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Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West Hardcover – October 26, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (October 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806142642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806142647
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #922,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"In this beautifully written and thoroughly researched biography of John J. Montgomery, Harwood and Fogel not only debunk many of the myths surrounding Montgomery and the Wright Brothers but also provide a superb history of pioneer aviation in the West."

-- Gary F. Kurutz, Principal Librarian, Special Collections, California State Library


"In this fascinating and well-researched work, [the] authors take on a significant challenge: revising the traditional narrative of U.S. aviation history and shifting its geographical origins.....Well-written and containing many beautiful sketches, as well as previously unpublished photographs and diagrams, Quest for Flight should be read by anyone interested in the development of aviation in the United States in particular, and in California history in general."     Richard Byers, University of North Georgia, 2013.

QUEST FOR FLIGHT re-considers the history of American aviation and provides the story a scientist whose research into the laws of flight resulted in inventions of the basic methods of aircraft control and stability. His pursuit resulted in glider designs and resulted in controlled flights from Northern California that reached high altitudes and demonstrated the scientific accuracy of his designs - yet have received relatively little mention until now. QUEST FOR FLIGHT should be in any aviation history collection. (California Book Watch)

Re-examining the history of aviation in America, Fogel and Harwood detail the accomplishments of John J. Montgomery and his role as an aeronautical pioneer. This comprehensive biography exposes many of the fabrications surrounding Montgomery and the Wright Brothers and shifts the attention of aviation history from the East to the West, celebrating California's often over-looked achievements and contributions to air flight. Thoroughly researched and full of extensive documentation, this is an engaging read for aviation enthusiasts and historians. (Book News, Inc., Portland, OR)

Harwood (engineering geologist; distant relative of Montgomery) and Fogel (CEO, Natural Selection; Wind and Wings, 2000) have written an interesting, well-researched biography of John Montgomery (1858-1911), clearly explaining his role in aviation history..... A useful resource for people interested in the early history of aviation and those interested in the history of California. Summing Up: Recommended. Undergraduate and general library collections. Alvin M. Strauss Ph.D, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Vanderbilt University for CHOICE Magazine (American Library Association)

"Quest for Flight is the most refreshing thesis on the origins of flight associated with John J. Montgomery since the Columbia Pictures movie Gallant Journey in 1946. Craig S. Harwood and Gary B. Fogel, recognized experts in aviation history, have shown through their extraordinary research and detailed documentation that Montgomery refined his theories of flight long before the Wright Brothers. Readers of Quest for Flight will discover that John J. Montgomery is the true 'Father of the Aeroplane' and the first to fly--in California rather than the East. Quest for Flight acknowledges the efforts of many California pioneers, in addition to Montgomery, who experimented with flying machines in these early years of human flight. This important book will change society’s traditional views of American aviation history toward a more informed and objective version of 'the impossible art' of aerial navigation."—Milford Wayne Donaldson, State Historic Preservation Officer, Office of Historic Preservation, California Department of Parks and Recreation



"For nearly a century, with one exception, historians of aviation have only obliquely considered the origins of manned flight in the United States. No longer! Informed and vividly written, Quest for Flight revises the chronology of aviation in America decades prior to 1903 and, in terms of geography, locates its emergence on a far, far shore from Kitty Hawk." —Kevin Starr, author of the series, "Americans and the California Dream"


Harwood (a distant relative of John J. Montgomery) and Fogel (Wind and Wings: The History of Soaring in San Diego) effectively trace their subject's determined efforts in pioneering aerial navigation. Beginning with Montgomery's initial 1883 flights near San Diego, they chronicle his work through a series of ever-improved glider designs. These tests culminated in 1905 with successful controlled flights in northern California employing tandem-wing craft released from hot-air balloons. The authors also offer a fine exploration of Montgomery's crowded personal life and his interaction with air-minded peers; his nonaeronautical scientific projects; his continuing lack of sufficient research funds; and his inclination to protect his intellectual property with legal challenges; among other topics. Montgomery perished in a crash on October 31, 1911, at the age of 51. An epilog includes an account of his heirs' unsuccessful patent-infringement lawsuits against the Wright-Martin Corporation and the federal government. In 1946 Orville Wright supporters, according to Harwood and Fogel, engaged in a vindictive letter-writing campaign to stop production of a motion picture featuring the life of Montgomery; their efforts failed and Gallant Journey was produced.

VERDICT A solidly researched biography of a little-known turn-of-the century aerodynamicist and flyer compellingly framed against the broader tapestry of Western science and aviation. Highly recommended.—— John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland (for Library Journal)



“In this fascinating and well-researched work, authors Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel take on a significant challenge: revising the traditional narrative of U.S. aviation history and shifting its geographical origins from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to the Otay Mountains of Southern California. As their research indicates, the ranks of the founding fathers of U.S. aviation should include a prominent place for their work's subject, California scientist John J. Montgomery, whose applied experiments with gliders during the 1880s and '90s, based on his observations of birds, stake a powerful claim for his inclusion alongside more famous early aviation pioneers like Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers. Well-written and containing many beautiful sketches, as well as previously unpublished photographs and diagrams, Quest for Flight should be read by anyone interested in the development of aviation in the United States in particular, and in California history in general. —Technology and Culture


