Chicago’s Contributions to the Development of Heavier-Than-Air Flight
INTRO Chicago’s Aviation Pioneers
PART ONE Octave Chanute
PART TWO The Aero Club of Illinois
PART THREE First Aeroplane Flights Over Chicago
PART FOUR Chicago to Springfield
PART FIVE 1911 Aviation Meet
PART SIX Dirigibles
PART SEVEN 1912 Gordon Bennett Race
PART EIGHT Municipal Airport (Midway)
PART NINE 1930 National Air Races and Aeronautical Exposition
PART TEN 1933 American Air Race
PART ELEVEN 1937 Amelia Earhart
PART TWELVE Northerly Island Airport (Meigs Field)
Chicago Tribune, February 13, 1910
ALL hail the “air fan”!
Chicago interest in the subject of aerial navigation, the most enticing and absorbing activity of the century, has leaped to a new eminence. Business and professional men of consequence have caught the fever. They are “crazy” to sit in a throbbing mechanism of motors, silk, and bamboo, and to dart to heights where any sudden jar may mean mortal obliteration. From these motives they have formed a club—the Aero Club of Illinois. Octave Chanute, “dean of aerial navigation,” is its first president. The organization plans to establish a “sky station” on the roof of some Chicago office building, being the first society in the United States to arrange such a novelty.
Further than that, it proposes to bring to Chicago next summer the greatest aero meet ever held on this continent. At that event every flying record of the past is expected to be hurled into history’s debris. And at this meet Chicago’s distinguished “air fans” will grasp their first chance to sit gingerly next to a tank of gasoline and watch the landscape twist “figure eights” beneath them.
Heretofore active intimacy with the flying game in this section has been restricted to inventors and would be chauffeurs of the atmosphere. Some of this class have been designated as “cranks.” But the distinguishing point between this group and the new set of enthusiasts is that the latest entrants do not have the machine shop point of view. Most of them are able to “buy.” They want machines of the latest and most perfected type, in order to satisfy their own birdlike cravings.
Close Handed Experience Wanted.
The proposed aero meet in Chicago next summer is being staged mainly in order to give this city’s local “air fans” their longed for opportunity to “see how it feels” to flutter over roof tops. They want the close hand experience. Incidentally, they realize that such an exhibition will give aerial navigation a great thrust forward and will offer Chicago residents their first satisfactory grand stand peep at a real flock of flyers.
Charles S. Cutting, judge of the Probate court, plans to be the first magistrate ever to exchange the dais of justice for a throbbing foothold on an aeroplane. Judge Cutting has felt the nip of the aviation germ and he is setting high hopes on his prospects for flying next summer. He was one of the first to join the new Aero club of Illinois and it is said that his desire was not so much to be “clubby” as to get into line for an invitation to float from Paulhan or Curtiss, or, perhaps, the Wrights themselves.
Harold F. McCormick was one of the last to join, but it is predicted that he will be among the headmost to plod inside the roped aerodrome field and offer himself as a candidate for human ballast in the cause of human flight.
Joseph H. Defrees, president of the Chicago Bar association, is another example of the enthusiasm of the large legal profession toward aviation. The heavy showing of the bar in this new club indicates that it may make its influence felt when the time comes to frame the laws of the air.
Ald. Milton J. Foreman promises that he will take to the new form of “joy riding” like a duck to the aqua. Mr. Foreman is a rabid horseman and is the head of the leading equestrian organization of the city and state—the First cavalry, National guard. He also is an automobilist of the untamable sort. How far his interest in actual aeroplaning will go is hard to predict, but is certain that only a long, last tumble from cloudy heights will curb it when once started. He will be as much at home in the aeroplane as he is in the jogging saddle. Another city father who figures in the new club is Ald. A. B. McCold of the Sixth ward.
James Deering, vice president of the International Harvester company, is another who is marking off the months to intervene before weather conditions will permit the Chicago aerial regatta. Mr. Deering, having mastered the intricacies of ground hugging binders and reapers and thrashing machines, turns a longing eye toward the more delicate cogs and rigging of the wind thereafter.
George W. Montgomery, manager of the Fair, is in a receptive attitude toward a half holiday in the clouds. Mr. Montgomery would gladly let the cares if a great business sink several miles beneath him while he steered or helped preserve the balance of a soaring machine.
Nearly All Lines Represented.
Air “fans” from the Board of Trade are F. R. McMullin and J. H. Woodbury. Additional legal luminaries of the club are Irvin P. Hazen, H. P. Wherry and John G. Campbell. Nearly every other line of business and professional activity has one or two members in the line-up.
Hawthorne or one of the other abandoned race tracks most likely will be the scene of Chicago’s first aero meet. Attempts will be made to attract to tit the leading vapor navigators of the world. The Wright brothers will not be too big an attraction for the committee now working on the project, if the Dayton wizards can be induced to make flights here. Glenn Curtiss, Paulhan, and other noted flyers of America and Europe all are being considered with the view of advancing offers.
It is probable that arrangements will be completed with the government for officially conducted military tests at this meeting. In that case Uncle Sam’s participation will be more active than it was this winter, when a Wright aeroplane was hung up at the Coliseum electrical show and signal corps soldiers gave still life illustrations of the art of flying.
