Half-way between downtown Los Angeles
and San Pedro harbor, on a hill top call Dominguez, one single
event held January 10-20, 1910, was destined to convert Los Angeles
from an agricultural center to a major industrial city America's
First International Air Meet.
The whole idea actually began in St. Louis, Missouri.
Glenn Hammond Curtiss, as the lone American entrant at the First
International Aviation Meet at Rheims, France, in August 1909,
had won world-wide fame by winning the Gordon Bennett Cup Race
and the Prix de la Vitesse.
Following the Rheims Meet, Albert Bond Lambert, a leading industrialist
and aviation enthusiast, offered Glenn Curtiss a guarantee of
$5,000 to fly his record-making biplane, the "Golden Flyer,"
at St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1909.
Thousands of St. Louis citizens turned out to watch Glenn Curtiss.
The public's interest in Curtiss's flights moved Roy Knabenshue,
one of America's pioneer balloonists and dirigible operators,
to gather a group of aviators present at St. Louis, including
Curtis, to discuss the possibility of capitalizing upon the growing
interest in aviation. Their consensus called for the immediate
scheduling of a first-class air meet featuring aeroplanes and
as many famous aviators as possible. Los Angeles was the ideal
choice for a meet to be held in January, 1910.
By late 1909, Los Angeles was looking for the stimulus which
such an event could provide. Max Ihmsen, general manager of the
Los Angeles Examiner, was sitting in his Los Angeles office one
day in 1909 when Dick Ferris walked in and introduced himself
as the representative of Roy Knabenshue and the other St. Louis
aviators. Max Ihmsen was enthusiastic but offered a suggestion:
why not make the meet international in scope? "Let's bring
Aviation was big in Europe, yet interest in aviation in the United
States was distinctly different save for a few pioneers,
ballooning and dirigible development occupied the interest on
this side of the Atlantic chief among them Roy Knabenshue.
By contrast, Europeans had achieved varying degrees of success
in aviation. Huge cash prizes for outstanding aeroplane performances,
plus encouragement from several European governments had fostered
this development. Louis Paulhan was the product of this trend,
clearly one of the most colorful aviators on the Continent.
Louis Paulham's fame as a specialist in the daring or unique
came about as a result of dual distance and endurance records
set of eighty-three and seven-tenth's miles in two hours, forty-three
minutes, twenty-four and four-tenths seconds. The feat made him
Max Ihmsen cabled Edmund Cleary, the manager for Louis Paulhan
inquiring his interest in the idea. Louis Paulhan was clearly
Europe's aviator of choice, having won first prize in Paris for
his new Farman biplane and Cleary was an American promoting his
aviation feats. Cleary agreed to bring Paulhan for a fee of $50,000.
The only Americans who could assert claim to competency and experience,
both as builders and pilots, were Glenn H. Curtiss and the Wright
brothers Wilbur and Orville.
Ironically, the Wright brothers didn't become overnight celebrities.
it wasn't until 1908, five years after their famous flight, when
Wilbur Wright traveled to France to demonstrate the Wright Flyer
III, which was built three years earlier, at a special exhibition
held on August 8 near LeMans, France, that the brothers became
celebrities. Wilbur Wright' flying ability so outclassed European
flyers that day that he was instantly made a hero.
But it was Glenn Curtiss, the following year, who had achieved
the greatest reputation as an aviator on the European Continent
as a result of the International Aviation Meet at Rheims, France.
This naturally created a rivalry between Glenn H. Curtiss and
the Wright brothers here in the United States.
Air Meet That Almost Wasn't
For some time, Curtiss and the Wright
brothers had been involved in a dispute which centered around
the Wright's claim that Curtiss was using, on his aeroplane,
a stabilizing devise the aileron. The Wright brothers claimed
the aileron as their invention protected by patents. The
Wrights had also projected their claims into the field of European
litigation, including France, where they insisted that Henri
Farman's aeroplanes likewise had infringed upon their patents.
