You Want a Bolt of Silk? We Can Airlift That for You!

November 7, 1910

The first commercial air freight shipment occurred in Ohio between the cities of Dayton and Columbus. Max Morehouse, owner of the Columbus-based Morehouse Martens department store, asked aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright for help in transporting to him by air a 100-pound (45.4-kilogram) shipment of silk from a wholesaler in Dayton (incidentally, the hometown of the world-famous brothers). 

The Wright brothers recognized how this shipment request could help them further showcase the type of transportation that they had introduced seven years earlier. The Oregon-based Daily Capital Journal reported, “The trip was made for the purpose of demonstrating the utility of the aeroplane for other than amusement uses, and is in line with a series of demonstrations planned by the Wrights.”

American aviation pioneer Philip Orin Parmelee (1887-1912)

The person selected to make this first-of-a-kind flight was Philip Orin Parmelee. The 23-year-old Parmelee, who was nicknamed “Skyman” in large part because of his daredevil reputation, had become one of the pilots on whom the Wright brothers depended to help promote the capabilities of their planes.         

Parmelee piloted a “B” Wright Flyer biplane to transport the shipment of silk from Dayton to its destination in Columbus. During that Monday morning flight, he closely followed the route of the old National Road on the earth below and managed to stay aloft the whole time despite the strong winds he encountered along the way.

Parmelee’s flight of 65 miles (105 kilometers) was officially recorded as having lasted 57 minutes. “Finest trip I ever took,” he remarked after completing the flight. “Couldn’t have been better if I was driving a passenger.” Morehouse, incidentally, paid the Wright brothers $5,000 for that unprecedented delivery. For more information on Philip Parmelee’s trailblazing 1910 commercial cargo flight and his other aviation accomplishments, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Orin_Parmelee.

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