Gilmore the Flying Lion

Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Long Description:

Gilmore the Flying Lion was the pet of the flamboyant air racer and aerial showman Col. Roscoe Turner. In early 1930, Turner received a major sponsorship from the Gilmore Oil Company, well-known for its Red Lion gasoline brand. Seeking a colorful way to promote the company's products, he purchased a male lion cub, born on February 7, 1930, from the Louis Goebel Lion Farm in Agoura, California, and named him "Gilmore."

Turner and Gilmore began flying together in April 1930. In response to complaints from animal rights groups, Turner had a static line parachute and harness made for the cub by the Irvin Air Chute Company. Gilmore flew with Turner for nine months, mostly in the pilot's Lockheed Air Express, until December 1930, before growing too big. He logged over 25,000 miles in the air before his retirement. Gilmore accompanied Turner when he broke speed records flying from Los Angeles to New York and from Vancouver, Canada to Auga Caliente, Mexico.

On the ground, Gilmore accompanied Turner in public to air shows, movie premiers, restaurants, hotels, and even golf courses. The lion spent the remainder of the decade in a small cage displayed first at the Burbank, California, Airport and later at a Gilmore gasoline station in Beverly Hills while making periodic publicity appearances with Turner. Gilmore returned to Goebel's farm in 1940 and lived there until he died on December 17, 1950. Turner had the lion's remains sent to a taxidermist for mounting and brought to his home in Indianapolis. Gilmore was moved to the Turner Museum after the famous pilot died in 1970. After that museum closed in 1972, the artifact entered the collection of the National Air and Space Museum. The fragile condition of Gilmore the Flying Lion prevents it from being placed on public display.