From Havre de Grace Main Street, Inc.:
When you say the name “Rodgers” in Havre de Grace there is instant recognition – usually of the Commodore, perhaps the Rear Admiral, or the Rodger’s House. Too few of us have instant recognition of the other great “Cal” associated with our city or with the Rodgers family – Calbraith “Cal” Perry Rodgers.
Known as Cal throughout his life, Calbraith was born 12 January 1879 and grew up in Havre de Grace. At age six he contracted Scarlet Fever and was left deaf in one ear with diminished capacity in his right ear, causing a slight speech impediment that made him a shy child. It was these challenges that prevented him from the traditional
family role of a military career. He dropped out of college in 1898 and took up sports – motorboat racing, yacht racing, auto racing and polo. But it was his cousin, John Rodgers, the 2nd licensed aviator in the US Navy who helped him find his great interest when he wrote to Cal saying, “For speed, you can’t beat flying!”
Calbraith “Cal” Perry Rodgers of Havre de Grace ready to take to the air for his history making flight in the Vin Fiz in 1911.
Cal visited his cousin John and took a 90-minute instructional course from Orville Wright in Dayton, Ohio in March 1911. By 7 August 1911 he took his solo flying exam and became the 49th licensed aviator and one of the first civilians to purchase a Wright Flyer. Soon thereafter he was doing stunts and going to air shows. Indeed, on 12 August 1911, just five days after getting his license, Cal entered the Great Chicago Air Meet and won a third place victory and over $11,000 for staying in the air the longest – over 27 hours!
Soon Cal was intrigued by William Randolph Hearst’s offered $50,000 cash prize for the first man to fly coast to coast in 30 days or less. Eight flyers entered the competition, five took to the air, only one made it – Cal P. Rodgers
of Havre de Grace. Unfortunately, it took him 49 grueling days so he never cashed in, but history was written by this Havre de Grace boy and his enduring tenacity to achieve his goal.
“It’s important because everything else I’ve done before was not important,” Cal told a reporter prior to taking to the air from Long Island, NY, on 17 September 1911. On 5 November 1911 he landed at Pasadena, Cal., at 4:04 p.m. in front of a crowd of 20,000 cheering people and became an instant celebrity.
Sadly, Cal Rodgers died just five months later performing stunts in an air show over the ocean at Long Beach, Cal., when his open plane maneuvered into a flock of birds and crashed. Thus, he was the first person to fly across the
United States, the first person to carry air mail across the United States and the first person to perish in an airplane crash caused by birds.
The story of this interesting and daring aviator from Havre de Grace will be featured during the Graw Days Festival in Havre de Grace on Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Bank of History or Le Banque de Fleuve (321 St.
Learn more about his life, his plane the Vin Fiz (currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution) and his record setting flight 100 years ago during a time when Cal was still in the air in pursuit of history.
Learn more about the Graw Days Festival, Gala (7:30 to 11 p.m. on Sat., October 8), purchase tickets to the Gala on learn more about Havre de Grace Main Street, Inc., by contacting our office at 410-939-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.