As the book’s subtitle goes on to state, Casey Baldwin was a “Gentleman, Genius, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Protege.” Mr. Langley’s book is a beautiful tribute to yet another unsung Canadian icon: the first British subject (and the first Canadian) to fly in a heavier-than-air craft. Did you know that February 23rd is Canada’s Official National Aviation Day? This is a little-known fact as well, but it has much to do with one man: “Casey” Baldwin.
An early protege of Alexander Graham Bell’s, young Casey was considered as the son they never had. He worked closely with the famed inventor to develop many of the first advancements in flight, right in the Bell’s adopted Cape Breton Island home of Baddeck. Casey was a man who eschewed the spotlight and was never looking for fame or fortune, much to the chagrin of Mabel Bell, who, loving him as a son wanted the world to know of him and his achievements. Casey and his wife Kathleen were given a home on the Bell’s property near Baddeck and they continued to live there the remainder of their days, travelling with the Bells, running the laboratory and workshops and continuing to invent, refine, and eventually develop hydrofoil watercraft on the large inland sea called Bras d’Or.
Mr. Langley is to be commended for the sheer amount of research he has done in writing the first full history of Casey Baldwin. He was given access to personal letters he exchanged with the Bells, his wife and others throughout his life (thankfully, people kept letters back in the day) so that he was able to create a life-like image of this shy, retiring man who was devoted to inventing and refining his ideas. He was also an accomplished boat builder and sailor and won many races (a fellow sailor described him as a man of “cool judgement and iron will”). Mr. Baldwin, along with Mr. Bell was instrumental in founding the Bras d’Or Yacht Club. Later in life he even became involved in local politics, winning his first election over the well-established incumbent.
A book that is both a history and an insight into the early days of flight and the dogged devotion of men and women (Mabel Bell is a woman for the ages) toward improving modes of travel such as flight and sailing, Mr. Langley’s book will appeal to historians as well as aviation buffs. 320 pages, with black & white photos.
Casey: The Remarkable, Untold Story of Frederick Walker “Casey” Baldwin: Gentleman, Genius, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Protege by John G. Langley
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