Harret Quimby

Harret Quimby

May-June 1996 issue of The Cigar Label Gazette
by Ed Barnes

Harret Quimby Cigar Box Label

This issue’s cover features Harriet Quimby a pioneer female aviator. Also, a 50 cent U.S. stamp was minted honoring her contributions to history earlier this year. The two aviation cigar bands are from my personal collection. Wilbur Wright is a cigar band progressive illustrating the flight at KittyHawk. I plan to do an article on band collecting in the near future. If you would like to contribute to this effort please write or call.

Harriet Quimby was the first female aviator to receive a pilot’s license and the first woman to fly the English Channel solo.

Quimby began learning to fly in April of 1911 while she was the editor of Leslie’s Weekly. She was very quiet about her flying. She managed to keep her Long Island lessons a secret. Harriet would work with her French flying instructor Andrew Houpert just after dawn. She would wear an aviator’s suit with a hood to conceal her gender. Her secret was known after only two weeks of instruction when her plane accidentally crashed. The accident made the newspapers and everybody knew that a woman was learning to fly. After more instruction and training, Quimby received her pilot’s license in August.

Harriet learned to be a stunt pilot and flew at the Mexican presidential inauguration. Next, she began planning her flight over the English channel. She planned in complete secrecy. She did not want another woman to fly the channel before her. She took lessons from Louis Bleriot and had her plane shipped to Dover. Someone discovered that a plane was being shipped and this alerted Eleanor Trehawk Davis. On April 2, 1912 Eleanor flew across the English Channel as a passenger. This forced Quimby to fly solo. She had a difficult time with poor weather. She trained for two more weeks before she convinced herself she was prepared. She was told if she was more than five miles off she would be fish bait in the North Sea. No body thought she would attempt such a risky flight. Eleanor Davis’ pilot offered to wear her clothes and fly the plane then let her have the credit. Harriet refused this offer. When she took off, she was only fifteen minutes into her flight before she hit fog. She was forced to use her compass for direction. She had never used her compass before. Twenty minutes later the fog had lifted. At first she thought she had flown in circles. She spotted land and thought it was England. However, it was Calais, she had flown the channel! Harriet landed near a fishing village on the beach.

Harriet Quimby died July 1st, 1912 at Boston’s air meeting. She was flying a Bleriot which was somewhat unstable. The passenger must remain still to not change the balance of the aircraft. The passenger’s weight shifted and the plane dove sharply. Both Quimby and the passenger were thrown from the aircraft. Later it was discovered that they were not strapped in.

The lithographer marking is DEP. 17289. Therefore, it was probably printed by Casten & Suhling in Bremen, Germany. The Harriet Quimby label on the cover is of unknown rarity. The Quimby label seems to pop up occasionally. However, they are very hard to find. I know of possibly five. I have a suspicion that this label was available in Europe and only few made it to the States. I was told by David Freiberg of Cerebro that a Quimby will be offered in the next auction. It will be very interesting to see what price it commands.

My wife Kristin found the following books at the local library:
The Sky’s The Limit by Wendy Boase
First Women of the Skies by Kitty A. Crowley
Skystars by Ann Hodgman & Rudy Djabbaroff

I would like to thank Maris E. Raymond for identifying the Quimby image I placed on CompuServe over a year ago. Also, Kristin discovered the postage stamp on a package from David Strebe a few days after Maris’ message.

copyright © 1996. 1997 The Cigar-Label Gazette, P.O. Box 3, Lake Forest, CA 92630