Barnstorming was a form of entertainment in which stunt pilots performed tricks, either individually or in groups. If they performed in a group, it was called a Flying Circus. This daredevil occupation was devised to impress people with the skill of pilots and the sturdiness of planes. Hopefully, it would also entice these same people to shell out four bits (or 50 cents) for a ride! This form of entertainment became popular in the United States during the Roaring Twenties.
But who was doing this daring-do? Barnstormers were pilots who flew throughout the country selling airplane rides and performing stunts. Many were ex-military pilots looking for a way to continue flying and make a living at the same time. They would buy retired or shot-up planes from the government and refurbish them.
Later, as airplanes became larger and safer, groups of people or families could fly together.
So it wasn’t uncommon to see advertisements posted around small towns that happened to have open fields near to them. These areas would usually be owned by farmers and thus there would be barns on the sites. As a special thrill, some pilots would buzz these buildings or even fly through them! Hence the name ‘Barnstorming’ and ‘Barnstormers’.
Below is a reproduction of a poster that would have advertised just such an exhibition:
The Ford Trimotor (also called the “Tri-Motor”, and nicknamed the “Tin Goose”) is was American three-engine transport aircraft. Production started in 1925 by Henry Ford and ended on June 7, 1933. A total of 199 Ford Trimotors were made. It was designed for the civil aviation market.
The Stinson Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturing company in the United States between the 1920s and the 1950s.
The plane pictured in the tin sign featured here doesn’t appear to be either a Tri-Motor Ford or a Stinson. The name of ‘Secrist’ is actually the name of the pilots and company operating the craft and not that of another brand of airplane. The Secrist family name was found in the USA between 1840 and 1920. The most Secrist families were found in the USA in 1880. So this family would have been around to operate a Barnstorming business, or Flying Circus, just after the First World War.
I bought this sign not only because I love this era and its advertising, but also because the event advertised took place on my birth date of September 19th. However, the year was just a tad before my arrival on this earth!