Mayor Pays Tribute To Whitehead, First In Flight

Gustave Whitehead
Gustave Whitehead pictured in 1901 with his daughter Rose.

On August 14, 1901, Bridgeport resident Gustave Whitehead, as witnessed by a Bridgeport Herald reporter, was the first in flight. Why are the Wright brothers credited with first in flight? The German immigrant did not have their public relations team. Mayor Bill Finch saluted Whitehead’s accomplishment today.

Local, state, community leaders and Whitehead descendants join Mayor Finch during ceremonies at new fountain declaring “First in Flight”

Despite a steady drizzle of rain, a hardy group of 60 people joined Mayor Bill Finch on Tuesday to dedicate the new fountain at the corner of State Street, Commerce Drive and Fairfield Avenue as the “First in Flight–Gustave Whitehead” fountain.

“Whitehead has been overlooked by the writers of history. We know he flew first, and he did it here in his hometown of Bridgeport,” said Mayor Finch. “We’re very proud of his contributions to the world of aviation, and found it fitting to create this monument to his work.”

Mayor Finch was joined at the dedication by local and state dignitaries, members of the West End Business community and the Neighborhood Revitalization Zone, as well as descendants of Gustave Whitehead and descendants of one of the witnesses to Whitehead’s early flights.

The fountain, which features a black granite base with four burbling fountains is topped by a sculpture of Whitehead’s early flying machine. The sculpture features moving propellers, and the entire piece will move with the wind. A stone tablet will be installed across the street next to the McDonald’s Restaurant, courtesy of the Trefz Corporation, and will be inscribed with the following: “Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weiskopf in Leutershausen, Bavaria, emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1893, anglicizing his name to Gustave Whitehead. According to eyewitnesses: ‘I recall a time, which I think was probably July or August of 1901 or 1902, when this plane was started in flight on the between Pine and Cherry Streets. The plane flew at a height of about twelve feet from the ground, I should judge, and traveled the distance to Bostwick Avenue before it came to ground. I recall the incident very well because I was one of several boys who clung to the back of the plane as it rose into the air and carried us off our feet until we were driven away by some of the men working with Gustave Whitehead.’ ”

The fountain was designed by Theodore L. Grabarz, AIA, ASLA, Deputy Director of Public Works for the City of Bridgeport. The sculpture of Whitehead’s “No. 21” plane was designed and executed by renowned local artist Ron Cavalier. The black granite base was donated by local businessman Hakki Akbulak of AKDO Intertrade. The fountain was built by Merritt Contractors Inc., Bill Miko, president.

Gustave Whitehead, who is believed by many aviation buffs to have achieved powered flight nearly two years before the Wright Brothers made their historic flight in North Carolina, was recognized as the Father of Connecticut Aviation in 1968.



  1. Hey, Mario. Hey, Paul. I just saw the Malloy pitch about how great it is to live and work in Connecticut. Bridgeport was not featured. You know why? Because both of you turned this place into a shithole.

  2. First off, Malloy never liked Bridgeport and had a hand in defeating a casino when it was proposed for Bridgeport.
    I truly think the people living in Bridgeport had a huge hand in turning this city into a shithole led by inept politicians.
    The people of Bridgeport are LAZY, they refuse to get off their fat asses and vote. They allow a few to run this city and get rich in the process. Tell me how all these dumbasses keep getting elected year after year? The only people for the most part who vote are the people who want something in return for their vote. People need to stop voting the party line and vote for the individual.
    People are getting shot and killed on a regular basis in Bridgeport, the people in the affected neighborhood rally for a few days and then disappear. The reason there is no major push here is the shooting victims for the most part are minorities and the powers that be could care less. Yes, they mouth all the right words while in front of the camera but what do they actually do? Not a God Damned thing.
    So for Bridgeport to stop being a scumbag city, people need to vote out the incumbents. I will never (with a rare exception) vote for an incumbent again. Look where it’s gotten us. Yes I will take some of the blame because I did help some of these people get elected. NO MORE!!!

  3. This made me laugh. First off, and I don’t know how relevant this is, but there is a big flooding problem underneath the I-95 overpass within run-off distance of this new landmark. Second, MY STREET IS STILL NOT PAVED. Looks like another “green sign” to me. Only In Bridgeport.

    1. I hope you are at least enjoying those beautiful dogwood trees up on your new esplanade near the 19th Hole compliments of Fairfield State Rep Kim Faucett. Auden never delivered down below on Brooklawn with the money Keeley had earmarked when she got in. What happened?

  4. Ted Grabarz did a great job on this, the Fairfield Avenue Borghlum Fountain and the WW II Memorial. One of these days he might start doing his assignments as City Sustainability Director.


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