Aviation pioneer Glenn H. Curtiss (1878-1930) when just a teenager demonstrated mechanical ability that led him to experiment first with balloons and later with airplanes. During aviation’s earliest days Curtiss (who earned the first pilot’s license in the United States) appeared frequently in air shows and exhibitions. In the summer of 1910 he and several other well-known pilots participated in the Mid-West Aviation Meet, held July 23-27 at Omaha.
Wright brothers’ “aeroplanes” were scheduled to be at the 1910 state fair in Lincoln that fall, but the Omaha Aero Club was able to entice Curtiss to Omaha in July by offering him $10,000. An ad in the Omaha World-Herald on July 24, 1910, promised flights by Curtiss and by pilots J. C. Mars and John McCurdy. Also participating was pilot Eugene B. Ely, who the next year became the first man to land an airplane on board a ship.
“Their aeroplanes are on the ground tuned up and ready for the first flight Saturday afternoon. Magnificent prizes have been put up for the first world’s record broken and the most daring and spectacular flight during the Meet. These prizes will be awarded on the last day of the Meet. An opportunity will be given daily to view the Curtiss Biplane at close range. The machine will be run in front of the grand stand, and its principles and workings explained.”
Besides aircraft, spectators at the meet could view “war balloons now used by the United States Army. Lieutenant Haskell of Fort Omaha will be in charge of the War Balloons, and the Signal Corps from the Fort will give daily exhibitions. . . . Not since the famous International Meet at Los Angeles [held in January 1910] has there been an American Meet where such an opportunity has been given to view the present development of aerial craft-aeroplanes, dirigible balloons, captive balloons, and free balloons.”
Despite high temperatures and a “bad gale,” the Mid-West Aviation Meet was attended by more than four thousand people on the final day, when Curtiss received a World-Herald trophy for the most spectacular flight. Mars received a trophy for breaking the short-start world’s record, a feat which the World-Herald said on July 28 placed “Omaha on the map, aviatically speaking.”
A Lincoln aviation exhibition at the state fair followed that fall. The Lincoln Star of August 31, 1910, said: “Wright aeroplanes will be used during five days of the fair. Four flights will be made each day, two between 10 a.m. and noon and two between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.”
A Wright Brothers’ plane flew at the Nebraska State Fair in 1910.