Chief Aim of New Club.
James E. Plew, one of the active organizers said:
The principal aim of our big project is to bring Chicago to the forefront of aeronautics in the United States. Chicago belongs there, and it is shameful that she has not that preeminence right at this moment. I am sure that within a year we will have demonstrated that Chicago deserves a position at least ion level with cities like Paris and New York. For sailing purposes the geographical position of this city cannot be equaled. Hundreds of miles of continent stretch north, south, east, and west. The terrors of the ocean need not figure here as in cities of the American seaboard, and in Europe. If the right start is made Chicago will take the same lead in aviation in the middle west as it does already in automobiling.
As for the headquarters of the new club, the most favored place is to establish it on the roof of one of the city’s tallest and most sturdy office structures. Here an aeroplane “boathouse” will be installed later on, and the members will be able to shelter their pet flying craft when not dipping the ozone. Even before things reach such completion, before the members have actually invested in machines which they are willing to trust over the edge of the roof, a twentieth story clubroom will be most ideal. The “air fans” at least will secure a semblance of airy height if not the uncertainty of actual flying.
CICERO FIELD, 1911-1916
The Inter Ocean, May 14, 1911
The gift of an $18,500 lease to a 180 acre flying field, election of officers and the donation of $1,000 to the club coffers enlivened the annual meeting yesterday of the Aero Club of Illinois, and placed aviation in Chicago on a basis unequalled in the United States and on par with most of the foreign clubs.
Harold F. McCormick is the donor who made the flying field possible. There was a site under consideration between North Forty-Eighth and North Fifty-Second avenues and between West Sixteenth street and West Twenty-Second street, on which it had been promised a year’s lease might be obtained for a figure approximately $8,500 all told, including incidental rights. The Aero Club of Illinois, while anxious to establish the field, felt unable to finance it, especially since there would be required the expenditure of some $10,000 additional for preparing the grounds, building fences and hangars.
Rather than see the club lose its opportunity to take a leading place in aviation in America, Mr. McCormick volunteered to take over the leases in his name for a year and in addition donate $10,000 for the establishment of the grounds. If the club can return the $10,000 investment at the end of the year, Mr. McCormick agreed to turn over the grounds complete, and such options for future use of the grounds as he had been able to obtain in the meantime. His only stipulation was that it be declared the official and exclusive flying grounds of the club.
Best Grounds in Country.
This gives the ero Club of Illinois, if all arrangements as promised can be carried out, the best exclusive flying grounds in the United States, and for that matter anywhere, as foreign grounds are owned by syndicates and leased to aeroplane companies and clubs.
As the ground is practically as level as a lawn, little rolling will be required, and hangars can be built sufficient for housing eleven aeroplanes at once, on the community plan. A gas main entering the grounds will make balloon events possible, as well. The Metropolitan elevated railroad and three surface lines reach the grounds.
It is the purpose of the club to establish the grounds at once, bring here amateurs who have machines and are members of the club, and allow them unlimited use of the grounds; matinee flying days will be established and amateurs will be furnished official timers and judges by the club to enable them to gain their pilot’s licenses, and thence be enabled to enter the international meet on the lake in August.
The Aerofield at Cicero
Bounded by North Forty-Eighth and North Fifty-Second avenues and between West Sixteenth street and West Twenty-Second street
The Inter Ocean, July 4, 1911
The largest club-controlled flying field in the world and one pronounced by experts to be ideal in every way was opened yesterday by the Aero Club of Illinois on the West Side. The official opening of the grounds marks the first aviation field to be maintained in Chicago solely for that purpose.
The Metropolitan Elevated railroad has built a special station for the accommodation of aviators and flying enthusiasts at Fiftieth avenue on the Douglas park branch. The grounds can also be entered from the terminus of the line at Fifty-second avenue.
Roy Knabenahue, manager for the Wright brothers, visited the field yesterday and inspected the course in an automobile traveling at the rate of thirty miles an hour. He declared it the best course he had visted this year.
The fourteen members of the Aero Club of Illinois who already have machines at the field provided the contests held in connection with the official opening.
The Aerofield at Cicero
Cicero Airfield, About 1911
Cicero Airfield, 1912
View to west.
Left to Right: Gable-roofed hangar, wind tunnel, tent hangar, flat-roofed hangar.
Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1912
Within two weeks a half dozen aviators will be practicing daily at the Cicero flying field of the Aero Club of Illinois, in preparation for the western championship events at the field June 8.
Max Lillie (Lilgenstrand), St. Louis aviator, spent several hours in the puffy air yesterday. In the late afternoon he took up passenger Miss Katherine Stimson (sic) of Jackson, Miss., a 17 year old girl who is desirous of becoming an aviatrice.
Girl Works the Levers.
Lillie, who has given the girl a course of lessons in “grass cutting,” took her about 1,000 feet in the air, showed her the left and right bank, and how to land.
“She worked the levers all by herself for a while,” Lillie said when they had landed, “She is going to make a fine little flyer.”
