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Los Angeles International Air Meet took place from January 10 to
January 20, 1910. It was among the earliest airshows in the world and
the first major airshow in the United States. Dominguez Field is south
of Los Angeles, in the present day city of Carson, California.
Arthur C. Pillsbury watched the first Air Show in America from his balloon, the Fairy, tethered 300 feet off the ground. From this aerie he took the first ship to ship photographs. Two of the photos taken were used to illustrate the article he then wrote for Sunset Magazine. The article ran in the March issue that year.
Air flight was an interest for AC and for his brother and his family. Dr. Ernest S. Pillsbury also attended, along with his wife, Sylvia, and their three children.
Spectator turnout numbered around 254,000 over the 11 days of ticket sales.
The March issue of Sunset Magazine for 1910, chronicling the Air Show in Dominguez Hills, California earlier that same year.
Article rekeyed, text and photos by Arthur C. Pillsbury
Many of us have not seen the newer heavier-than-air machines at all; a few of us have seen them in flight, but those who have witnessed their wonderful birdlike soarings have seen then only from the ground.
It was my good fortune to have a solitary seat in a captive-balloon some three-hundred feet above the heads of the people in the grandstand at the Los Angeles aviation field, and to have the “bird-men” circling below, on a level, and at times in the sky above me. I could follow every movement of that king swallow, Paulhan, in his sensation-hunting flights; of Curtiss, the humming-bird, in his swift biplane driven life the wind with his engine of eight lungs; of Willard, he of the delicate touch, who picks up two hundred and fifty-dollar purses by flying from a mark and stopping at the same line three minutes later after circling the track; of Harmon, the gentleman-bird who goes to lunch in his mammoth balloon and flies to his dinner
Looking down on a flying biplane on wings of silk; of Miscarol, practicing with his
And its shadow on the field Bleriot monoplane---a dragon-fly that skims
around the course with wheels just touching the high spots, then up in the air a few feet, stopping, jumping out, swinging its tail around and off again in a new direction.
All of these events went on below me and I, from a seat on a few sand-bags in the basket of the balloon, with my legs through the net that held the shallow basket, kept my busy camera outside the met. It was a daily position to be envied really by occupants of the grandstand and boxes who had paid many dollars for their lower vantage points. At a height of three hundred feet about the forty thousand spectators, sounds came in waves and masses, and the shrill barking of souvenir program, hot peanuts and bottled beer venders was like the sharp rattle of small guns in a cannonade. Then, when Paulhan, starting behind the tents in a hollow, and flying almost out of sight, suddenly appeared, and when directly over and about fifty feet above the grandstand, stopped his engines and glided over the heads of the startled people to the field below, I could have heard a pin drop, the noise ceased so suddenly. Then, in a volume, that almost make the balloon tremble, came the cheers, for the American people like to be startled. Society in the air will soon be the thing, and I think I can claim to have received the first afternoon call. When Roy Knabenshue came circling in his dirigible he did not know or send up his card, but inquired about the weather and how the wind blew, and other bird-society small talk.
The Paulhan flew by, waving his hand and started to explore some of the farms I could see off toward the ocean. What a scattering of birds and barnyard fowls there was. They must have been panic-stricken at this strange, new fowl with its queer, sparsely-covered skeleton and strange, motionless wings. After sailing over a lake just for the fun of it, came gliding back, rising and falling in great sweeping curves, passed over the grandstand again and flew off to inspect the ruins of an old adobe dwelling over to the east of the field, a mile or so. One could almost imagine him to be a great swallow looking for a suitable place to build his nest, or perhaps hunting for his next meal. But instead of that he is getting some twenty thousand dollars a month to do what is to him his greatest pleasure.
To me, looking down from aloft, the filed is like a vaudeville performance; each “bird-man” comes out and does his little stunt, and if for some unaccountable reason the other engines refuse to go, Paulhan comes out, most willingly and fills the interval. The airline of the Sunset Dirigible Express. When the great, long New York, was seen miles away, starting from Huntington Park, I could see that the wind was blowing toward the Dominguez field, and after a while the balloon seemed to grow larger, then people’s voices came up to me, exclaiming, “Here comes the balloon!” This was true; miles after mile it slowly drifted in until the grate trail rope became visible and the people in the basket could be seen waving a welcome, then the rope dragged over the telephone wires outside the field, then over the fence guarded by deputy sheriffs every few yards, who failed to stop them and collect the fifty cents admittance-fee, then the Signal Service boys ran out to meet it, and, grabbing the rope, led the giant bag, beautiful in it symmetry with the sun shining on its oiled surface, up to the very center in front of the cheering crows, and looking down on it from my elevated sear, I could see the valve open and shut, then open again, will the huge basket, crowded with ladies and gentlemen came gently to earth in the exact center of the white starting point. To me in my small balloon, this was like the arrival unexpectedly of a great parent of the same species, and in the slow majesty of its approach nothing could have been more thrilling. But in five minutes it was pulled onto the field, and a little later the valve was opened to stay, and the great bag soon lay flat on the ground and its eighty thousand feet of gas scattered to the winds.
WIKI: 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet at Dominguez Field CSUDH: University Archives Showcases Role of Dominguez Hills in History of Flight