Earl S. Daugherty
Collection of Jim Wells, 11-23-03

Earl S. Daugherty
Earl Daugherty in his biplane over Long Beach, California, 1911
Courtesy of the Long Beach Press-Telegram

Soaring through 75 years
Aviation: Long Beach area grows
as the airport goes from a willow grove to a thriving business hub.
Staff Writer
     The Long Beach skies were big and as empty as they'd been since creation on a spring afternoon in 1911. The heavenly expanse was broken only by the constantly wheeling gulls and flocks of caviling crows until the air became alive with the the sound of a machine - harsh, sputtering, utterly unnatural.
      Then came the sight itself, a motorized craft looking somewhat like a box kite and soaring at 100 feet or so, scattering fowl and attracting shouting children. The craft was piloted by a man who was among the few in the world with the power of flight, just about a half dozen years since the Wright Brothers first lifted off from the planet.
      Moments after soaring into the view of the curious and awestruck people along the beach, the plane landed, fishtailing to a stop in front of the breakers, and off jumped a jubilant 24-year-old man named Earl Daugherty, the first in the city, and the 87th in the nation, to be issued a license to fly.
      If there is a moment of conception for the Long Beach Airport, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, it was the instant that the clumsy biplane touched down on the strand in Long Beach.
Earl Daugherty moved to Long Beach in 1900 with his parents, Charles and Mary, and grew up in his namesake, an apartment building built by Charles on the shore and named The Earl, at 425 E. Seaside Blvd.
     Daugherty had first fancied flight in 1910 when he attended the air meet at nearby Dominguez Hills where, a year later, he qualified for his license in a Curtiss-type biplane that could climb as high as 600 feet over the earth.
     He gained fame quickly, not only as an aviator (he traveled to an air race in Chicago in 1912 and won a $1,000 purse), but also as a builder of aircraft.
     He built planes with his friend Frank Champion in 1913, including one dubbed "The Daugherty Tractor" constructed in the basements of the Earl and the Virginia Hotel, and, in 1915, Daugherty, with Bixby family chauffeur Thor Polson, constructed "The Polson Special" in the Bixby garage at Rancho Los Cerritos.
     Editor's Note: These few introductory paragraphs come from an article on Earl Daugherty and the beginnings of the Long Beach airport. It is found on the website of the Long Beach Press-Telegram newspaper. It is reprinted by the kind permission of Carolyn Ruszkiewicz and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. The extensive article, which includes a complete biography of Earl, is replete with stories and photos which celebrated the 75th anniversary, (1923-1998), of the founding of the airport. I heartily recommend that you read it in its entirety by clicking on the title,
Soaring Through 75 Years.

Earl S. Daugherty
Photo from a page on the Borel-Morane website of Frank Kirkman
Identification by Jim Wells, 11-20-03
Via email from Jim Wells, 11-20-03
      "My great grandmother was Nellie Holman, a silent film actress. She was good friends with Earl and was the first actress to fly in a plane."
     Jim Wells, who is the great-grandson of Nellie, has offered many stories and photographs which document this previously unreported relationship in the career of Earl Daugherty. To read the whole fascinating story click on the title above.

     If you search the net for "Earl S. Daugherty" using Google, ( 11-21-03),you will find about 61 links. Preeminent among them is the following by Frank Kirkman.
     If you will click on the title above, you will be directed to the homepage of the site, the entry point for access to the many features which are available. At that point you can either choose to enjoy a "slideshow" of some 20 photos of Earl and his Borel-Morane or go to the "index" where you can see the "Table of Contents." If you choose the slideshow, you will find that the first picture is the one seen below, which Jim Wells has correctly identified as Nellie Holman & Earl Daugherty, rather than Earl and his wife.
     If time permits and you want to learn more of his very interesting life and career, you can follow some of the many other links.

Earl S. Daugherty died in a crash in 1928
from The Early Birds of Aviation Roster, 1996
Earl S. Daugherty
Collection of Jim Wells, 11-23-03
Earl S. Daugherty
Collection of Jim Wells, 11-23-03

Courtesy of  Find A Grave

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