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Visibility: Spotty

Visibility: Spotty

Washington, D.C., circa 1911. "Flights and test of Rex Smith biplane flown by Antony Jannus. The plane with Rufus R. Bermann, wireless operator, and Fred Aubert." Whose somewhat pixilated appearance can be attributed to mold on the emulsion. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Re: S.O.S.

Another Shorpy delight that spans the years: Zcarstvnz in 2018 clears up a mystery from 2011. In the comment by Fitz (S.O.S.) over seven years ago, he asks, with reference to Rufus R. Bermann on the left, “I notice his right hand is over something. Could be just a seat brace or perhaps some sort of Morse code key?” In the newspaper piece from 1911 provided last night, we find the answer to that question: “The sending key was set on the side of the passenger’s seat on the right of the operator.” I note that Fitz’s last comment was over six years ago, but I hope he’s still around to read this answer to his question from 2011.

... .--. --- - - . -..

From the Evening Star of April 9, 1911, Part I, Page 7


Flying attire

How many co-pilots would consider pince-nez and homburg proper flying gear?

Not so happy

Tony doesn't seem quite as excited about taking this sourpuss aloft as he did with the pretty socialite.

[Tony's not here. - Dave]

Doi . . . . It helps to read captions, don't it? Anyway, neither of them looks too elated.

Are you sure that's mold?

Near-sighted hunters mistaking Rufus and Fred for a Canada goose.

No restraint

Did they really wear no seat belts or restraint of any kind? I can't see any.

The Wright Stuff

This photo looks like the first documented evidence of manned space flight.

Wood and Fabric

That's all they were for the most part. If you ever visit Sagamore Hill, they have a piece of Theodore Roosevelt's youngest son Quentin's plane from the Great War -- the one he was shot flying -- and it's a wooden stick! Not only is it almost inconceivable to imaging going up in such a contraption, but try imagining going up in one only slightly more advanced while people are SHOOTING AT YOU.

TR, of course, was the first president to fly. He used a plane, but he didn't need one.

Early Aviation

It appears that every passenger has that "this is not going to end well" look.

Their faces say:

We who are about to die salute you.

Chicken Little

Switzarch, you were spot-on with your post, they were a lot more brave than I am, I'll tell you that much!

The second requisite to bravery

Buttocks of steel.

Not Quite

As much as I like the ‘’ bubble machine’’ effect: I’ll take Senorita Lenore Riviero
in the previous post anytime! And, I mean how! (whoopee)

Forever blowing bubbles

It looks like a segment from the Lawrence Welk Show.


The spots give them a cartoonish, inebriated look. Don't drink and fly, kids!

ETA: This is what came to mind. Eventually.

Mars or bust

No no it's not emulsion degradation, it's a clever overlay technique Harris & Ewing did to portray the lads flying into the Milky Way.

Rufus looks like he had a sleepless night.


The title "wireless operator" is interesting. I wonder if they were carrying some sort of apparatus. I notice his right hand is over something. Could be just a seat brace or perhaps some sort of Morse code key? Also couldn't help noticing that I can't see anything that looks like a seat belt.


One unifying feature of all early aviation pictures. It's hard to realize the bravery it took to 'be among the first' to try this new form of transportation. We owe them a lot.

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