Miss Stimson said she wants to be an aviatrice so she can make a lot of money in a hurry. She wants to study singing in Paris.
The top picture shows Max Lillie and Katherine Stimson starting on 1,000 foot ascension in airship at Cicero field, the bottom one they are just leaving the ground on the girl’s first trip in the air.
Display advertisement for Lillie’s School, Aerial Age, June, 1912.
Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1912
Aviator Max Lillie was lost in the skies above Chicago for an hour at twilight yesterday during the Cicero field aviation matinées.
Lillie, who had a luncheon engagement at the Columbia Yacht club house in Grant park with a girl passenger as an additional guest, fared forth on the return trip alone at 5:15 o’clock, after having damaged his machine and being released from arrest.
When the Wright biplane was seen circling confusedly over South Chicago is a cloud-bank about 6 o’clock, few knew the plight of the aviator. He was lucky enough to venture to the west, finding a landing place at the Elmhurst golf links, six miles west of the Cicero field.
Takes Mail to Cicero.
At Elmhurst Lillie found a weary postal mail clerk waiting for George Mestach, official aerial mail carrier, with a small sack of letters to be posted via the sky. Postmaster McDonald of Cicero, supposing the special postal arrangements would not be effective on account of the Decoration day holiday., had advised Mestach against setting out for Elmhurst.
Lillie saved the day by bringing the mail sack to Cicero, where he alighted in half darkness at 6:45. Mrs. Lillie and an anxious group of friemnds who had remained at the field after the matinée crowds shouted an cried and cheered when his buzzing motor caught their attention.
Mrs. Lillie was fairly in hysterics. Many reports had reached the field that Lillie had fallen in the lake. His over lake route necessary to escape the club’s rigid order against cross city flights added strength to the report.
Takes Woman of Club Visit.
Lillie flew at 11 o’clock from Cicero field with Katherine Stinson, a flying student—both invited guests at the luncheon given by Commodore T. J. Quail of the Columbia Yacht club. They kept to the open country, flying south to South Chicago, then east and over the lake to the yacht clubhouse at the foot of Randolph street. A corkscrew spiral brought the guests down from an altitude of 3,000 feet to a few feet of the front door of the clubhouse.
Miss Stinson was radiant in a natty gray tailored costume with regulation bloomer breeches and high tan boots. Mr. Lillie was in his “Sunday” clothes.
“Come right in, folks,” said Commodore Quail hospitably, helping Miss Stinson from the machine. “Hope you had a nice trip.”
Commodore Accepts Bid to Fly.
Salute guns kept booming the announcement of the opening of the yachting season. At 2 o’clock, after the luncheon, the appointed time came for the annual review of the yacht fleet by Commodore Quail, with Commodore James Pugh of the Pistakee Yacht club as assisting officer.
“The best way to review is in an aeroplane,” suggested Mr. Lillie.
“I’ll go—if I’m not too heavy,” volunteered Commodore Pugh. He weighs 225 pounds.
The aviator and the commodore took places at once in the biplane, flying first over Grant park and close to parade crowds on Michigan avenue. Then they sailed out over the lake and among the yacht masts, while ensigns were dipped and the salute gun boomed continuously.
Arrest Lillie and Commodore.
When Lillie landed fifteen minutes later with the heavy passenger a strut beam broke. The aviator had no time to look after the repair of this at the moment, for up stepped Sergt. Hallie and Policemen Oluss, Hogan, and Donovan of the south park police. They arrested the two aerial navigators on a charge of violating the ordinance forbidding the landing of aeroplanes in public parks. Farnum Fish, the youthful Cicero field aviator, recently was arrested on the same charge in Grant park.
After a patrol ride to the South Clark street station it was decided to release Commodore Pugh and hold Lillie, his air chauffeur. Attorney J. K. Prindiville, a guest at the aeroplane luncheon, meanwhile located Judge John R. Caverly at the Iroquois club. The judge accepted Commodore Pugh’s bond for $400 and released Lillie. WHn the aviator started back to Cicero field to take his place in the contests it was after 5 o’clock.
Miss Stinson, also scheduled to appear at the Cicero meets, had returned—still in her costume—on the “L” to the field when she heard of the accident to the strut beam, expecting Mr. Lillie would not be able to fly back.
The Inter Ocean June 1, 1912
The first fine imposed upon an aviator in Chicago, for violating the ordinance forbidding aeronauts from landing in a public park or highway without a special permit, was paid yesterday by Max Lillie of St. Louis, who landed in Grant park on Memorial day. The aviator was fined $10 and costs by Judge Beitler at the South Clark street court despite the plea of his attorney that he was ignorant of the South park ordinance.
Lillie was arrested twice for landing in the park on the same day. The first descent was made in the north end of the park, near the Columbia Yacht club. He had flown from the Cicero aviation field with Miss Kathleen Stinson of Jackson, Miss., as passenger. He was placed under arrest, but on the plea of Commodore James Pugh, who telephoned superintendent Foster of the South park system, the birdman was released.
Flies With Commodore; Arrested.
It was after he had taken up Commodore Pugh for a flight and had alighted in the park a second time that he was taken into custody and formally booked at the station.
