More Than a Dream: Aviation Development in Southern California
An Online Exhibition from the Collections of the Automobile Club of Southern California Archives
In Los Angeles and Southern California during the first half of the twentieth century, dreams of aviation were coming to life. A combination of factors made the region particularly attractive for entrepreneurs like Donald Douglas, whose aircraft plant took shape in the alfalfa fields of Santa Monica. The climate probably played some role because the mild weather and meager precipitation allowed for many days of flying each year. Just as important was the uneven pattern of development. The horizontal metropolis was not yet filled in with housing and businesses between the major nodes of settlement, leaving ample room for airfields and the sprawling one-story factory complexes that proved optimal for aircraft production. The experimental business of aviation also found a pool of investors willing to risk their money on a promising field. Finally, the booming population of Southern California included a fair representation of dedicated tinkerers. Donald Douglas himself was known to pick up a wrench before his company grew into a massive enterprise, but for every Douglas who enjoyed distinction and riches, there were numerous engine-builders and mechanics whose efforts remain mostly invisible to us today but whose contributions played a critical role in making flight a commonplace reality for the mass of Americans.
Eddie Meyer’s Trading Post, a used-airplane lot, corner of 3rd and Vermont,
If aviation was a going concern in Southern California during the first half of the twentieth century, it had not yet transcended its provisional origins. We can witness the active pursuit of aviation as a line of technological development before its major components were standardized and giant enterprises dominated aircraft production. We can see the initial effects of aviation in the urban landscape, before the proliferation of informal airfields gave way to government-supported facilities for regular commercial flight. And we can perceive aviation as a social process that could reinforce or disrupt existing ideas about danger and risk, especially when the dynamics of gender entered the mix.
Visions of sky and space in twentieth-century Los Angeles expressed hopes for a bountiful future but they also had a down-to-earth quality, from the grease under a mechanic’s fingernails to the dust and sagebrush of the many landing strips scattered about the region. Los Angeles even boasted one of the nation’s few used-airplane lots, if not its only one, which offers a particularly pungent example of how salesmanship and genuinely advanced technical skills both contributed to the sense of technological optimism that fueled much of the region’s growth in the mid-twentieth century.
The Automobile Club of Southern California’s Historical Collections
The Automobile Club of Southern California was founded in 1900, and its archive provides a distinctive picture of life in the region during the twentieth century. The documents and pictorial materials relate not only to the Club’s history but also to local and regional architecture, infrastructure, public policy, and cultural and recreational history. The photo collection includes some 30,000 images that depict buildings, businesses, streets, vistas, and other points of interest in the region between 1892 and 1962.
This site contains copyrighted images owned by the Automobile Club of Southern California. These images are reproduced in accordance with the express written permission of the Automobile Club of Southern California. Any unauthorized use or reproduction of any of these images is strictly prohibited. Copyright © 2011 Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
|1||More Than a Dream: Aviation Development in Southern California|
|2||From the Ground Up: The Infrastructure of Flight in Southern California|
|3||The Aviation Excitement: Flying and Mass Culture in Los Angeles|
|4||Flying Women: Amelia Earhart and Bernadine King|
More Than a Dream: Aviation Development in Southern California is an online exhibition from the collections of the Automobile Club of Southern California Archives
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More Than a Dream: Aviation Development in Southern California
This online exhibition is from the collections of the Automobile Club of Southern California Archives.
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