This article first appeared in WORLD WAR 1 AERO - The Journal Of The Early Aeroplane

Origin, Operation, Obscurity and Legacy - 1891 to 1916

© 2005-2013 - Carroll Gray


The origin of Cicero Flying Field is rooted in the efforts of one man, Octave Chanute, Chicago rail and civil engineer, and devoted ‘aeronauticist.’ Chanute was born in France in 1832, but chose to become a U.S. citizen and to work and live in Chicago. His interest in human flight was sparked in the mid-1870’s, and upon his retirement in 1889 he devoted himself to moving the study of human flight out of the shadows of the improbable and magical and into the bright light of scientific experimental inquiry. His many years as a bridge designer and civil engineer provided a firm foundation for his aeronautical avocation. He was not of the school which held that a proper flying machine ought to have feathers, preferably eagle feathers. Chanute had faith that the scientific method hitched to engineering discipline might well allow humans to fly through the air. He wrote a series of 27 articles under the title Progress in Flying Machines, which recapped the history of aviation, and which were published in The Railroad and Engineering Journal, beginning with the October 1891 issue. Chanute stated that he had a three-fold purpose in writing those articles:

“1. To satisfy himself whether, with our present mechanical knowledge and appliances, more particularly the light motors recently developed, men might reasonably hope eventually to fly through the air.” Chanute wrote that he “now thinks that this question can be answered in the affirmative”

“2. To save the waste of effort on the part of experimenters, involved in trying again devices which have already failed.” - and to point out the reasons for such failures

“3. To furnish an account of those recent achievements which render it less chimerical than it was a few years ago to experiment with a flying machine...” - and to suggest how a promising design might be distinguished from a poor design

The articles were compiled into his influential book Progress in Flying Machines, published in 1894. To some degree, Chanute’s articles prompted the creation of and his book benefitted from the results of the 1893 International Conference on Aerial Navigation. Wilbur and Orville Wright were among the many people who read his book and they wholeheartedly embraced the new scientific approach to aerial experimentation embodied in both the Conference and Chanute’s book. After 1900, as the Wrights (in particular Wilbur) and Chanute became more acquainted, Chanute believed that perhaps they might be among the “working association of searchers” whom he had believed (as early as 1890) would ultimately understand and be able to solve the riddle of human flight. The impact which the International Conference on Aerial Navigation and Progress in Flying Machines had on those interested in human flight was substantial. While it’s known that Wilbur and Orville Wright (as well as Orville’s friend Paul Laurence Dunbar) visited the World’s Columbian Exposition during the summer of 1893, it has never been unambiguously established that either or both of them attended any of the meetings or sessions of the International Conference on Aerial Navigation.


The very important little-remembered International Conference on Aerial Navigation was held in August, in conjunction with the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition (popularly known as ”The Chicago World’s Fair”). The primary forces behind the Conference were Albert F. Zahm, the Notre Dame University professor who first conceived of holding an aeronautical conference, and Octave Chanute who was chair of the committee which sponsored and organized the Conference. While Chanute is generally known for his work on gliding and his seminal 1894 book Progress in Flying Machines, his devotion to the International Conference on Aerial Navigation is almost completely forgotten. As he had with his aviation articles, Chanute sought to advance aeronautics by encouraging promising aerial devotees (even to the extent of funding their efforts) and by documenting the state of aeronautical knowledge in publications detailing the newly emerging scientific understanding of aerial navigation. He made good use of his position as a respected engineer to solicit papers from “scientific men or engineers or both” which he then made certain were published.

As the Conference’s printed material stated: “The subject was taken out of the hands of ‘cranks’ and was discussed by those who by reason of their knowledge and training were competent to do so.” At Chanute’s urging, in October of 1893 The American Engineer and Railroad Journal began publishing Aeronautics, the journal of the Conference proceedings which evolved into an influential aviation magazine. At the time, there were very few people in the U.S. who possessed the status and who commanded the respect required to do what Chanute managed to accomplish from 1891 to 1894. He was in a unique position to lay a firm theoretical and historical foundation for the era of human flight.

Written statements of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison capture the lasting significance of the 1893 Conference - a new, clear view was taking hold - the true solution to the ancient puzzle of human flight would be found through scientific experiments with heavier-than-air devices - a view first documented in detail and widely distributed in the proceedings of the aeronautical Conference. While some of the individual papers presented at the Conference were obtuse and off-point, many others reflected that new view.

In his contribution to the Conference, Bell wrote that the “flying machine would be an accomplished fact before the end of the century, at most before the end of ten years” - a remarkably prescient comment. He was certain this would be so because the “great undertaking was no longer in the hands of ‘fakirs’; it was engaging the minds of practical scientists, like Maxim.... and Langley…” Bell also observed that the lighter-than-air approach would not be the most successful; that the flying machine of the future would have a greater specific gravity than air. He foresaw that flying machines would be heavier-than-air and would be flying by 1903, and he understood that the problem of human flight would be solved by “practical scientists” - a very apt description of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Edison reported experimenting with a powered shuttered umbrella device, believing that if he were able to obtain a sufficient speed of operation “... say, a mile a second, the inertia or resistance of the air would have been as great as steel, and the quick operation of these shutters would have driven the machine; but I couldn’t get the speed. I believe that before the airship men succeed they will have to do away with the buoyancy chamber.” While Edison’s use of a strange shuttered umbrella device may seem odd, even quaint, his observation that the ‘buoyancy chamber’ (the gas bag of an airship) ought to be eliminated was well reasoned. Even ten years later, after the Wright Brothers succeeded in making the first heavier-than-air controlled and sustained flight, many experimenters and would-be inventors continued to try to make use of lifting gas bags in one configuration or another. Edison’s view would eventually prove to be correct, that a mechanical design which took advantage of the inherent qualities of air would be successful.

The International Conference on Aerial Navigation set the tone for what would follow in Chicago: flying machines and aeronautics were to be taken seriously for there was little doubt that the Aerial Age was now on its way and Chicago ought to prepare to lead in its development and commercial exploitation. Harold Fowler McCormick and Charles Dickinson were among those strongly influenced by the activities of the Conference. Over the ensuing years, McCormick (son of the wealthy farm implement inventor Cyrus McCormick) and Dickinson (owner of the very large and successful Dickinson Seed Company) spent vast amounts of their personal fortunes promoting and supporting aviators and all things aeronautical in Chicago.

For two summers, Chanute, his associates and assistants (including Augustus Moore Herring, William Avery and William Paul Butusov) experimented with one-person gliders in Indiana, on the south shore of Lake Michigan. Chanute challenged his belief that the solution to human flight would be found through the application of engineering principles with his glider experiments of 1896 and 1897. The first apparatus tested was closely derived from one of Otto and Gustav Lilienthal’s successful gliders - yet after a number of glides it was discarded as being too difficult to control. The next glider tested that summer, Chanute’s Katydid, utilized twelve lifting surfaces arranged to pivot in order to alter the center of pressure as a means of control. Although modified a number of times, it became apparent that the Katydid did not warrant further research.

But, later that same summer, a new glider design was tested and found to be quite practical, capable of making glides in excess of 350 ft. The tail design, apparently suggested by Herring, was the now familiar cruciform shape, with rectangular horizontal and vertical surfaces. Chanute’s engineering experience was plainly evident in the strong trussed-wire design of the glider’s two wings. The glider became known as the Chanute Glider (or the Chanute-Herring Glider) but probably should be referred to as the Chanute-Herring-Avery Glider, to note that three experimenters contributed to its design. That same basic glider design of 1896, modified in 1897, was used by aerial experimenters well into the 1920’s, flown by many budding aviators. Its design foreshadowed the Wright glider and aeroplane wing structures.

During 1896 and 1897, Chanute spent about $10,000 ($150,000 in current value) on aerial experiments, his own and others, expenditures which threatened to force the closure of his mainstay wood-preservation business - such was his devotion to promoting aeronautical research.


On May 13, 1900, Wilbur Wright penned a letter to Chanute, outlining his thoughts on an approach to aerial experiments. Chanute responded almost immediately, encouraging him to pursue the matter of flight, stating “I have your very interesting letter of 13th, and am quite in sympathy with your proposal to experiment; especially as I believe like yourself that no financial profit is to be expected from such investigations for a long time to come.” Thus began an extensive and important correspondence between the two men, which lasted almost to the date of Chanute’s death in 1910.

At a critical point in the early aerial experimentation of the Wrights, Chanute encouraged a reluctant Wilbur Wright to address the prestigious Western Society of Engineers. On September 18, 1901, Wilbur described the 1900 and 1901 glider experiments and the results which he and his brother had thus far obtained. In doing so he established himself (and his brother Orville) as being in the forefront of aerial research and experimentation. During his presentation, Wilbur stated that the death of Otto Lilienthal (on August 6, 1896, while gliding) was the beginning of his “own active interest in aeronautical problems...” “The brief notice of his death which appeared in the telegraphic news at that time aroused a passive interest which had existed from my childhood ...” Wright credited Lilienthal with having had the first understanding of the primary importance of stability in flight, even while he questioned (on the basis of the 1900 and 1901 glider experiments at Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina) the validity of Lilienthal’s lift table data

Years later, Wilbur Wright reflected on the encouragement which Chanute had given from the beginning:

“When we left Kitty Hawk at the end of 1901, we doubted that we would ever resume our experiments. Although we had broken the record for distance in gliding, and although Mr. Chanute, who was present at that time, assured us that our results were better than had ever before been attained, yet when we looked at the time and money which we had expended, and considered the progress made and the distance yet to go, we considered our experiments a failure. At this time I made the prediction that men would sometime fly, but that it would not be within our lifetime.”

After Chanute passed away on November 2, 1910, Wilbur Wright wrote “No one was too humble to receive a share of his time. In patience and goodness of heart he has rarely been surpassed. Few men were more universally respected and loved.”


Chicagoans had more than a passing acquaintance with ballooning. Perhaps the first aerial vehicle to ascend over the Windy City was Silas M. Brooks’ gas balloon Eclipse, on July 4, 1855. During the 19th-century, famed balloonists Washington Harrison Donaldson, Samuel Archer King, and Louis Godard of France all made ascensions at Chicago. The passenger-carrying 100,000 cu. ft. hydrogen balloon Chicago, tethered at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, provided large numbers of people with the opportunity to see Chicago from an altitude of 1,000 feet. Chicago’s balloonists organized The Aeronautique Club of Chicago and held their first meeting at the Auditorium Hotel in February 1908, with veteran balloonist Charles A. Coey as President, and Octave Chanute numbered among the membership. The 1908 Chicago International Aerial Balloon Race was watched by an enthusiastic crowd estimated at 150,000 people.

Between 1906 and 1914, Chicago was treated to a series of airship flights by pioneer aeronauts A. Roy Knabenshue of Toledo, Ohio, and Horace B. Wild. While aeroplanes were not yet commonplace, Knabenshue’s airship exhibitions and Wild’s Sky Buggy airship flights were familiar events. Both aeronauts operated airships under contract at Chicago’s privately owned White City Amusement Park - Knabenshue made flights from mid-June until late July 1914, with his large passenger-carrying Knabenshue Air Ship, renamed the White City. Both aeronauts adapted to the coming age of heavier-than-air aerial travel - during 1910 Roy Knabenshue became the manager of the Wright Exhibition Company and in 1911 Horace Wild became the first Field Director at Cicero Flying Field.


As much as any other single event during the period, Glenn H. Curtiss’ 1909 exhibition flights at Hawthorne Race Track in nearby Cicero ignited aeronautical interest in Chicago. Among those on-hand to witness the restrained yet profound event of Curtiss moving straight and level through the air at an altitude of about 10 ft. were Charles Dickinson and Harold F. McCormick. Though Thomas Scott Baldwin’s airship flights at the same event proved of great interest, it was Curtiss’ exhibition of heavier-than-air flight which prompted Dickinson and McCormick to become extraordinary supporters of aeronautical activity in Chicago. Eugene Ely’s exhibition in the Herring-Curtiss No. 9 biplane during July 1910 at Hawthorne was yet another impetus to Chicago most prominent movers and shakers to seize the aeronautical moment and to do something of significance.

The day before his two-day exhibition flights at the Hawthorne Race Track in Cicero, Illinois, on October 16 and 17, 1909, Curtiss spoke to the Chicago Automobile Club and suggested that an aero club be formed in Chicago. In response to his remarks, the Aero Club of Illinois (“A.C.I.”) was incorporated on February 10, 1910, with Octave Chanute as its first president - a perfect choice, to be sure. The stated purposes for which the A.C.I. was formed were:

“To foster the science of aeronautics. To encourage aerial navigation, excursions, congresses, expositions, conferences and inventions. To promote aerial and other contests, races, trials, meets, games, exhibitions and shows. To do everything in conduct of the work of the organization in a manner not contrary to the city ordinances or the laws of the land.”

During early October 1910 a second major aviation event was held at the Hawthorne track, this one sponsored by the Chicago Evening Post, which featured Glenn Curtiss and his troupe of exhibition aviators, Eugene B. Ely, Charles F. Willard, J. A. D. McCurdy, Augustus Post, and Blanche Stuart Scott. As a woman aviator, very uncommon at the time, Blanche Stuart Scott was a strong crowd draw, yet she didn’t venture aloft during the 10 days of the aviation exhibition. Ely and McCurdy flew for Aero Club of America (“A.C.A.”) licenses, then known as “certificates.” Local aviator James (known as “Jimmy” and “Jeems”) Ward’s public exhibition flights aboard the Herring-Curtiss No. 4 biplane at Hawthorne just a few weeks before, stimulated interest and increased attendance at the October event. The Herring-Curtiss No. 4 was owned by James Plew, who would become President of the A.C.I. upon Chanute’s death that November.

The highlight of the October 1910 exhibition was a prize of $25,000 (roughly equivalent to $375,000 in 2004 dollars) offered by the Chicago Evening Post and the New York Times for the winner of an aerial race between Chicago and New York, to be completed within 168 hours of the start with unlimited stops. Qualified participants included James Radley, Charles K. Hamilton, Eugene Ely, Thomas S. Baldwin, Tod Shriver and Bud Mars. Radley, from England, was exempted from having to make a qualifying flight because his Bleriot XI monoplane had been delayed in France, due to striking dock workers. As it turned out, Eugene Ely was the only aviator to actually make an attempt, although his flight ended soon after it began due to a broken fuel line - his biplane was damaged while making a forced landing. Repairs were made and a second attempt was made by Ely, but soon after he went aloft his engine failed. Although the cross-country race was a bust and the prize wasn’t awarded, still, another respectably large aeronautical event had been held and no one had died or suffered any injuries.