Former Justice J. K. Prindiville represented Lillie in court and pleaded that his client was ignorant of the ordinance. Judge Beitler held that ignorance was no excuse, even for an aviator.
“If I fine a few of you aviators,” he said, “it will help you to learn the ordinance.”
Lillie’s attorney explained the the aviator was alighting with Commodore James Pugh, who was a passenger, and that he had a letter from Mayor Harrison, who was at the Columbia Yacht club.
No Excuses Allowed.
As a further excuse Attorney Prindiville declared that a strut on Lillie’s machine had broken, forcing him to come down. He was bound for Cicero, he said. South Park Policeman J. Oluss made the arrest.
Judge Beitler asked Lillie if he was a member of any of the Illinois aviation clubs and he replied in the negative. He said he knew many members of Illinois clubs, however.
“Well, you had better get them to teach yiou the rules in flying to Chicago,” the judge remarked.
Inter Ocean July 15, 1912
Officials of the Aero Club of Illinois yesterday examined from an aeroplane the sites suggested for holding the Gordon Bennett world’s championship aeroplane race, in an effort finally to decide which would be most suited to the 100 mile an hour racers who will compete in that event. They were carried over the fields by Aviator Max Lillie. Later Miss Katherine Stinson became the first qualified woman aeroplane pilot to qualify on the second aeroplane ever made, the Wright biplane.
Miss Stenson Pioneer of All.
Miss Stinson finished her pilot tests by an altitude flight. The figures eight required were run off the day before, but there was no height registering instrument at the field and the altitude trial had to be postponed. She passed it easily, reaching 500 feet. Miss Stinson is the first woman to win a license on the Wright biplane, the pioneer of all, and by reason of the retirement Miss Mathilda Moissant and the death of Harriet Quimby and Julia Clark, is now the only American girl who is a licensed pilot. She won her brevet on the biplane of Maqx Lillie, her instructor. She expects to go to Dayton this week and bring back a new Wright for her own use.
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1912
Katherine Stinson—bird girl who learned to fly in Chicago—is the youngest aviator, man or woman, in the world since she passed all the international tests Sunday at Cicero flying field of the Aero Club of Illinois. She is just past her 18th birthday. Miss Stinson is from Jackson, Miss.
Chicago Tribune, July 18, 1915
Nearly two thousand men and women at Cicero field were furnished with a thrill not on the program yesterday when Miss Catherine Stinson, aviatrix, fell 8,000 feet in her biplane after an accident to the gasoline valve. She finally righted her machine, however, and made a safe landing.
Miss Stinson, according to her press agent, is the only woman who has looped the loop, and was giving an exhibition when the accident occurred.1 Three times she had “turned turtle” when the frail craft was some 4,000 feet up, and the crowd that had gathered felt they had obtained their money’s worth.
On the fourth loop, however, the strain proved too much. The gasoline valve snapped and the purr of the engine was hushed. Nose downward, the machine dashed toward the earth, and hundreds turned away to avoid the impending tragedy. The planes, however, were suddenly inclined and the safe landing effected. Attendants ran to Miss Stinson, who was so weak she had to be assisted to her dressing room.
It was the most dreadful fright I ever experienced. The horror of the silence after that motor stopped will stay with me all my life. I didn’t know what to do for just a moment. Then I began to fall. I knew it would be fatal if the machine ever lost its balance. So I just turned its nose straight down and asked God to help me.
Did you ever fall 3,000 feet? Well, it feels like you have fallen 4,000 miles. The time is an eternity. I was so weak when I felt the wheels begin to roll over the field that all I could do was lie back in my seat. I would have fallen if I attempted to stand. I would have cried if I had opened my mouth.
But that experience hasn’t taken my nerve. I’m going to loop the loop again, and then I’m a going to execute the ‘death drop.’ And this time I am going to do it on purpose.
Miss Stinson learned to fly in 1911. She is a pupil of Max Lillie, who fell to his death at Galesburg, Ill.
Chicago Tribune, January 23, 1914
Announcement of a new suburban line, to be opened in May, was made informally last night. It will be called the Lake Shore Air line—the “Over Water route” for short.
News of the project came out a dinner party of the Aero club of Illinois to its three past presidents, Harold F. McCormick, James E. Plew, and Bion J. Arnold at the Auditorium hotel. Two flying boats are being put in shape for the opening of the line about May 15. The “right of way” will be from Grant Park to Lake Forest on the north and to the South South Shore Country club to the south.
The line is to be run for profit only. A flat rate of 50 cents per mile is to be charged. It is expected that four round trip journeys will be made every day.
Lake Forest Round Trip $28.
Dr. Lloyd Thompson and C. Livingston Wiggins have organized a company to run the boats. The company will be called the Thompson-Wiggins Aviation company. The two flyers will have charge of the flyiong boats.
It is planned to make all suburban stops along the north shore whenever there are passengers. The round trip fare to Lake Forest will be $28.
“We expect to make the trip from Grant Park to LAke Forest in twenty-five or thirty minutes,” siad Aviator Thompson. “The line will be patterned after the one just opened, which operates from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Fla. On Sundays we shall not take the regular suburban trips, but will use the boats for excursions to Michigan City and other points on Lake Michigan.”
Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1916
An interesting transaction in Morton Park under the Torrence system, involving the erection of two apartment buildings and bungalows at a total cost of about $100,000, was made a matter of record yesterday. It was the purchase by Carl A. Carlson from Robert W. Parker of a tract of twenty-one lots between Nineteenth and Twenty-second streets, Forty-eight and Forty-ninth courts, for an expressed consideration of $20,040.
On this and adjoining land owned by Mr. Carlson he plans to erect twenty-two flat buildings to cost about $5,500 each and ten bungalows to cost about $4,000 each. In this connection he has secured forty-two loans with an aggregate of $97,750. Of this amount $74,500 comprises first mortgages and $23,250 second mortgages. The property is opposite the plant of the Western Electric company and is a part of the old Cicero aviation field. The lots are 30×125 feet. Mr. Carlson has already erected thirty two-flat buildings in that immediate vicinity.
ASHBURN FIELD, 1916-1921/1939
The community area of Ashburn, IL consisted of the approximate boundaries of 75th Street (N), Western Avenue (E), 87th Street (S) and Cicero Avenue (W). It was named “Ashburn” because it was the dumping site for the city’s ashes, and was slow to experience growth at the beginning of the 20th century. The area was part of the Annexation of the Town of Lake on June 29, 1889.
Seventy-ninth and Eighty-seventh streets and Crawford (Pulaski) and Cicero avenues
1916 Rand McNally Map of Chicago
Aerial Age Weekly, April 10, 1916
Erection of hangars has started on the Aero Club of Illinois’ new flying field at Ashbourne (sic). Three have already been spoken for. The Laird Aviation Company, Partridge Aviation Co., and probably Miss Catherine Stinson will occupy the first three.
The Chicago Aero Works has lately shipped a Stupar tractor to Messrs. Callahan and Shank, of Huntington, West Virginia. The company is at present making a light, fifteen- horsepower tractor, and is constructing a special fuselage for Mr. Ered. Hoover, exhibition pilot. A glider was recently sent to Mr. A. S_, Abell III, of Baltimore.
The Partridge Co. have already assembled their machines for spring work, and are waiting for suitable weather to carry on school work. Mr.Sinclair,a graduate of this school, will take one of the company’s machines to the University of Illinois interscholastics for exhibition Work.
Aerial Age Weekly, April 17, 1916
Effort to Bring U. S. Aviation Training Camp to Chicago
Mr. Charles Dickinson, president of the Aero Club of Illinois, and Mr. James S. Stevens, vice-president, have offered the United States Government the use of the club’s new flying field for use as a mid-western aviation training station. The field, one of the best in the country, covers an expanse of 640 acres just inside the limits of Chicago, and already contains fifteen hangars in process of erection. Mr. Alan R. Hawley, president of the Aero Club of America, together with Mr. A. 3. Lambert, president of the Aero Club of St. Louis, go to Chicago to help boost the local club’s interests.
Telegrams were sent by the Aero Club of Illinois to Sena tors Sherman and Lewis, and to Congressmen Madden and Mann. Mr. Lambert has also sent a telegram stating the desirableness of having such a field in Chicago to Senator Stone, of Missouri. Indications are that Chicago will be selected in the immediate future as the army’s Central States aviation training station. The telegrams as sent by the Aero Club of Illinois to Washington follows:
- The most important thing lacking in the regular army, and especially as applied to the militia, is an adequate equip ment of aeroplanes and aviators. If we have trouble on a large scale in Mexico this branch of the military service will prove the most valuable, and without which our troops will be seriously handicapped. Can you not introduce into Congress a bill at once authorizing an appropriation of $100,000 for the purpose of mobilizing the civilian fliers at one given point, not only for the mobilization of the aviators, but for the assembling of material and supplies? This will permit a more efficient organization which the signal corps can absorb and distribute to the militia troops.
At present only two States have avation detachments. The legislative bodies of most States are not in session and nothing can be done along these lines by the individual States to equip their respective troops. That is our predicament here. There should be an aeroplane for every 200 men sent to Mex ico. The Aero Club of Illinois now offers to the government the free use of land recently purchased for buildings, located in the center of a 640-acre tract without a fence, building or tree thereon within the city limits of Chicago. This 640 acres is available under the ownership, leases and privileges held by the Aero Club of Illinois. This square mile of land is near the tract used in 1912 for the international Gordon Bennett races and was considered by aviators of Europe who used it the finest flying field in the world.
Messrs. Hawley and Lambert point out that Chicago’s facilities for such a station are ideal ; further, that Chicago, too, has excellent hydro facilities and that the station need not be confined to land machines alone. At this time, when the questions of war and preparedness are shaking the country, Mr. Dickinson’s offer to make easy the establishment of a central flying camp ought certainly to bring immediate and long-hoped-for results.
Aerial News Weekly, May 29, 1916
The hangars at the A. C. I. Ashburn Flying Field are rapidly nearing erection, some of the smaller ones being already completed and occupied. The Champion Co. has located at the new field and has started training students. The Partridge Aviation Co. has been flying upon every good day for the past two weeks. The Laird Aviation Co. announce their intention of removing to the new field immediately and will first test out the light eighteen-horsepower tractor which is to be put on the market later in the year.
