Calbraith P. Rodgers

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Calbraith P. Rodgers in 1911

Calbraith (usually reported as Galbraith) Perry Rodgers lived for several years in Dayton, Ohio. On September 27, 1911, Rodgers boarded his airplane, the Vin Fiz, and attempted to make the first transcontinental flight across North America. He departed from Sheepshead Bay, New York. The flight took Rodgers forty-nine days, with him eventually arriving at Pasadena, California, on November 5, 1911. Rodgers only spent eighty-two hours, two minutes in the air. He averaged just fifty-two miles per hour on the 4,321-mile flight. Most of the time, Rodgers remained on the ground repairing his aircraft. Rodgers and the Vin Fiz crashed sixteen times, but the pilot and the plane were the first ones to fly across North America.

Rodgers’s feat was remarkable. He had been deaf from a young age due to scarlet fever. Undaunted, Rodgers pursued his dream. He secured financing for his trip from the Armour Company, which had just introduced a new soft drink known as Vin Fiz. The company paid for Rodgers’s expenses in return for the pilot advertising the company’s product on his plane. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst also offered a fifty thousand dollar prize to the first person who flew all of the way across North America in less than thirty days. This was the main impetus for Rodgers, but he failed to accomplish his feat in the required time.

Rodgers continued to fly following his transcontinental flight. Unfortunately for him, he died in a plane crash on April 3, 1912. The Smithsonian Institution now owns the Vin Fiz.

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