A film of the 1910 Air Meet was one of 14 works shown as part of a program titled, “A Century Ago: The Films of 1910,” at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last month in Los Angeles. The feature, “Aviation at Los Angeles, Calif.” was a production released by Essanay Films on Feb. 16, 1910. The archival collections at California State University, Dominguez Hills were acknowledged during the program and webpages from the university’s site were displayed at the theater as part of the presentation.
”Aviation at Los Angeles, Calif.” shows the 1910 Aviation Meet at Dominguez, which was largely made possible by heirs of Manuel Dominguez, who donated the use of the Rancho San Pedro land for the event, the first such aviation exhibition in the United States.
The film begins with scenes from the Air Meet, which took place just east of the site of CSU Dominguez Hills. The primitive dirigibles of Roy Knabenshue and Lincoln Beachey are featured, as well as the rickety flying machines built by aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss and French pilot Louis Paulhan. In one scene, Paulhan is lifted on the shoulders of an adoring crowd after breaking the record for solo cross-country endurance, after flying to Santa Anita and back in just over an hour. In another scene, Paulhan jumps into his plane with U.S. Army Lieutenant Paul Beck prior to one of the first aerial bomb-dropping tests. There are also breathtaking shots of the Air Meet grandstand that seated thousands of spectators and views of the Dominguez ranch lands including the Dominguez Rancho Adobe and the George Carson family farm.
Gilbert M. Anderson, co-founder of Chicago-based Essanay Films is also seen in the film. Anderson was also known as “Bronco Billy,” an actor in the 1903 film “The Great Train Robbery” who went on to act in or direct more than 400 early westerns and other films featuring stars such as Gloria Swanson, Tom Mix and Charlie Chaplin. Anderson was in the Los Angeles area to film several short film including one on the Pasadena “Flower Parade” and another on “The Lady and the Ostrich” which was actually a visit to a local ostrich farm that provide feathers for women’s hats.
“Aviation in Los Angeles, Calif.” was presented on a 1910 hand-cranked Cameragraph motion picture machine and accompanied by live piano music. The film copy is owned by the George Eastman House Museum in Rochester, NY. Preservation was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Images and material from the largest digital archive of the 1910 Air Meet can be found at the CSU Dominguez Hills Archives and Special Collections site. For short excerpts from another film of the 1910 Air Meet, click here.
– Greg Williams