The A.C.I. planned two great events for 1911. The first was the great Chicago International Aviation Meet held during August of 1911 in beautiful Grant Park, and became the high mark for aviation meets in the U.S. prior to World War I. The site of the Meet was along the shore of Lake Michigan, directly across from Michigan Avenue, and drew very large crowds who watched from a mile-long set of grandstands. A total of 34 aviators (including entrants from England, Poland, France and Germany) competed for over $70,000 ($1,000,000 in current value) in prizes.

The Baldwin, Curtiss, Moisant and Wright exhibition teams participated in the Meet, as did a number of independent aviators. Lincoln Beachey set a world’s record with his 11,642 ft. altitude flight in a Curtiss pusher biplane; George Beatty stayed aloft for over 3 hr. 42 min. in a Wright Model B biplane. Two deaths occurred, William “Billy” Badger died in a crash on the field and St. Croix Johnstone drowned in Lake Michigan while at the controls of his Moisant-Bleriot Monoplane. Some thought was given to stopping the Meet due to the deaths, but the Meet went forward.

Facilities for the 1911 Aviation Meet at Grant Park were well-planned and robust. The Meet’s hangars were substantial well-constructed affairs, with steel beam girder supports and hefty, windowed wooden doors. Harold F. McCormick provided much of the financial support for the endeavor and, once the accounting for the Meet was completed, covered the significant $75,000 deficit ($1,125,000 in current value), as well. McCormick was known as a fellow who, despite his social standing and wealth, didn’t stand on ceremony when it came to aviation. At the 1911 International Aviation Meet he was described as having “torn shirt sleeves and with the brim of his straw hat torn off.”

Charles Dickinson’s special interest was the A.C.I., spending a large portion of his personal wealth to expand the club’s operations and capabilities. He was also an unquestioning financial supporter of aviators - sometimes seeking out aviators to give them money which they hadn’t yet asked for, because he’d heard they were broke. He also was known to buy groceries for aviators and their families, and often used a taxi cab paid for by the day to deliver them personally. If McCormick took a broader, industrial view of supporting aviation (improving infrastructure, financing research and development and the like), Dickinson (appropriately enough) believed in seeding aviation at the ground level. Early on, “Pop” Dickinson correctly understood that Chicago was ideally situated to become a major hub for commercial aviation. Dickinson also understood the need for and the power of organization - he was a co-founder of the Aero Club of Illinois, a founding member of The Early Birds Club (the group which would become The Early Birds of Aviation), an early and persistent advocate of civil aerial mail delivery.

“Pop” was also an avid aerial passenger. He began his long series of flights as a passenger in October 1910 at the Belmont Park International Aviation Meet in New York, aboard Claude Grahame-White’s Farman biplane. Dickinson went aloft (to quote an article from August 1915) “with practically every prominent American and foreign aviator who flew in America.” Dickinson’s joyful view of flying was unabashed - he was quoted as saying “When the weather is right, the machine perfect and the pilot capable and thoroughly efficient, flying high above the clouds is the most wonderfully calm and fascinating of all pleasures. It is a journey through the skies crowning the successive heights of human endeavor and the culmination of human ingenuity. Who could ask for more ?”


The second great aeronautical event of 1911 around Chicago was the establishment by the A.C.I. of a top-notch flying field named “Cicero Flying Field” (or simply “Cicero”) within the township limits of Cicero (bounded by 16th St., 52nd Ave., 22nd St. and 48th Ave.), conveniently located adjacent to interurban rail service - just a 15 min. 5¢ trip on the Douglas Park “L” from downtown Chicago, and also was served by two streetcar lines. At some point during May, the A.C.I. was given a five year lease on the Cicero property by the Grant Land Association, Harold F. McCormick’s property holding company. At the conclusion of the 1911 Aviation Meet, the hangars in Grant Park were moved to the southern edge of the 2-1/2 sq. mi. lot in Cicero.

Flying at the new field began in late May of 1911, before it was officially opened. Wisconsinite Otto W. Brodie was one of the first aviators to fly at Cicero, giving and selling passenger flights aboard his French-built Farman biplane - an aeroplane with an interesting history. In February of 1911 it was purchased from U.S. sportsman-turned-aviator Clifford B. Harmon by the Franco-American Aviation Company, a business venture owned by Joseph Latimer, Walter R. Sollitt and aviator Otto Brodie. Harmon, in turn, had purchased it from Louis Paulhan in May of 1910 - it was the same machine with which Paulhan made his prize-winning London-to-Manchester flight, one month earlier. The engine on Harmon’s Farman (the poetical phrase prompted a limerick... “Harmon and his Farman”) was a Gnome 50 h.p. rotary engine purchased from English aviator Claude Grahame-White.

The machine Brodie flew at Cicero was not the same Farman which Paulhan flew in the U.S. during early 1910. In March of that year, as Paulhan was leaving to return to France, his Farman biplane was reportedly seized by a judge’s order in a dispute with the Wrights and was placed in storage in New York. Understandably, the two biplanes have sometimes been confused with one another.

The Farman biplane was capable of carrying a passenger, something many aeroplanes of the period had a difficult time doing, and Brodie became well-known as a passenger-carrying aviator. Katherine Stinson’s first flight at Cicero Flying Field took place on April 9, 1911, as a passenger aboard his Farman. On another flight soon thereafter, the wife of well-known and influential Chicago balloonist Charles Coey went aloft with Brodie.

Even though field facilities were initially quite limited, Brodie, Otto Timm, Claude M. Young, Carl Bates, Fred Schulz, Samuel D. Dixon, John J. Joyce, J. D. Blaney, Allan H. Loughead, Daniel A. Kreamer, Harry W. Powers, William A. Mattery, Charles Powers, and Willie Lennert were making flights from Cicero before the field was officially opened. During the same period, Brodie’s business partner Walter Sollitt, Horace B. Wild, Gertrude Greenby and a number of others flew as passengers aboard Brodie’s Gnome-powered Farman at Cicero. The first non-fatal accident at Cicero occurred in June, to Willie Lennert while he was attempting to fly his small self-built Lennert Biplane. A gas balloon ascended from Cicero during June of 1911, carrying Mr. Frey, its owner, and Max Stupar east, out to the shore of Lake Michigan, where Frey “valved” down to a safe landing before going out over the water. Stupar had built the valve and was relieved that it worked as well as it did - “I must confess that I did feel a little bit nervous when we were getting very close to Lake Michigan. It looked like it was almost under our feet but he valved gas cautiously and soon we made a normal landing.”

During two weeks in early June of 1911, the entire 180 acre (some sources state 160 acre) field “was made nearly as level as a lawn,” and was carefully cleared of obstructions. A 1,400 ft. by 800 ft. take-off and landing strip was “scalped” and leveled “as smooth as a baseball diamond” and was separated from the area adjacent to the hangars by a post and wire fence.. Another area was prepared to static-test aeroplanes on the ground - wooden planks were laid on the soil and a small stout post was fixed into the ground, from which a rope was then tied to an aeroplane’s landing gear. To test an engine’s thrust, a scale with a 500 lb. capacity was fixed between the aeroplane and the rope, and a direct reading could then be made of the thrust generated by the engine and propeller simply by looking at the scale’s indicator. The flying field was leveled using a five-ton steam roller which remained at Cicero for years and was used to re-level the field, especially after rains. Cicero Flying Field’s perimeter was defined by a solid 6 ft. high wooden fence topped with a strand of barbed wire.

Also in June, Otto Brodie threw a dinner for aeronautically minded Ciceroans and Chicagoans in celebration of the soon-to-be officially opened flying field at Cicero. Harry Cowling made the short hop from nearby Hawthorne Race Track to Cicero Flying Field aboard his Curtiss-type biplane to attend. The Hawthorne site continued in operation as a flying field, leased by the Chicago School of Aviation.

J. D. Blaney’s monoplane, an unusual design with a frail wing attached to a pylon above the undercarriage and engine, and Harold F. McCormick’s McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane were two of the first experimental aeroplanes at Cicero. They were both tested on July 1, but neither managed to fly. Like a number of other subsequent experimental aeroplanes at Cicero, the Blaney Monoplane remained at Cicero and was given a few more trial runs before being discarded.


Cicero Flying Field officially opened on July 4, 1911, as 5,000 people crowded onto the area between the hangars and the “strip.” The Chicago Metropolitan Elevated Railway ran special trains to Cicero, which made it an easy matter for Chicagoans to attend. The hangars were open and visitors were able to chat with aviators and take a close look at different types of aeroplanes, their construction, repair and maintenance. The Demoiselle-type Lennert Biplane, Brodie’s Farman, Cowling’s Curtiss-type, the unusual and impressive McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane, and Carl Bates’ monoplane were on display. Brodie’s flights were to have been the highlight of the day’s activities, but Brodie had broken the Farman biplane’s propeller on landing the day before and the new replacement propeller wasn’t very efficient, leaving him able to make only hops of 1,000 ft. or so. Allan H. Loughead (later one of the founders of Lockheed Aircraft) had been expected to make some sizzling flights in his speedy biplane on opening day, but he was left making short hops, as well, for his machine’s engine was acting up. Daniel A. Kreamer, who planned a career as an exhibition aviator, had a speedy Curtiss-type biplane powered by a 16 cyl. Smith engine, which reportedly sounded like a ”hornet’s nest.” Kreamer made a fast one-mile circuit of the field at an altitude of only 15 ft., he also made a 3 mi. circling flight at 30 ft. to 60 ft. altitude. He had hoped to make his license flight on opening day, but lack of an official barometer prevented it. On the 3rd, Carl Bates had flown his self-designed self-built Bates monoplane, powered by his self-designed self-built Bates 30 h.p. engine., at remarkable speed around the field, but a serious accident wrecked his aeroplane, and so he was unable to participate in the opening day events. Willie Lennert flew on opening day - in his 18 ft. wing span Lennert Biplane (similar to a Demoiselle-type monoplane but with a second wing added below) powered by a Lennert 20 h.p. engine, as did Harry W. Powers in a Curtiss-type biplane powered by a Roberts engine. Powers’ biplane had a high degree of finish and “when the sunlight flashed on the carefully dressed woodwork as he rounded the curves like a veteran, was exceptionally pretty.” In addition to the small group of “daily flyers,” Harry Cowling (who had an accident in his Curtiss-type biplane on June 20) and student aviator Charles Powers also flew. Herman Mossner made an ascension from Cicero field in one of Horace Wild’s silk gas balloons and made a 2 hr. 30 min., 14 mi. flight. AERO magazine’s correspondent (probably an A.C.I. member) thought Cicero’s Opening Day was an “exceptional success.”

Some weeks prior to Opening Day, veteran balloonist and airship operator Horace B. Wild was hired by the A.C.I. as a full-time Field Director, a position which was variously known as “Field Manager” “Field Supervisor” or “Field Captain.” One of the duties of the Field Director was to file written daily field activity reports with the A.C.I. offices in Club Room No. 1 at The Auditorium Hotel in downtown Chicago. Another duty was to ensure that the aeroplanes and would-be-aeroplanes at Cicero were safe to test and fly and that the aviators and would-be-aviators were competent to fly them.

The A.C.A., representing the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (“F.A.I.”), appointed Harold McCormick, James Plew, Francis X. Mudd, and Grover F. Sexton (known by the nickname “SX”) as its official representatives for aviator licensing flights at Cicero. There was some delay obtaining a barograph, used to certify that the altitude requirement of the license test had been met, but by late July it had arrived and official licensing flights began. Aviators were charged a $5 fee for licensing flights at Cicero - “to cover [the] expense of official observers.”

On the 12th, Daniel A. Kreamer (who’d flown almost daily since the 4th) successfully completed a daring midnight flight in his fast Curtiss-type biplane, by the light of a full moon. He was scheduled to fly for his license on the 13th, but was killed in a serious accident, the first loss of life at Cicero. Kreamer’s fellow aviators held a benefit fund-raiser flying exhibition for Kreamer’s widow and two children on the 29th. That same day, new aviation student “Miss Leona Bliss” had her first flying lesson aboard Brodie’s Farman.

On July 21, William Romme made another attempt to fly the McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane, and managed to take-off and travel about 50 ft. before a rear control wire broke loose, wrapped itself up in the propeller, yanking the rudder free which then was drawn into the spinning propeller; the propeller was shattered and the machine had a hard landing. It was estimated that “Ten days will see the trouble repaired.”

In late July, A.C.I. instituted a number of preliminary tests of an aviator’s skill, a “course of trials” - “short jumps, long jumps, half and full turns both to the right and to left, circuits of the field both ways and figure eights” before an aviator could apply for an official license test. Six bamboo poles marked the 1 mi. circular course - four of the poles were used to mark the entry and exit points for figure eight flights. Successful completion of the A.C.I. course was above and beyond the requirements of the A.C.A. or the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, and established an aviator license obtained at Cicero as evidence of high skill. Cicero Flying Field was also the first flying field authorized by the A.C.A. to conduct license flights for the new Expert Aviator certificate. As soon as the new higher category of aviator license was announced, nine Cicero aviators applied to obtain the Expert “brevet” - Max Lillie, Paul Studensky, George Mestach, Marcel Tournier, Andrew Drew, Otto Brodie, DeLloyd “Dutch” Thompson, Glenn Luther Martin, and Hillery Beachey.

The A.C.A.’s Expert Aviator test required that the applicant be at least 21 years old, had to pass a physical examination prior to the flight test, successfully fly to a point 25 mi. from the field and return, reach an altitude of 2,500 ft. and then glide down with the engine off (“volplane”) and land within 100 m. (328 ft.) of a pre-designated spot. Aviators flying for the equivalent F.A.I. Expert Aviator license were permitted to shut off their engines at 1,500 ft. altitude and were allowed to land within 200 m. (656 ft.) of a specified location - and no physical examination was required. The A.C.A. Expert Aviator license tests were, therefore, more stringent than their F.A.I. counterparts. In yet another indication of how seriously aeronautical matters were being taken at Cicero, Allan Loughead’s flying privileges at Cicero were suspended for five days due to his use of a Curtiss-type biplane which had not been inspected or ground tested.

