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A Traditional Interest in Aviation

THE promotion of aviation by The Chicago Daily News and those identified with its publication dates back more than a quarter of a century.

In 1906 the editor and publisher of The Daily News, the late Victor F. Lawson, sponsored the first polar flight. Mr. Lawson provided the financial backing for Walter Wellman, the first man to make an attempt to fly to the north pole, and the first man ever to seek to cross the Atlantic in an airship.

Wellman's attempts at polar flights in 1906 and again in 1909 were unsuccessful because of accidents. The attempted Atlantic crossing in 1910 lasted 79 hours and took Wellman and his crew of five nearly 1000 miles Londonward from Atlantic City, N. J. Then the airship was abandoned, and Wellman and his crew were taken aboard a rescue ship.

Wellman's airship, the "America", was a dirigible of the balloon type with a gas bag 228 feet long and 52 feet wide. The silk and cotton fabric bag, enclosed in a triple sack of rubber, held 342,000 cubic feet of gas generated by combining sulphuric acid with iron filings. The ship had three engines, capable of sending her along at 25 miles an hour, and also carried a life-boat, with ample provisions for a month's sea voyage, in case Wellman and his companions had to take to the boat.

Though his Atlantic venture met with disaster, Wellman broke the existing world record for time and distance sailing by a dirigible. Although he and his sponsor were denied the glory of accomplishing any of the air feats they visualized, both had the satisfaction of seeing them carried out by others in later years. Wellman's undertakings were scientific in spirit, and aroused much interest in the scientific world.

It was through Mr. Lawson, though indirectly, that aviation was given further stimulus in 1910. On September 27, in that year, Walter R. Brookins made the first flight in an airplane above Chicago, under the auspices of the Chicago Record-Herald, in which Mr. Lawson was financially interested. The Record-Herald was formed by combining the Chicago Times-Herald with the Chicago Record, which succeeded Mr. Lawson's Chicago Morning News.

Brookins soared above the city for 10 minutes, rising to an altitude of 2000 feet. Two days later this pioneer aviator won the Record-Herald prize of $10,000 for a record "long-distance" flight from Chicago to the fair grounds at Springfield, Ill.

In the air meet at Grant Park the following year, in the meet at Cicero flying field in 1912, and in every aeronautical event in subsequent years, whether staged in Chicago or elsewhere. The Daily News has given generously not only of its news and editorial columns, but of its funds.

When Lincoln Beachey thrilled the city with his pioneering acrobatics over Grant Park nearly 20 years ago. The Daily News, in order that its readers might be accurately informed, retained him as a writer.

When the airplane assumed a place of prominence in the fighting during the world war, The Daily News was the first newspaper to send a correspondent to the front to cover this phase of conflict. E. Percy Noel, who had specialized in aviation news in Chicago, was given this assignment late in August of 1914, and throughout the war, readers of The Daily News, through his stories, were able to follow the development of aerial combat. 

Junius B. Wood, of the Daily News foreign news service, was the only civilian passenger aboard the dirigible Shenandoah on its 9000-mile journey from Lakehurty to the Pacific Coast and return, the first transcontinental flight of an airship, in 1924. Mr. Wood made that voyage when planes for a polar flight by the Shenandoah, on which he was to have a been a passenger, were abandoned. With the capacity of the ship permitting only one newspaper representative, Mr. Wood was agreed upon as an acceptable correspondent for all the newspapers of the country.

Exactly five years later, Mr. Wood was a passenger on the plane carrying the first air mail from Buenos Aires on a 9000-mile flight to Miami, Fla., the route carrying him along the west coast of South America and across the boundaries of 13 nations.

In keeping with its traditional interest in aviation, The Daily News was one of the first metropolitan newspapers to obtain an airplane for its own use. Quoting from the issue of Jan. 20, 1928: "The Daily News has purchased an airplane for the swift transaction of business and for the encouragement of the development of commercial aviation. Shirley J. Short, named the world's most valuable airman by the INternational League of Aviators in 1926, has been engaged as staff pilot." Mr. Short's death caused the abandonment of a projected flight to Japan.

Shortly after acquiring its first plane, The Daily News added another to its service, and in the years following, maintained a fleet of half a dozen machines for delivery of papers to resort sections in Wisconsin and Michigan, for covering stories, delivery and taking photographs and newsreels, and otherwise supplying its readers, through the medium of aviation, with the speediest and best service obtainable.

The Daily News likewise was one of the first metropolitan newspapers, and the first in Chicago, to recognize the news value of aviation, and established a daily column of air news and comment. In June, 1929, furthering public interest in aeronautics, The Daily News inaugurated a monthly award of $100 to the air mail or transport pilot performing the most meritorious service while engaged in his daily work on lines operating in or out of Chicago.

With this record, it appears inevitable that during the world's fair year in Chicago, The Daily News should undertake two of the most ambitious aeronautical endeavors ever attempted. The first, the stratosphere venture from Soldier Field by Lieut. Commander T.G.W. Settle, U.S.N., and the second, the International Air Races and the Gordon Bennett Balloon Race. The mechanical difficulty which frustrated Settle's attempt was but a temporary disappointment to The Daily News and other sponsors of that scientific exploration, and already planes are under way for a second effort.

The International Air Races and the Gordon Bennett Balloon Race bring to Chicago one of the most imposing aeronautical exhibitions ever assembled in the history of aviation, and is a high spot in The Daily News' association with that history.

And as the donor of the fourth Gordon Bennett trophy. The Daily News writes another episode in the promotion of international sportsmanship and international good will.


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