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Autos and Airplanes in 1919

World War I saw a rapid technological development of aircraft. The end of hostilities stimulated interest in the possible commercial uses of the airplane. Military service pilots had been released from duty and at the same time, hundreds of planes made for the war were released for sale. Ex-military airmen traveled across the United States, giving thousands of people their first ride in an airplane for a small fee. This captured the interest of Americans and ensured the future of aviation.

While the airplane never replaced the automobile for everyday travel, The Motorist, a trade periodical published in Omaha, reported in its July 1919 issue that "the automobile dealer is beginning to step into the new field, as a dealer in aeroplanes." It said: "The first bona fide aeroplane dealer in the mid-west section, so far as the writer knows, is the J. T. Stewart Motor Company of Omaha. Mr. Stewart recently took the agency for Curtiss-Canadian aeroplanes. These planes were built for use as training planes on the Canadian fields. The end of the war and the completing of contracts resulted in a considerable supply on hand.

"The Omaha company realized the opportunity here and took the agency and actually stocked the machine. Three aeroplanes were received ten days ago, and all of these were sold. The Burgess-Nash company of Omaha, [the] big department store, bought one plane. While this is largely an advertising 'stunt,' nevertheless the company declares that in some cases it will use the plane for delivering." The curious could see one of the new Curtiss-Canadian planes on exhibition in the salesroom of the Stewart Motor Company. With a wingspread of forty-seven feet, it could accommodate two passengers and was capable of a speed of seventy-five miles per hour.

"The Omaha Flying Company has been organized, with some of the leading business men of the city backing it financially. This company plans to go into the commercial field on a broad scale. . . . They expect to go into the aerial photography field as well. The planes will be busy for several weeks giving exhibitions, however." The Motorist reported that the new company had already hired three pilots and that more could readily be secured in Omaha.

"Kansas City has had planes in commercial work for some weeks. At Lake Manawa, near Council Bluffs, and at Lincoln, Nebr., planes are carrying passengers for $15 for a fifteen minute ride, and are kept busy. And planes are operating from some other western cities."

(January 2009)



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