Celebrate Aviation History Month….. in Marshall? Absolutely!
Well, yes, there is an National Aviation History month. I admit, I did not know that, but again... I live under a rock, you guys. And you'd think I WOULD know, because I had a great brush with aviation history right here in West Central Missouri not too long ago!
Let's start with what Aviation History Month is, aside from what you might think is obvious. It was first established by FDR in 1939 to commemerate the birthday of Orville Wright. I'm sure you know that name, and you could be forgiven for thinking Aviation Month was on the same month as his first flight, which was December.
According to the Government Printing Office,
“National Aviation History Month is dedicated to exploring, recognizing and celebrating America’s great contributions and achievements in the development of aviation. Aviation history refers to the history of development of mechanical flight — from the earliest attempts in kites and gliders to powered heavier-than-air, supersonic and space flights.”
And that's great. I'm sure we've all heard of the Wright Brothers and significant flying heroes like Charles Lindbergh, the Tuskegee Airmen, and Amelia Erhardt. But did you know there was a huge chunk of aviation history right around the corner, over in Marshall, Missouri?
It's true! To give you a quick and dirty history, Marshall was home to an aircraft manufacturing factory called the Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Company in the 1920's. Russell B. (Penny) Nicholas and Howard Beazley sold propellers and all kinds of parts for planes, built several different kinds of aircraft, and also started a flying school. Jobs in aviation were up for grabs in a big way, and the industry needed all kinds of new skills to get things....off the ground. Sorry. Moving on.
Anyway, the factory was taking off in a major way and making huge innovations (at one point they were capable of manufacturing a WHOLE AIRPLANE in one day), until it was shut down by the Great Depression in 1937. But while it's gone, it's not forgotten! Now, years later, you can go by the Nicholas-Beazley Aviation Museum and check out that rich bit of local history. They have all sorts of donated goodies from World War I and a lot of aviation stuff not just from pilots, but from craftsmen and teachers and even bits of the old plant itself. They've got parts, posters, demonstrations, uniforms, you name it, it's probably there. You can even see whole planes inside this place! It's amazing how small some of them were. And it's amazing to see the different variations of aircraft over the years, and how creative some people were in their quest to get flying.
I actually got to go a few weeks ago, myself. It was very affordable and incredibly interesting, especially with the guided local tour. He was able to give us all sorts of little tidbits about life in Marshall at the time, the influence of the aviation industry locally, and tons of little stories you can only know if you're a local. He also made it easy to understand on a technical level for a novice like me. I mean, I've been ON a plane, but...that's about it.
It was especially good for history nerds (not that I'm outing myself, we all knew I was a nerd before this, if we're being honest). It's right off of Odell, behind the county emergency services (It's in the Martin Community Center, you'll see the signs). Take a Saturday trip and go see it for yourself! There are even some cool interactive/playtime things for little kids to do, if you've got the family with you. The people are so nice, and the gift shop is totally cute. Celebrating Aviation History Month in style, yes! Yes!