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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Early aircraft. Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
AIRPLANE DEMONSTRATIONS. On September 28,1911, world-class aerial exhibitionist Lincoln BEACHEY arrived in Dubuque. An audience estimated at three thousand people braved rain at NUTWOOD PARK as Beachey soared into the sky, circled the grounds and then hurtled his plane downward making the craft appear certain to crash.

Pulling the plane out of its dive, Beachey cruised about sixty feet above the ground before again climbing into the sky. This time the biplane dove in the direction of the grandstand. Wild-eyed audience members scattered in all directions. An anticipated automobile-airplane race was rescheduled with five motorcycles as substitutes. At the end of the mile, Beachey led the pack by twenty yards, while averaging fifty-four miles per hour.

On the second day of the exhibition, Beachey, in mock air battle with Company "A" of the Iowa National Guard, dropped "bombs," actually loaves of bread, as troopers fired blanks at his plane.

Dubuque's next exhibition came on October 19, 1911, when Hugh Robinson flew his Curtiss hydro-airplane into the Dubuque area. Robinson was then attempting to fly the length of the MISSISSIPPI RIVER from Minneapolis to New Orleans and deliver mail. An estimated ten thousand cheered as Robinson's plane skimmed the surface and then gently landed on the water.

Beachey returned to Dubuque on July 20, 1912, with even more reckless stunts. His plunge from seven thousand feet was so swift that spectators heard the plane's wires hum while still high above them. Beachey demonstrated a "figure eight" over Nutwood Park while holding his arms out at right angles to his body and guiding the plane with his feet. Aerial combat techniques later seen in WORLD WAR I were demonstrated by Beachey and Charles Walsh as they played aerial tag while firing blanks at each other with pistols.

Lincoln Beachey and his “Little Looper”, Hiller Aviation Museum
On July 8, 1914, Beachey flew near Dubuque's NUTWOOD PARK. Flying "Little Looper," one of the most famous airplanes of its day, Beachey entertained an audience of nine thousand by flying upside down and executing the first loop ever performed in Iowa.

In 1916 Eugene Heth flew a Wright biplane throughout the Tri-State region advertising the Iowa Prosperity Celebration and Exposition to be held in Dubuque on October 2. Joseph Berger, general manager of the exposition, agreed to pay Heth one hundred dollars daily for the week of the exposition plus fifty dollars if the promoter earned more than three thousand dollars. Heth buzzed crowds on the streets of tri-state cities with the words "DUBUQUE EXPOSITION WEEK-OCT. 2" painted on the bottom of the lower wings. At the end of the week Heth, denied his additional fifty dollars, successfully sued the promoter and won, but never collected. The airplane, stored during the legal battle, was sold at a sheriff’s sale for $162.72 to Joseph J. NAGLE.

In 1967 Clifford P. OLESON discovered four wing panels from Heth's Model A Wright Pusher, the first airplane produced by the Wright Company, in an ICE HARBOR warehouse. The wings were presented by John A. Nagle and Robert E. MOLO to the Air Force that was to display them in a museum at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

In 1928, soon after the opening of the Nutwood Park airport, Lenore Roshek became the first woman to make a solo flight. According to reports of the time, Roshek had received only eleven hours and five minutes of pre-flight training.