Bonhams to Offer Historic Vintage Flying Boat in New York

New York – Bonhams announces the sale of a 1917 Curtiss MF Seagull Flying Boat, to be offered at auction on Tuesday April 13 in New York. Sourced from the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio, the flying boat will be the first vintage plane auctioned in Manhattan, and it is expected to realize between $300,000-500,000.

A plane designed by one of the leading pioneers of American aviation and archrival of the Wright brothers, Glenn H. Curtiss, the Seagull is an eloquent symbol for one of the Curtiss company’s greatest achievements – the perfection of the seaplane. As part of the celebrations surrounding the auction, the aircraft will be on public view in the Sculpture Garden Atrium at 590 Madison Avenue from Saturday April 3 to Tuesday April 13.

Rupert Banner, Specialist in Charge of the Sale, says, “Bonhams has a long, proud history offering Motor Cars at auction across the globe, and has recently led the way in the sale of vintage aircraft. This fantastic Curtiss Flying Boat provides a fitting opening for the sale of vintage aircraft in New York, and it joins an illustrious list of aviation marques that Bonhams has recently offered, including two of the most recognizable and famous aircraft of the 20th century, the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire.”

Glenn H. Curtiss was a true aviation pioneer, and was an archrival of the Wright Brothers. They may have flown first, but Curtiss flew the first-ever public flight, and went on to win awards and aviation distinctions across America and Europe during the first years of manned flight. He went on to become fascinated with flying boats and would later be known as the father of naval aviation.

The MF was first developed in 1917 from the original F model, a Curtiss flying boat design the United States Navy had been using since 1912/13. Standing for ‘Modernised F-boat’ (MF), it proved an excellent trainer and by 1921 87 MFs were in service with the Navy.

After the cessation of hostilities, not all MFs were needed, so many were sold off as surplus, and the Curtiss company converted a number to the MF Seagull configuration, with increased horsepower and additional seating. Notably, Howard Hughes took his first flight in a Curtiss MF in 1926 and one of the first buyers of the MF Seagull was Sid Chaplin, Charles’ brother.

This particular Seagull was built in the Philadelphia dockyards, and was the sixty-first built in a batch of eighty. It almost certainly was stationed as a Naval trainer in Pensacola or Atlantic City, before being released as surplus in 1923 or 1924. After that, it seems the plane had one owner, William H. Long, who based the Seagull in Sandusky Bay, Ohio and made frequent trips to Cedar Point Amusement Park with joyriders and sightseers. In 1945 Long refurbished the Seagull and donated the aircraft to Cleveland’s Frederick C. Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum. It has been on display at the Western Historical Reserve Society, and was retired from public exhibition in recent times.

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