Art Smith

Pioneer Aviator

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About the Book

By 1915, pioneer aviator Art Smith was as celebrated as any movie star might be today. He thrilled audiences with his barnstorming feats, doing “death spirals,” sky writing, “loop-the-loops,” and night flights using phosphorus fireworks. He was a consummate showman and had he not died in 1926, his name probably would be familiar to most Americans. He glamorized and popularized aviation while testing the boundaries of aeronautical principles.
As a boy he longed to fly before he had ever seen an airplane. His parents believed in him, and he was fortunate to have a best friend named Al Wertman who helped him build an airplane. His fame spread around the globe and in 1916, the Japanese offered him $10,000 for a series of exhibitions. His flying skills inspired a young Wiley Post to a life of aviation. After Smith’s death, when Lindbergh flew over Fort Wayne and dipped his wings, he gave credit to the “Bird Boy” Art Smith.
The story of this rising star in American aviation is one of adventure, romance, scandal and history. Using Smith’s own autobiographical writings, the story is also a factual account of events in early aviation. The book includes photographs and postcards in Art Smith’s own handwriting mailed to Al Wertman.

About the Author(s)

Rachel Sherwood Roberts also wrote Crisis at Pemberton Dike in 1984 and Auburn Is A Dancing Lady in 1999. Her work has appeared in regional and national publications. For fifteen years, Roberts wrote the “View and Review” column for the Evening Star in Auburn, Indiana. She has written a number of cover stories for Traces of Indiana including one about Art Smith (fall, 1998). Roberts lives in Auburn.

Bibliographic Details

Rachel Sherwood Roberts
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: 75 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2003
pISBN: 978-0-7864-1646-2
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8282-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

1 Blue Skies—1909      5

2 The Mortgage—1910      12

3 The “Smash-up Kid”—1910      22

4 The Birdboy—1910      28

5 Midwestern Flights—1911      34

6 New Heights—1911      41

7 Not on Calhoun Street—1912      48

8 Elopement—1912      55

9 Hometown Celebrity—1913      63

10 Fame—1913–1914      70

11 The San Francisco Exposition—1915      77

12 King of the Air—1915      85

13 San Diego, Other Towns, and Headlines—1915      95

14 A Celebrity in Japan—1916      106

15 Scandal, Surgery, and Business—1916–1917      120

16 A Second Trip to Japan—1917      125

17 World War I and Military Preparedness—1917–1921      134

18 The Mail Service and Ohio Lights—1921–1926      141

19 Tributes—1926–1928      146

20 Smith Field and Beyond—1926 to the Present      154

21 An Unknown Love—1995      161

22 Letters—1923–1926      166

23 A Final Word      188

Notes      191

Bibliography      205

Index      207

Book Reviews & Awards

“important…though Smith’s achievements have been dimmed by time and diminished by subsequent aviation advances, in his day, Arthur Roy Smith was adored and admired…arguably, the first celebrity aviator”—The Journal Gazette; “a trail-blazing aviator who achieved global success…his astonishing aeronautical feats inspired generations of aviators—even Lindbergh”—The Evening Star; “barnstorming pilot and showman extraordinaire…he gained the kind of fame later claimed by movie stars and inspired many to follow him into the sky”—The Richmond Alumni Magazine; “thrilled audiences with his death-defying aerial feats…he glamorized and popularized aviation”—The Furman Alumni Magazine.