Samuel Franklin Cody

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Samuel Franklin Cody

Samuel Franklin Cody , but probably Samuel Franklin Cowdery (born March 6, 1867 in Davenport , Iowa ; † August 7, 1913 over Laffan's Plain, Aldershot , southern England, in a plane crash) incorrectly known as and confused with Buffalo Bill , was a famous US -American wild west show performer and English aviation pioneer.

Youth in the USA

Samuel Franklin Cody, who was likely born Samuel Franklin Cowdery , began his career as a prospector, cowboy and horse trainer. Cody had to make money from a young age because his father was in jail and couldn't support the family. As a result, he apparently never went to school and was therefore illiterate . In 1880, at the age of 19, he married the Wild West Show actress Maud Marie Lee in Pennsylvania , with whom he appeared on the Forepaugh Wild West Show . At that time he took the family name Cody, modeled on Buffalo Bill .

Which "Buffalo Bill"?

Samuel Franklin has been mistaken for William Frederick " Buffalo Bill " Cody for the following reasons :

  • both appeared in Wild West shows (Samuel as Captain Cody )
  • both had a penchant for western clothing, which they also liked to wear privately
  • both are called with the family name Cody (although Cowdery only adopted the family name Cody)
  • both are (presumably) from Iowa (Cowdery later also claims to be from Birdville, Texas )
  • both had a certain visual similarity

Move to Europe (from 1887)

With his Wild West Show both "Buffalo Bill" Cody and "Captain" Cody moved to Europe, it is unclear whether his wife will accompany him. He toured Europe with his Wild West show, whose actors consisted primarily of family members. On these trips he met and fell in love with the Englishwoman Lela King. The connection resulted in a son, Leon, in 1890. The boy's hobby of kite flying and building led Cody to dig deeper into the subject.

Kite building (from 1889)

One of Cody's "Manlifter"

From around 1889, Cody began to experiment with kites (in the English Wikipedia you can read that Cody had already worked on kites in the USA for the government at Blue Hill Observatory , Massachusetts ), and only 2 years later he had one modified by wings Patent version of Lawrence Hargrave's Boxkite. This kite was later named Cody's Mankite because it developed enough lift to carry a human. He introduced the kite to the British Army as an elevated war observation post or reconnaissance post. However, it was rejected at that time. It was only after he had crossed the English Channel using a boat pulled by a dragon that the military began to listen carefully and provide support. As a result (around 1904/05) Cody made various experiments on land and water, in which a soldier could be brought to a height of almost 800 meters on a rope over 1200 meters long. The army took over this kite system for war observation from 1906, Cody received the rank of officer and was appointed chief designer in Farnborough .

Aviation pioneering achievements

In 1907 he brought a meteorological measuring device to a record height of 4,268 meters in Cobham Common with a kite. Cody made the first powered flight in England on the British Army aircraft number 1 without the permission of the Army. This first motorized flight with an aircraft on British soil took place on October 16, 1908 at the testing site at Farnborough Airfield in Farnborough . On September 8, 1909, Cody ascended to a 63-minute flight. He improved Louis Blériot's official world record for cross-country flights from 25 to 40 miles.

Discharge from military service

Cody later had an accident on this plane. The army then terminated his contract and fired him for damaging state property. In 1912, he won a British army competition with a machine previously built from two crashed aircraft.

Fatal crash

Grave of Samuel Franklin Cody in the Aldershot Military Cemetery

On August 7, 1913, at the age of 52, Cody and his passenger were killed while flying his last invention, a seaplane, over Laffan's Plain ( Aldershot , southern England) when it broke up in midair . Cody was buried in Aldershot, about 50 km southwest of central London.


Samuel Franklin Cody has roughly the same status in the United Kingdom as Otto Lilienthal in Germany or the Wright brothers in the USA.

Web links

Commons : Samuel Franklin Cody  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


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