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Barney Oldfield and Lincoln Beachey, two famous early showmen have been covered here on The Old Motor before. Just found in the collection of the San Diego Air & Space Museum is a photo album that belonged to Warren Samuel Eaton, seen here from it are pre-WWI era photos of the dynamic barnstormers and their machines.
The Museum describes Eaton’s role in early aviation as follows: “He was born in South Dakota on June 12, 1891 and moved to Los Angeles as a child. He formed Eaton Brothers Aircraft with his brother Frank, and they built several aircraft together. Warren teamed up with Lincoln Beachy and barnstormed with him. He also built some of Beachy’s airplanes. Later, he assisted Glenn Curtiss with the design of an amphibian aircraft”.
Lincoln Beechey with his two Curtiss-type airplanes, one powered by the makers V-8 on the left, and a smaller craft powered by a Gnome rotary engine is seen in the center and on the right.
Eaton no doubt, also knew Barney Oldfield as he and Beechey preformed their airplane and car expositions together on racetracks all across the land. Two of the photos posted here from the collection show a pair of Oldfield’s cars. The first car that Barney is seen posing in is a very sporty Simplex at the top of the post, wearing a custom body, it features: wire wheels, a frame-mounted oil tank and Rushmore headlamps. There is a good chance that this car was owned George R. Bentel who had the Pacific Coast distributorships for the Simplex and Mercer automobiles at the time.
The Christie he is posing in below is much more well-known and was used between the 1912 and 1916 period by the speed king. This image gives a very good side-view of the car, including Christie’s assembled metal wheels. Just below are drawings and a photo showing the very interesting details of its construction.
If you can tell us anything about the Simplex, or who built the coach work, please send us a comment. You can refer to our earlier articles here on Oldfield and Beachey and also on Barney Oldfield himself. More photos and information on the Simplex can be found here.
As a follow up on the recent post about pioneer aviator Lincoln Beachey, we have this interesting photo of Oldfield in his Fiat Cyclone and Beachey in his plane racing around a track. Take a close look at the ticket and the printing on it that includes the upside down printing as was also seen in the recent newspaper ad in the Beachey post. Photo courtesy of Wayne Peterson, great great nephew of Barney Oldfield.
- * See the update * below from Robert Rampton covering the October 11, 1914, appearance advertised in a Salt Lake City newspaper above.
This post highlights an important effort to document the life of aerial performer Lincoln Beachey. Ralph Marrero, author of a book about him, has been actively working to try to keep the story of the famous early aviator alive a century later. Part of the pioneer’s flying career involved performing flamboyant demonstrations while circling an oval track in staged races with both Barney Oldfield and Eddie Rickenbacker. These three larger than life characters put on hundreds of performances across the land entertaining the masses before it ended with Beachey’s tragic last flight and crash.
- Lincoln Beachey and two of his airplanes, images - Wikimedia Commons
A visit with Frank Marrero will reveal the complete story behind the flying marvel and at the same time show you many of the interesting details of the routine Beachey performed with the racers. One of his favorite stunts involved gently knocking Barney’s hat off his head with the front wheel of his airplane while they were both speeding down the front straightaway.
You can also learn more here on The Old Motor about two of Oldfield’s mounts, his Christie and the Fiat Cyclone, (driven by others earlier) both which he used in many of his performances with the aviator. The newspaper ad at the top of this post is of the sort used to announce an engagement by the troupe. It and the photo below are both courtesy of Frank Marrero. A Popular Mechanics article explaining Beachey’s crash.
- * Update 2 * Read Ivan Pozgega’s comment below as it appears the motorcyclist Don Johns raced with the pair on occasion.
* Update 1 * from Robert Rampton: “Love this stuff about Beachey and Oldfield. Here is what I can add about the Lagoon ad. The Lagoon is an amusement park that is located north of Salt Lake City. It came into being in 1886 and continues to this day. From the start, it featured a 1/2 mile dirt track for horse races. During the teens and twenties the track was the scene of many auto and motorcycle races and exhibitions. On this particular date on October 11, 1914, a crowd of 2,000 spectators watched as Lincoln Beachey staged a full show of stunts. He was the hero of the day. Poor Barney did not fare so well, though. Heavy rains the day before turned the track into a sea of muck and he was unable to race the birdman with his racers. He did attempt to do an exhibition run in his Christie, but the track was so bad he could barely keep it under control. He backed off the gas in the turns so as not to crash through the fence or into the grandstand. His time for a mile was painfully slow”.
Don’t miss seeing the rare film footage below of a performance held at the Iowa State Fair in August of 1914. In it you will view an actual Lincoln Beachey – Eddie Rickenbacker “race” where Eddie appears to be piloting his Duesenberg racing car. The video is courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
This is a photo of Oldfield the showman out to do some demo laps, probably on a fair-grounds track lined with naive farmers. Oldfield, also used to team up with and race early aviator and dare devil Lincoln J. Beachey. He would pilot his airplane competing against Barney in a race around the track. These events were staged only for the appearance money they could extract and the shows were always fixed.
The car is a front wheel drive Christie and this photo gives us a rare glimpse of how the car was constructed. It shows a tank, possibly for fuel and also a magneto under the cowl.
The photo below is believed to be Oldfield and Beachey, only this time Barney is driving his early chain-driven Fiat racing car. The paragraph below courtesy of Wiki, tells about the tragic last flight of Beachey. Oldfield luckily escaped death in his exploits and lived to a ripe old age after a long career on the dirt tracks.
The Panama-Pacific International Exposition was the scene of Beachey’s last flight. Prior to the exposition, in 1914, he ordered a Taube monoplane built with an 80 horsepower engine, powerful enough to carry out the stunt that Beachey had not yet presented to the public: upside-down flight. He had tested it at low altitudes, and on March 14, 1915, he was ready for his first public flight. He took the plane up in front of a crowd of 50,000, made a loop, and turned the plane on its back. He may have been so intent on leveling the plane upside-down that he failed to notice he was only 2,000 feet above San Francisco Bay, too close to complete the stunt. He pulled on the controls to pull the plane out of its inverted position, where it was slowly sinking. The strain caused both wings to shear off, and the fuselage plunged into the bay while Beachey fell out and tumbled down to the Earth.