Matthew B. Sellers
Aviation Pioneer 1869-1932

   

 Resolution Passed in the House and Senate of
The Commonwealth of Kentucky
 
A Resolution honoring the late Matthew Bacon Sellers, II by declaring March 29, 2008, his
139th birthday, as "Matthew Bacon Sellers Day."
 
Matthew Bacon Sellers was born March 29, 1869, in Baltimore, Maryland, the eldest child of
Matthew B. Sellers, Sr., and Angelina Leathers, a descendant of families native to Kenton and
Carter Counties, Kentucky.
 
Following his early education by tutors and at private schools, including work at Gottingen,
Germany, and Evreux, France, Mr. Sellers received his LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School
in 1892. From 1893-94 he attended Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University and
Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied chemistry, physics, and the mechanical arts.
 
In 1888 Mr. Sellers' mother purchased property previously owned by her family in Carter County near Grahn. The family named the property "Blakemore," and Mr. Sellers built a laboratory there to experiment with aerodynamics. In 1897 he set up a miniature wind tunnel to test the air resistance of various shapes, and his investigations were among the first such aerodynamic investigations undertaken in America.
 
In 1903, he directed his full attention to aeronautical research and built a much larger wind tunnel, the most advanced of the day. Shortly thereafter, he built his first glider. After three more years of research and writing, he built several larger gliders of a four-wing design and flew them successfully. He then modified one of the quadruplanes by attaching a three-wheel chassis and fitting a small two-cylinder, Dutheil Chalmers engine onto it. This powered machine was first flown for a short distance December 28, 1908, from a hillside near Blakemore. Its undercarriage featured retractable wheels, the first time in history that such a device had been used.
 
In 1911 tragedy struck Blakemore when a propeller on a plane being tested came loose and struck Mr. Sellers' assistant and close friend, Lincoln Binion, in the head, resulting in his death. Filled with remorse, Mr. Sellers left Kentucky four days later and only returned once for a brief visit several years later.
 
By this time Mr. Sellers had achieved considerable prominence as an authority on aeronautics. He became the technical editor of America's leading aviation magazine, Aeronautics, and authored more than 30 articles on the subject. In 1912 Matthew Sellers was appointed by President Taft to the Aerodynamic Laboratory Commission and made recommendations to the President concerning the establishment of a national aeronautical research facility. Such a laboratory was authorized in 1915 under the name National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. In 1958 this agency was reorganized to become the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, commonly referred to today as "NASA".  Matthew Sellers married Ethel Clark in 1918, and they had two sons, Matthew III and John. In the 1920s Mr. Sellers directed his interest to radio technology. On April 5, 1932, one year after his last visit to Kentucky, Matthew Bacons Sellers II departed from this life.
 
Matthew Bacons Sellers was a true aeronautical pioneer and was referred to in the publication
Jane's All the World's Aircraft, 1913, as "one of the few real scientific flying men in the U.S.A."
He is honored by the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum with a display of his scientific journals, photographs, propellers, and related artifacts.
 
In honor of Matthew Sellers' contributions to the aeronautical field and the centennial
anniversary of his powered flight near Grahn, Kentucky, the Aviation Museum of Kentucky will portray the history and legacy of Mr. Sellers and open the enhanced display of his quadruplane replica with a observance beginning March 26, 2008, through the end of the year.  In recognition of Matthew Bacon Sellers II as one of the greatest contributors to the aeronautical industry in America, the Senate joins the Aviation Museum of Kentucky in proclaiming March 29, 2008, "Matthew Bacon Sellers II Day."
 
The Senate expresses its gratitude to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky for its dedication and
efforts to promote awareness and the historical significance of Mr. Sellers' accomplishments in Kentucky through their celebration, "Kentucky Centennial of Flight Observance," beginning March 26, 2008, and urges citizens of the Commonwealth to participate in the planned activities.
 
The Clerk of the Senate is directed to transmit a copy of this Resolution to Mr. Martin Schadler, Board of Trustees, Aviation Museum of Kentucky, P.O. Box 4118, Lexington, Kentucky.

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