Written by: Sara Bohuch, BA Archaeology (Simon Fraser University) , MSc Conservation Practice (Cardiff University)
In 1903, the New York Times predicted that it would take a million years for humanity to be able to fly. Two months after this opinion was published, the Wright Brothers successfully launched their homemade aircraft in North Carolina, beginning the rise of North America’s aviation age. The lesson to take from this is, of course, to never completely write off the human race’s capacity to discover, innovate and possess a deep desire to see their siblings launched off of things.
Aviation, being a handy way of exploring wide open places, made its way north of the border into Canada swiftly after. The idea to use flying these machines to entertain the masses came about at almost at the same time.
The term ‘barnstorming’ refers to a style of stunt flying where pilots would perform tricks in an airplane to the amazement of a crowd below. The style gained huge popularity after the First World War when many newly trained pilots came back to North America. This was before large-scale commercial aviation, and jobs in the aviation industry were few and far between. Performing to crowds in whatever airplane they could scrounge up was one of the only ways aviators could make money, and the crowds loved it. Not many had even seen an airplane let alone someone do aerial tricks in one.
This curiosity about aircraft became key for drumming up business for a practicing barnstormer. The pilots would fly their aircraft low over a small rural town and, when they had gotten the attention of the people, would land in a nearby farmer’s field. After negotiating with that farmer to use their property as a runway, the barnstormer proceeded to offer airplane rides to interested townsfolk or offer them flight shows filled with stunts like the good old loop-de-loop. Once the show was done, it was off to the next town.Read more