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« on: December 30, 2017, 04:06:43 PM »
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The American Civil War helicopter that lifted 600 pounds. Hundreds of people saw it.

I would like to build a scale down model of the flying machine described in the 1904 article you can read a few lines below. It appears to be a helicopter but I have not been able to find more precise constructive details than what is written in the text. Does somebody on this forum have more information about this apparatus?

1904-06-24, Edward Wellman Serrell, “A Flying Machine in the Army”, Science, New York, N. Y., June 24, 1904, vol. XIX, no. 495, pp. 952-955.

A Flying Machine in the Army
The first thing done was to make a fan eighteen inches in diameter, rotate it at different speeds and see how much it would lift. The fan was made of very thin brass, and upon a wire frame, very much the same shape as those now used for ventilating and blowing, driven by electricity. It was found that a hollow blade with a blunt shoulder seemed to be best.

It was found that very considerable weight could be lifted, and to try what could be done on a large scale, a fan about thirty-two feet in diameter was made, the blades of the thinnest sheet iron that could be procured, and rotation by belt was provided. Contrary to expectation, when the fan was first rotated at great speed in a foundry that had a high roof, the weight that could be lifted was much more than the wheel itself, some six hundred pounds or more, and then within forty seconds of time the wheel and the weights would drop back to where they started from, it mattered not how fast the fan was driven.

This was a puzzle, indeed. Why did it act so? When spun at a given speed, starting from at rest in still air, a certain velocity would make the wheel jump up the vertical shaft very quickly, lifting its own weight, and then suddenly, and as the velocity was increased, it would, after an interval never longer than forty seconds, slide down the vertical shaft, not sustaining its own weight. Hundreds saw it. The test was repeated again and again. No one understood why it did as it did.

Resort was then had again to the eighteen-inch brass wheel and it was found that after a certain period it went through the same manoeuvers as the large fan, but the period of ability to lift was many times longer in the small than in the large. It was found after a long investigation that the fan wheel of any size, when rotated in one place, set up a downward current of air that soon became nearly or quite as fast as the pitch of the fan, hence it would lift nothing. When, however, the fan was mounted at the outer end of a long boom, which revolved around a mast, so as to constantly bring the fan into new air, its lifting capacity never deserted it and bore a certain ratio to the velocity, and data were accumulated for proportioning the machine. 
Nothing is known by the writer of the details of the machinery recently tried by the brothers Wright in North Carolina, except that obtained from imperfect newspaper accounts, but from what has been published it would seem that their machine is very much like, if not identical, with the army machine here described; but whether this is so or not, they are to be most heartily congratulated upon the measure of success that has crowned their efforts, and this kind thought extends to my friend of years gone by — Chanute — who is reported to have helped them.


It looks like, the Wright brothers, when they flew for the first time in 1908, were more than 40 years late. The man carrying capable, heavier than air, flying machine had already been built and tested in front of hundreds of people.

It is self evident that the retired colonel EDWARD WELLMAN SERRELL wrote the text believing the Wright brothers' apparatus, allegedly flown on December 17, 1903, was based on the principle of that Civil War time helicopter. Why? Because numerous pictures showing the Wright Flyer with a lifting propeller placed under the wings had appeared in the newspapers, in December 1903 and the beginning of 1904.

The big question would be: Is there solid evidence that the above mentioned helicopter, with a propeller 32 feet in diameter that lifted more than 600 pounds, was really tested and flew or it was just a hoax like the 160 flights the two inventors from Dayton claimed they had performed between December 17, 1903 and October 5, 1905? ( see: The Wright Brothers and Their Claims - The Timeline of a Fraud)

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