1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet at Dominguez Field

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A promotional poster for the meet

The Los Angeles International Air Meet (January 10 to January 20, 1910) was among the earliest airshows in the world and the first major airshow in the United States.[1] It was held in Los Angeles County, California at Dominguez Field in present day Carson, California. Spectator turnout numbered approximately 254,000 over 11 days of ticket sales.[2] The Los Angeles Times called it "one of the greatest public events in the history of the West."[3]

Early airshows and preparations for Los Angeles[edit]

Los Angeles' place among the earliest airshows[edit]

While most now acknowledge that the Wright brothers flew as early as the year 1903, the early 1900s saw several competing claims to have made the first practical airplane. Although the Wrights filed for a patent on their flying machine in 1906,[4] they actually did no flying in 1906 or 1907. The year 1908 saw the Wright's first publicized demonstration flights.

On August 8, 1908 at the Hunaudières track near Le Mans, France, the Wrights silenced European doubters. In a first demonstration lasting only one minute 45 seconds, Wilbur Wright's effortless banking turns and ability to fly in a circle amazed[5] and stunned[6] onlookers, including several French aviation pioneers, among them Louis Blériot.

Several airshows featuring competitions aircraft makers and pilots were held in 1909, including ones at Frankfurt in Germany and Reims, France. The Frankfurt airshow, which began in July 1909 (now named Internationale Luft- und Raumfahrtausstellung (ILA)) claims to be the world's first such multi-participant show. The Grande Semaine d'Aviation in Reims took place during August 1909, and attracted by over half a million spectators. Shortly after the Reims airshow, Charles Willard and A. Roy Knabenshue resolved to stage the first such show in the United States, targeting the winter of 1909 - 1910 for its occurrence.

Los Angeles preparations[edit]

Curtiss and Willard selected the Los Angeles, California area for its favorable winter weather. After receiving a promise of participation from Glenn Curtiss, Knabenshue contacted Dick Ferris, a Los Angeles athletic promoter and balloon enthusiast, who in turn mobilized local businesses and formed an organizing committee.

A field near Santa Anita Park was considered, but physical obstructions such as tall trees led the aviators to search elsewhere. By December 1909, they selected Dominguez Field atop a small hill that had been developed by Manuel Dominguez on land once part of Rancho San Pedro, an early Spanish land grant.

Once the site was finalised, promotion of the meet began and grandstands with a capacity of between 50,000 and 60,000[7] were erected. An aviators' camp was also constructed nearby. The passenger platform at the local Pacific Electric Railway station was expanded to accommodate visitors to the rural site who might travel from downtown Los Angeles.

Organizers invited pilots of monoplanes, biplanes, balloons, and dirigibles. To reinforce the event's "international" billing, French aviator Louis Paulhan, a notable from the 1909 Reims meet, was invited. Paulhan was guaranteed a small sum of money as encouragement to attend. Cash prizes were allotted for competitive events in altitude, speed, and endurance.

The event[edit]

Participants[edit]

The aviators who took part in the events. Glenn Curtiss and Louis Paulhan can be seen towards the right side.

The 1910 Air Meet drew many famous aviators, most of whom were American. Glenn Curtiss, American aviation pioneer and founder of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was the most famous. Other participants included Roy Knabenshue, Charles Willard, Lincoln Beachey and Charles K. Hamilton, Howard Warfield Gill, and Clifford B. Harmon, many of whom are listed among the Early Birds of Aviation. French aviatiors at the event included Louis Paulhan and Didier Masson.[8]

The Wright brothers did not take part in the event, but were there with their lawyers in an attempt to prevent Paulhan and Curtiss from flying. The Wrights claimed that the ailerons on their aircraft infringed patents. Notwithstanding their allegations, Paulhan and Curtis still made flights.

