Several years ago, my son David and I were working on a video project to produce and create the video history of Good Year Tire & Rubber Company, then in its 100th year. We found old films and photographs of Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. We discovered that Henry Ford, in the summer of 1929, invited Amelia to the Ford Airport and tour their aviation operations.
In our research contacting over 400 libraries in Michigan, we were able to identify 27 times when Amelia came to Michigan. Her first visit was in 1928 when Amelia was at Grosse Isle promoting the Thompson Aeronautical Corporation’s services. This same year, Amelia was promoting an airmail service from Bay City to Chicago with stops at Pontiac, Flint, Detroit, Jackson, Lansing, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo using the TAC airline service.
Since her Transatlantic Flight on June 17, 1928, Amelia became a celebrity and is often called Lucky Lindy. In 1928, Amelia attended an Air Show in Alpena possibly on the 4th of July. On December 18, 1928, she spoke to the Oldsmobile Girls Club Christmas party held at the Olds Hotel in Lansing. In the wintertime of 1929, Mr. William E. Scripps, owner of The Detroit News and Glider’s Inc., invited Amelia to his estate in the Lake Orion area for dinner. Mr. Scripps asked Amelia if she would like to test flight his newest glider design, and she did with success. On July 5, 1930, Amelia flew in air races at the Grosse Isle Airport setting three speed records.
Amelia became interested in wingless aircraft and performed a test flight with something called the “autogiro,” an experimental craft. This was an early version of a helicopter with short wings. She became a salesperson for the autogiro and sold the first one to Mr. Scripps on February 12, 1931, for use by The Detroit News. On September 10, Amelia and her husband, George Putnam, flew to the new Muskegon Continental Airport in the autogiro, where she christened the new airport and attended a dinner party at the Muskegon Country club that evening. Two days later, September 12, she was at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit near 7 Mile Road and Woodward and crashed the autogiro. She was not hurt, but her husband was injured coming to her aid. After the crash, Amelia borrowed The Detroit News autogiro to make an appearance at the Saginaw Airport for a show at 12:30 p.m. On May 20, 1932, she flew solo with her Lockheed Vega from Newfoundland, across the Atlantic. She was flying by instruments, having practiced in blind flying for many hours.
On June 20, in New York City, they give Amelia a big Ticker Tape Parade. In 1932, the Women’s Aeronautical Association of Detroit invited Amelia to be a speaker. Amelia was in great demand and making $41,000 a year with her speaking engagements. Hudson Motor Car in Detroit, located at Conners & Mack, thought Amelia would be a good spokesperson for the new Hudson “Essex” model. In July, Roy Chapin, president of Hudson Motor Car, introduced Amelia to a crowd of about 2,000 people. WJR radio covered the event. On another occasion, Amelia introduced the new Hudson Terraplane model. Michigan was the center of engineering for automobiles and airplane manufacturing. In 1929, a Michigan Aviation directory listed Michigan with 24 airplane manufacturers, six engine producers, propeller manufacturers, and 13 airports with passenger and transport service.
In 1933, Amelia was invited to the East Auditorium in Lansing on October 28 and October 30 to give lectures for the Town Hall series. In 1935, Amelia spoke to a group in Battle Creek on February 12 and to students at the Van Buren School in Port Huron. She again was invited back to Lansing for the Town Hall series on October 21, and the next day, she went to the Bancroft Hotel in Saginaw to speak to the Rotary Club-sponsored program that evening. The best location tickets sold for $4. They also had $3, $2 and $1 tickets, and that evening over 1,000 people attended. On October 22, she spoke to the College Teachers Club at Western Teachers College WMU. At this time, Amelia was a teacher at Purdue University and had some big plans to fly around the world. Her lectures focused on her adventures and explaining how preparation was the key to success. In 1936, Amelia spoke in Jackson to students of the Jackson High School on April 20.
In 1936, Purdue University established the Amelia Earhart Fund to raise $80,000 to purchase a new twin engine aircraft called the Lockheed Electra, which would take Amelia and Fred Noonan, navigator, on an around-the-world flight. On May 31, 1937, Amelia and Fred left the USA, and by July 2, they were in New Guinea preparing for the longest leg of the tour. They were never seen again! It has been 80 years since her last flight. That’s the story of Amelia in Michigan, and That’s The Way It Was.
Photos courtesy of the National Archives.
Al and Dave Eicher provide television production services to corporations, ad agencies and nonprofit organizations. They also create Michigan town histories and offer lecture services on a variety of Michigan History Events. You may contact them at 248-333-2010; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.program-source.com.