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Dewey Dorman


On this date in 1911, Minot was planning for a spectacular Fourth of July, with fireworks, free vaudeville acts, a baseball game, a grand mask carnival on Main Street, a "sham battle" between Company D of Minot and Company E of Williston, and more.

One of the most talked-about attractions was an exhibition by local aviator Dewitt “Dewey” Dorman, who would make an flight in his home-built 50 horsepower Bleriot monoplane. He had made his first flight on June 9th, and he told reporters, "Yes, I am learning to fly and believe me, it is no easy task." He cited issues with weather, as well as simply learning how to deal with the ins and outs of a new machine, though he added, "I might say that I have mastered the details of the machine and I am positively going to fly at the races July 3, 4, and 5. I realize that I am taking chances every time that I fly, but I am willing to take them in order to satisfy the public. I have no doubt but that I will be able to make some very satisfactory flights."

However, a slight scandal rocked the event. It was reported that the Wright brothers might attempt to prevent Dewey from flying, claiming a patent on several of the devices used in his plane.

Dewey responded, "I do not believe that anyone can stop me from using this machine. Wright brothers claim a patent on practically everything that has been manufactured along the flying machine line, but I do not believe that they can make their claim hold in court." He said his monoplane was different than their machines, and was one of the few such planes in the United States.

Dewey did fly for part of the celebration, but it was not for long. Though the windy weather had not improved, he didn’t want to disappoint the crowds of people there to see him. On his takeoff on July 4th, the wind caught the machine and turned it over, breaking the propeller. He turned off the engine and escaped without injury, though the plane was no longer flight worthy.

Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker


The Ward County Independent, June 15, 1911, p9

The Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 20, 1911, p1

Ward County Independent, June 22, 1911, p2

Ward County Independent, June 29, 1911, p1

Ward County Independent, July 6, 1911, p1

Devils Lake Weekly World, August 4, 1911, p

“Aero, America’s Aviation Weekly,” Volume 1, 1911