Paulhan gave William Randolph Hearst his first experience of flight. However, William Boeing, who had been enthused by the new invention of the airplane, was unable to get a ride on any aircraft at the air meet:

While attending the first American Air Meet in Los Angeles, Boeing asked nearly every aviator for a ride, but no one said yes except Louis Paulhan. For three days Boeing waited, but on the 4th day he discovered Paulhan had already left the meet. Possibly, one of the biggest missed opportunities in Paulhan's life was the ride he never gave Boeing.[9]

As part of the larger Wright brothers' patent cases, the Wrights actually won monetary damages in U.S. courts for Paulhan's public performances that day.

Local creations[edit]

In addition to the aviators billed in the event’s programs, there were many hobbyists and inventors wishing to make a name for themselves in the new aviation industry. A $1500 prize for a locally designed and built machine that successfully flew helped to ensure a high turn-out from California inventors and would-be aviators. Some of these were close copies or modifications on already successful designs, like the Bleriot monoplane or Curtiss biplane, but some were truly original creations in every sense of the word.

Jerome Slough Zerbe's Multi-plane

One of the more unusual was Los Angeles resident Jerome Slough Zerbe's so-called "Multi-plane,"[10] a construction which boasted five separate "planes" of wings attached to an elaborate chassis. Unfortunately for Zerbe, his creation hit a hole in the field and collapsed during take-off, ruining several of the wings and making flight impossible.

Zerbe was also responsible for the creation of a "double biplane" for W.J. Davis. This machine consisted of "four decks of equal size, arranged two fore and two aft" and two propellers.[10]

A.E. Mueller, another Los Angeles resident, created an aircraft which was so large for the time that it was dubbed "Mueller’s Monster" by the LA Times,[10] who stated that it was "by far the largest aeroplane in existence".[10] The plane measured seventy-five feet long by fifty feet wide, had a 600 lb (270 kg)., 50 horsepower (37 kW) engine, and weighed around a ton.[10] Mueller believed that by creating such a heavy machine he would be able to avoid "the necessity of delicate balancing in light wind currents."[10]

J.H. Klassen, also of Los Angeles, constructed a gyroplane for the contest, as well as entering a monoplane. His design, described by the LA Times as "quite novel",[10] consisted of "two 12-foot circular planes in the front, and two 8-foot planes in the rear."[10] Klassen hoped that the "gyroscopic motion of the revolving planes" would aid greatly in the craft's stability in the air.[10]

Full list of participants[edit]

Airplanes[11]

Participant From Entry
Glenn Curtiss[12] Hammondsport, New York Curtiss Biplane
Louis Paulhan[12] Paris, France Farman Biplane & Bleriot Monoplane
Didier Masson Paris, France Bleriot Monoplane
Charles E. Miscarol Paris, France Bleriot Monoplane
Baroness de la Roche Paris, France Bleroit Monoplane
Aero Nagivation Company Girard, Kansas Aeroplane
Clifford B. Harmon New York City, New York Curtiss Biplane
Charles Keeney Hamilton Hammondsport, New York Curtiss Biplane
H. P. Warner Beloit, Wisconsin Curtiss Biplane
Pacific Aero Club San Francisco, California Monoplane
Grant Fowler (aviator) Tucson, Arizona Triplane
Charles Borok New York Monoplane
Louis Bergdoll Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Bleriot Monoplane
Ralph Saunier New York Monoplane
Donald H. Gordon Bostonia, California Aeroplane
J. W. Curzon Cincinnati, Ohio Farman Biplane
Dana P. Goodwin San Francisco, California Monoplane
San Diego Aero Manufacturing Company San Diego, California Monoplane
W. M. Williams Douglas, Arizona Monoplane
A. Roy Knabenshue Toledo, Ohio Aeroplane
Harry La Verne Twining Los Angeles, California Ornithopter
J. C. Klassen Los Angeles, California Gyroplane & Monoplane
William Stephens (aviator) Los Angeles, California Monoplane
A. L. Smith (aviator) Los Angeles, California Biplane
A.J. Gonzales Los Angeles, California Bowplane
Jerome Slough Zerbe Los Angeles, California Multiplane
H.L. Reimer Los Angeles, California Ornithopter
E.S. Smith Tropico, California Monoplane
Pacific Aero Club San Francisco, California Biplane
La Platt Brothers Yuma, Arizona Ornithopter
James A. Liston San Diego, California Biplane
S. Y. Beach New York Monoplane
H.W. Gale New York Aeroplane
B.F. Roerig San Diego, California Biplane
G.H. Loose San Francisco, California Monoplane
Waldo Dean Waterman San Diego, California Biplane
E.J. Campbell Los Angeles, California Biplane
W.J. Davis Los Angeles, California Double Biplane
D.J. Johnson Los Angeles, California Aeroplane
Richard Griffith Vere Mytton Los Angeles, California Biplane
Charles Skogland Los Angeles, California Monoplane
Charles F. Willard New York Curtiss Biplane
Howard Gill[13] Baltimore, Maryland Gill-dosh Biplane[13]

