The Pulitzer Air Races

American Aviation and Speed Supremacy, 1920–1925


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SKU: 9780786471003 Categories: , , ,

About the Book

Three years after American raceplanes failed dismally in the most important air race of 1920, a French magazine lamented that American “pilots have broken the records which we, here in France, considered as our own for so long.” The Pulitzer Trophy Air Races (1920 through 1925), endowed by the sons of publisher Joseph Pulitzer in his memory, brought about this remarkable turnaround. Pulitzer winning speeds increased from 157 to 249 mph, and Pulitzer racers, mounted on floats, twice won the most prestigious international air race—the Schneider Trophy Race for seaplanes. Airplanes, engines, propellers, and other equipment developed for the Pulitzers were sold domestically and internationally. More than a million spectators saw the Pulitzers; millions more read about them and watched them in newsreels.
This, the first book about the Pulitzers, tells the story of businessmen, generals and admirals who saw racing as a way to drive aviation progress, designers and manufacturers who produced record-breaking racers, and dashing pilots who gave the races their public face. It emphasizes the roles played by the communities that hosted the races—Garden City (Long Island), Omaha, Detroit and Mt. Clemens, Michigan, St. Louis, and Dayton. The book concludes with an analysis of the Pulitzers’ importance and why they have languished in obscurity for so long.

About the Author(s)

Michael Gough is retired and lives in Timonium, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

Michael Gough
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 248
Bibliographic Info: 70 photos, 6 maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7100-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0324-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
Introduction 3
One The Pulitzer Trophy, “a perpetual prize for annual closed circuit air races” 5
Two 1920—With a Bang: Three Dozen Airplanes Fly the First Pulitzer Race, Mitchel Field, Long Island, November 25 18
Three 1921—A Close-Run Event and Narrow Victory: A Curtiss Racer Built for the Navy Wins the Second Pulitzer, North Field, Omaha, November 3 39
Four 1922—Army Curtiss Racers Come Out on Top in the Pulitzer and a General Sets a World Speed Record, Selfridge Field, Michigan, October 14 62
Five 1923—The Greatest Show of All, Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri, October 6 103
Six 1924—Dayton, Disappointment, and Death, Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, October 4 136
Seven 1925—Back to the Origin, Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, October 12 167
Eight 1926—“Perpetual” Dies with a Whimper 191
Nine Pulitzer Legacies 192
Appendix: Pulitzer Racer Specifications 209
Chapter Notes 213
Bibliography 229
Index 231

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Vividly captures a unique era when the Army and Navy expended a great deal of money and effort on air racing”—Aviation History
  • “This is literally the only book to specifically focus on this air race…nicely written, exhaustively researched, and wholly aware of the surrounding literature so it fits like a round peg into a round hole…it is clear that this work excites [the author]…the language is vivid, the exposition is disciplined and, all around it is a most worthy effort of the sort that makes one hope for more books by this author”—SpeedReaders
  • “Society member Michael Gough has just completed a thoroughly enjoyable book about the little known, but very important to American aviation progress, Pulitzer Prize Air Races of 1920-1925. It was this period of time that American overtook and surpassed the rest of the world in aviation development. The book has been extensively researched and is very well written, with the occasional, and welcome, touch of subtle humor. The fascinating story, with all its detail and drama plus numerous pictures, holds the readers’ attention and makes this book hard to put down. From the surprise results of the 1920 race to the triumphant victory in 1925, the reader will be enthralled. Expertly interwoven with the vivid descriptions of the races are the insider and human stories that set this book apart from the usual air racing tales. Although it may appear somewhat pricey at $45, the book delivers a memorable story of aviation progress and is worth every penny of its price. The Pulitzer Air Races is a must for every aviation and air race enthusiast’s book shelf and they’ll refer to it again and again.”—Joe Stamm, Editor, e-Golden Pylons