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Early Wright Pilot

First to fly across the U.S. from West to East

Robert G. Fowler was born at San Franciso, California, August 10, 1884. He attended local schools then graduated from Leland Stanford University. During his early life the family moved to Gilroy, California, where his father was engaged in the automobile business at the beginning of that industry. Young Fowler loved automobiles and went into this work with his father, soon becoming an expert driver and mechanic. 

This led him to engage in road races, hill climbs and track events through the early 1900's. He reportedly drove the first Ford car West in 1903. In 1904 he held the record for circular tracks at Belmont Park, New York. In 1905 he set a record when he drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 24 hours. In 1960 he made this same run in 21 hours, and later, in 1910, in 14 hours. During these years he also became a renowned chauffeur on the West Coast and drove for various distinguished personages. 

A lover of speed, Fowler naturally became interested in aviation beginning with the first days of the Wright brothers. This led him to the North Island Curtiss camp at San Diego during the winter months of 1910-1911 where he reportedly assisted them with their engine problems. There Fowler resolved he wanted to learn to fly. Big prize money was waiting to be taken in the flying game and Fowler began to make plans to enter the $50,000 Hearst Transcontinental Flight contest for the first to fly from coast-to-coast in thirty days. 

He organized a group of ten sponsors for the flight, headed by wealthy West Coast W.F. Grundy, and J.J. Cole, owner of the Cole Motor Car Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. A new Wright airplane was ordered with spare parts, and Fowler was the first to formally enter the contest. He arrived in Dayton about July 1, 1911, where he [[strikethrough]] beamce [[/strikethrough]] became a rather "spe[[strikethrough]]a[[/strikethrough]]cial" student, having arranged to thoroughly learn all the details of the plane and engine, in addition to taking flying instruction.