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Houston History: Texas’s first flight happened in South Houston 110 years ago

Sketch of Louis Paulhan
Sketch of Louis Paulhan (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History)

HOUSTON – Before Wilbur and Orville Wright played a significant role in aviation, air-show balloonists were flying decades before airplanes. In fact, balloonists were credited as the first people to fly in Texas in the 1860s.

However, in 1865, a new form of aviation happened. It’s believed the legend behind Jacob Brodbeck’s alleged flight was groundbreaking. Although researchers can’t determine the exact city of Brodbeck’s flight, they can all agree that the airship was destroyed.

Jacob Brodbeck's airplane after it crashed in 1865
Jacob Brodbeck's airplane after it crashed in 1865 (Daughters of the Republic of Texas)

Years later, the Wright brothers achieved the first powered airplane flight in 1903. Still, no successful flights had taken place in Texas.

On February 18, 1910, all of that changed. After arriving from Los Angeles, Frenchmen, Louis Paulhan made history as the first person to fly an airplane in the Lone Star State.

Frenchman, Louis Paulhan
Frenchman, Louis Paulhan (Public Domain)
Louis Paulham making his record flight 4600[sic] ft., Los Angeles
Louis Paulham making his record flight 4600[sic] ft., Los Angeles (Library of Congress)

According to the Houston Post, Paulhan flew his Farman Biplane successfully four times across a crowd of 3,500 witnesses.

The flight happened at 2:30 p.m. at Aviation Camp in South Houston and admission was $1.

Read the Houston Post’s coverage after the historical event

A few weeks later, Lt. Benjamin Foulois would follow the footsteps of Paulhan, completing a similar flight in San Antonio.

Flying would become a new form on transportation, and change history forever.


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