Arthur Burr “Wizard” Stone was an American showman and an early pioneer aviator who lived in Australia between 1911 and 1917.
He was a native of Buffalo, New York and was born on 28 August 1874.
Stone’s career before his arrival in Australia had included an act, performed in England, known as the ‘Globe of Life.’ Mounted first on bicycles then on a motorcycle, Stone and his wife, Irene, would circle the inside of a steel spherical cage 16 feet in diameter and reaching speeds between 45 and 50 miles per hour.
The Palace, Gloucester.
A MARVELLOUS PERFORMANCE
There is no waning of the popularity of Gloucester’s new music-hall, and this is not to wondered at considering the exceptional attractiveness of the programme which Messrs. Poole have submitted for their patrons this week, and which was received with enthusiastic admiration by packed audiences at both performances on Monday evening.
One turn alone is worth going miles to see, and that is the marvellous performances of Wizard Stone and Irene Stone in “The Globe of Life.” The Stones are Americans, and there is a Yankee recklessness about the character of their performance which was probably designated with more accuracy in their own country as “The Hazardous Globe, or The Globe of Death.” The risks which the Stones take would made an ordinary man or woman pause reflecting for more than ten minutes before evening thinking to emulate them. As to the nature of the performance. The globe itself is a huge steel cage sphere of 16 feet diameter and weighing 2 ½ tons, the inner and outer surface of the steel structure being perfectly smooth and affording nothing in the nature of a grip, the only thing that can apparently help the performers being the resiliency of the steel. In this globe Wizard Stone and Irene Stone first of all career round on ordinary bicycles at a terrific rate, the girl herself attaining an altitude more than half-way up the globe, while the machines of both performers at the culminating stage of the act bound from nearly one side of the globe to the other, and clear of the side of the cage. This daring and clever performance was vociferously applauded by the audience, but the most astounding feat of all was that which followed on the part of Stone himself. A motor-cycle, weighing 165lbs., was brought from the side of the stage, the machinery being set in motion as it was placed in the globe. Without loss of time Stone was mounted on the machine and careering round the sphere at a terrible speed–stated to be at the rate of between 45 and 50 miles an hour–getting higher and higher, until at last reaching the top of the globe between five and half a dozen times. It was an astounding and daring performance. There was nothing in the nature of an optical delusion about it. The cage was there with its absolutely smooth interior, and the motor-cycle was also perfectly obvious, and so also were the attendants stationed round the stage and holding the stays attached to it because of the terrific pressure exerted, and so also Stone himself in a feat of a character which has hitherto never been seen in Gloucester…
Gloucester Citizen, Tuesday 21 August 1906, Page 2
Arthur Stone was also the holder of License No. 15, issued by the Aero Club of the United States on 23 October 1910. He participated in the International Aviation Meet in Chicago in August 1911 where he twice crashed.
At the age of 38 years he arrived in Sydney from the United States with his 29- year-old wife, Irene, and their five-year-old daughter, Edna, on Christmas Day, Monday 25 December 1911, aboard the SS Marama.
Stone and his wife had been engaged by Mr J.D. Williams to perform their “Globe of Death” routine as part of a six-day cycling and amusement carnival in Sydney beginning on New Year’s Day, 1912.
“SIX DAYS’ RACE
The general public has not the slightest conception of the preparation necessary to conduct such as the six-days’ cycling and amusement carnival starting on New Year’s morning. During the holidays there has been a small army of carpenters and other mechanics completing the necessary details for the two sensational performances, the “globe of death” and “Dare-devil Kilpatrick’s ride for life.” The cyclists who are engaged in the six-days’ race, and those who are competing in the open handicap and sprint events have not allowed the festive season to interfere with their training, as it is only be consistent self-denial and regular work that the racing cyclist can hope for success. In addition there is a host of electricians working on the lighting scheme, which in itself will be a great feature of the carnival. The competing cyclists are now all in Sydney, and as Dare-devil Kilpatrick and Mr. and Mrs. Stone arrived by the Marama on Sunday, Mr J.D. Williams’ arrangements are completed. The riders in the six-days’ race will be assembled and each individual rider announced shortly after 12 o’clock on Monday morning next. It is expected that the first batch will be sent off about 1 o’clock. In the meantime there will be a band performance.”
Sydney Morning Herald, Wednesday 27 December 1911, page 11
By February 1912 the Stone’s act was not being performed live but was being shown to audiences in theatres as a supporting photo play attraction.
