Mining City Memories: Famed flier Eugene Ely touches down in Butte

Eugene Ely with his biplane. He flew in Butte on June 9, 1911. When he landed, he plowed into the fairgrounds and damaged the tires on his airplane. -- Mike Byrnes Collection

Eugene Ely with his biplane. He flew in Butte on June 9, 1911. When he landed, he plowed into the fairgrounds and damaged the tires on his airplane.

Mike Byrnes Collection

After developing a need for speed as a driver and racer in the early days of the automobile industry, the next logical step for Eugene Ely was to take to the skies as part of another burgeoning industry.

After crashing his boss's biplane on his first attempt at flight in 1910, he purchased the wreck, fixed it up, and quickly found his bearings above ground. He was flying in exhibitions and becoming a guinea pig for the United States Navy later that same year.

Ely became the first aviator to take off from a ship when he successfully launched from the USS Birmingham in November, nearly plunging into the water. The following January, he became the first to successfully land on a ship, this time the USS Pennsylvania. 

Like so many other pioneers of aviation, Ely died young in plane wreck. His final flight occurred during an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, in October 1911.

Eugene Ely in Butte, circa 1911. -- Mike Byrnes Collection

Eugene Ely in Butte, circa 1911.

Mike Byrnes Collection

These and hundreds more historic images can be found in The Montana Standard's new book, Mining City Memories!

Mining City Memories: The Early Years Cover
The Montana Standard presents Mining City Memories: The Early Years

$44.95

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