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First Flight . . . Jamaica 1911

Jesse Seligman

Jesse Seligman
Promoting the event
Wednesday December 20
Thursday December 21
. . . and on to Panama
Other 'First Flights'
On from 1911 . . .
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Who was Jesse Seligman? So far, all I have been able to find out comes from Daily Gleaner reports in 1911, and a few sentences on one web site. If you know anything more of his life, and especially his career in aviation, please contact me so that I can update this site.

My query concerning the lack of information about Jesse Seligman and his later career in aviation has, sadly, been answered. With the assistance of an Internet contact, and the archives of the New York Times (which are now available online, from 1851), I was made aware of Seligman’s tragic end. He had apparently largely given up flying, and had gone into the leather manufacturing business in Gloversville, NY. There he and his wife, the former Mary Maxwell from Williamsport, Penn., seemed happily settled in the local community; his business was going well. Unfortunately Jesse suffered from excruciating headaches, possibly the result of a head injury received during his flying career. He developed a fear of going mad, and apparently decided that suicide was his only option.


It is not clear whether his wife agreed to join him in a suicide pact, or if he decided to take her life before taking his own. In the morning of December 16, 1915, the tragedy took place in the Seligman’s home, while their three-year old daughter Mary was helping Mrs. Maxwell, her maternal grandmother, prepare for the little girl’s birthday party, in another room in the house.


The young couple were both 27 years old, their deaths a small, sad, statistic along side the appalling slaughter of young people then in progress in the international insanity of the first World War. 


source: New York Times , December 16, 1915.

Jesse Seligman, beside his Moisant monoplane.

The New York Sun of the December 8 1911 says:

Jesse Seligman, son of Albert J. Seligman, a banker, will sail to-day on the Altai for Kingston, Jamaica. He is going to try to fly across the Isthmus of Panama, following the course of the Panama Canal. When he lands at Kingston he will spend a week there, perhaps making some flights. After that he will sail for Colon. From there he expects to start his flight for Panama on the Pacific end of the canal making several stops on the way. From Panama he will return to Colon, trying to make the trip in one flight.

With Mr. Seligman will go his manager, a mechanic and his wife. He will carry along a Moisant monoplane, which will be driven by a 50 horse power motor. He will also carry enough parts to set up a new machine.

Mr. Seligman has been flying for four months. If the Panama flight should turn out well he may go into South America to fly. He is 22 years old.


Jesse R Seligman was a son of Albert J Seligman of the brokerage firm of Seligman and Meyer of 52 Broadway, and a nephew of I N Seligman and Henry Seligman of the banking firm of J & W Seligman of 1 William Street.


He was graduated, in 1911, from the Garden City Moisant Aviators’ School, where he won the name of a daring manipulator of the monoplane. He obtained his Aero Club license in September of that year and made many flights with his wife, who was also an aero enthusiast.


New York Times, December 16, 1915.

It should be kept in mind that aviating in 1911/1912 was a risky proposition for man or woman. At the beginning of 1912 . . . there were only 82 aviators licensed by the Aero Club of America, and of that number, 8 had been killed so far.

Aviators of 1911 were a hardy lot, eagerly taking to the air to savor the new realm of man amongst the clouds. These flyers didn't consider themselves pioneers but were merely jumping on the bandwagon of adventure, hoping to make a living by exhibiting the wonders of flight to the uninitiated throughout the world.

                                             Steve Remington



Click on picture for Moisant site by Steve Remington

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Site authored by Joy Lumsden, M A (Cantab) Ph D (U W I)

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