Within a short time, Cicero became one of the best developed and best equipped flying fields in the country. Consequently, it soon became the base of operations for most of the professional exhibition aviators operating in the Midwest, as well as an obligatory stop for other professional aviators passing through. Managers and press agents specializing in handling aviators soon became fixtures at Cicero where they could scout the new talent at the field and offer contracts to the most promising fledgling aviators. Many of the most well-known aviators at Cicero had their own publicity agents - Max Lillie, for instance, hired press agent and manager Frank Albert, whose superlatives knew few bounds. Aeroplane engines, custom or in-stock propellers, engine mounts, turnbuckles, metal fittings, seasoned clear spruce and ash, lightweight strong wheels and all of the other many necessities for building, maintaining or repairing an aeroplane were readily available at Cicero - as were talented aeronautical engineers and aeroplane designers. Cicero Flying Field became a center of commercial aviation by meeting the requirements of six distinct groups:

1) professional exhibition aviators,

2) people wanting to fly in aeroplanes (either as passengers or aviators),

3) aviators wanting to be officially licensed,

4) aeroplane inventors, designers, engineers, and mechanicians (as aeroplane mechanics were then called),

5) management and booking agencies,


6) businesses and industries manufacturing and selling aeroplane parts and related equipment

Activity at Cicero soon settled into the established rhythm of exhibition aviation as it existed in the U.S. between 1910 and 1916. Each exhibition “season” (as it was known), began on Decoration Day in May and ended soon after Labor Day in September. Exhibition flights were given at country fairs, state fairs and other civic events. In a time when aviators had to ship their aeroplanes, spare parts and equipment, their mechanicians and themselves by rail rather than fly between exhibition sites, every community near a rail line could book an aeroplane exhibition, if it could afford to do so. Many thousands of exhibition flights were given under contract before paying crowds in the U.S. Large cities generally held aviation meets, usually competitive events with cash prizes and trophies (for duration, precision landing, speed, passenger-carrying, and so on), although after 1912 such large events began to be supplanted by exhibition flights of one or two professional exhibition aviators. Sometimes, however, aviation events were more scripted affairs, with all the aviators present taking a share of the proceeds. The late fall and winter months were devoted to repairing and rebuilding or constructing aeroplanes.

Engines, propellers and other types of aeronautical hardware were on exhibit and for sale in the porch-fronted building which was constructed at the southwest corner of the lot to house the Field Director’s office (telephone number “Morton Park 41”) and a Lunch Room operated by Mrs. Wenzel, famed for her pies. Special displays were often set up during aviation meets and weekend events for the edification of the weekly crowds. Typical weekends at Cicero involved a schedule of aeroplane exhibitions and ground displays, as well as passenger carrying flights for a fee. It was one of the significant goals of the A.C.I. to popularize aviation and to educate the public about aviation’s reality and ultimate promise.

By August, there were at least twenty aeroplanes at Cicero: A. Homer Barrows’ and Byron B. Wilbur’s all-steel Curtiss-type biplane powered by a Hall-Scott 60 h.p. engine; John F. Sandell’s bamboo monoplane powered by a 5 cyl. rotary 50 h.p. engine; Henry C. “Pop” Keller’s step-winged Octoplane; Gates’ Curtiss-type biplane powered by a 4 cyl. Gates engine; Edwin M. Spates’ Bleriot XI-type monoplane and Curtiss-type biplane each powered by a Roberts engine; Arthur Schmidt’s Bleriot XI-type monoplane powered by a Roberts engine; Willie Lennert's Demoiselle-type biplane; the Lund & Dwight tandem quadruplane powered by a Harriman 50 h.p. engine turning a 12 ft. diameter propeller; Ole Flottorp's Montgomery-type tandem monoplane; Samuel D. Dixon's Curtiss-type military biplane powered by a Roberts 50 h.p. engine; Claude L. Young's Young-Hearne biplane powered by a Hall-Scott engine; Daniel A. Kreamer's Curtiss-type biplane powered by a Harriman 50 h.p. engine; A. Steinhous' tandem biplane powered by a Bates 30 h.p. engine; Charles A. Hibbard's monoplane powered by a Bates 30 h.p. engine; William Mattery's Curtiss-type biplane powered by a Harroun 60 h.p. engine; Carl Bates’ monoplane powered by a Bates 30 h.p. engine; the McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane (also known later as the Cycloplane); the McCormick “Longitudinal Monoplane” known popularly as the Mustard Plaster; and the 32 ft. wing span Pendegard monoplane with Curtiss-type controls.

During the first part of August 1911, Brodie was very busy flying his Farman for profit, novice aviator Frank Bellai had an accident while landing, and “Vannie” Ludvik flew his Curtiss-type biplane on a few occasions. Between August 12 and 20, during the Chicago International Aviation Meet at Grant Park, Cicero was used as a backup field, a place where machines could be repaired or refitted. Calbraith “Cal” Rodgers operated out of Cicero, as did a number of the Meet’s participants. Soon after the Meet, “Pop” Dickinson took a ride with Rodgers in a Lillie-Wright Model B and paid Rodgers $150 for himself, four of his friends and his chauffeur to take sightseeing passenger flights with Rodgers, one at a time.

William S. Romme made a successful flight aboard the McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane on the last day of August. Two flights in September resulted in accidents, the one on the 24th caused significant damage. In the ensuing month or so, the machine (which had been a pusher-type) was rebuilt as a tractor machine, with its propeller at the front and its shape was altered “almost to a true saucer.”

During early September, Claude M. Young made daily short hops in his biplane. His machine, known as the Young-Hearne Biplane, featured tiltable circular ailerons and was powered by a Hall-Scott engine mounted spanwise which drove two propellers through bevel gears. William A. Mattery also flew. On the 8th, the hangars used at the Chicago International Aviation Meet were given to Aero Club of Illinois for use at the new flying field, and soon were moved to Cicero. On the 22nd, Vandig “Vannie” Ludvik flew his 4 cyl. Roberts engine-powered Curtiss-type biplane with a single front elevator. A month earlier, Brodie had suffered a serious accident while giving an exhibition at the Buchanan County Fair in Iowa, and apparently was injured in the crash. On September 24, having recovered his health, Brodie returned to Cicero with the wreckage of his Farman-type biplane and began the process of rebuilding it into a flyable machine.

On October 6th, Franklin P. Smith flew his self-designed, steel, low-center-of-gravity high-wing monoplane with a high horizontal tail, powered by his self-designed Smith 50 h.p. radial engine. He had an accident and the monoplane was seriously damaged; it appears that he never rebuilt it.

During November, the Sato & Davis Curtiss-type biplane was completed, Otto Brodie flew his reconstructed Farman at Cicero and gave his last few exhibitions of the year. In mid-November, Andre Ruehl tested the Sexton Monoplane, with his dog “Rudder” as passenger. Contrary to later reports, the Emerson 100 h.p. engine-powered Sexton Monoplane did briefly fly once, although it was mocked as “The House Mover’s Curse” requiring “15 well fed men to propel it from center field back into its aerodrome.” Ruehl made another short flight that day in another unusual aeroplane - he took up the oddly-winged yellow McCormick Mustard Plaster Monoplane, probably the only time that machine ever got off the ground.

After the extensive rebuild of the McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane, it began to be known more formally as the Cycloplane. On December 29th, Chance Vought took the reconfigured Cycloplane up and made a fine flight. Andre Ruehl again attempted to fly the McCormick Mustard Plaster Monoplane, however, after the engine was started the monoplane rolled down the field before Ruehl could climb into the operator’s seat. The Mustard Plaster (so named for its color and the peculiar shape of its wing) was significantly damaged.


Harold McCormick had three buildings constructed along the field’s western boundary: two hangars (one flat-roofed and one gable-roofed) which housed what Emil Matthew (“Matty”) Laird called McCormick’s “pet projects” - the McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane/Cycloplane and the Mustard Plaster, which McCormick financed to the tune of some $100,000 ($1,500,000 in current value). Grove Sexton’s machine, the Sexton Monoplane, was also hangared in McCormick’s buildings at Cicero.

On July 19 and 21, 1911, aeronautical engineer and designer William Romme managed to make two short flights in his most famous design (which he referred to as a “parachute plane”), the Umbrellaplane/Cycloplane.

Patent infringement became a major issue for Chicago’s aviation community the moment Wright Company Manager Frank H. Russell wrote to Bernard “Barney” Mullaney, General Manager of the 1911 Chicago International Aviation Meet, and warned that “As the parties exhibiting machines and holding meets where infringing machines are exhibited become themselves infringers.” The International Aviation Meet Association’s response was to ignore the demand for licensing and royalties and to encourage the sponsors of other aviation meets to do likewise. Mullaney’s written response was to characterize the Wright Company’s licensing demand as a “dog in the manger policy which should not be encouraged.” The Wright Company’s threat to obtain a court injunction against the International Aviation Meet ultimately turned out to be only that - a threat. However, the matter left many in Chicago’s aeronautical circles disconcerted.

As the main financial backer of the 1911 Aviation Meet, Harold McCormick was undoubtedly aware of how devastating a court injunction against the Meet would have been. McCormick’s financial support of the development, construction and testing of numerous experimental aeroplane designs at Cicero, in order to design and develop a system of lateral control for aeroplanes that would not infringe on the Wright Patent, was likely spurred on by the unpleasant episode. The McCormick-Romme Umbrellaplane/Cycloplane, which was “designed to be flown without any device for maintaining lateral stability,” is only one example of aeroplanes designed and built at Cicero which were meant to be “non-infringing.” Many years later, pioneer Cicero Field aviator Otto W. Timm recalled that “Several projects at the field centered around attempts to work out lateral control devices that would not infringe on the Curtiss or Wright patents.”

While many of the unusual aeroplanes developed at Cicero didn’t fly, the aeronautical projects nonetheless provided paying employment for aviators, designers, inventors and skilled workers and encouraged others to work on the problem of devising a “non-infringing” system of lateral control. Deep and serious concern existed on the part of many involved with aviation that injunctions and threats of injunctions, as well as the hard-fought and increasingly bitter patent “wars” between the Wright Company and Glenn Curtiss, could only result in the stifling of aviation and aeronautical development in the U.S. When the Wright Company’s position with respect to enforcing its patent claims was upheld in U.S. Circuit Court, the legal merit of the Wright Company’s claims became more evident. The public policy side of the matter rested upon whether or not the patent claims ought to be rigorously enforced. McCormick’s dogged pursuit of strange aeroplane designs has often been seen as merely eccentric - the province of the fabulously wealthy - when it was almost certainly driven by an intense desire to break the Wright Company’s looming aeronautical “monopoly.”

Despite the contentious struggle over aeronautical patents, an air of congeniality prevailed at Cicero during the nearly five years that the flying field remained open. This was due in no small part to the buoyant personalities of Max Lillie (who was born in Sweden and whose true name was “Maximillian Theodore Liljestrand”), Charles “Pop” Dickinson, DeLloyd Thompson, Henry “Pop” Keller, Howard Gill, and Earl S. Daugherty, among others. They were folks who kept their eyes ‘fixed upon the doughnut and not upon the hole.’

In addition to the happy quirks of personality, there was also a conscious effort to keep personal relationships cordial, as noted in a filler piece in Aerial Age magazine,

“The spirit of co-operation is increasing at Cicero. All field work must be based on general good fellowship or fail. If cliques develop and strife begins in the colony, the advancement of Chicago as an aerial center will be hindered.”


Aviation schools were also located at Cicero Flying Field. Especially noteworthy were the Lillie Flying Station and School (later the Lillie-Thompson school), where Katherine Stinson learned to aviate, the National School, and the Partridge-Keller school. Many of the era’s most notable aviators, such as Lincoln Beachey, Roy Francis, Fred Hoover, and William “Billy” Robinson, as well as a fair number of european aviators, spent time flying and learning to fly there. French citizens George Mestach, Andre Ruehl, Eugene Godet, Andre Frey, and Marcel Tournier, Russian citizens Ignace G. Semeniouk and Pavel “Paul” Studensky, J. Ramon Montero of Peru, and Hans-Joachim Buddecke of Germany flew at Cicero.

At least one African-American aviator made several flights at Cicero, including passenger flights. During 1911, 1912 and 1913 many of Chicago’s finest aviators, notably Max Lillie and Billy Robinson, flew with mail to and from Cicero Flying Field. These “Aero Mail” flights were usually in conjunction with aerial exhibitions and were often commemorated with souvenir postcards. William “Billy” Robinson flew regular mail over long distances on several flights, one of only a very few pre-World War I aviators to do so. Aviation demonstrations and competitions were held each weekend at Cicero during “the season,” from May through September. “Pop” Dickinson’s Illinois Model Aero Club regularly held events and competitions at Cicero, as well, for Dickinson was well aware of the importance of building interest and skill among the up-coming generation of aerial enthusiasts. When model aeroplanes were on the field, actual aeroplanes were kept off.

Aviation related businesses, such as Ole Flottorp’s propeller factory, took root around Cicero Flying Field to serve the community of aerial experimenters and aviators. As a consequence, several aeroplanes (some with very interesting features) were constructed at Cicero using parts fabricated either at the field or nearby in Cicero or Chicago. Lincoln Beachey’s famed Beachey-Eaton Biplane (the “Little Looper”) and Katherine Stinson’s Partridge-Keller Biplane of 1915, both products of Cicero’s workshops and aeronautical talent, were efficient, well-engineered and well-built successful designs. The McCormick-Romme Cycloplane of 1911, while only marginally successful like a number of other aeroplanes built at Cicero, nonetheless did manage to fly, and on more than one occasion, and was controllable enough to make circuits of the field.


During January, Andre Ruehl (reportedly a French Army Lieutenant) took the Cycloplane for a few very shorts hops into the air. On the 10th, Walter Runcie filmed the Mustard Plaster Monoplane and J. D. Blayney’s “low center of gravity” Blayney Monoplane at Cicero. The film was shown at an A.C.I. meeting, but apparently has been lost. The remarkable and quite large Lund & Dwight tandem quadruplane was being readied for tests during the month.

Master machinist Alfred (“Al”) H. Hofer began building his Curtiss-type biplane Baby Grand, powered by a 4 cyl. Hofer 12 h.p. engine, in March. Harold McCormick’s experimental aeroplanes had a mixed month - the Mustard Plaster Monoplane was damaged by wind while sitting firmly on the ground, while his Cycloplane, with French aviator Ruehl at the controls, made a successful flight.

