thomas Selfridge, and Glenn H. Curtiss. She was also the one who suggested that the men place their experiments in the framework of an official organization.

For this to happen, the organization needed initial capital, and Mabel was the one who provided it. She sold off land that her father had left to her and used that money to set up the company. Because it was her investment, Mabel had some room to organize how that investment should best be used. $20,000.00 of her money was put forth, with the mandate that the group had 1 year to design and fly a powered aircraft. Salaries were arranged for Baldwin, McCurdy, and Curtiss (Selfridge, a United States Military Officer, did not take a salary), and schedules were set.

Mabel Bell perches on one of the tetrahedral kitesThus, in 1907, the Aerial Experiment Association was born. It did not quite meet its 1 year mandate in terms of creating a successful flyer, however, as three of their designs, the Red Wing, the White Wing and the June Bug, were all unsuccessful. With another $15,000.00 investment from Mabel and a six month extension on their work, however, the Aerial Experiment Association successfully flew the Silver Dart, and made Canadian and British Commonwealth aviation history.

Mabel Bell’s contribution to the Aerial Experiment Association marks one of the important turning points in Canadian Aviation history, a time when Canadians realized that they, too, could reach for the sky. It would not be long before that dream of flight would spread beyond the borders of Nova Scotia and touch the rest of the nation.

Sources:

http://www.coolwomen.org

Chapter 1 – The Aerial Experiment Association
Site: http://www.cbv.ns.ca
Page: http://www.cbv.ns.ca/rv/bell2.html

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site of Canada
Site: http://www.pc.gc.ca
Page: http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/grahambell/natcul/index_e.asp

The Curtiss Aviation Book
Site: http://invention.psychology.msstate.edu
Page: http://invention.psychology.msstate.edu/i/Curtiss/CurtisAviation.html

 

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