Attendance[edit]

An estimated 254,000 tickets were sold,[2] and gate receipts were roughly $137,500.[2] During the time the meet was running, streetcars ran to Dominguez Fields every 2 minutes from the Pacific Electric station in Los Angeles.[14] The great crowd turn-out, averaging more than 20,000 spectators per day, made it possible to return $1.25 to "the subscribers to the aviation fund for every dollar advanced".[15] Probably not the only future-notable person to see the show, 9-year-old Florence Leontine Lowe, later better known as "Pancho" Barnes, was brought by her grandfather, aviation pioneer Thaddeus S. C. Lowe. It was here that she was inspired to begin her own later career in aviation.[3] By the end of the event, the backer announced a profit of $60,000 after disbursing prize money.[16]

Competitive events[edit]

Paulhan Rising - Los Angeles. Louis Paulhan at takeoff in a Farman III biplane at the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet at Dominguez Field

Aviators competed for the $75,000[7] in prizes according to a standard procedure. The aviators would first "notify the judges for which prize they [were] about to compete"[13] and then fly around the 1.61-mile (2.59 km) course, always in an anti-clockwise direction.[13] Aviators were informed that they "must not fly over the grand stand or any place where a crowd is assembled without permission of the judges." Violators of this rule were penalised.[13]

All flights taking place between 2 p.m. and sunset counted towards scoring for prizes. Aviators were encouraged to fly as many times per day as possible, and to make as many record attempts in the competitive events as possible. In fact, those contestants who "do not make a flight every day between the hours of two and five o'clock p. m. of one complete circuit of the course in competition for the speed or endurance competitions will be penalized five per cent of their best time for the prize."[13] Only the best time was counted during the judging at the end of the meet.

Ballooning competitions and events were also held in the Los Angeles suburb of Huntington Park throughout the week. These events included attempts to reach a new altitude record and passenger flights.[17]

Prizes offered[edit]

The following prizes were offered at the air meet. All prices are given in 1910 US dollars.

  • $10,000.00 for "the machine which, carrying two or more persons, breaks all worlds records for duration, altitude, distance and speed."[18]
  • $7,500.00 for "the machine making the best general average in all events."[18]
  • $5,000.00 for setting a new height record.[18]
  • $5,000.00 for setting a new endurance record.[18]
  • $500.00 for "the circuit of least diameter."[18]
  • $500.00 for the shortest take-off time.[18]
  • $500.00 for the shortest take-off distance.[18]
  • $500.00 for the "greatest ability during flight (general average)."[18]
  • $500.00 for the longest glide with the motor shut off.[18]
  • $500.00 for the "best general average in landing at a given point."[18]
  • $1,500.00 for any aircraft which was designed and built by a resident of California, Arizona or Nevada which was able to fly five miles or more.[18]
  • $500.00 for any aircraft which was designed and built by a resident of California, Arizona or Nevada which was able to fly two miles or more.[18]
  • $2,500 for an aircraft that could "soar (not glide) without power save that of the aviator."[18]
  • $10,000.00 for a dirigible flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco.[18]
  • $5,000.00 for a non-stop dirigible flight with more than two passengers from Los Angeles to San Diego and back.[18]
  • $10,000.00 for a balloon flight to the Atlantic Coast without landing.[18]
  • $5,000.00 for the first balloon flight to east of the Mississippi River without landing.[18]
  • $2,500.00 for breaking Count de la Vaux's long distance record of 1,193 miles (1,920 km).[18]
  • $2,500.00 for the first balloon to land within five miles (8 km) of San Francisco.[18]

