• Identification00064456
  • TitleDescriptive inventory for the Aero Club of Illinois records, 1909-1951, bulk 1911-1912
  • PublisherChicago Historical Society
  • Language
    • English.
    • English
  • RepositoryChicago History Museum Research Center 1601 North Clark Street Chicago, IL 60614-6038
  • OriginationMcCormick, Harold F. (Harold Fowler), 1872-1941 Aero Club of Illinois
  • Date
    • 1909-1951
    • 1911-1912
  • Physical Description7.5 linear feet (19 boxes)
  • LocationMSS Lot A

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States coyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Materials were a gift of Charles A. Arens, Gordon Thomas, Donald J. Lockwood, Emil M. Laird, and estate of Walter L. Brock (accession #: M1965.0535).

Aero Club of Illinois records (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and series/box/folder/call number of a specific item.

This collection includes correspondence, financial papers, membership data and application forms, bylaws, historic postmarks and newsletters relative to the club's membership and operations, to early aviation in Chicago and Illinois, and to aeronautical affairs in America and abroad. The bulk of the Aero Club of Illinois papers detail the planning for and staging of international aviation meets in 1911 and 1912. Contents of the collection describe the conception of the 1911 meet, the raising of $100,000 for prize money and operating expenses, the efforts to secure fliers from around the world, the pilot’s own demands for appearing in the meet, conditions for the events, and data regarding plane performances, including accident reports. Much of the correspondence documents Harold F. McCormick's efforts in securing the aid of Chicago's business community in attempting to make the meet a financial and professional success. Administrative matters, including concessions, ticket requests, entertainment, transportation, security and crowd-control matters, also are covered. Papers not devoted to the 1911 and 1912 meets relate to the Aero Club's daily activities, with many items involving club membership, testimonial dinners and luncheons, and subscriptions to aviation publications. Many of the post-1920 items are of a financial nature, including insurance policies for hangar rentals at Ashburn Field.

The Aero Club of Illinois, an affiliate of the Aero Club of America, was formed by prominent inventors, businessmen, and aviation enthusiasts interested in promoting aviation in the Middle West. According to the terms of its charter from the State of Illinois, February 10, 1910, the Aero Club's purposes were to foster aeronautical science; encourage aerial navigation, excursions, congresses, expositions, conferences, and inventions; and promote aerial races, trials, meets, games and exhibitions. The Aero Club operated two flying fields. The first, Cicero Flying Field, was utilized from 1911 until 1915, when club president Charles Dickinson turned over a property to the Aero Club to be Ashburn Field, which served as the organization's official flying field from 1915 to 1951. The club's executive offices were maintained in the Auditorium Building, Chicago. The Club sponsored two large aviation meets, the first in Chicago's Grant Park in August 1911, and the second in Clearing, Illinois, in September 1912. Aviators and plane manufacturers from the United States and Europe, both men and women, were represented in these meets including Lincoln Beachey, Glenn Curtiss, St. Croix Johnstone, Max Lillie, Glenn L. Martin, the Moisant Fliers, Tom Sopwith, Jules Vedrines, and the Wright Brothers. The 1912 aviation meet featured the Gordon-Bennett Cup Race. During the 1920s the Aero Club of Illinois assumed more and more of the status of a local flying club, with its activities gradually diminishing until it was disbanded in 1951.

Related materials at Chicago History Museum, Research Center, include the Aero Club of Illinois photograph collection (1966.0569), posters and prints (cataloged in the Prints and Broadsides card catalog), publications in the library, and miscellaneous items relating to the 1911 and 1912 international aviation meets.

In August 2016, the receipt books from boxes 8, 10, 12 and 16-18; the prospectus from box 7; and visitors’ register from box 16 were moved into box 19.

  • Subject
    • Aeronautics
    • Aircraft industry
    • Air mail service--United States
    • Airplane racing
    • Airplane racing--Illinois--Chicago--20th century
    • World War, 1914-1918--Aerial operations
    • Women in aeronautics
    • International Aviation Meet--1911--Chicago, Ill.
  • Names
    • Arnold, Bion J. (Bion Joseph), 1861-1942
    • Dickinson, Charles, 1858-1935
    • Lougheed, Victor
    • McCormick, Harold F. (Harold Fowler), 1872-1941
    • McGann, Robert Greaves, 1866-
    • Plew, James E., 1862-
    • Aero Club of America
  • Geographic Coverage
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Commerce--20th century
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Social life and customs--20th century
    • Grant Park (Chicago, Ill.)

The collection is arranged in one series. Within the series the materials are arranged chronologically with undated items, envelopes and receipt books appearing at the end.

Series 1: Aero Club of Illinois (box 1-19)

Within the series the materials are arranged chronologically with undated items, envelopes and receipt books appearing at the end. The series contains correspondence, financial papers, membership data and application forms, bylaws, historic postmarks and newsletters relating to club activities. Of special interest is correspondence related to the temporary withholding of Wright airplanes and fliers from the 1912 meet, in light of the Wright Brothers' objections to foreign entrants' alleged piracy of their patent rights; materials related to the Aero Club's assistance in training aviation cadets for the U.S. Army from 1916-1917; references to air mail flights, including letters of July 2 and 9, 1925 (with postmarked envelopes), which were transported on the first overnight air mail runs between Chicago and New York City.