A new book documents the history of early U.S. aviation reveals bitter rivalries
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The early American aviator John Moisant was the scion of a wealthy family with extensive sugar plantations in El Salvador. In 1909, having tried on three separate occasions to actually invade and conquer El Salvador, Moisant turned to an only marginally less dangerous hobby: flying. He bought a plane and–on the strength of a couple of months’ flying experience–landed it, uninvited, in the middle of an air show in Paris in front of 250,000 people. Supernaturally handsome and supremely fearless, Moisant rapidly became one of the most famous flyers in the world. Orville and Wilbur Wright hated him.
Birdmen, by Lawrence Goldstone, is a meticulously researched account of the first few hectic, tangled years of aviation and the curious characters who pursued it, with a particular focus on the Wright brothers and their rivalry with fellow pioneer Glenn Curtiss.