“Montgomery’s pioneering work on gliders certainly was state-of-the-art, especially in the 1880s. The authors make a good argument for recognizing Montgomery as one of those who helped set the stage for the invention of powered, heavier than air flight and that California was an early location for some advanced aviation research.”—Western Historical Quarterly

From the Author

Our purpose in writing this book was 1) to define John J. Montgomery in history, and 2) redirect the focus of traditional American aviation historical narratives (geographically speaking) from the east to the west to show that California based men and women made pioneering contributions in the aerial fields (aeroplanes, ballooning and airships) around the turn of the nineteenth century. Quest For Flight sheds light on, and celebrates the story of a lone inventor who accomplished the seemingly impossible and shared it with the public thereby inspiring a generation of Americans to take to the skies. Another intriguing aspect of the narrative of Quest For Flight is how it draws out of obscurity the role that women played in this visionary field of aeronautics and the resulting impact it had on societal attitudes toward women engaged in a male dominated and high risk field.

Quest For Flight represents a unique aspect of the history of the American West and a revisionist history of American aviation. 

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Customer Reviews

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Montgomery's parents came to California during the Gold Rush, so their story is the state's story as well.
V. Kalambakal
The glider John Montgomery was flying in 1900 look like designs done by other in the 30's American aviation would have been so much more advanced if he had lived.
David Vaness
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and learned a great deal about the beginning of aviation apart from what we all learn about the Wright Bros. in school.
Phyllis Leshin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bernard Burdick on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Harwood and Fogel have accomplished an impressive and compelling feat in establishing the rightful place of John J. Montgomery (1858-1911) in the early development of aviation. Their scholarly book is a meticulously researched treatise relying only on primary sources. Having spent several years myself researching this most impressive man, I appreciate the challenges they faced in accurately portraying events going back over 100 years, unearthing many fascinating facts about Montgomery and his "aeroplanes" of which I was unaware. It is an eminently readable book that provides a captivating story of the early attempts at flight, the colorful players involved, and their often contentious interactions in developing this most challenging and lucrative of technologies. Harwood and Fogel also provide an astute and insightful dissection of the Wright's and their followers' fallacious attempts to denigrate Montgomery and impede the efforts of others. It is unfortunate-and a disservice to the history of aerodynamics and aeronautics-that the pioneering work and accomplishments of John J. Montgomery have been-and are, to this day-consistently dismissed and denied. All too often, falsehoods are passed down as truths without proper research or documentation. There is ample evidence of Montgomery's foresight and contributions, as Harwood and Fogel so assiduously reveal and document.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bertha on November 12, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What are the names that come to mind when thinking about early aviation in the United States? Certainly the Wright Brothers, perhaps also Chanute, Curtiss and Langley. These early experiments were mostly in the eastern part of our country. But what about the west? An experimenter, John J. Montgomery, made the first controlled (heavier-than-air) glider fights in the Western Hemisphere - and he did it in California. He went on to do ground experiments of launching methods and control techniques followed by flight tests. His launches from a balloon had the advantage of allowing more flight time than available from a ground launch. This well written book describes these ground and flight tests along with the legal battles of the time. The text is well documented with many notes and an extensive bibliography. It is a "must read" for anyone interested in the early development of aviation in the United States and an important contribution to the history of the "Quest for Flight."
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By V. Kalambakal on January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In 2010 I saw the Gull Glider hanging at the Western Museum of Flight at Zamperini Field in Torrance. It's a replica (though it actually was flown, once) of a glider designed and flown by John Montgomery in San Diego, near the Otay Mesa, in 1883.
1883 . . . 20 years before the Wright Brothers.
John Montgomery died testing one of his machines in 1911.
The glider is a beautiful artifact, and when I first saw it I tried to learn more about John Montgomery. There wasn't too much out there. Montgomery seemed to be recalled as a local hero, a forgotten pioneer, but not much more.
However--Craig Harwood and Gary Fogel have dug into the historical record and written a book about Montgomery, giving him back his well-earned place in history and filling in all the details. You'll come across names like Chanute, Curtiss, and Loughead (which was later changed to Lockheed) and more.
It is a great read. Highly recommended to anyone interested in early flight or California history.
Montgomery's parents came to California during the Gold Rush, so their story is the state's story as well. His father Zach, an attorney, came in 1850 looking for gold and quickly determined that he'd do better as a lawyer and politician.
But it's his mother's story that really astounds me.
We all know that men hightailed it to California during the Gold Rush, right? Men and very, very few women. A small number of men brought wives; hookers who felt they had nothing to lose and maybe a bit to gain went west; but for the most part, California was men, men, men from 1848 into the decade following.
So why did an Irish widow pack up her family--two grown daughters and two sons, and a few very young grandchildren--and become one of the 49'r's? That's amazing.
Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By P. Brown on July 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you still believe the Wright Brothers were the first to fly, you need to read this book. Very interesting.
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This is a fascinating and well-written description of the experiments carried on by J.J. Montgomery in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to develop heavier than air flying machines. The authors have made an important contribution to the history of flight by covering, in detail, the experimentation that was being carried on in California before the Wright brothers and others captured the headlines and commercial rewards of developing motorized aeroplanes. The book is a must read for anyone who desires a balanced history of heavier than air controlled flight as it was developed in the United States.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Skipper on September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book is very informative about early aviation pioneers, especially those west of the Mississippi River. It gives a different insight about the Wright Brothers and how they tried to stymie other aviation pioneers. Highly recommend if you are into aviation.
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