As spring approached, Max Lillie began instructing students using his Lillie-Wright Model B biplane fitted with his system of dual controls. He also made some money flying passengers, including Andrew Drew, a newspaper reporter turned aviator, as well as 15 year-old Gladys Bartley and her father, on separate flights. Three of Cicero’s hangars, at the eastern end of the field, were occupied by the National Aeroplane Company which operated an aviation school and booked exhibitions around the Midwest. During May, the Lillie Flying School was very active, with many students making flights.

It was thought that the Umbrellaplane/Cycloplane might exhibit a high degree of inherent stability, so on May 10th, as Andrew Drew prepared to take-off aboard the Cycloplane, the announcer informed the crowd: “Ladies and Gentlemen: - aviator Andrew Drew will now give you a demonstration in the famous umbrellaplane, a machine that shows great inherited stupidity.” On the 25th Drew managed to make twelve successful flights in the Cycloplane.

Farnum Fish found himself placed under arrest on the 17th by Patrolman Tim Donovan and two other police officers after landing his Wright Model B (with a woman passenger) in Grant Park. Chicago’s officials had recently passed a law prohibiting aeroplanes from using the city’s parks or boulevards as flying fields. Fish told the judge that the landing was necessary (mentioning a “sick” engine) and thereby avoided a fine. On the 25th Fish flew a bolt of silk and aero mail non-stop 90 mi. to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He returned to Cicero the next day by train and spent the afternoon flying (“cutting up all kinds of capers”) with Brodie in the Farman and with Lillie in a Lillie-Wright Model B. Experienced aviator Pavel “Paul” Studensky of St. Petersburg, Russia, made a number of flights in a Curtiss-type biplane during the month.

Andrew Drew replaced Horace Wild as Cicero’s Field Director in May, and soon after taking on the job wrote, posted and then enforced the following “Code of Flying Rules”:

“1. Only licensed aeroplane pilots are allowed to carry passengers.

2. Trick flying or any maneuver in the air which increases the hazard of flying will not be permitted by aviators carrying passengers.

3. Aviators flying alone are not permitted to perform any maneuver that endangers the spectators below.

4. Every aviator coming to Cicero Field to fly must report to the field director. His machine will then be examined and if in an unsafe condition will not be allowed on the flying field. All machines becoming unsafe through use or neglect will be ruled from the flying field.

5. When three or more machines are flying directly over Cicero, all must fly counter-clockwise. In teaching pupils the right hand turn, instructor-pilots are required to fly out over the excellent stretch of country on the west of Cicero.”

At the time, Cicero Flying Field was home to the Cycloplane, the Mustard Plaster Monoplane, John W. Smith’s “torpedo-shaped” Smith Monoplane, Henry C. Keller’s seven-winged Keller Multiplane, the Brookes Tractor Biplane, Grover P. Sexton’s Sexton Monoplane, Walter Runcie’s Runcie-Bleriot XI-type monoplane, G. W. Davidson’s Davidson-Curtiss-type biplane, as well as a number of other machines. D. Kaiser’s interesting tandem biplane with tilting fore and aft biplane wing cells, a metal-covered fuselage enclosing aviator and engine, and tricycle landing gear was also at the field. Mills Brothers Exhibition Company aviator Frederick A. Hoover, George Mestach, Lillie, Fish, Thompson, Tournier, Brodie, Drew, and newly fledged aviator Perry Davis did the bulk of the flying at Cicero during May.

The Triple City Aviation Meet (Cicero-Elmhurst-Wheaton), the first big Chicago-area aviation meet of 1912, opened on May 30 with the theme “Historical Progress Day.” George Mestach flew his Morane-Borel monoplane, Paul Studensky flew the impressive Beech-National biplane, Otto W. Brodie gave passenger flights in his Farman biplane (including one to newspaper reporter and later Stout Monoplane designer William Bushnell Stout), while Max Lillie gave student aviator Katherine Stinson lessons in his Lillie-Wright Model B. Marcel Tournier, Andrew Drew, DeLloyd Thompson, and Farnum T. Fish also flew. The first licensed woman aviator in the U.S., Harriet Quimby, was scheduled to appear, but did not.

The second day of the Triple City Aviation Meet, styled “Society Day,” featured aero mail flights by Max Lillie as well as the normal run of flights by Mestach, Studensky, Tournier, Brodie, Drew, Thompson, and Fish. The third day of the Meet was Intimate Inspection Day, as engineers and aeronautical experts examined aeroplanes at the field assessing the quality of design and construction techniques. Studensky made an aero mail flight to Wheaton, Illinois, and Max Lillie flew the mail to Elmhurst, Illinois. Tournier began an aero mail flight to Elmhurst, but an accident along the way ended his attempt. Fulfilling the U.S. Postal Service’s pledge to deliver the mail come what may, Paul Studensky flew to the site of Tournier’s mishap, retrieved the bag of aero mail and finished the delivery to Elmhurst. Farnum T. Fish left in his Wright Model B bound for Milwaukee to catch a train to Dayton, Ohio, so he could attend Wilbur Wright’s funeral.

Studensky and Lillie made aero mail flights to Elmhurst and Wheaton on the final day of the Triple City Aviation Meet, “Everybody’s Day.” Thompson and Brodie, both well-experienced aviators, easily completed the required Aero Club of America license flights that day. Until the late-1920’s, a license (“certificate” as it was called) was not necessary to be able to fly an aeroplane and many professional and amateur aviators in the U.S. never bothered to obtain one. During early June, Studensky, Fish and Tournier made the greatest number of flights. At the time, Cicero was the only flying field known in the U.S. to have a licensed aviator in charge of operations.

Fourteen experimental aeroplanes, each of a different design, were at the field - about which John G. De Long remarked at the time “Some of these look odd and antiquated to the aviation enthusiast accustomed to the standard types.”

Between May 1st and June 15th, a total of 359 flights were made from Cicero (excluding the many student flights); 206 passengers were carried; and a total of 2,520 mi. was flown during 65 hr. aloft. There were 5 accidents. Aeronautical engineers Chance Vought and Sidney James routinely inspected all aeroplanes for fitness and safety, and Field Director Andrew Drew gave or denied permission for machines to be flown based on their reports. Cicero Flying Field was a well-run, safety conscious operation.

Novice aviator Julia Clark spent time at Cicero during late May and early June, brushing up on her flying skills. She’d learned to fly at North Island, San Diego, and was encouraged by an aviation promoter to take up professional exhibition flying. Apparently she hadn’t quite mastered her technique when she signed up to go on an exhibition tour as one of a troupe of six aviators, two of whom had spent time flying at Cicero. Field Director Drew reported to the A.C.I. that Clark wasn’t ready yet to take on the burden of professional exhibition flying, and that it might prove fatal for her to try to do so. Drew personally told her and her promoter that she required more training and needed greater experience before turning professional. Drew wrote in his daily field report that an “anxious promoter” had pushed Clark (billed as “The Daring Bird-Girl”) into exhibition flying as she was under the pressure of a contract with the promoter to begin flying exhibition dates. A week after leaving Chicago to begin the exhibition tour (without the benefit of the additional training and experience which Drew strongly believed she needed), the wing tip of her Curtiss-type biplane caught a tree as she was turning on a practice flight at Springfield, Illinois, and her aeroplane plunged to the ground, killing her.

Andre Ruehl made the first test flight of John W. Smith’s “torpedo-shaped” Smith Monoplane on June 20th, damaging the undercarriage in a hard landing. In August, after repairs were completed, Brodie took hold of the Smith Monoplane’s Farman-type controls and made several successful flights.

On June 21st, Andrew Drew made twelve passenger flights in the 52 ft. wing span Beech-National biplane, one with two passengers weighing a total of 300 pounds. Brodie also was taking passengers on sightseeing flights aboard his Farman biplane. Cicero was closed to aviators on June 22nd, as “Pop” Dickinson’s Illinois Model Aero Club held its “Fifth Tournament.” The model aeroplane duration contest was won by Nealy with a flight of 1,100 ft. in 55 seconds, while Wells managed a flight of 1,500 ft. in 54 sec.

During the summer of 1912, Lester Holt and Harry Holmes based their very active exhibition business at Cicero, and flew exhibition dates throughout the Midwest. In early July, DeLloyd Thompson was hired as Assistant Instructor at the Lillie Flying Station and School, reflecting an increase in aviation student enrollment.

The newly-formed American Aviators’ Association held its first meeting on July 20th at Cicero, with the stated purposes of “Co-operation in resisting efforts of well or less posted (sic) builders of aeroplanes to force flyers to pilot machines when the flyers do not find them reasonably safe, efficient or conveniently built” “To pledge its members to sane, skillfull (sic), intelligent aviation as opposed to the sensational and ill-advised, unwarranted and unnecessary risk” “To oppose advertisement of the sinister and detractive features of aviation for the sake of appealing to public morbidity in exhibitions or for any other purpose.” Andrew Drew was elected president of the association, Max Lillie vice-president, Grover F. Sexton secretary, and engineer Sydney V. James was elected treasurer. Membership was open to “flyers, aeroplane passengers and aviator mechanicians.”

During August, Max Lillie purchased Frank Stites’ Curtiss-type biplane powered by a 60 h.p. Hall-Scott engine and Chance Vought, Peter Colovon, Nels J. Nelson and “Billy” Robinson (all experienced aviators) successfully completed their license flights at Cicero. That same month Keane Keane Keane (known as “Ku Klux,” Keane was “a peaceful Klux, wearing so fierce a name only because he was so dubbed through the alliteration of his own initials” noted Aerial Age magazine) was under contract to fly an aeroplane for a motion picture being filmed in Chicago, but was “timid” about actually flying. Max Lillie helped him out of his difficult situation by flying in his stead.

Orville Wright arrived in Chicago on September 6, and in the afternoon inspected Cicero Flying Field and the Clearing site, in the company of and driven by A.C.I. General Manager James Stephens. Perhaps Orville Wright and James Stephens were present at Cicero when J. Ramon Montero made a spectacular landing, of sorts, that day in his new Bleriot XI monoplane. Montero descended with the engine off (“volplaned”) and upon landing rebounded into the air some 50 ft. His engine and propeller were both still turning over, even though the ignition was off, so to avert disaster Montero turned the ignition back on, let the spinning propeller crank the engine and away he flew, to land in a more normal manner. During Wright’s short stay in Chicago, Stephens and he discussed the matter of the ongoing struggle over whether the A.C.I. would recognize the validity of the Wright patent, and whether a settlement could be reached with respect to the $113,000 suit filed by Wright during the 1911 International Aviation Meet. Apparently the discussions between the two bore fruit, for they agreed to settle the suit - the A.C.I. agreed to recognize the Wright patent, and in return, Orville Wright agreed to waive enforcement of the patent against A.C.I. activities during the exhibition season. Before he left Chicago on the night of the 7th, Orville Wright was quoted as declaring that “It would be highly wrong to harass in any way this club that is doing such splendid work.” While “Barney” Mullaney (who had rebuffed the royalty payment demand by the Wright Company during the 1911 Meet) was present at the meeting of Wright and Stephens and apparently managed to smooth things over with Mr. Wright - Harold McCormick, who may have been traveling, did not participate in the discussions.

The James Gordon Bennett Coupe Internationale d’Aviation (the “Gordon Bennett Cup Race” as it was commonly known) held at nearby Clearing, Illinois, on September 9 proved to be a major embarrassment. Not a single U.S. aviator or aeroplane participated to defend the trophy which had been won by U.S. aviators in 1910 and 1911. Harold McCormick and Charles Dickinson had both contributed large sums of money to ensure participation by an American aeroplane and aviator, but that was not to be. The French aviators had the contest to themselves (British aviators declined to attend) and the competition was won by legendary, boisterous, edgy French aviator Jules Vedrines.

What made matters even worse was the fact that Vedrines’ Deperdussin monoplane, powered by a 160 h.p. Gnome rotary engine didn’t simply win, it tore around the course at a blistering 105-1/2 m.p.h. The A.C.I.’s great hope, the Burgess Co. & Curtis Defender monoplane (also powered by a 160 h.p. Gnome), wasn’t flown. It was a humiliating defeat for the aviation community in the U.S. and for the A.C.I. in particular. For “Pop” Dickinson it was a costly foray with nothing to show for it. The Defender seems to have been cursed from the start - it underwent a major redesign and rebuild, supervised by Glenn Martin, during its construction.

Then there was the matter of finding an aviator willing to fly it... Martin agreed at first and was supposed to take the aeroplane up for a trial flight just prior to the actual race, but he bowed out. There was talk that Lincoln Beachey might compete in a Curtiss racing biplane (if the weather was poor and the other aviators wouldn’t fly), but that didn’t happen, either. Howard Gill and DeLloyd Thompson had announced their intention to compete in the race, but neither did so. Paul Peck stepped up to fill the void, but in the end he didn’t fly the Defender, either - indeed the Defender appears to have never left the ground during its existence. Dickinson withdrew the Defender from the list of competing aeroplanes on the 8th, “because of shortage of time to test (it) out and fear of possible injury to the aviator” - “it was preferable to suffer the loss rather than send a willing aviator to possible death.” The Defender was reportedly kept in a warehouse at “Pop” Dickinson’s seed company until the 1930’s, when it was intentionally destroyed. The front engine mount from the Burgess Defender Monoplane (which the writer has held) is the only known surviving relic of the machine which Dickinson and the A.C.I. had hoped could carry the U.S. to victory. Paul Peck (who had complained that aviation had “too many cheap promoters in the business”) lost his life at Cicero two days after the Gordon Bennett race, at the controls of his trusted Gyro rotary engine powered Columbia biplane, which was reportedly fitted with “racing wings” of less-than-usual span.

