Frederick Marriott

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Frederick Marriott (July 16, 1805 – December 16, 1884 in San Francisco, California) was an English-born American publisher and early promoter of aviation, creator of the Avitor Hermes Jr., the first unmanned aircraft to fly by its own power in the United States. He was described as "an English gentlemen, of eccentric habits, much shrewdness and enterprise, and entire originality" by the publisher of the newspaper Northern Indianian on March 19, 1874. Marriott is credited for inventing the term "aeroplane," and intended to build an air transport system that would bring people from New York to California without the perils of the normal voyage of the 19th century. The company he formed (with Andrew Smith Hallidie) in 1866 was named the Aerial Steam Navigation Company.[1]


  • 1856–1928 San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser
  • London Illustrated News
  • Pacific Coast Mining Journal
  • 1867–1876 California China Mail and Flying Dragon
  • 1854–1855 California Mail Bag
  • California News Notes
  • Motoring Magazine and Motor Life

Marriott is credited as the publisher of the San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser, which was subtitled "The Authorized Organ of the Aerial Steam Navigation Company". One of the lead columns of the News Letter was named "Town Crier" and was written by Major Ambrose Bierce.[2]

While Marriott's name was mentioned in one reference as a founder of the London Illustrated News.[citation needed]

The California China Mail and Flying Dragon was a Chinese-language publication and one of the first sources of advertisements encouraging Chinese emigrants to work on the Western railway. It was subtitled "Issued Every China Steamer Day."[citation needed]

The California News Notes was illustrated and many of the woodcuts, typically depicting the linkages of various railway lines, remain popular with collectors.

As a publisher, Marriott was one of the first to print works by Mark Twain.[citation needed]

First flight[edit]

In 1841 in London, England, Marriott was one of three board members of the Aerial Transit Company along with John Stringfellow and William Samuel Henson. Marriott was responsible for the illustrations and publicity campaign for their planned aerial steam carriage the Ariel. The aircraft captured the imagination of the public and the company constructed and flew a small glider, but after a failure to build a larger working model and lacking funds, the company failed. Henson married and relocated to the United States, while Stringfellow continued aeronautical experiments. Marriott moved to California during the Gold Rush of 1849.[3]

Hermes Avitor Jr. replica in the Hiller Aviation Museum

Hermes Avitor Jr. was built in the basement of the publishing building largely by candlelight and was flown at Shellmound Park racetrack. According to a Scientific American journalist (July 31, 1869) the aircraft took about 6 minutes to fill with hydrogen and flew at about 5 miles per hour. On a subsequent flight, however, the aircraft burned completely and was lost. A replica of the craft is displayed at the Hiller Aviation Museum,[4] this was not a manned craft.[5]

The 1869 stock market crash stymied Marriott's efforts to fly a lighter-than-air craft, although he did continue to work on a heavier-than-air triplane all the way until his death. John Joseph Montgomery was inspired by these experiments.[6] Two years before Marriott's death, in 1882, the Aerial Steam Navigation Company was refinanced, and Augustus Laver, architect of The James C. Flood Mansion and The Ellen Kenna House, was named Consulting Engineer of the company.[7][8]

Frederick Marriott died in San Francisco on December 16, 1884.[2]



  1. ^ Williams, Reub (1874-03-19). "A Warsaw Boy in London". Northern Indianian. YesterYear in Print. 
  2. ^ a b "Frederick Marriott". The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Retrieved January 20, 2007. 
  3. ^ 'How invention begins' By John H. Lienhard, Oxford University Press US, 2006, pages 26-29, ISBN 0-19-530599-X
  4. ^ "Avitor". Hiller Aviation Museum web site. Archived from the original on 2006-07-23. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-07-23. Retrieved 2006-07-06. 
  6. ^ 'Quest for Flight: John J. Montgomery and the Dawn of Aviation in the West' by Craig S. Harwood and Gary B. Fogel, University of Oklahoma Press, 2012
  7. ^ "Aerial Navigation" Lawrence Daily Journal, Oct, 24, 1882
  8. ^ "Ellen Kenna House"

External links[edit]

Media related to Frederick Marriott at Wikimedia Commons