Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


National Air Races; Livingston, John H.; Lindbergh, Charles A. (Charles Augustus), 1902-1974; Aeronautics--United States--History; Aeronautics--Law and legislation--United States--History; Airplane racing--United States--History;


The history of aviation in the United States between 1920 and 1940 describes two phases--the dangerous aeronautic stunts and cross-country flights of the 1920s and the regulation of the 1930s—but does not analyze how the transition between the two occurred. The beginning of this transition occurred in the latter 1920s. First, American businesses, attempting to establish commercial air travel, downplayed the perceived danger as they marketed the flying experience to the general public. Second, women pilots showed that planes did not require mystical, unidentifiable masculine qualities in order to be flown and landed safely. The actual transition, however, took place during a cross-country air race, the 1928 National Air Races. These races forced Americans to re-examine their taste for danger and compelled many of them to consider safety and government regulation in its place.

The National Air Races consisted of a series of cross country races between New York City and Los Angeles. Over a period of five days, pilots executed a number of short, rigidly scheduled flights intent on displaying the safety of aviation to the public. John Livingston, one of the participants, achieved brief national fame for his ability to navigate through dense mountain fog and across sweltering deserts. As spectators eagerly awaited the flyers, thousands arrived in Los Angeles to witness daring aviation exhibitions. A fatal accident involving the U.S. Army's stunt team The Three Musketeers threatened to discredit those espousing the safety of aviation. Hoping to counter any negative publicity encouraged by the mishap, famed pilot Charles Lindbergh appeared in Los Angeles to participate in a series of stunt flights. Livingston's victory in the National Air Races inspired many in his adopted hometown of Aurora, Illinois to promote his accomplishments as daring and perhaps even superhuman. The times had changed, however, and Livingston's short-lived fame indicates the realization on the part of many Americans that flight required regulation.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Trudy Eden, Chair, Thesis Committee

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 108 pages)



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