Biographical / Historical
The Aero Club of America (ACA) was the United States' oldest national aviation organization and is the mother organization from which all U.S. air sports organizations either directly, or indirectly, evolved. Founded in 1905, the ACA underwent reorganization in 1922, when it became the National Aeronautic Association (NAA). The club was the focal point of organized aviation in the U.S., and its early members were some of the most influential leaders in American science and industry. The ACA served United States aviation in a variety of roles and fostered the development of all forms of flight. It was the ACA, not the federal government, that began the practice of regulating flight safety by issuing flying licenses based on a demonstrated ability to competently operate a vehicle of the air. The ACA was also the first body of aviation experts in the U.S. to publicly endorse the efforts of the Wright Brothers and the club was instrumental in persuading Congress to fund military aviation.
In January 1906, seeking a larger venue for their Sixth Annual show, the Automobile Club of America chose the newly completed Sixty-ninth Regiment Armory building at 68 Lexington Avenue, between East 25th and East 26th Streets in lower Manhattan, New York City, and invited the newly-founded Aero Club of America (ACA) to participate. Vistors to the show would have found the Armory's massive Drill Hall filled with automobile exhibits, with two full-sized ACA balloons and an airship hanging overhead. The main ACA exhibit was housed in the Armory's two-story high gymnasium on the third floor of the administration section of the building. Suspended overhead were kites, balloons, balloon baskets, gliders, airships (all but one displayed with deflated envelopes), and various gliding and powered model aircraft; at floor level were engines, additional balloon baskets and fittings, and tables displaying instruments, literature, and a U.S. Patent Office exhibit of flying machine models dating from 1878 to 1889. At the south end of the room, Israel Ludlow's massive towed-glider flying machine (a man-carrying kite design) was displayed standing on end, as it was too large to display in flying configuration. Other aircraft on display included the Langley Aerodrome Number 5 ("Langley 1897 Aerodrome"), the Langley Quarter-scale Aerodrome ("Langley 1903 Aerodrome"), the Lilienthal (Otto) 1893 Glider, Hargrave (Australia) 1888 Compressed-Air Ornithopter, Herring 1902 Gasoline Biplane Model, Herring-Arnot 1897 Glider, Chanute (Octave) 1896 Biplane Glider, Pichancourt Model Ornithopter (1879), Keil 1905 Ballo-plane, Dr. Julian P. Thomas' airship, Alberto Santos-Dumont's airship No. 9 airship "La Baladeuse" (1903), Thomas Baldwin's airship "California Arrow," kites and weather balloons from the Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts, and balloons from Carl E. Myers, Maurice Mallet, and A. Leo Stevens. Alexander Graham Bell displayed a number of tetrahedral-cell kite designs in varying sizes, ranging from a 4-cell design to the 1300-cell "Frost King" kite. The walls of the room were decorated with a large number of photographs, including over 120 enlargements provided by consulting electrical engineer and aeronautical enthusiast William J. Hammer (predominantly views taken by Hammer in Paris, France, during the balloon competitions which were part of the 1900 Exposition Universelle), photographs loaned by fellow ACA member George Grantham Bain, and photographs provided by exhibitors and other ACA members including Carl E. Myers and John Brisben Walker. The show officially opened to the public at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 13, 1906, although members of the Aero Club were allowed to enter earlier at 4:00 p.m. Additional photographs (and possibly other of the gymnasium exhibit items) were installed later that night after the show had opened. The show concluded with a banquet on the evening of Saturday, January 20, 1906.
Jesse Tarbox Beals (1870-1942) was one of the first female news photographers. In late 1902, Beals had been hired as a photographer by the editor of The Buffalo Inquirer and The Courier in Buffalo, New York; two years later, the papers sent her on assignment to St. Louis, Missouri, to photograph the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Hard-working and tenacious, Beals was soon providing her photography of the Fair to other major publications including the New York Herald. In 1905, Beals moved to New York City, and opened a studio at 159 Sixth Avenue in Lower Manhattan.