The Fastest Man on Earth
As a teenager in his home town of Hammondsport, New York, Glenn Curtiss began building gasoline engines for motorcycles, pushing them ever faster. On January 24, 1907, Curtiss earned the nickname of "fastest man on Earth," for racing his motorcycle equipped with an air-cooled V-8 engine to 136.3 miles per hour, in an unofficial competition held in Ormond Beach, Florida. Curtiss motorcycle engines caught the eye of balloonists and dirigible makers as well as the U.S. Army, all of whom adapted the light and powerful designs for aircraft engines. Curtiss eventually became known for his piloting skills, and for designing aircraft such as the Hammond biplane, which he named after his birthplace. Today, the large billboard at the entrance to the Curtiss museum honors his role as a motorcyclist.