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The Magnificent Moisants–Champions of Early Flight, by Doris L. Rich, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1998, $24.95.

Among the most flamboyant of aviation’s early pioneers were Alfred, John and Matilde Moisant, who made a name for themselves by building and flying
airplanes, running a flight school, setting–and breaking–records and staging aerial exhibitions in the United States, Cuba and Mexico. Rich’s book explains how the Moisants contributed to the transformation of flight from a sport into a business. She charts the growth of their renowned air circus and chronicles the adventurous careers of some of their famous fliers, including Roland Garros and Harriet Quimby.

Rich, who also authored books about Amelia Earhart and Bessie Coleman, has drawn material from family interviews and records long buried in the National Archives. In addition to describing the family’s aeronautical exploits and adventures, she details their forays into Central American political intrigue to add a little extra spice to the mix.

Arthur H. Sanfelici