Jenny: The Airplane That Taught America to Fly

Plumfield Kids Book Review by Greta Masarik, age 13

Jenny by David Weitzman is a wonderful, fascinating book about the first mass-produced plane, the JN4D. The Jenny is a plane that every early American and English pilot, including Amelia Earhart, learned to fly in. 

The Jenny was designed by two men, primarily Glenn Curtiss, but also by B. Douglas Thomas. Curtiss Designed the N model, while Thomas created the J model. They combined the two, and the JN4D was born. Often people would give a particular model of transportation machine a woman’s name. For example, people gave the NC-4 Flying Boat the name Nancy. The model JN4D plane was therefore named Jenny. Jenny was not the first plane that Glenn Curtiss had engineered. In the past, he designed a plane called the June Bug. Before Curtiss went into airplanes, he worked in a bicycle shop. Because of that, the June Bug and Jenny had wheels that looked like bicycle wheels. 

When Jenny came out, there were no organized airports. A pilot would have to land in a large field. They would have to fly over the chosen landing spot many times to ensure there were no trees, bushes, ditches, etc. Jenny’s gas tank could not hold more than two hours of gas, making long-distance flights rather tricky. 

In Jenny, David Weitzman goes into the construction of Jenny and explains every detail. He tells us why Curtiss did some of the things he did. For example, the wings were wrapped in cloth coated in an oil-like substance. Originally the wings were just cloth and they had problems with water; whenever it snowed or rained, the wings would get soaked. Which, naturally, was the reason why many planes crashed. 

For those who have read my previous review, Combat Nurses of World War II, this part of my review will likely interest you. In WWII, there was another unit that was rarely mentioned; the WASPs. Their name stood for Women’s Airforce Service Pilots. During the war, all the U.S. army pilots were overseas. That left no pilots to transport supplies for the U.S army. The WASPs did that job. They would travel across the country carrying all the supplies. At this point, Jennys were no longer in use, but I thought I would include this because the story is told by a former WASP. 

Jenny opens with some children who find a photo album. They come and ask their grandmother about it. That is how David Witzman tells us all about the Jennys. 

This book and other books by David Weitzman can be tough to find. Purple House Press has reprinted Pharaoh’s Boat and will reprint Jenny, Old Ironsides, John Bull, and Model T.

David Weitzman wrote two other books about the first ready-made models of engineering wonders, John Bull, about a train, and Model T, about a car. 

I found this book fascinating and enlightening, and I don’t like most engineering books. I have read other books by David Weitzman, and I really love them. He is an author I love! I really enjoyed this book, and I hope you do too! 

Jenny is currently out of print, but Purple House Press is bringing it back into print in the winter of 2023! We can’t wait to update this review when it is available for sale. We have a David Weitzman page that you might like.

You can learn more about David Weitzman and this book at Biblioguides.