The four day Cicero-Aurora Aviation Meet - “Four Matinees Of Air Frolic” coincident with the Gordon Bennett race - was meant to highlight Cicero Flying Field. The Meet, with twenty aviators participating, began on September 12, one day after Peck’s fatal plunge at the field. Peck was a well-liked and well-respected aviator and his death, coupled with the humiliation suffered at Clearing, dampened the festivities and added to the gloom caused by the embarrassing failure to compete in the Gordon Bennett. On the Meet’s opening day, Max Lillie flew back to Cicero from Sandwich, Illinois, in his Lillie-Wright Model B, while his business associate DeLloyd Thompson made an “Aero Mail” flight to Aurora in another of Max Lillie’s Model B’s, and Farnum Fish flew his own Wright Model B. Alexander Beech went up in his large Beech-National Biplane, and Earl Daugherty was on-hand flying passengers in the Illinois Aero Construction Co. Auto-Stable Biplane. Howard Gill was at the controls of a Wright EX Model biplane, powered by an 8 cyl. Hall-Scott 60 h.p. engine. Tony Jannus won the day’s 12-1/2 mile race in his Benoist Type XII - No. 34 tractor biplane. Glenn Martin flew his Martin-Curtiss-type biplane. Monoplanes were well represented, with George Mestach’s Morane-Borel, Maurice Prevost’s Deperdussin and Ramon Montero’s Bleriot XI taking part in the day’s events. Charles Livingston Wiggin (not “Wiggins” as is often written) completed his license requirements flying his Wright EX Model biplane Vin Fiz. The second day of the Meet, Max Lillie flew aero mail back to Aurora, while all of the first day’s aviators again went aloft, joined by Horace Kearny in his 1912 Curtiss biplane.

On September 14, the third day of the Meet, Lillie and Martin made qualifying flights for the Aero Club of America’s Expert Aviator licenses, and received A.C.A. Expert Aviator licenses #1 and #2 respectively. Thompson attempted, and Fish and Martin succeeded, in making flights to Aurora, Illinois, while Daugherty and Lillie made aero mail flights. Tony Jannus won the endurance contest with a 1 min. flight in his Benoist Type XII tractor biplane with three passengers aboard.

As the final event of the day, Howard Gill and Tony Jannus raced biplanes around a course marked by pylons. That race had been completed but Gill had not yet landed when officials told George Mestach to take-off. Mestach believed he was to be the only one aloft, racing against the clock, not other aeroplanes, and failed to see Gill’s biplane ahead and below him. The landing gear of Mestach’s Morane-Borel monoplane struck and fractured the tail structure of Howard Gill’s Wright Model EX biplane. Mestach managed to make a safe but hard landing and was badly cut, but Gill perished after his uncontrollable biplane fell 50 ft. to the ground.

A crisis ensued. Heated complaints were openly voiced by aviators that the race should not have been held that late in the day, when the sun was low and visibility was decreased. Before Gill and Jannus started their race, Gill told officials (A.C.I. members, many of whom were not aviators) that it was too dark to race and that an accident would happen if more than one aeroplane went up. Statements were made later that the Meet’s officials had forced the aviators to fly in the deepening darkness, for fear of disappointing the crowd. Mestach stated that he had also protested flying in the darkness, and had been assured that his machine would be the only one flying. Incensed aviators adopted their own rules and conditions under which they would continue to participate in the Meet... one of those conditions was that no contests were to be held under unfavorable weather or lighting conditions. The aviators placed the responsibility for Gill’s death squarely on the shoulders of the Meet’s officials for allowing their poor judgment to endanger the aviators. Aviators, it seems, did not blame Mestach for Gill’s fatal plunge.

The last day of the Meet, the 15th, Kearny, Thompson, Fish, Daugherty, Lillie, Jannus, Martin, Montero, Prevost and Wiggin flew, with Martin winning a “bomb” dropping contest. Glenn Martin ($1,693), Max Lillie ($1,401), Tony Jannus ($1,128), and DeLloyd Thompson ($995) were the top prize winners at the Meet; Martin was noted for his all-around high level of skill, while Lillie was particularly strong in the duration events.

On the 16th Kearny, Lillie, Martin, Jannus, Thompson, and Fish, flew together to Grant Park in Chicago at the shore of Lake Michigan, where another series of aeronautical events were planned. Beachey was scheduled to give an exhibition flight and “Tiny Broadwick” (Georgia Ann Thompson) was to make a parachute descent from Martin’s biplane, but poor weather intervened. Montero and Wiggin flew to Grant Park on the 17th, leaving Cicero nearly emptied of aeroplanes. On the 18th, “ambitious fledglings” at Cicero (who had been restricted from using the flying field during the Meet) “yanked out their deformed mechanical birds and cranked and cranked and ---,” while poor weather continued to plague the day’s events at Grant Park 6-1/2 mi. to the east. Dissension among aviators, prompted by the accident which had cost Gill his life, remained at a high pitch, with talk of organizing a “strike.” Nonetheless, “Tiny” completed her parachute drop from Martin’s biplane and Beachey gave another remarkable exhibition of his flying skill. Mrs. Wenzel set up her gasoline stoves in the hangar tent shared by Max Lillie and Glenn Martin at Grant Park, and served “Pork chops a la Cicero,” “real coffee and other delectables” to hungry aviators.

In comparison to the 1911 Meet, the 1912 Grant Park Meet was a small affair... but even so over 100,000 people attended. Beachey was the star of the event, winning the bulk of the prize money and enhancing his reputation as a thrilling “flying fool.” The activities at Grant Park continued for another five days or so, with “Tiny” making at least one more parachute drop. The closing day at Grant Park featured a number of aero mail flights by Marcel Tournier, DeLloyd Thompson, Max Lillie, and Horace Kearny. The 4 mi. race that day was won by Tony Jannus in his Benoist Type XII - No. 34 tractor biplane, while Beckwith Havens won the 10 mi. race in his Curtiss biplane. Wright Company aviators Al J. Engel and Frank T. Coffyn flew, as did regular Cicero aviators William “Billy” Robinson, Earl Daugherty and Alexander Beech. J. Ramon Montero, in his Bleriot XI monoplane, Maurice Prevost, in a Deperdussin monoplane, and aviator Ignace Semeniouk, of Mitava, Latvia, gave an international flavor to the proceedings. Semeniouk suffered the only accident to occur during the Grant Park Meet, although aviator “Billy” Robinson nearly lost an eye when a “pop bottle” exploded at altitude.

During late September, Taras Weiner and Alexander C. Beech (already an experienced aviator) graduated from the Lillie school and flew for their licenses using a Lillie-Wright Model B. Farnum Fish again flew to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, aboard his Wright Model B biplane, and Charles Wiggin attempted to fly to Peoria, Illinois, but engine trouble forced him to land his Wright EX Model biplane at Washington, Illinois. Imperial Japanese Navy Lt. C. Yamada (who would become Commander of Imperial Japanese Naval Aviation in World War II), a Curtiss Flying Boat student at Hammondsport, New York, visited Cicero Flying Field during the last week of September.

The six-month “flying season” came to a close on Labor Day - it had been a busy six-months. A total of 2,285 flights were made from Cicero, 1,054 of which were solo flights, 1,231 of which were passenger flights, and a total of 11,386 miles were flown during a total time aloft of 271 hr. 38 min. Students flew as passengers on 778 flights. There were ten accidents and, of course, the deaths of Peck and Gill.

During October, Charles Healy Day’s Day Tractor Biplane, fitted with Wright Model B-type lever controls and powered by a 30-40 h.p. Hall-Scott engine (the two horsepower ratings resulted from running the engine at different r.p.m.’s), was delivered to Max Lillie. Andrew Drew left his position as Field Director to become an instructor at Lillie’s busy Flying Station and School at Cicero. J. Ramon Montero in his Bleriot XI monoplane flew to Aurora, Illinois, during October, as did DeLloyd Thompson. Thompson flew for the A.C.A. Expert Aviator rating on October 5, and received Expert Aviator Certificate #8, becoming the third Cicero aviator to receive the highest level of aviator rating offered by the A.C.A.

In late October and early November, John S. Schaefer, Robert Elliott, John S. Sverkerson, and Samuel J. Crossley graduated from the Lillie Flying School and received their licenses. Andrew Drew instructed six more students, “Miss Uriel Johnson,” Frank Pontkowski, A. Neisler, Joseph Best, James Colovan, and Van Best, utilizing a dual-control Lillie-Wright Model B biplane. Drew, flying a Lillie-Wright Model B and J. Ramon Montero, flying his Bleriot XI monoplane, had accidents on October 26, although neither seems to have been seriously injured.

During the last week of November at the Lillie school, Jesse Brabazon, Van Best, Uriel Johnson and J. R. (or “A. C.”) Carnes were in the final stages of lessons preparing to take their license tests, while James Colovan, Joseph Best and Klaus Bergenthal needed only a week or so more instruction before taking their tests. The Lillie school was a very popular place to learn to fly, even with the competition from other aviation schools at Cicero and from other nearby aviation schools in the Chicago area.

In November, a Glenn L. Martin Company ad in Aero and Hydro magazine stated that “At present there is an EPIDEMIC of fake schools, lacking in the science and knowledge of flight (however, there are four or five good schools in America), also factories which employ cheap help, turning out poor copies which lack the real secret of flight.” These allegations (well-founded it seems) of fakery and fraudulent practices at aviation schools became a major topic of conversation and comment during the late fall and early winter of 1912. On November 8th The Standard Aviation Company of Chicago filed suit against Aerial Age magazine for $25,000 in damages caused by an article which had stated that the Standard Aviation Company was a fraudulent enterprise. For its part, Aerial Age magazine noted that the school had recently hired respected aviator Otto Brodie as the instructor and that the school was being reorganized under his guidance.

Notwithstanding the pending law suit filed the previous month, the December issue of Chicago’s Aerial Age magazine warned would-be aviators that not only the Standard Aviation School at Clearing, Illinois, but the Milwaukee School and College of Aviation at West Allis, Wisconsin, The Aerial Navigation Company of America of Girard, Kansas, and the United States Aviation School at Mt. Clemens, Michigan, were all fraudulent operations. The magazine’s list of “Reliable Flying Schools” included (of course) the hometown favorite, the Lillie Flying Station and School at Cicero.

With the winter setting in, Max Lillie moved his aviation school to the milder climes of Kinloch, Missouri, where operations continued until December 14th, when the school’s aeroplanes, equipment and personnel were sent by train to Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, Texas, for the balance of the winter.


In late March of 1913, within a week or so of closing down the Lillie Winter Flying School at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, the Lillie school’s three dual-control Lillie-Wright Model B-type biplanes and one Nieuport-type monoplane (powered by a 35 h.p. Anzani engine) returned to Cicero field by train. Max Lillie, Chance Vought, DeLloyd Thompson and Andrew Drew (who had stayed behind in Mexico for a short time to cover the Mexican Revolution for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) immediately set to work assembling the aeroplanes for the school. George Mestach, James Colovan and Fred Hartman were also busy assembling machines, in anticipation of the almost-at-hand exhibition season. Wisconsin aviator Klaus Bergenthal, a Lillie school student, flew for his license during April, and began a career as an occasional exhibition aviator based at Milwaukee. “Billy” Robinson made the first flight in Lillie’s re-assembled Nieuport-type monoplane in mid-April, when Lillie resumed his instruction of students at Cicero.

Also during April, Sydney V. James installed the 4 ft. diameter 80 m.p.h. wind tunnel he had designed (an uncommon piece of equipment at a flying field, for which McCormick had paid $25,000) in one of McCormick’s buildings along the western edge of the field.

On April 19, veteran aviator Brodie died when the tail structure of his well-used and often-repaired 1909 Farman biplane collapsed in flight at the Standard Aviation School at nearby Clearing Field. His loss was keenly felt at Cicero, for he was a well-known and well-liked person, as well as being a very accomplished aviator.

Anyone at Cicero on April 28 would have marveled at the sight of DeLloyd Thompson (in his new Day Tractor Biplane powered by a Gnome rotary engine), Max Lillie (in a Lillie-Wright Model B), “Jimmy” Ward (in his Curtiss biplane), and Taras Weiner (in the Partridge-Keller Tractor Biplane) aloft at the same time, circling around Cicero. As he often did during the 1913 season, “Billy” Robinson flew Lillie’s Nieuport-type monoplane that day, but didn’t go up at the same time as the others. Ward, Lillie and Thompson flew often at Cicero during late April. At the end of the month, Drew quit his job as Field Director (for reasons which are not clear) and was hired by Jesse Brabazon and Frank Shaffer (formerly “Cal” Rodgers’ well-regarded mechanician), to give exhibition flights in a rebuilt Wright Model B biplane - the same aeroplane which Rodgers had used as a back-up machine during his transcontinental flight of 1911 and in which Rodgers had perished at Long Beach, California, on April 3, 1912.

In May, Louis H. Gertson flew for his license aboard his Curtiss-type biplane. During April, May and June, “Billy” Robinson was at the controls of both the Nieuport-type monoplane as well as one of Lillie’s Lillie-Wright Model B’s. By June, Robinson was instructing students at the Lillie school, on both the Nieuport-type monoplane and Lillie-Wright Model B. Frank Champion arrived at Cicero from Los Angeles, along with his newly-built Bleriot XI-type monoplane, which he had put together while in California.

Lillie and Thompson were busy during May, giving instructions to students and carrying passengers on sight-seeing flights. “Jimmy” Ward often had his Curtiss biplane in the air in April and early May, preparing for the exhibition season; his “Ward Exhibition Company Aviators” were very active during late May, June, July, August and September. In addition to Ward, Louis H. Gertson, Clarence Guernsey Horton, Blanche Stuart Scott, Eugene Godet, and Madge Ethel Clark flew exhibitions for Ward’s company during 1913.

The 5th of May was a busy day for Max Lillie - he gave flying lessons to students aboard one of his Model B’s, and made a successful flight in the McCormick-Romme Cycloplane. On the 8th, James J. Ward took his Curtiss biplane on a short round-trip flight to Clearing Field. Two days later, Thompson made an hour-long flight to Joliet, Illinois, at the controls of the Gnome-powered Day Tractor Biplane. On the 11th, Lillie made twelve flights with passengers, including Adam Weckler, Mrs. Adam Weckler, Pugh, and Handley, and on the 16th (in addition to more student and passenger flights) he made two complete circles of the field in the Cycloplane. That same day Louis H. Gertson flew for his license.