The Wright brothers sued Glenn Curtiss as early as September,
1909, in an effort to preclude him from making or selling aeroplanes
in violation of their patent rights. Upon hearing of the California
meet, in which Glenn Curtiss and his team of exhibitioners were
scheduled to take part in, they sought to prevent the event from
Paulhan and his company, consisting of his wife Celeste, Edmund
Cleary, and two aviation associates, Didier Masson and Eduard
Miscarol, arrived in New York on January 3, 1910, with two Bleriot
monoplanes and two Henri Farman biplanes representing the
highest development of European aeronautical science to that
date. Fearing that Paulhan's Los Angeles appearance would cause
the Wright brothers great commercial damage, as soon as Paulhan
set foot on American soil, Edmund Clearly was handed a Federal
Summons directing Paulhan to appear in the United States Court
of Appeals on the first Monday in February enjoining their
use of their Henri Farman biplane.
The Wright brothers had also obtained a temporary injunction
prohibiting the manufacture and sale of aeroplanes by the Herring-Curtiss
Company (Curtiss's factory at Hammondsport, New York). Their
suit also sought to prohibit Glenn Curtiss' participation in
any air meet especially the Dominguez International Air
Meet in Los Angeles. Likewise, Paulhan was so enjoined from using
his Bleriot Monoplanes.
A legal turn of affairs, however, was to work to the advantage
of the Dominguez International Air Meet.
On January 8, in Buffalo, New York, just two days before the
meet was scheduled to take place, a Federal Court granted an
order suspending, pending final action, the temporary injunction
obtained by the Wright brothers. The suspension was conditioned
on the filing, by Glenn Curtiss, of a $1,000 bond which would
be forfeited in the event that damages were awarded to the Wrights.
The order, however, gave Glenn Curtiss specific liberty to make
flights at Los Angeles, and elsewhere, during the time the patent
action was in litigation.
Meet Is On
Dominguez Hill, dubbed Aviation Park,
was selected by the aviation committee as the locale for the
meet because of its suitability for flying conditions and its
proximity to the railroad. At Rheims, France, spectators had
to walk some three miles from the train to the air field. Aviation
Park was located only a half mile from the Pacific Electric station
at Dominguez Junction where a two hundred-foot-long platform
was built, designed to accommodate a train every two minutes.
The flying field ran in a north-south direction. A three-mile
long fence separated the flight path from the spectator area.
The flight pattern was marked by six, ten-foot towers, each surmounting
a flagpole. The flight pattern was in the shape of an hexagon
with straightaways in front of the gallery and on the opposite
side of the filed. The grandstands were able to accommodate some
twenty-six thousand people.
Dick Ferris served as the general manager of the meet and chairman
of the aviation committee.
Except for the Wright brothers, who refused
to participate in the meet, there was gathered at Dominguez what
was probably the most representative collection of aviators in
America at that time. Flying machines of all sorts, including
biplanes, triplanes, and monoplanes appeared from all over the
country. Various experimental models such as the multiplane,
aerofoil, and ornithopter were also on hand. Not to mention balloons
and dirigibles of every make and their pilots.
Charles Willard was there, Glenn Curtiss's famous pupil and the
most experienced aviator in America. Lincoln Beachey, a pioneering
balloonists and experienced aeronaut who could scoop a handkerchief
off the field with his wing tip, and later to startle the world
with his inverted flight, loop-the-loop, and mad dash under the
Niagara Bridge, was there as was his brother, Hillery Lincoln.
Charles K. Hamilton, who would gain fame for the first night
flight in America, was also present. Roy Knabenshue was on hand,
a pioneer balloonist who had propelled a dirigible at the speed
of twenty-five miles an hour. Colonel Frank Johnson, a San Francisco
financier and aviation enthusiast, was there with his newly-purchased
Curtiss flying machine. Gates M. Fowler shipped a triplane all
the way from Pheonix, Arizona.
Representing the U.S. Army was Lieutenant Paul Beck, one of the
greatest military signaling experts in the world. Beck was on
hand to evaluate the flying machine for military purposes.
