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The Flying Circus Comes to Tulsa

May 2, 2001

Historian's Notes

The subject for this week's Almanac came about by accident. While browsing through the Chronicles of Oklahoma I found the story on the flying circus visiting Oklahoma. I verified and bolstered the information found in that story by checking various local papers found in the Microform & Media Room at the OSU Library.

Resources

Chronicles of Oklahoma. 74 (3).

Both the Daily Oklahoman and the Tulsa Tribune of 1919.

Almanac Transcript

The flying circus comes to Tulsa this week on the Almanac.

Hello, I'm Steven Kite.

In the Spring of 1919 the U.S. Government began its final war bond drive, the Victory Loan Drive. Although the First World War had been over for almost four months, large debts needed to be paid and the government hoped to induce citizens to purchase one more round of war bonds. In order to generate enthusiasm for the bond drive a series of flying circuses were sent around the country to perform aerial acrobatics and recreate dogfights and bombing runs.

It was in this week that the flying circus came through the state stopping in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Muskogee. Rather than flying to each location, the circus traveled by train with the airplanes riding dismantled in boxcars. As reported by local newspapers, at each stop crowds would gather in the pre-dawn light to watch the unloading and assembly of the aircraft. The flying troupe consisted of various aces and flying veterans of the war manning German, British, and American warplanes. As if just flying these fragile machines wasn't enough, the flyers took their crafts through series after series of acrobatic rolls and loops. As an added award for their hard work, lucky war-bond volunteer workers were taken up for long joyrides. Some of the workers reported liking their first flights while others gave reports of their flights from behind closed bathroom doors!

The larger cities reported downtown traffic jams and clogged rooftops as all activity was brought to a standstill by the flying show. Businesses closed, workers were let out early and those unable to make it to the airfield watched from whatever vantage point they could find. The Muskogee newspaper advised readers to practice staring upwards for long periods and to massage their necks so that they would be prepared for the arriving spectacle. In addition to the flying attraction, Tulsa citizens were treated to the antics of the "Treat 'em Rough Boys," who invaded Tulsa in an army tank as part of the war bond effort. The flying circuses and the antics of the tank crew created enormous amounts of excitement around the state, but the gawking crowds proved more thrifty than expected. Only Oklahoma City met their war bond quota.

Daring young men and their flying machines, this week on the Almanac.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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