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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Augustus M. Herring
Augustus Moore Herring was born in Georgia in 1867 to a wealthy cotton broker.
He was involved in aviation as early as 1888 when, as an engineering student, he began building models of flying machines. Graduating to full size gliders of a design similar to those of the great Otto Lilienthal, he began making improvements on the machines and flying them. Herring worked with aviation icon Octave Chanute beginning in 1894 and off and on through 1898. During that time he built gliders for the renowned engineer and tested many of them at the Indiana Dunes. Herring again made improvements on several of the machines, culminating in a craft called the Chanute-Herring glider.
He also worked with Professor Samuel P. Langley, convincing the aerial experimenter to use curved wings rather than flat ones. One of his unique inventions was the "Herring Regulator," which was a hinged tail that automatically stabilized model flying machines in gusty conditions. While in Langley's employ, Herring also built several of the steam engines that made Langley's models work. In 1896 he submitted patent applications for a powered heavier-than-air-machine. While they were rejected in the United States, they were accepted in Britain and other foreign countries.
Herring built his own gliders and ultimately fixed a two-cylinder compressed air engine to one and flew it on October 10, 1898 from Silver Beach in St. Joseph, Michigan. Though his flights could not be considered controlled and sustained, they were some of the earliest recorded powered flights. Eventually Herring went into partnership with Glenn Curtiss, establishing the first company to manufacture airplanes as a business.
After the Herring-Curtiss Company dissolved, Herring set up another, the Herring-Burgess Company of Massachusetts where several aircraft were built and sold. Augustus M. Herring died in 1926 at the age of 59.
He was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame on October 12, 2002.