But America's leading representative at Dominguez was Glenn H.
Curtiss. Curtiss was a deliberate performer, on who shunned spectacular
feats for the sake of pure showmanship. He was strictly business
and in spite of his aerial achievements, he was intent upon but
one thing selling aeroplanes.
The event was sanctioned by the Aero Club of America, an organization
founded in New York City soon after the turn of the century.
Composed originally of some three hundred members interested
in the science of aeronautics, the Aero Club had, from its beginning,
been primarily interested in ballooning. The Club had early assumed
the sole privilege of licensing pilots, sanctioning meets, etc.
The Aero Club's first president, Cortland Field Bishop, was the
events chief judge.
Place Called Dominguez
America's First International
The regular manufacture of aircraft began
in Southern California in 1912 when two brothers, Allen and Malcolm
Loughead, built and flew their three-place seaplane.
In 1913, Glenn L. Martin built, in Los Angeles, what was to become
the first American made aircraft to be used in a wartime bombing
operation. Two of Martin's promising employees were Lawrence
Bell and Donald Douglas.
Charles Willard was Glenn Curtiss's famous pupil and the most
experienced aviator in America.
Another Glenn Martin employee, Charles Willard, became chief
engineer for Glenn Martin in Martin's Los Angeles plant. Willard,
likewise, remained active in the industry until his retirement
in Los Angeles.
Douglas formed his own aircraft company in the Los Angeles area
in 1920. By the time of World War II, aircraft plants in California
employed three hundred thirty thousand workers, more than the
entire population of Los Angeles in 1910.
Charles K. Hamilton gained fame for the first night flight in
America at Knoxville, Tennessee.
Of the Dominguez aviators, Charles Hamilton continued to make
exhibitions for several years flying in Roy Knabenshue's employment
for some time following the Dominguez meet. Roy Knabenshue, a
pioneer balloonist who had propelled a dirigile at the speed
of twenty-five files per hour, served in various commercial phases
of aviation and resided, until his death, in Arcadia, just a
short distance from Paulhan's 1910 Santa Anita destination.
Lincoln Beachey drowned in San Francisco Bay in 1915 when his
flying machine plummeted into the water. Paulhan left Los Angeles
nineteen thousand dollars richer than when he arrived. Following
a short tour of the United States, he returned to Europe where
he won the Daily Mail prize for the London to Manchester flight
on April 27-28, 1910. In 1912, flying a Curtiss biplane, he place
third in the first Monaco Hyudroaeroplane race. Paulhan made
his last flight as a pilot in 1930, the year that Curtiss died.
Nearly a score of future American aviation leaders, including
Roscoe Turner, Carl Spaatz, John Northrop, and James Doolittle,
to name but a few, were between the ages of thirteen and nineteen
The United States is indebted to the impetus
which the Dominguez Meet provided for Glenn H. Curtiss. Curtiss'
inventive genius, administrative ability, and technical skill
were waiting for the financial backing which his feats at Los
Angeles brought him. Following Dominguez, Curtiss organized aeroplane
manufacturing on a sound and continuing basis. In 1913-14, he
introduced the flying boat into Brazil, Russia, Austria, Italy,
and Germany. By 1916, the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company
had four manufacturing plants and five fields. Its plant at Buffalo,
New York, which covered a seventy-two acre site and boasted thirty-one
acres of buildings under one roof, was the largest such operation
in the world.
In 1919, in cooperation with the United States Navy, Curtiss
built the flying boat which made the first crossing of the Atlantic.
The world lost the services of a talented man when Curtiss met
a premature death on July 23, 1920.
Paulhan took up, in the Farman, Lieutenant
Paul Beck. Climbing to a height of two hundred and fifty feet
and cruising at forty miles per hour, Paulham maneuvered Beck
over a pre-arranged target laid out on the field. Beck dropped
three, small bags of dirt to demonstrate the practivability of
bombing gun empacements. Two United States Coast Artillery officers,
who made minute observations, pronounced the experiment a distinct
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