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.
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.
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.