Sally Dickinson Discusses Fitchburg’s Role in the
Career of Helicopter Inventor Igor Sikorsky
The Fitchburg Historical Society will host a talk on Wednesday, October 24 at 6 p.m. by Sally Dickinson, at the release party for her new paperback book The Missing Links to the Igor Sikorsky Story: His Struggle to Survive the Years between 1924 and 1929.
Dickinson discovered a large cache of historical documents about Sikorsky’s earliest years in America. She has written up the story in her new book, which she will be selling and signing at the Fitchburg Historical Society. The party will also feature a brief talk on some of the highlights of Dickinson’s research into the relationship between the aviation pioneer and his business partner Arnold Dickinson, a prominent business leader in Fitchburg.
Sikorsky emigrated to the US from Russia in 1919, escaping from the Soviet Revolution. The Wright Brothers flight had happened less than 20 years earlier, but Sikorsky imagined that large airplanes could move people, cargo and mail. After arriving in the states, he created businesses to design those modern airplanes, inventing some new forms of commercially successful planes. Ultimately, he invented amphibious airplanes and (most famously) invented the helicopter, a huge innovation in engineering and technology.
But how did a recent immigrant start and maintain a major manufacturing company in a brand new industry? Sikorsky needed to work with American businessmen to support him in his inventions and to create a successful company within short years of arriving in the US. As told in Dickinson’s new book, Sikorsky’s story includes great victories and terrible crashes. It also includes the race to fly from New York to Paris, and the daredevil age of pilots racing each other and risking death to fly nonstop between continents.
Sally Dickinson is from Leominster, went to Leominster High and Skidmore College. After raising a family and then working as a sales representative with Brown and Bigelow, a manufacturer of business promotional materials, she opened her own business, Portals Business Promotions, in the 1970’s, when independent women-owned businesses were still relatively rare.
As the President of the Board of Directors of the Fitchburg Historical Society, she headed up the Capital Campaign that allowed the Historical Society to purchase and renovate Phoenix Building on Main Street, a project that lasted over 5 years and raised more than 3 million dollars. She wrote a short booklet for the Historical Society: The Dickinson Family Story: From Handmade Boots to Amphibious Aircraft.