In April that year Stone was advertised and reported as being engaged by [promoter] Philip Lytton to fly at Bathurst. His first public flight in Australia was conducted at the Bathurst showground on Friday 19 April. This was the first of a number of flights advertised and executed in cities and towns throughout New South Wales and Queensland.
When he brought his Bleriot monoplane to Bundaberg in May 1912, a young Bert “Hinkler became his mechanic on a tour of southern Australia and New Zealand. Coping with the numerous mishaps to Stone’s plane confirmed Hinkler’s grasp of construction fundamentals.”
Stone flew the first powered flight in Queensland, at Rockhampton on 31 May 1912. This was to have been quickly followed by the first aerial flight in Brisbane on 8 June at the main oval of the exhibition showgrounds. However, due to a crash on his second flight at Rockhampton Stone’s Brisbane flight was abandoned.
Two years after the “globe-girdling” Hupmobile traversed the Tasman with her American drivers, on Sunday the 6th of April 1913, the flying American Stone arrived in Auckland with his monoplane aboard the Maheno from Sydney.
Accompanying Stone to New Zealand was his wife Irene, his daughter Enid, pottery manager and Australian boat and car racing enthusiast Percy Cornwell, and as mechanic, the young Herbert John Louis Hinkler, aka ‘Bert’.
Within a fortnight of their arrival in Auckland Stone began to conduct exhibition flights at the Domain Cricket Ground on Saturday 19 April. Unfortunately the crowd on one day was less than satisfied with his display and demanded their money back.
Auckland was also the scene of an accident that could have ended the fledgling aviation career of Bert Hinkler. With Cornwell at the wheel of his Mercedes car and Hinkler as passenger, he began a series of laps around at Alexandra Park. Unfortunately a tyre blew out, Cornwell lost control and the vehicle smashed into a fence. Although Cornwell escaped serious injury, his passenger was not so lucky. Hinkler had also been thrown out of the vehicle and was taken to hospital with broken ribs.
Cornwell was the proprietor of a pottery manufacturing business in Melbourne, who together with his brother Fred, appeared to indulge in not only fast cars but fast boats. Cornwall later enlisted in the A.I.F. and saw service in the Middle East. He also donated an Armoured Car for use by the Army.
After their Auckland exhibition ‘Wizard’ Stone and co. boarded the Wimmera in Auckland en route Napier via Gisborne, together with his monoplane, his manager, wife and daughter and one Mr Percy Cornwell who was accompany Stone on his tour.
Cornwell, who was reported in the ‘…’ as “…better known in Australia as ‘the Australian speed maniac,’ would bring his 100-h.p. French-made racing motor car the “Australian Bear” to Gisborne should arrangements be made for Stone to return to give exhibition flights there.
Unfortunately, for Stone, Cornwell, and the public of Gisborne, the flights and feats of motor speed did not eventuate. On the afternoon of the 3rd June 1912, whilst giving an exhibition flight at the Napier Park racecourse, Stone’s Bleriot monoplane met with a strong gusty wind that not only caused his ‘machine’ to crash and become badly damaged but also resulting in Stone himself suffering a broken collar bone. The disaster ended their New Zealand foray and within a week, on the 9th of June he was once again aboard the Wimmera for a return passage to Sydney from Auckland.
Arthur, his wife and daughter, Percy Cornwall and Dr. Charles Margulis travelled back in saloon whereas Bert Hinkler travelled in 2nd class. The party arrived back in Sydney on Friday 13 June 1913 where the Stones, Cornwell and Bert Hinkler parted company.
Undaunted with his setbacks, Stone later set about planning a flight between Sydney and Melbourne over five daily stages.
On 16 March 1914 Irene gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, Irene, in Woollahra, New South Wales.
In that year also Stone was contracted to conduct the first aerial mail delivery between Sydney and Melbourne in 1914. Special postcards were even produced to sold to promote the historic flight. However, luck was once again not of Stone’s side as on 1 June, several weeks before the mail flight, he crashed his Bleriot plane and suffered further injury and destruction of his aircraft. As a result the historic achievement of Australia’s first airmail delivery was not made by Stone but by the French aviator Maurice Guillaux.
Arthur Stone and his family departed Sydney for San Francisco aboard the SS Sierra on 25 July 1917.
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021