You know someone was financially well-to-do in 1927 when it was reported in the newspapers that he had purchased his own personal airplane. This happened twice during the autumn of that year, by residents of Morris and Oneonta.
Holman H. Linn of Morris, the inventor of the Linn Tractor, was on the way home from the Minnesota State Fair, where he was displaying his invention in September. As Linn stopped at Detroit, he purchased a Stinson-Detroiter five-seat enclosed cabin bi-plane before leaving that city. As The Oneonta Star of Friday, Sept. 16, reported, the plane was due to reach Morris on Saturday to be exhibited at the Morris Fair the next week.
The plane was equipped with luxury features of the time, and had a cruising speed of 105 mph.
“When Mr. Linn was asked why he would invest so much money in such a hazardous game, his answer was, ‘The time is near when our country will be as mighty on the wings as it now is on wheels.’”
“The field known as Washbun flats which Marsh Washbun and son, Henry, have been public spirited and liberal enough to donate as an airport for Morris, will have all the facilities for the air traveler.” The Star added, “Morris, which is evidently several strides ahead of this city in the establishment of an airport ... is to be congratulated.”
It was believed at the time that Linn’s purchase was the first privately owned plane in Otsego County.
Just a few weeks later, it was reported on Tuesday, Oct. 11, that Daniel Franklin, a milk wholesaler in Oneonta, had purchased an airplane and had it brought here the day before. Franklin bought his aircraft a bit closer to home, and it had personal ties to Oneonta.
The plane was a Fairchild type FC-2 All Purpose cabin plane, the product of Oneonta native Sherman M. Fairchild. It was built in Farmingdale, at one of Fairchild’s Long Island factories. A unique feature of the plane was its folding wings. Within two minutes, the wings could be folded against the fuselage of the ship, allowing storage of three Fairchild planes in the space ordinarily required for one plane.
Franklin, along with Arden M. Jones and Warren Eaton of Norwich, with Joseph Bennett of Sidney as the plane’s pilot, left Curtis Field in Mineola at 3:34 p.m. Monday. They touched down at what was called West End field at 5:39 p.m. It was also known later as Keyes Airport, found in the area where New York State Electric & Gas, Ioxus and other businesses are on Browne Street today.
“It was the first flight that Mr. Franklin had ever made and he got his first real thrill as the plane made a low bank after circling the landing field at West End,” The Star said.
Franklin bought the plane for business purposes. On Tuesday, it was flown to Norwich, to be used in the interests of Central New York Airways Inc., an organization Franklin had interests in. The company was ready to have its own plane delivered in the next couple of weeks, so Franklin let his plane be used for the time being. Central New York Airways also became the sales agent for Fairchild airplanes in a 23-county region in upstate New York.
Franklin then planned to bring the new plane back to Oneonta. The West End field was not yet officially an airport, as a committee in Oneonta was on a search for a suitable site. Franklin was the chairman of that search committee.
“Mr. Franklin plans to erect a hangar ... as soon as he is convinced of the most desirable site for a landing field and as soon as it is established where the principal airport of the city is to be located.” As it turned out, West End field eventually became the new airport. It was officially dedicated in 1930.
On Monday: Bendix employees on edge in Sidney in 1982.
City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.