Vin Fiz Advertisement

In 1910, William Randolph Hearst offered a {dollar}50,000 prize to the first person to make a transcontinental flight in thirty days or less. Calbraith Perry Rodgers, hoping to win the prize, took off from Sheepshead Bay, Long Island, New York, on September 17, 1911 in the Wright EX "Vin Fiz." His sponsor, the Armour Company of Chicago, was marketing a grape-flavored soft drink called "Vin Fiz." In addition to the prize money, should he win it, Rodgers would receive {dollar}5 from Armour for every mile flown. Accompanying Rodgers along the route was a special train carrying mechanics, spare parts, and of course, several representatives of the Armour Company. Unfortunately, thirty days passed and Rodgers found himself only as far as Oklahoma. But with the Armour Company's backing, and his own determination to succeed, Rodgers continued west. On November 5, he reached his original goal, Pasadena, California, after flying 4,321 miles. Averaging 52 mph, his total air time was 82 hours and 4 minutes. However, Rodgers wanted to reached the Pacific. So on November 12 he took off again, only to be forced down at Covina Junction and then at Compton. In the Compton crash, he was severely injured, and grounded for nearly a month. Finally, on December 10, using crutches to walk to the repaired aircraft, Rodgers flew onto the sand at Long Beach, California, having completed the first transcontinental flight after more than seventy stops, numerous accidents, an in-flight run-in with an eagle, and replacing enough parts to build four new aircraft.