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Library Hosts Local Author for Presentation on Famous Feuds

by Eric Niermeyer

On Monday night, the Holliston Public Library hosted its first Meet the Author event of the fall, featuring Holliston resident Ted Reinstein and his new book Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds.   As its title suggests, the book covers several of the region’s most engrossing feuds throughout the centuries, ranging from petty spats over pizza parlors to controversies of international importance.

After briefly mentioning the dueling Demoulas cousins, Rudyard Kipling’s falling out with his brother-in-law in Vermont, and even the biblical tale of Cain and Abel, Reinstein shifted his focus to disputes of a more historical flavor.

As is befitting of a book focused on New England, the Revolutionary War got two high-profile feuds all to itself, both of which are likely familiar to most people living in Massachusetts: the centuries of sniping between Lexington and Concord over who gets the honor of being the town the war officially started in, and the egregious misnomer of the ‘Battle of Bunker Hill’, which actually occurred on Breed’s Hill. Of local interest, there is a chapter about Holliston's Mudvllle and Casey at Bat feuding with Stockton, California, that claims to be the original site of Mudville.


However, the bulk of the presentation was taken up over the issue of who invented manned flight, a complex and contentious debate that I hadn’t previously associated with New England at all.  Simply put, there’s an extremely strong case to be made that a German-American immigrant named Gustav Whitehead invented a functioning aircraft more than two years before the Wright brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk.

Whitehead’s flights, which allegedly took place in and around Bridgeport, Connecticut, were of far greater altitude and duration than those of the Wright Brothers and used a much more advanced vehicle called Number 21.  The feud includes multiple States, the Smithsonian Institution, an Australian television producer/detective, the editorial board of a famous aircraft almanac, and the country of Germany.

Those who are truly curious should read the book, but I will say that my faith in the Wright Brothers as aviation pioneers has been profoundly shaken.  As Reinstein said at the beginning of his presentation, something about feuds is inherently fascinating – provided that they aren’t your own.

Comments (3)

And if you would like to read how developments made by the Wright brothers inspired much of the engineering done in Detroit by the automotive manufacturers, you should read "I Invented The Modern Age" by Richard J Snow. It's a fantastic read, you wouldn't even believe you're reading non-fiction.

Peter Simpson | 2016-09-21 15:11:51

The Wright brothers also tested their designs in a home made wind tunnel. For those interested in further details, The Bishop's Boys by Tom Crouch and The Wright Brothers by David McCullough are fascinating reads.

Peter Simpson | 2016-09-21 12:31:09

It has long been a discussion over who built the first workable airplane. What the Wright Brothers did that was most important was to be able to control the flight. They were able to do that as they were bicycle mechanics and apply their knowledge from that to control their aircraft.

Joe Cohen | 2016-09-21 03:04:40