Chicago Tribune, October 1, 1916
Information that Chicago has been selected as the site for one of the three United States army aviation schools and that two aeroplanes have already arrived was given out by Capt. J. C. Morrow of the United States signal corps, in charge of aviation in the central department. The other two schools, both of which already have been established, are at San Diego, Cal., and Mineola, Long Island, N. Y.
“By an arrangement with the Aero Club of Illinois,” said Capt. Morrow, “the United States was going to use the club’s field at Ashburn, Ill., for one of its aviation schools.
Get Two Curtiss Machines.
“Last Thursday we received two Curtiss aeroplanes to be used in instructing aviators, and next Monday we will receive two more. Arrangements have been made to start active work on the field Monday, and I have hired several civilian mechanics to overhaul all machines and get them in working order.
“Later, after the school has been developed, this work will be done by skilled mechanics from the regular army. A number of steel portable houses, to be used for storehouses, shops, offices, and hangars, are also on the way and will be here shortly.”
Students to Join Reserve Corps.
Students who will receive instruction at the school, the captain explained, will be enrolled in the reserve corps when they are proficient.
“In a few days I expect to receive 500 copies of instructions, which fully describe the whole matter. The applicants will make application to Washington, their qualifications will be passed on, and then they will be given an opportunity to learn flying under government instruction and at government expense.
“Last of all, here is a point I want you to get righty, and thatbis the name. The school will be the United States Aviation station and is not connected in any way with the militia or state organizations.”
Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1916
John T. McCutcheon took his first lesson in piloting an army biplane yesterday when he ascended 1,500 feet with Victor Carlstrom, aviator, at the new central district aviation station of the United States army at the flying field of the Illinois Aero club. The field is a mile square, being bounded by Seventy-ninth and Eighty-seventh streets and Crawford and Cicero avenues. There are nine hangars.
Mr. McCutcheon was the first member of the army aero reserve corps to make a flight at the station. Two other flights were made during the afternoon. One of the most interested spectators at Mr. McCutcheon’s flight was Miss Evelyn Shaw, his fincée. Although a stiff breeze was blowing from the south, neither appeared nervous.
The flights were witnessed by more than 500 spectators, many of whom went out on a special train. They were members of of the Chicago Advertising club to attend the dedication of the aviation reserve station. Others were friends of Mr. McCutcheon.
Capt. J. C. Morrow of the regular army flying corps, is in charge of the station. Aiding him are First Lieut. A. R. Christie, and five men from the aviation section of the army signal corps. There are now four new army planes at the field. Twelve more are expected. They will be used to instruct student officers and recruits in the aviation reserve.
“This is the largest station in the middle west and we hope to make it the largest in the country,” Capt. Morrow said. “If we can get enough recruits we may have a hundred planes here next year.”
The first flight of the afternoon was made by Theodore MacCaulay, one of three civilian instructors detailed to the station. He remained in the air a half hour. A. Livingstone Allan was the next to ascend. The third instructor is J. D. Hill. Allan, early this year, enlisted in the British Royal Flying corps for six months. He saw three weeks’ active servic e directing artllery fire over the German lines in Belgium and France. Then he came back to America to teach flying in the army aero reserve.
Victor Carlstrom will start his flight to New York tomorrow, carrying a sack of mail which he hopes to deliver in New York in ten hours. His plane is one of the largest ever flown in Chicago.
Chicago Tribune, February 2, 1917
Washington, D. C., Feb 1.—(Special)
—The secretary of war has authorized the transfer of the signal corps aviation station now at Ashburn, Ill., just outside of Chicago, to Memphis, Tenn.
The change was decided upon because the cold weather, high winds, and heavy ice prevailing at this season in the vicinity of Chicago prevents to a large degree the operation of the station. All the machines and most of the equipment will be moved in a few days to Memphis. In the spring the Illinois station will be reopened.
Chicago Tribune, April 16, 1917
A new United States aviation school, equipped with forty-eight Curtiss flyers, is to be opened in Chicago within ten days for the instruction of members of the officers’ reserve corps. In all likelihood the new aviation field at Ashburn, in the southwestern part of the city, will be used by the government for instruction flights.
The officers’ reserve corps is a new branch of the service created recently by the war department and its sole purpose is the teaching of civilians to become officers in the aviation branch of the signal service. A regular course of rigid instruction has been prescribed and the joining of the corps does not entail enlistment in the regular army branch.
The department was created a few months ago, and immediately thousands of applications came in to the three headquarters that were established in the country. More than 3,000 applications have been made by Chicagoans.
But sad news came from Capt. Roy S. Brown, who will have charge of the instruction in Chicago, yesterday.
He stated that the number of applicants who would be received at the Chicago aviation school would be limited to seventy-five men. He explained this seemingly small number of aviators asked for from Chicago by declaring that if this number could pass examinations and tests out of the total number who have applied the government would consider it “almost a fair average.”
Chicago Tribune, October 16, 1921
BY MORROW KRUM.