By mid-May Blanche Stuart Scott was at Cicero with her Baldwin Red Devil Biplane, preparing to go on the road with Ward’s Exhibition Company Aviators, as was Gertson, with a Curtiss-type biplane. Lillie took another turn at the controls of the Cycloplane on the 22nd, but there was an accident and the machine was damaged - and was not rebuilt. According to a 1915 article, Lillie took the remains of the Cycloplane (minus the engine and other re-usable parts) to “Lake Michigan and consigned it ‘where McGinty went.’” (italics as in original). On the 24th, Lillie gave flying lessons to the two women enrolled in his flying school, Uriel Johnson and the soon-to-be famous Katherine Stinson, utilizing a dual control Lillie-Wright Model B biplane. On the 30th, Lillie instructed students and took his wife and Martha Anderson up on sightseeing flights. DeLloyd Thompson continued to make almost daily flights in the Gnome-powered Day Tractor Biplane).

On the last day of May, James Colovan was flying his modified Curtiss-type biplane when his machine hit trees that adjoined the field and he was killed in the ensuing wreck. Young “Matty” Laird, destined to be one of the most famous racing aeroplane designers of the 1930’s, towed his engine-less self-built monoplane from his home to Cicero Flying Field, behind a Model T Ford.

During June, Joseph Francis (“Frank”) Pendhayn received flying lessons from Lillie and Thompson, and Charles Wiggin flew the same Wright EX Model biplane which “Cal” Rodgers had flown during his transcontinental flight of 1911. The crash of a different Rodgers Wright biplane, a Model B (the same one in which Rodgers perished on April 3, 1912, at Long Beach, California) claimed Andrew Drew’s life on June 12, at Lima, Ohio. News of Drew’s passing hit hard at Cicero, where he had been a major presence and an admired and well-liked aviator and flying field director. During his career, Drew, always a forceful and vocal proponent of “safe and sane flying,” made more than 1,700 flights in powered aeroplanes.

In anticipation of July’s Great Lakes Reliability Cruise competition, Max Lillie tested his unusual new tandem monoplane Weckler-Armstrong-Lillie Company (“WALCO”) Flying Boat, powered by a 6 cyl. Sturtevant engine, only to realize that the expensive WALCO was seriously overweight and underpowered and would not fly. DeLloyd Thompson had planned to be the WALCO Flying Boat’s aviator during the competition.

Otto Timm recalled that the WALCO Flying Boat

“... was a large amphibious monoplane finished in fine mahogany with deep leather upholstery. It was extremely heavy and was powered with a 50 h.p. engine. A large crowd gathered to see the test flight. Four men were holding onto the fuselage as the engine opened up. When the signal was given to let go, the plane did not move, so the men pushed and got it started. When they stopped pushing, however, it rolled to a stop. It not only wouldn’t fly, it wouldn’t even taxi.”

Aside from the serious disappointment about the WALCO, June was a very busy and quite successful month for Lillie and his associate DeLloyd Thompson, as they made numerous passenger flights and gave lessons to the Lillie Flying School’s students. Also during June, Hillery Beachey (Lincoln Beachey’s older brother) made a series of flights in his new self-designed Hillery Beachey Tractor Biplane, which he’d built with the assistance of Slovenian-born experienced aeroplane builder Max Stupar, owner of the Chicago Aero Works. Earl Daugherty and George Mestach flew the Gnome-powered Morane-Borel monoplane which Mestach had recently completed to replace the one damaged in the fatal collision with Howard Gill’s machine.

During the last week in June, Newell M. “Micky” McGuire often flew his Curtiss-type biplane and the Day Tractor Biplane almost every day, and Frank Kastory put the National Biplane through its paces. Carl Sjolander (a Curtiss aviator who had learned to fly at North Island, San Diego, during May and June of 1912) was at Cicero, making flights in Harry B. Crewdson’s Curtiss-type biplane powered by a Hall-Scott engine. Crewdson had hired Sjolander in May to make exhibition flights throughout Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin during the 1913 season.

On the last day of June, “Billy” Robinson made a roundtrip flight to Wheaton, Illinois, in Lillie’s Nieuport-type monoplane, Katherine Stinson soloed a Lillie-Wright Model B, Marcel Tournier flew the National-Nieuport Gnome-powered monoplane, Frank Kastory and Eugene Heth were aloft, and “Micky” McGuire had a minor accident.

The last great aerial event in Chicago during 1913 was July’s Great Lakes Reliability Cruise for flying boats. Noted press agent Bill Pickens conceived of and promoted the competition, which was sponsored by the A.C.I. The route of The Cruise, which began on the 8th, took the flying boats from Chicago, around the shoreline of Michigan, to Detroit, ending on the 17th. Former Curtiss Exhibition Company team member Beckwith Havens was the eventual winner (J. Bayard R. Verplanck, passenger) flying a Curtiss Model F Flying Boat. Havens and Verplanck covered the 886 mi. course in a total time aloft of 15 hr. and 30 min., in poor weather. Tony Jannus (Paul McCullough, passenger) lost his Benoist Flying Boat at Gary, Indiana, on the 9th in a bad storm. Walter E. Johnson (Earl F. Beers, passenger) dropped out of the competition on the 12th due to mechanical trouble and a damaged hull on his Thomas Flying Boat. Glenn L. Martin, in a Martin Aero Yacht biplane (Charles H. Day, the Aero Yacht’s designer and builder, passenger) and Roy N. Francis (James “Sky High” Irvin, passenger), in the twin-tractor Paterson-Francis Flying Boat, each had mechanical trouble, and both aviators quit the race on the 14th. Experienced flying boat operators Jack Vilas and Weldon B. Cooke were scheduled to participate, but didn’t. This almost forgotten competition marked a coming of age for flying boats.

At Cicero during July, Frank Kastory flew the National Biplane, Cornelius Jackson Schaap, “Frank” Pendhayn, Rudolph G. Sestak and “Micky” McGuire spent time flying Lillie-Wright Model B’s in preparation for their license flights, which took place during the month. Near the end of July, George Mestach took his new Morane-Borel-type monoplane on a flight to Aurora, Illinois, and William Sellick flew his Sellick-Bleriot XI-type monoplane powered by an Elbridge engine.

Probably the most interesting single event at Cicero during August occurred on the first day of the month, when “Sky High” Irvin went up aboard West Coast aviator Roy Noel Francis’ Paterson-Bryant-Francis Twin-Tractor Biplane and returned to the flying field under a parachute canopy. Frank Kastory made flights in the National biplane while DeLloyd Thompson continued to utilize the Day Tractor Biplane. French aeronaut and aviator Eugene Godet was at Cicero during the month, making flights in a Curtiss-type headless biplane. “Billy” Robinson and Marcel Tournier took turns flying a Gnome rotary engine powered Nieuport-type monoplane. That month Elmer L. Partridge and Henry C. Keller were busy completing a tractor biplane for Joe Best, powered by a Kirkham 6 cyl. engine and which featured wing-warping by Wright-type lever controls.

On September 15, one of the people most identified with Cicero Flying Field was killed. Max Lillie was turning to land at Galesburg, Illinois, when the right wing of his Lillie-Wright Model B biplane collapsed. Between October 23, 1911, and his last flight, Lillie made over 4,000 flights, of which more than 1,700 were passenger flights. He was universally noted for his safe and sane flying technique, but he apparently neglected his machines. Pioneer aeronautical engineer Grover C. Loening inspected the wreckage and noted that the remains exhibited poor maintenance and the use of “inferior metal parts” - surprising given the frequent aeroplane inspections at Cicero. The following day, at Mauston, Wisconsin, Cicero alumnus Perry Davis died from injuries sustained on the 5th in the fall of his Curtiss-type biplane.

During July and September, “Matty” Laird had tried, unsuccessfully, to fly his self-built monoplane, powered by the small but reliable 4 cyl. Hofer 12 h.p. engine, which Al Hofer had put together using a Franklin auto engine block and Indian motorcycle cylinders. Laird stalled on take-off in mid-September and the resulting hard landing did some damage to both machine and aviator. During October, once the damage was repaired, for some reason Laird allowed a novice aviator, A. Cruver (or “Cruvier”) by name, to attempt a flight. The monoplane came to immediate grief and suffered major damage.

During November, DeLloyd Thompson was overhauling his Day Tractor Biplane, while Emile Gustafson, from Joliet, was making notable flights in a Curtiss-type biplane which still sported the forward elevator which most aviators had done away with in 1912.

On December 22, C. Le Gaucier successfully tested his Le Gaucier monoplane, and the next day G. Vlk made one of the last flights of 1913 at Cicero, when he test-hopped a tractor biplane with a single propeller driven by two engines.


Flying resumed at Cicero in mid-March, as C. Le Gaucier flew his Le Gaucier monoplane and Otto W. Timm tested the “three-in-one” control system (which replaced the original standard Curtiss-type controls) he had recently installed on his 75 h.p. Kirkham-engined Partridge Tractor Biplane. Something went wrong on the second day of testing and Timm had an accident which put him and his machine out of commission for over a month. Aviators and aeroplanes began converging on Cicero in March; Frank Champion took the train to Cicero, via Chicago, from Long Beach, California, (along with his Bleriot XI-type monoplane), to prepare for his first exhibition date of the season on April 12th; Klaus A. Bergenthal and his Wright Model B biplane were reportedly coming by train from Milwaukee, and Fred Hoover (who’d been at Cicero since early March) flew off to Wolf Lake in Indiana to give his first exhibition flight of the season. Exhibition flying wasn’t the only source of employment open to aviators around Chicago - promoter John S. Berger was hiring aviators to fly in Mexico for rebel Gen. Francisco “Pancho” Villa; Farnum Fish signed up and within a few weeks was flying observation and harassment missions above the Sonoran desert for Villa. After he was wounded by Mexican federal riflemen he quit his job as a mercenary aviator and returned to his hometown of Los Angeles.

As it turned out, Bergenthal decided that instead of traveling by train, he could make the flight from Milwaukee to Cicero in his Wright Model B, and did so early in April. Pendhayn purchased the well-used Lillie Tractor Biplane (designed by Chance Vought and powered by a Gnome 50 h.p. rotary engine) into which he planned to install a water-cooled Kirkham 75 h.p. engine with twin magnetos and twin Zenith carburetors. Elmer L. Partridge and Henry C. “Pop” Keller opened their Partridge & Keller Aviation School and hired Frank Kastory as instructor, using a Partridge & Keller Tractor Biplane powered by a 6 cyl. Smith radial air-cooled engine as a trainer.

Yves Rolland tried to make his innovative Rolland Twin-Tractor Monoplane (with two tractor propellers powered by a 90 h.p. Curtiss OX engine) take-off during early April, but aside from a few unstable hops the machine refused to fly. His monoplane’s interesting pendulum and shutter-type lateral control device could therefore not be tested. C. Le Gaucier was having better luck with his Le Gaucier monoplane - his monoplane actually flew. However, Le Gaucier flipped it over on his first or second landing of that year, and damaged his machine. On April 12, Rolland turned the controls of his monoplane over to Charles “Carl” Miller who was able to get the monoplane off the ground. The pendulum-based control system apparently wildly overcorrected and the resulting crash caused extensive damage to the machine, although Miller seems to have escaped without major injuries.

Forty-nine years later, Otto Timm described the Rolland Twin-Tractor Monoplane

“A monoplane with a fiber fuselage was capable of making short hops, but usually spun around and dug a wing into the ground, sometimes buckling the side of the fuselage where the wing was attached. That was nothing to worry about. The mechanic would crawl inside the fuselage, brace himself against the side and push, and the fuselage would pop out again as good as new.”

Timm also recalled the interesting lateral control mechanism on the Rolland Twin-Tractor Monoplane‘s wings, which

“...had a series of large rectangular holes in the wings that were opened and closed by means of shutters. All the pilot had to do was to open the shutters on the high wing and it would promptly drop. The only trouble was the contraption wouldn’t fly.” (Note: the Rolland Twin-Tractor Monoplane actually did fly, but poorly)

Max Stupar’s Chicago Aero Works produced a trim tractor exhibition biplane design during 1914, of which at least 5 examples were built, powered by either a Kirkham 60 h.p. engine or a Curtiss 75 h.p. engine, or in the case of one built on order for Earl Daugherty, a Gnome 50 h.p. rotary engine. The biplane had an enclosed fuselage, unequal-span upper and lower wings, inset ailerons on the upper wing, and wheeled landing gear with a tail skid. William Couch and Victor “Carl” Carlstrom each bought one of Stupar’s biplanes. Stupar used Cicero Flying Field as a testing ground and all of the machines he built during 1914 were flown there.

Lincoln Beachey, his team and the components of the Beachey-Eaton Biplane arrived at Cicero by truck on the 21st, and Beachey and crew immediately set to work assembling the new aeroplane. The soon-to-be famous biplane was built in the Dickinson Seed Company’s workshop and in a small loft in Chicago; Ole Flottorp’s shop at Cicero produced an outstanding propeller for Beachey’s biplane.

As for “Frank” Pendhayn, he finally decided to install an air-cooled Gyro 80 h.p. rotary engine in his Lillie Tractor Biplane, instead of the 75 h.p. Kirkham. Joseph Best spent much of May practicing with his Partridge Tractor Biplane, before hitting the road to give exhibition flights around the Midwest; Otto Timm did the same with his Partridge Tractor Biplane (powered by a Kirkham 75 h.p. engine). DeLloyd Thompson’s machine of choice continued to be the Gnome-powered Day Tractor Biplane - that is until he received the third machine which Day had designed and built for him, the 1915 Day Looping Tractor Biplane powered by a Gyro 90 h.p. rotary engine.

Beachey’s first test flight in his new Beachey-Eaton Biplane (powered by a Gnome Monosoupape Type A 80 h.p. rotary engine) took place at Cicero on May 12, and by all accounts it was an instant success - maneuverable, light on the controls, quick, and stable - all Beachey and his team could have hoped for.

On the morning of May 16th, Lincoln Beachey flew his new biplane to Chicago’s Grant Park, about 6-1/2 mi. from Cicero, for the first of three days of public exhibitions. Beachey was born in San Francisco, but Chicago was his second hometown. He had close relatives living there, his exhibition company had its offices there, he’d had his greatest aerial triumph (a world altitude record of 11,642 ft.) there, and he had a personal association with the A.C.I.; all of which meant that Chicago got the first look at the spectacular aerial maneuvers which he could do with his new biplane - loops, stalls, wing-overs, and tail-slides.

