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Stunt Fliers: Topics in Chronicling America

The early 20th century saw the rise of airplanes along with recreational stunt fliers and birdmen. This guide provides access to material related to "Stunt Fliers" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Diavade, claiming to be the world's champion stunt flier, challenges anyone to better his daredeviltry. He's shown in action and in a closeup." August 23, 1927. New Britain Herald (New Britain, CT), Image 16. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

With the invention of planes, aviators and engineers were eager to test the limits of their flying machines. Egged on by competition, these “birdmen” flirted with death while pushing their machines to the limit. The daring do of stunt pilots was not without consequence, however, as legions of their number perished in crashes during 1910 alone. With aviator deaths climbing to epidemic proportions, an October 30, 1921 New York Herald headline screamed: DEATH THE CERTAIN FATE OF STUNTING AVIATORS. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

December 24, 1910 Los Angeles hosts first United States' International Air Meet at Dominguez Field.
December 31, 1910 Arch Hoxsey and John Moisant are both killed in separate accidents.
January 1, 1911 Looking back at 1910 as the worst year for deadly accidents. 30 famous aviators were killed while preforming stunts.
December 26, 1912 Lincoln Beachey, immensely popular stunt flier, races aeroplane against "Dare Devil" in automobile.
March 15, 1915 Lincoln Beachey is killed in stunt flying accident.
October 30, 1921 The easiest way to count "stunt" fliers is to count their tombstones": media's backlash against the recklessness of some aviators.