1910: The Start of a Pioneering Airshow in California

January 10, 1910

The first major airshow in the United States — as well as one of the earliest airshows worldwide — made its debut at Dominguez Field in Los Angeles County, California. Approximately 254,000 spectators turned out for the 10-day extravaganza, which was characterized by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the greatest public events in the history of the West.” 

Charles Willard and A. Roy Knabenshue, inspired by an airshow that took place the previous year in the French city of Reims, selected the Los Angeles region for the show because of its agreeable January climate. Invitations went out to pilots of all sorts of aircraft — monoplanes, biplanes, balloons, dirigibles — to take part in the event’s various competitions. 

The participants for the Los Angeles International Air Meet included such leading aviators of that era as Glenn Curtiss and Louis Paulhan. The Wright Brothers also attended, but not to participate; they showed up with lawyers in an attempt to prevent Curtiss and Paulhan from flying. Orville and Wilbur claimed that both of those pilots had features on their aircraft that violated the brothers’ patents. (Ultimately, however, Curtiss and Paulhan were each able to take to the skies after all; the former set a new air speed record, while the latter broke records in flight endurance and altitude.) 

Other aviation greats were likewise on hand for the Los Angeles International Air Meet. Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, who achieved acclaim as the Chief Aeronaut of the Union Army Balloon Corps during the Civil War, attended the airshow with his nine-year-old granddaughter Florence Leontine Lowe; she would become world-famous as “Pancho” Barnes, an aviation pioneer who broke Amelia Earhart’s speed record in 1930 and eventually operated a bar and restaurant in the Mojave Desert that was frequented by such test pilots as Chuck Yeager and Buzz Aldrin.

Image Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the 1910 Los Angeles Air Meet, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1910_Los_Angeles_International_Air_Meet_at_Dominguez_Field

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