The crowds were enormous, estimated to be upwards of 100,000 people for each of the three days, and the resulting publicity was superb. These three days kicked off the most financially successful series of aeroplane exhibitions given in the U.S. between 1909 and The Great War, WWI. Beachey, Warren Eaton, Art Mix and the rest of the team left Chicago the day after completion of the three day event, to begin their grueling and very successful exhibition tour across the U.S. Beachey’s company, Lincoln Beachey, Inc., earned over $250,000 during 1914 ($3,750,000 in current dollars). The A.C.I. threw a dinner to honor Beachey on the evening of the 18th at the Chicago Yacht Club. Jack Vilas (with Frederick A. Hoover and George R. Lawrence as passengers) made an evening flight from the A.C.I.’s hydroaeroplane station at Clarendon Beach to the Yacht Club aboard his Curtiss Flying Boat, the L. A. V. II, to attend the dinner. (Note: original source cites "William Hoover" and "F. A. Lawrence" - probably in error - thanks go to Tom Yanul, George R. Lawrence's biographer, for the Lawrence correction)

On May 20, Hans-Joachim Buddecke flew “Billy” Robinson’s Gnome-powered Nieuport-type monoplane and apparently enjoyed the experience, for he purchased it from Robinson. He flew the monoplane at Cicero on several occasions from late May to early July, when he had an accident while landing. Buddecke came to Chicago from Germany to work with his uncle; at Cicero he learned to fly aeroplanes. In August 1914, as war began to rage in Europe, Hans-Joachim Buddecke returned to Germany with his Nieuport-type monoplane, and joined the Imperial German Air Service. He served with the Ottoman Empire air service at Gallipoli during 1915, and was awarded the Pour le Merite (the “Blue Max”) medal on April 14, 1916. He was killed in aerial combat on March 10, 1918, near Lille, France.

The last flights of May at Cicero were made by Joseph Best in his Partridge Tractor Biplane, and by Otto Timm. Katherine Stinson was present at Cicero intermittently during June and July, flying her Wright Model B. On June 24, Stinson and Leda Richberg Hornsby both flew Wright Model B’s - a rare event at the time, to have two women aviators aloft on the same day. Hornsby was at Cicero looking for a contract as an exhibition aviator.

Beginning on June 10, “Micky” McGuire flew his Curtiss-type biplane almost daily for about 10 days, and then shipped his machine by train to Indiana for a short series of exhibitions. During this period, Charles Coli made a number of flights in a Curtiss-type biplane, as well. On the 11th, a month or so after installing a Gyro 80 h.p. rotary engine in his Lillie Tractor Biplane, “Frank” Pendhayn took it up for the first time. Whatever hopes he may have harbored about using the biplane (which he had re-christened the Pendhayn Tractor Biplane) for exhibition flights were quickly crushed, as was his biplane, during a test flight made by Charles Wiggin. Wiggin escaped unhurt - Pendhayn’s aeroplane was destroyed. That same day (the 13th), C. Le Gaucier had an accident while flying his monoplane. The next day, McGuire took up Dave Schultz’ Curtiss-type biplane on four test flights.

At the White City amusement park in Chicago on the 16th, Roy Knabenshue gave nine paying customers a ride along the shore of Lake Michigan in his large Knabenshue Air Ship. Knabenshue made numerous passenger-carrying airship flights at White City until late July.

Frank Champion made a few test flights in his Bleriot XI-type monoplane before leaving Cicero to fulfill aeroplane exhibition dates in the Midwest, as did DeLloyd Thompson in his Day Tractor Biplane powered by a 50 h.p. Gnome. On the 22nd, student aviator Michael Morris flew the Partridge Tractor Biplane. Two days later, Pendhayn flew his newly-purchased Day Tractor Biplane for the first time, game to try again, even after the destruction of his other biplane. He familiarized himself with the new machine for the balance of the month. Late in June, Frank Champion, “Micky” McGuire and Katherine Stinson returned to Cicero after filling exhibition flights.

During the first part of July, Louis Gertson, then flying for Charles L. Young’s exhibition company, purchased Thornwell Andrews’ Curtiss-type biplane and began to give exhibitions in Kansas and Missouri. Charles Wiggin flew his Wright EX Model biplane and Charles “Carl” Miller flew his Miller tractor biplane powered by a Gray Eagle engine.

As soon as McCormick’s plan to start a flying boat passenger service between the Chicago Yacht Club and Lake Forest, Illinois, was announced the previous month, Wright Company Secretary Alpheus F. Barnes sent a letter to flying boat aviator Witmer requesting a $1,000 royalty payment to The Wright Company for the use of Harold McCormick’s “Wright Patent infringing” Curtiss Flying Boat Edith. Passenger service had begun on June 10 at the Chicago Yacht Club, as Jack Vilas (in his Curtiss Flying Boat L. A. V. II) and Charles C. Witmer (in the Edith) made their first twice-daily aerial commuter flights to Lake Forest. Witmer was able to take six passengers each flight, while Vilas could take four passengers each time. Having had the demand for payment ignored (and undoubtedly knowing that the flying boat commuter service had been in operation for over three weeks), Wright Company Secretary Barnes showed up in Chicago on July 5, to request in person that McCormick pay the $1,000 - McCormick rebuffed Barnes’ urging, and repeated his refusal in writing on the 19th - and there the matter stood. Clearly, while the agreement reached between the A.C.I. and Orville Wright in September of 1912 didn’t cover the contingency of members of the A.C.I. operating a aerial passenger-carrying service, the Wright Company didn’t pursue the royalty demand.

Also on July 19, Jesse A. Carpenter took the Hallet biplane up at night, under a waning crescent moon, but had an accident while landing. Roy Francis remained at Cicero with his Gage Twin-Tractor Biplane and made numerous flights during his two or three week stay. “Micky” McGuire was busy flying his Curtiss-type biplane and a Wright Model B. After filling exhibition dates, Charles Wiggin returned to Cicero with his crated Wright EX Model biplane on the 22nd and flew it the next day, as “Micky” McGuire flew both a Wright Model B and a Curtiss-type biplane. During the weekend of the 24th, Earl Daugherty and Carl Sjolander flew at Cicero, and Roy Francis took Mr. and Mrs. F. L. Logan up in his Gage Twin-Tractor Biplane. “Micky” McGuire took passengers up in a Wright Model B biplane owned by a fellow named Gabriel. On the 25th and 26th McGuire made more passenger flights in Gabriel’s Model B , taking twelve people up (one on each of twelve flights). On the 26th, Katherine Stinson flew her Wright Model B, and parachutist Edgar T. “Mickey” McGurrin made a successful parachute jump from Roy Francis’ biplane at Cicero. On the 28th, “Micky” McGuire and Curtis LaQ. Day (who flew for the Aero Stabilizer Company) experimented with a Model B biplane outfitted with an “aero stabilizer.” The last few days of the month McGuire made a number of flights with a Curtiss-type biplane and Roy Francis flew his Gage Twin-Tractor Biplane three times on the 31st; Carl Miller took the Rolland monoplane out for a short flight.

August was a busy month at Cicero. Roy Francis was still present, flying his Gage Twin-Tractor Biplane. He again took parachutist McGurrin aloft, though this time, after McGurrin jumped, the lines of his parachute didn’t fully deploy - the shroud lines became tangled - and McGurrin was injured in a hard landing. Francis also helped test the Pontkowski-Lichorsik-Vought Tractor Biplane, which Earl Daugherty often flew. Student aviators (including George Weaver, formerly a mechanician for “Carl” Miller, Katherine Stinson, “Matty” Laird, and Glenn Curtiss) were busy flying, and Cicero’s Partridge & Keller Aviation School hired Joseph (“Joe”) Pallissard as an instructor. A number of professional aviators (most notably Charles Wiggin, “Carl” Miller, “Micky” McGuire, Louis Gertson, Daugherty, Curtis LaQ. Day, and Carl Sjolander) were also making flights at Cicero, preparing to go on the road to fill exhibition dates. Engines were rebuilt and tuned, machines were re-rigged, wooden parts replaced, and spare parts were made or bought. In mid-August, Charles Wiggin replaced the wings on his Wright EX Model - and within a couple of weeks tested his rebuilt machine before setting out to give exhibitions. Katherine Stinson was at Cicero near the end of the month and gave a series of exhibition flights at Lincoln Park in Chicago.

On the 15th and 16th, Beachey and his Beachey-Eaton Biplane returned to the Chicago area, looping, dropping mock bombs on a mock battleship and racing against his business partner, Barney Oldfield, at the old Hawthorne Race Track. “Micky” McGuire took “Pop” Dickinson up in a Lillie-Wright Model B and flew to the Hawthorne track, where they circled around and watched Beachey’s exhibition from above.

Earl Daugherty took Gustave Snyder up in the Pontkowski-Lichorsik-Vought Tractor Biplane on the 21st, but engine trouble forced him to land several times. One of the landings was hard and the aeroplane was damaged. On August 29th, Daugherty took Orval H. Snyder along on a flight to Elgin, Illinois, and suffered a minor accident while landing.

At the end of the month, William Kabitzke, a well-known professional Wright Company aviator who flew a Wright Model B, arrived at Cicero and made it his base of operation for the next six weeks. “Frank” Pendhayn continued to make flights in his new machine, the Day Tractor Biplane, as he had since late June. Frank Kastory flew the Partridge Tractor Biplane and Earl Daugherty flew the Morane-Borel monoplane (the one he’d recently purchased from George Mestach) on an almost-daily basis, as they continued to do through September. Fred Hoover flew his Gnome-powered Curtiss-type biplane, Rudolph G. Sestak flew a Gnome-powered tractor biplane and John G. Hanna flew the almost-unknown Wasp monoplane. On September 20th, Cornelius Schaap took a total of fourteen passengers aloft, one on each of fourteen flights. Marjorie Stinson (Katherine Stinson’s sister) flew a Lillie-Wright Model B with trailing-edge inset ailerons at Cicero during the last week of September and had one minor accident.

During the first half of October, J. E. Roth and Anthony “Tony” Stadlman (later one of the founders of Lockheed Aircraft Company) began construction of the Chance Vought-designed exhibition biplane to be powered by a Gyro Duplex engine, while Earl Daugherty alternated between flying his Hillery Beachey Tractor Biplane (purchased from Hillery Beachey) and his Morane-Borel monoplane. In mid-October Fred Hoover made practice flights in his Gnome-powered Curtiss-type biplane, while “Matty” Laird flew his self-designed self-built Baby Biplane. The following day, Frank Kastory flew to Hammond, Indiana, and back, in the Partridge Tractor Biplane, an aeroplane which he often flew. William Kabitzke was still on-hand at Cicero flying a Wright Model B, while Harry Wilson practiced in a Curtiss-type biplane.

In mid-October, “Billy” Robinson made a significant pioneer aero mail flight in his self-designed and self-built Grinnell-Robinson Scout parasol monoplane powered by a self-designed and self-built 6 cyl. Robinson 100 h.p. radial engine. Robinson was known to his peers as a serious and talented aeroplane designer, builder and aviator. On the 17th Robinson left Des Moines, Iowa, at the controls of his Grinnell-Robinson Scout with a bag full of mail, headed for Cicero Flying Field. He stopped at Kentland, Indiana, after a 332 mi. flight made in 4 hr. 44 min. (an average speed of 70 m.p.h.), setting a U.S. record for a non-stop flight. He left Kentland the next day, intending to make a non-stop flight to Cicero, but had to land at Momence, Illinois, due to poor quality fuel he’d received at Kentland. He finally landed at Cicero field on the 20th, completing the first long-distance aerial mail delivery to the Chicago area.

During late October and early November as winter approached, most of the flying at Cicero was done by Laird in his Baby Biplane, by Curtis C. Pritchard flying the Sellick-Bleriot XI-type monoplane, and by Frank Kastory flying the Pontkowski-Lichorsik-Vought Tractor Biplane.


For the most part, aviators at Cicero spent the first three months of 1915 building, refitting and repairing aeroplanes. “Tony” Stadlman, James Roth and Ed Jaeger had three aeroplanes under construction, one of which was to be a looping machine. Elmer Partridge’s and Henry Keller’s company had contracts to build two exhibition machines, a pusher biplane powered by a 75 h.p. Kirkham engine for Art Smith, and a Partridge-Keller Tractor Biplane for Katherine Stinson, paid for by master publicist, manager and exhibition promoter Bill Pickens. Curtis C. Pritchard gave the Marble-Sellick-Nieuport-type monoplane (powered by a 35 h.p. Anzani engine) a test flight late in March - it went badly, and resulted in extensive damage to the monoplane and serious injuries to Pritchard. “Joe” Pallissard purchased the Partridge & Keller Aviation School and began operating at Cicero, with Keller, as the Pallissard School of Aviation.

In early April, as usual, flying resumed in earnest. Joe Cato, Bob Neal and Harry Wells flew their own self-built biplanes - the Wells Biplane (which flew well enough) was a small machine, powered by a 2 cycle Kemp 12 h.p. engine. Neal attempted a flight to Kansas City, Missouri, in his machine during May and managed to get within 20 miles of his destination before engine trouble forced him to land. Professional exhibition aviator Fred Hoover operated out of Cicero for much of the first quarter of 1915. “Micky” McGuire signed one of J. S. Berger’s contracts in early April and thus became another of Cicero’s aviators to fly in Mexico for “Pancho” Villa as a mercenary aviator.

“Joe” Pallissard took his Pallissard Tractor Biplane up on several occasions during May, and Rudolph Sestak, Curtis LaQ. Day (in a Benoist Tractor Biplane) and William Hensel (in a Wright Model B) flew several times. Cicero’s aviation schools continued to operate, although they were not as busy as they had been. Frank Kastory had enough student aviators (B.C. Harrington, among them) to keep up a fairly active schedule of instruction.

The Hillery Beachey Tractor Biplane was sold by Victor Carlstrom (who had purchased it from Earl Daugherty) to William Couch in early 1915. Couch began assembling and refitting the machine in late April and by late May was able to take it up. Couch’s joy was short lived, however, for he soon suffered serious injuries in a crash which destroyed the biplane.

In May, as soon as the damaged Marble-Sellick-Nieuport-type monoplane was repaired, Laird flew it, demonstrating the high degree of aeronautical skill for which he would always be known. Partridge and Keller also flew, but mostly on weekends.

During May, the Partridge-Keller Tractor Biplane being built for Katherine Stinson was nearly completed, and the 80 h.p. Gnome Monosoupape Type A rotary engine (formerly owned and used by Lincoln Beachey on both his Beachey-Eaton Biplane and his Beachey-Eaton Monoplane in which he perished at San Francisco, in March of 1915) was installed as its powerplant.