The United States air service has been offered the use of Ashburn field for flying purposes by the Aero Club of Illinois.
In a letter to Maj. W. C. McChord, air officer of this corps area, Charles Dickinson, president of the flying association, offered the field at the rate of $1 per year, providing the offer is accepted before Nov. 1. If the government decides to take the field after that date, the Aero club will make a special price for the property.
The offer came from Maj. McChord sent a letter to the mayor and the city council and asserted that if a flying field was offered at a nominal rental the government would bring several airplanes, hangars, and enlisted men, and establish a regular air service field in this city.
Ashburn field is within the city limits, the boundary line for the city forming the west and south boundaries of the field. The field is level and unobstructed. The approach is good. City telephone service is connected with underground wires. The city sewer and and water systems are within 500 feet of the property. There is an eight inch gas main on the west side.
The Wabash and Grand Trunk railroads form a junction at Ashburn station one-half mile from the field, There are ample switch tracks. The Clearing yards are but a short distance away.
Of course, business men will assert that Ashburn field is a great distance from the loop. There are no street car lines running past the field. But the automobile roads are good, and there seems to be little chance of securing an aviation field in the heart of Chicago.
Every time an airplane is is seen over Grant park the property owners get into communication with the south park board of commissioners and ask that the airplanes be kept away from the park. But little progress has been made in the plans of securing fields at 16th street and at Grace street, although either of two locations would be desirable.
“We believe that we have the best field and the best proposition in the city,” said Mr. Dickinson. “We hope the government will accept, because it means much to Chicago. It may result in the bringing of an air service experimental station here, and then Chicago would really be the center of American aviation. We hope that our offer will be accepted.”
Southtown Economist, November 4, 1921
Great excitement! Flyers at Ashburn field are to prove in a practical way the efficiency of the airplane for police purposes. A squadron has been organized and will be ready to hop off in an instant to chase a bandit car.
E. M. Laird Airplane Manufacturing Co,
E. M. Laird Airplane Manufacturing Co,
Chicago Tribune, September 11, 1938
Chicago has two aircraft manufacturers—Ben O. Howard and E. M (Matty) Laird. Both of them believe Chicago should be the center of a great aircraft manufacturing industry because of its central geographic location, weather that is even better than that of California for year-round flying, and its proximity to machine tool manufacturers.
But both these men say that the city is cold toward struggling airplane builders. Chicago offers none of the inducements in land, factory buildings, reduced taxes, and financing that other cities hold out as lure.
Loss of Industry Surprising.
‘It’s strange that Chicago, center of aviation prior to the war, should have lost the aircraft building industry to the east coast and to the west coast,” said Laird, one of the country’s pioneer builders. He discussed his views yesterday at his little shop at 5917 South Cicero avenue.
“But of course, in those years aviation had enthusiastic and philanthropic supporters here. There were Harold McCormick and Charles (Pop) Dickinson. McCormick established the Cicero field, Pop Dickinson started Ashburn field. Today aviation is a stepchild here.”
Laird built the “Solution” and “Super-Solution” racers of the 1930 and 1931 speed flying era. Recently he redesigned and rebuilt the Turner-Laird monoplane that Roscoe Turner flew to victory and a new speed record at the National Air Races in Cleveland. But Chicago soon may lose him. He says he is negotiating with the city of Chula Vista, near San Diego, Cal.
“They are offering me land, buildings and finances,” he explained.
Plans to build $2,500 Planes.
Laird said that, while he always was a custom manufacturer, building to order, he did $250,000 worth of business in 1928, his peak year here. And during the period from 1924 to 1931 in Chicago his gross business topped $1,500,000.
If he moves his plant to Chula Vista, said Laird, he will immediately begin constructing small cabin planes to sell about $2,500.
Ben O. Howard, engineering pilot for United Air Lines and former race plane designer, builder and flyer, began building commercial airplanes in Chicago in July, 1935. He opened his shop at 5301 West 65th street, Clearing, and has kept an average of thirty-five to forty men employed there ever since.
Selling Plane a Month.
The Howard company has grossed $360,000 in the two years of its existence and has sold and average of one airplane a month. All the ships are high performance machines capable of equaling or exceeding the speeds of air line planes.
“We have been talking to city authorities at South Bend, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis, Ind.,” said H. E. Greene, secretary of the company. “They offer us a new plant at lower rental than we now pay, freedom from taxes for a reasonable period, and they will help us raise working capital.
“We wouldn’t like to leave Chicago, but we have not been able to raise funds here to produce a twin engined airplane and a new military plane that Ben Howard now has on paper.”
GRANT PARK AIR FIELD, 1918-1919
Although Grant Park has been used as an unofficial air field for special events such as the 1910 and 1911 Air Shows, it was designated as an official air field for a short period as a drop off point for delivering United States Air Mail. After the Wingfoot Express accident in July, 1919, an ordinance was created to control traffic flying over Chicago and the aerial mail service was moved to Checkerboard Field in Maywood. There was no public airfield within Chicago’s city limits till the opening of the Municipal Airport in 1927.
