Cover image for Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz : the first transcontinental flight
Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz : the first transcontinental flight
Lebow, Eileen F.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, [1989]
Physical Description:
x, 275 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
TL721.R54 L43 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



An account of Rodgers' 49 day flight from the Atlantic (Sheepshead Bay, NY) to the Pacific (Pasadena) in 1911. A good story, well illustrated, with a tragic ending. Annotation(c) 2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

This is the story of the first coast-to-coast flight, made 16 years before Lindbergh took on the Atlantic. Daredevil Calbraith Perry Rodgers, a descendant of the illustrious Perry family, flew a "bicycle" plane (no cockpit, no windshield) across the country in the autumn of 1911. (It was one day and a few miles at a time.) A railroad train trailed him, outfitted with a hangar car, a mechanic, and an automobile to fetch him at the end of each day's flight. Rodgers' accomplishment has generally been overlooked, the author points out, possibly because of his untimely death shortly after he reached California. --Cynthia Ogorek

Publisher's Weekly Review

In quest of a $50,000 prize offered by William Randolph Hearst for a successful flight across the U.S., Cal Rodgers left New York on Sept. 17, 1911. Flying a plane built by the Wright brothers, and sponsored in his voyage by the Armour Company of Chicago (then introducing a new soft drink, ``vin fiz''), he arrived in California on Nov. 5, missing out on the prize because he exceeded Hearst's time limit. But Rodgers's was the first successful transcontinental flight, traveled at about 60 miles an hour. This lively, informative look at flying just eight years after Kitty Hawk recreates both the fragility of the machine and the courage of its pilot. Since no reliable maps existed for aviators, Rodgers relied on railroad lines to guide him, and experienced two dozen breakdowns along the way. He was killed in a plane crash less than six months after his historic flight. Illustrated. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In 1911, Rodgers became the first person to fly from one American coast to the other. Because he was accompanied by a small train carrying a machine shop and spare parts, and because it took him a total of 49 days--punctuated by dozens of crashes--the flight has often been dismissed. To be sure, it was part of a $50,000 contest, and the plane's name (Vin Fizz) was taken from a soft drink sold by its sponsor, the Armour Company, but it was the first transcontinental flight, and it stirred intense interest along its route. Lebow has done a nice job of putting the flight in the context of air meets and the awkward years of early flying, and there is a lot of colorful information. Research is admirable, using untapped family correspondence and photos. Well done.-- Roger E. Bilstein, Univ. of Houston-Clear Lake (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Calbraith Rodgers, the first man to fly across the US from coast to coast, is among the many aviation pioneers who have been neglected in the pages of history. This oversight is corrected in Lebow's carefully written book about the man and his flight in the Vin Fiz in 1911. The work is based mainly upon manuscript collections and contemporary accounts. Rodgers's extraordinary courage matched his extraordinary determination. The plane (named for a grape soft drink made by the Armour Company, sponsor of the flight) took off from Sheepshead Bay, New York, and landed in Pasadena, California, 49 days later. The frail plane, built only eight years after the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, left the pilot completely exposed to all the elements. The mishaps on this adventure were plentiful and at times it appeared as though the flight were nothing more than a series of crashes. The total miles flown were 4,231 (a long distance record), the time in the air was three days, and the rate of speed was 51.59 miles an hour. Rodgers finally receives the recognition he deserves in this well-produced book, which has several fine illustrations, footnotes, and index. Public, community college, and undergraduate libraries. -E. A. McKay, University of South Carolina at Aiken