Word reached Cicero in late May that friendly, colorful and well-liked Cicero aviator and talented cartoonist “Micky” McGuire (“The Wild Irish Rose”) had crashed a Wright biplane near Leon, Mexico, the victim of an unfortunate draft of air which caused him to side-slip out of control. He was seriously injured in the wreck and taken to a nearby hospital in Aguascalientes, where he died four days later. McGuire was given a hero’s burial at Aguascalientes, complete with an honor guard of Villa’s soldiers.

June proved to be a busy month at Cicero. “Joe” Pallissard and Keller flew in the Pallissard “school machine” from Cicero to the shore of Lake Michigan and back safely, only to discover on the next flight that the biplane’s crankshaft had cracked. Frank Kastory went up in both the Partridge-Keller Tractor Biplane (which he flight tested) and the Pontkowski-Lichorsik-Vought Tractor Biplane. Curtiss Pritchard had recovered enough from his earlier accident to take to the air again, and took the controls of the same (although rebuilt) Marble-Sellick-Nieuport-type monoplane in which he had come to grief in March. Fred Hartman practiced in his Curtiss-type biplane while Taras Weiner continued to experiment with the Hensel Stabilizer. Late in June, Laird experimented with his modified and rebuilt Baby Biplane, powered by a 4 cyl. Hofer 12 h.p. engine which Al Hofer had built from scratch. Katherine Stinson was taking instruction from Frank Kastory on operating the Partridge-Keller Tractor Biplane, and by July 18th had sufficient confidence in her new machine to execute three loops above Cicero field, the first loops by a woman in the U.S. That same day, “Pop” Dickinson flew for 15 min. as a passenger with Taras Weiner in a Wright Model B equipped with Bill Hensel’s effective Hensel Stabilizer - Dickinson “was cheered by the several thousand persons assembled to see Katherine Stinson ‘loop the loop.’” During the fall of 1915, Laird had Cicero Flying Field almost to himself, as operations were transferred to the A.C.I.’s new flying field in nearby Ashburn. “Pop” Dickinson, now President of the A.C.I., purchased the large plot , dubbed “Ashburn Field,” for the A.C.I.’s use.

As early as 1913, Cicero Flying Field had been reduced in total area, when nearly one-third of the property was subdivided for development. The A.C.I.’s five year lease with Harold McCormick’s property holding company governing the use of Cicero Flying Field would come to an end in early 1916, and the land was becoming too valuable to remain an open area. Aerial activity changed from civilian to military as the long shadow of the conflict in Europe cast itself over the U.S. Civilian aviation schools failed to pull in sufficient numbers of students to remain in business, and so it was at Cicero. Near the end of 1915 McCormick sold what remained of historic Cicero Flying Field for development. He owned all of the flying field’s buildings, hangars and equipment at Cicero, as well, which he donated to the Aero Club of Illinois, with the proviso that Cicero Flying Field be vacated and that everything be relocated to another site as soon as possible.

During November, as it became clear that Cicero would close, a group of Cicero Flying Field’s regulars presented a memorial sign to the proprietor of The Eat Shop (the “Classiest Coziest Coolest Cafeteria in Chicago”), located on the second floor of a building at the corner of Van Buren and Wabash in Chicago, conveniently between the A.C.I.’s club room at the Auditorium Hotel and the Douglas Park “L” line to Cicero. Cicero’s aviators, designers, inventors, engineers, mechanicians and habitues had accounted for a significant portion of The Eat Shop’s business. They also evidently had enjoyed both the cafeteria’s food and camaraderie.


On April 16, 1916, when “Matty” Laird took off from Cicero Flying Field, at the controls of his self-designed and self-built Boneshaker biplane and flew to the new Partridge & Keller aviation field at 87th St. and Pulaski Road, in Chicago, Cicero Flying Field ceased to be. The next day, the A.C.I. officially opened its new 640 acre Ashburn Field on land purchased by A.C.I. President “Pop” Dickinson for the A.C.I.. Ashburn was located at 83rd St. and Cicero Avenue, about 7-1/2 miles almost due south of Cicero. All of the hangars and buildings at Cicero had been moved to Ashburn Field some months earlier. During May of 1916 the A.C.I. signed construction contracts for four new large permanent hangars as well as a building to house the wind tunnel, under the supervision of aviator Walter L. Brock. Brock was the winner of three of the most significant races held in England during 1914 - the London Daily Mail Aerial Derby, the London-to-Manchester Race and the England-to-France Race. He later succeeded “Pop” Dickinson as President of the A.C.I.

Ashburn Field was, in many ways, a continuation of Cicero Flying Field. It played a role in The Great War, serving as the site of a U.S. Army Signal Corps Aviation School, which opened in October of 1916. Since Cicero Flying Field luminaries such as Max Lillie, Otto Brodie, Howard Gill, Andrew Drew and others had “Gone West,” and military aviation training and military aeroplane production eclipsed civilian aviation for the duration, the early days of aviation in and around Chicago had come to an end.


The acreage which had once been Cicero Flying Field became a mix of commercial, industrial and residential developments. As attention turned to the European war and Ashburn Field became a center for military aviation training, Cicero began to recede from memory. The two fields have sometimes been confused with each other in text and images. The relocation of Cicero’s distinctive hangars to Ashburn has added to the confusion over the two flying fields, especially on the part of people attempting to identify photographs. During the early 1950’s, when the 50th anniversary of flight was being celebrated, memories of Ashburn and Cicero sometimes merged as aging early aviators recounted their experiences and remembrances.

As living memory faded and then forever disappeared, Cicero became a rarely mentioned place, only infrequently appearing in printed works about early aviation in the U.S. Two noteworthy exceptions are Balloons To Jets, 1855 - 1955 A Century of Aeronautics in Illinois (Scamehorn, Regnery 1957) and Fill the Heavens with Commerce, Chicago Aviation 1855-1926 (Young & Callahan, Chicago Review Press - 1981).

Laird, whose early aviation career was so intertwined with Cicero, clearly retained a soft spot in his heart for the place, for his photos and letters remain the single best source of personal material about Cicero. Running a strong second are the photographs taken and preserved by aviator and aeronautical engineer Chance Vought. The A.C.I. archive at the Chicago Historical Society (while not complete) is an essential resource for anyone interested in the A.C.I. and in Illinois’ aviation history.

For some years a few devoted people in the Chicagoland area have been trying, thus far without success, to persuade Cicero’s local officials to recognize that their municipality was once graced by Cicero Flying Field. For a community which is universally known for its corrupt and criminal domination by “Johnny” Torrio and “Al” Capone during the 1920’s, Cicero Flying Field’s story provides a remarkable counterpoint. Hopefully the continuing effort to memorialize Cicero Flying Field soon will bear fruit.


Chicago, the “Second City,” a city of commerce and finance second only to New York and long the center for transcontinental rail service, had an important role in the development of aviation in the U.S. At least five aeronautical events in and around Chicago were of considerable significance:

1) The 1893 International Conference on Aerial Navigation;

2) The 1894 publication of Octave Chanute’s book Progress in Flying Machines;

3) The 1896-97 Chanute-Herring-Avery glider experiments;

4) The three great aviation meets held in and near Chicago during 1911, 1912, & 1913;


5) The founding and operation of the Aero Club of Illinois & its Cicero Flying Field

Chicago’s status today as one of commercial aviation’s major hubs is by no means a result strictly of geographical happenstance - it is the end product of an enormous amount of money, labor and organizational skill brought to bear on developing aviation commercially and technically over many decades. Chicago became prominent in aviation as the result of strenuous efforts by stalwart people such as Octave Chanute, Charles Dickinson and Harold McCormick. The great 1911 Chicago International Aviation Meet would not have happened but for McCormick’s support. Like Dickinson, McCormick’s role in aviation is today only vaguely remembered. Octave Chanute’s standing in the ethereal scheme of things is firmly fixed for without his encouragement and ready enthusiasm it is difficult to believe that the Wrights would have continued to press through their disappointments of 1901. Indeed, after Chanute’s death in 1910 Wilbur Wright expressed the thought that he and Orville may well have abandoned their experiments but for Chanute’s encouragement. Wright also stated that Chanute’s “labors had vast influence in bringing about the era of human flight.”

The seemingly endless stream of financial support available in wealthy bustling Chicago (particularly that of Dickinson and McCormick), abundant technical expertise (in Chicago’s Western Society of Engineers), and organizational and promotional skill (drawn from Chicago’s energetic vaudeville and theater), meant that from 1911 to 1916, Chicago, the Second City, could lay a strong claim to being the First City of Aviation in the U.S.

Cicero established the pattern for an intelligently designed, well developed and efficiently operated full-service commercial aviation field. It was one of the first (if not the first) modern aviation fields in the U.S.

From Cicero Flying Field’s opening, four attributes are evident:

1) it was the base of operations for most of the Midwest’s exhibition aviators... the fact that Chicago was a major railhead meant easy access to transportation, important in an era when aviators usually shipped their aeroplanes, personnel and equipment to exhibition sites,

2) it soon became an obligatory stop for exhibition aviators from other parts of the country, and exhibition aviators would ship their aeroplanes to Cicero for testing and refitting, or had them designed and/or built at Cicero,

3) aeronautical experimentation and innovation were encouraged and supported by an infrastructure, financial and technical, almost without peer in the U.S. at the time,


4) it was a place where aviators could find meaningful employment in aviation. A number of large exhibition booking enterprises were located in Chicago and the immediate proximity of the pool of experienced aviators available at Cicero meant that work as an exhibition aviator was plentiful and easy to secure during the heyday years of 1911 and 1912. Few professional aviators had the means to book their own exhibitions and so relied on experienced booking agencies to handle that essential end of the exhibition aviation business.

The lasting significance of Cicero Flying Field and its important place in the evolution and development of airfields in the U.S. can be summarized in three points:

1) it may have been the first U.S. flying field to have a clearly defined bounded perimeter and an air strip with a specially prepared, leveled and groomed surface;

2) it was probably the first aviation field in the U.S. to have extensive ancillary facilities, including a wind tunnel, specially-built multiple hangars, an operations office with a full-time field director (an active aviator) who produced daily written reports and conducted safety inspections utilizing engineers;


3) at a time when aviation schools usually had their own private, exclusive flying fields, aviation schools at Cicero were incorporated into that flying field’s broader purposes of promoting aviation and encouraging its commercialization.

These points distinguish Cicero Flying Field from all of its contemporaries and ought to establish Cicero Flying Field as the first in the U.S. of what might be termed a modern airfield. Approximately forty flying fields were in operation around the U.S. during the same period as Cicero, the most notable of which were located on Long Island, New York; at Manoa, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; at Kinloch near St. Louis, Missouri; at College Park, Maryland; at Dominguez Field near Los Angeles, California; and on North Island near San Diego, California. However, none were as organized and well-equipped, none had prepared fields, and few seem to have been as well-run as Cicero.

Nonetheless, as far as is known, no museum, monument, plaque or other form of public recognition memorializes Cicero Flying Field, one of the most important centers of aviation in the U.S. prior to The Great War.

Among the Cicero notables who perished while flying somewhere other than Cicero, falling prey to what famed early French aviator Roland Garros called “this ravenous monster” of aviation, were Andrew Drew, William Robinson, Perry Davis, William Kabitzke, Horace Kearny, “Micky” McGuire, Julia Clark, Weldon Cooke, and Lincoln Beachey. Elmer Partridge, of Cicero’s Partridge & Keller operation, died on June 7, 1926, while flying his own cabin biplane in a snow storm between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago, carrying air mail for “Pop” Dickinson’s C.D. Air Express... operator of Contract Air Mail route No. 9 (Henry C. Keller, Partridge’s partner, died in an aeroplane crash during July of 1928).

In October of 1926 another operator took over CAM-9, a brand new outfit called Northwest Airways, better known these days as Northwest Airlines. As for “Pop,” after many years as a passenger, he finally became a licensed aviator, while in his 60’s.

Those Cicero aviators who died while flying at or near Cicero Flying Field were Max Lillie, Howard W. Gill, Daniel A. Kreamer, Paul Peck (at Clearing), James Colovan, and Otto Brodie (at Clearing), all of whom were well-liked, some even greatly admired, members of the Cicero “colony.” Given the high degree of activity, the number of flights made and the number of aviators who flew in and out of that square plot of land at Cicero for nearly five years, it’s quite remarkable that so few lives were lost there... but then the A.C.I. always intended that Cicero Flying Field, its own flying field, would be a positive example of how safe and well-run a flying field could be.


CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY Archive of the Aero Club of Illinois MS66 - 1556
CHANUTE, OCTAVE Progress in Flying Machines, - The American Engineer and Railroad Journal Jan. 1894, First Edition
FORNEY, M. N. Aeronautics, “Announcement” Oct. 1893, p. 2
FORNEY, M. N. Aeronautics, Oct. 1893 (Vol. I No.1) to Aug. 1893-1894 (Vol. I No. 11); Proceedings of The International Conference On Aerial Navigation
GRAY, CARROLL F. Master List of Notable Aeronautical Events, Kite Launches, Balloon Ascensions, Airship & Aeroplane Exhibitions, Meets & Flights...1709 to 1917, (unpublished)
Images and material related to Cicero Flying Field from the Paul Matt Estate - Carroll F. Gray Aeronautical Collection
Images from the William S. Romme Estate - Carroll F. Gray Aeronautical Collection
Images and material related to the A.C.I. and Cicero Flying Field from the James S. Stephens Estate - Carroll F. Gray Aeronautical Collection
Images from the Harry A. Truby Estate - Carroll F. Gray Aeronautical Collection
SCAMEHORN, HOWARD L. Balloons To Jets, 1855 - 1955 A Century of Aeronautics in Illinois, Regnery 1957
SEXTON, GROVER Aero Club of America Bulletin, Aug. 1912
UNKNOWN AUTHOR Aero, “America Now Has Forty Flying Fields” Apr. 6, 1912, pp. 3, 4
YOUNG, D. & CALLAHAN, N. Fill the Heavens with Commerce, Chicago Aviation 1855-1926, Chicago Review Press 1981

ALSO: Various Issues of Aerial Age (including Daily Aviation Meet Bulletin Nos. 1-11, published by Aerial Age, September 1912), Aero, Aero & Hydro, Aeronautics, Fly, and Flying magazines; and the July 1953 issue of Aero Digest