Prize winners[edit]

Paulhan dominated the Dominguez meet, winning $19,000 in prize money[3] with the following accomplishments:

  • New flight endurance record; carrying a passenger almost 110 miles (177 kilometers) in his Farman III biplane in 1 hour, 49 minutes.[3]
  • New altitude mark of approximately 4,164 feet (1,269 m).[3]

He also performed several aerial feats during the week, and carried U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Paul W. Beck aloft on January 19 for one of the first tests of aerial bomb-dropping.[3]

Glenn Curtiss set a new air speed record of approximately 55 miles per hour (89 kilometers per hour),[19] and took home the prize for the best quick start. In all, he won approximately $6,500.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Men or Money May Soon Fly". Los Angeles Times, 1909-11-16,p.II14
  2. ^ a b c Hatfield, David (1976). Dominguez Air Meet, 1910. Inglewood, CA: Northrop University Press. p. 149. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Onkst, David H. (c. 2002). "The First U.S. Airshows--the Air Meets of 1910". www.centennialofflight.net. United States Centennial of Flight Commission. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-25. 
  4. ^ Flying Machine patent
  5. ^ "L'Auto", August 9, 1908, quoted in Crouch, "The Bishop's Boys", p. 368.
  6. ^ "L'Aerophile," August 11, 1908, quoted in Crouch, "The Bishop's Boys", p. 368.
  7. ^ a b "Aerial Advertising", Los Angeles Times, 1910-01-20, p.II4
  8. ^ Official Program, January 13, Page 2 at CSUDH Digital Archives
  9. ^ "William Boeing". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-08-18. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Various Types of Aeroplane". Los Angeles Times, 1909-12-12p.II14
  11. ^ Hatfield, David (1976). Dominguez Air Meet, 1910. Inglewood, CA: Northrop University Press. pp. 6–7. 
  12. ^ a b "Paulhan Captures Los Angeles Honors. Two World's Records in Flight and $15,000 in Prizes. Curtiss Wins in Speed". New York Times. January 21, 1910. Retrieved 2012-10-27. "Glenn H. Curtiss and Louis Paulhan furnished the excitement on the closing day of the aviation meet. Paulhan went up at 3:25 o'clock for an endurance flight. After he had done two or three laps of the course, Curtiss started a ten-lap speed trial, half a lap, or more than three-Quarters of a mile behind Paulhan. ..." 
  13. ^ a b c d e f Official Program, January 13, Page 1 at CSUDH Digital Archives
  14. ^ "Ample Room to View Flights", Los Angeles Times, 1910-01-11, p.II8
  15. ^ "Money Back With Bonus", Los Angeles Times, 1910-01-20, p.II1
  16. ^ "LOS ANGELES FINDS THE AIRSHIP MEET ITS GREATEST SUCCESS". The Baltimore Sun. 22 January 1910. 
  17. ^ "For Altitude In a Balloon", Los Angeles Times, 1910-01-20, p.II5
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Hatfield, David (1976). Dominguez Air Meet, 1910. Inglewood, CA: Northrop University Press. pp. 7–8. 
  19. ^ "LOS ANGELES AVIATION MEET TO BE EMULATED BY OTHER WESTERN CITIES". The Washington Post. 23 January 1910. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dominguez Air Meet 1910 by D. D. Hatfield, Northrop University, 1976
  • The 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet by Kenneth E. Pauley, Arcadia Publications, 2009

External links[edit]