Chicago Tribune, September 7, 1918
The first aerial mail service between New York and Chicago was delivered at Grant park at 7:04 o’clock last night by Pilot Max Miller of the United States aerial service. He made the trip from New York in twenty-three hours and fifty five minutes.
Pilot Edward V. Gardner, who was expected to arrive two hours later, was forced to make a landing in Indiana and will not reach Chicago until the morning.
The spanning of a thousand miles between the two largest cities in America with an aerial mail route was a climax to “France and Allies day” at the war exposition, commemorating the birthday anniversary of Lafayette and the anniversary of the first battle of the Marne.
Crowds Cheer Arrival.
Thousands of people at the exposition cheered the arrival of Pilot Miller with the first sack of aerial mail.
The sacks of mail delivered by Pilot Miller to Capt. B. B. Lipsner, superintendent of the United States aerial mail service, were transferred in a motor truck from the airplane to the post-office. Police cleared the streets to facilitate the passage of the truck. At 8:20 o’clock a special delivery letter from Henry Woodhouse, member of the board of governors of the Aero Club of America, with headquarters ay New York, was delivered to the editor of The Chicago Tribune.
The message read:
This epoch making first trip of the New York-Cleveland-Chicago aerial mail line affords us a splendid opportunity to express our hearty appreciation of the energetic and patriotic efforts that you and The Tribune have been making on behalf of national preparedness and to develop the aerial mail service,
A few minutes later a letter was delivered to The Tribune from Frank D. O’Reilly, editor of the Lock Haven Express of Lock Haven, Pa.
This was followed by the delivery at The Tribune office of a letter from Lieut. Kenneth M. Stewart of the United States aviation service.
Identifies First Postal Plane.
Pilot Miller appeared in the sky to the northeast a few minutes before 7 o’clock. It was at first believed that he was Capt. Hammond of the Royal British Flying corps, who was expected from Indianapolis. By the aid of glasses, however, Capt. Lipsner identified the speck in the air as the first aerial mail plane from New York.
Miller, who had never made a landing in Chicago, circled the park several times and made a perfect descent. As he was taken from the grounds in an automobile he was cheered by the crowds lining the field and by the people who packed the Monroe street viaduct.
Regular service Oct. 1.
Capt. Lipsner announced that regular service between New York and Chicago will be inaugurated Oct. 1. Letters mailed in New York will reach Chicago ten hours later. Relays of flyers 150 miles apart will carry it. The trips of Pilots Miller and Gardener were pathfinding trips.
Other features of the day at the exposition were addresses by Edward de Billy, deputy high commissioner of the French republic; A. Bathelemy, French consul to Chicago, and Prof. Shailer Mathews.
Chicago Tribune, July 22, 1919
Six hours after the dirigible fell in the loop yesterday afternoon, the city council took action to regulate flying over the city. It adopted a resolution directing the corporation counsel to draw up an ordinance regulating the operation of both heavier-than-air and lighter-than-air machines.
Ald. A. J. Cermak introduced the resolution. So affected were the aldermen by the disaster of the afternoon that at first a motion was made aiming at legislation to prohibit all flying over the city. The prohibition clause was objected by Ald. Guernsey and others, however, and Ald. Cermak consented to modify his resolution so that, as adopted, it read “regulate” instead of “prohibit.”
Guernsey Bars Escape.
“It is unnecessary to state reasons for the adoption of this resolution,: said Ald. Cermak, regarding the original resolution. “This accident shows we must stop flying over this city sooner or later, and we had better do it sooner. Now is the best time. I hope to see the ordinance before the council at its next meeting, so the council can take action before it adjourns for the summer.”
“Some regulation is necessary, but don’t forget aviation is here to stay,” said Ald. Guernsey. “The question of air ownership is a big one, as yet unsettled. I doubt whether the corporation council could draw an ordinance preventing preventing flying which would be legal. I think flying over Chicago should not be prohibited, and I am an interested party, inasmuch as, had it not been for this council meeting, I would have been in the blimp that fell today.”
Ald. Joseph Smith said a Chicago taxicab company is preparing to use aircraft in connection with its taxi service, and suggested the council license such craft, both because the city needs revenue badly and because a regulating ordinance could best be enforced through a license system.
Here’s the Resolution.
The resolution follows:
Whereas, The City of Chicago has this day received a tragic demonstration of the necessity of regulation of air traffic in the fall of the dirigible, inflicting death and injury among citizens below as well as to passengers of the airship; and.
Whereas, The city council, through a commission, is now considering the best means of permanent regulation, and, whereas, it is long since recognized in Europe as a dangerous policy to permit aircraft to cruise at will over populated zones;
Be it resolved, That the city council instruct the corporation council to draft an ordinance which, pending the adoption of lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air machines over the city.
Be it further resolved, That the ordinance be referred to the aviation commission, and that said commission report the same to the city council for passage as early as possible.
1 Katherine Stinson, also known as the “Flying Schoolgirl,” was the fourth woman in the United States to obtain a pilot’s certificate, which she earned on 24 July 1912, at the age of 21. On July 18, 1915, Stinson became the first woman to perform a loop, at Cicero Field. She went on to perform this feat some 500 times without a single accident. She also was one of the first women authorized to carry airmail for the United States.