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The 1924 Central Labor Union Trophy Race

Posted on Mon, September 5, 2016
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On September 5, 1882, the Central Labor Union in New York City held a “monster labor festival” in Wendel’s Elm Park, an event that would become known as Labor Day.  On October 2, 1924, the Central Labor Union of Dayton sponsored their own trophy race at the International Air Races in Dayton, Ohio.

Central Labor Union of Dayton Trophy from the Official Souvenir Program of the International Air Races, Dayton, Ohio, 1924. Image: NASM 9A13625-38A

The race for the Central Labor Union Trophy was a free-for-all race, open to two-, three-, and four-seated aircraft with less than 13,109 cubic centimeters (800 cubic inches) of piston displacement and a minimum 154-kilogram (340-pound) load (a pilot with one passenger and/or ballast to make the weight minimum).  Contestants made eight laps around a 24-kilometer (15-mile) course, with the winner receiving $1,000 in Liberty Bonds.

Pilots included W.A. Yackey in one of his own aircraft; Basil Lee Rowe in an Ansaldo S.V.A, and Walter H. Beech in a Swallow Special. Three pilots did not start and four failed to complete the race.

Charles S. "Casey" Jones stands by his Curtiss Oriole (Model 17, Experiment 519, Design L-72), winner of the "On to Dayton" and “Central Labor Union” trophies at the International Air Races in Dayton Ohio, October 1924. Image: NASM CW8G-M-0352

Charles S. “Casey” Jones won the first and only Central Labor Union Trophy. Jones first took flying instruction from one of his high school classmates, but stopped when his instructor was killed and another classmate injured. He returned to flying in 1917 for World War I, enlisting in the Army Air Corps and serving in France until 1918. After discharge, Jones went to work for the Curtiss Corporation, organizing the Curtiss Exhibition Company, responsible for flying schools and charter and passenger services.

Jones also participated in most of the national air races between 1921 and 1929, representing the Curtiss Exhibition Company.  For the 1924 International Air Races, he piloted a Curtiss Oriole to victory in two events. The first event was the “On to Dayton” Race, in which contestants were given awards based on their flight to the races at Dayton—the award was given with regard to distance traveled, speed, number of passengers carried, and the engine’s horsepower. Jones amassed a total of 1,239 points awarded on these merits to win.

Jones also won the Central Labor Union Trophy with a total elapsed time of 57:34.73 minutes, outracing J.G. Ray, the second place finisher, by about 10 minutes. His average speed was 201.23 kph (125.04 mph).  According to the program of race events, the awarding of the Central Labor Union Trophy was “the first time in the history of aviation that a labor organization has donated a trophy for an airplane race, and is indicative of the ever-increasing appreciation by members of trade unions of the commercial value of aircraft.”

Chart listing contestants, aircraft, and results for the Central Labor Union of Dayton Trophy Race, Event No. 3 at the International Air Races held in Dayton, Ohio, on Thursday, October 2, 1924.  Even the type of fuel, oil, radio, altimeter, tires, and varnish were recorded! Image: NASM 9A13628-10

Jones continued his career with Curtiss, even becoming Vice President of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. When Curtiss-Wright ended its flying school program in 1932, Jones founded his own program, the Casey Jones School of Aeronautics in Newark, New Jersey, and the Academy of Aeronautics in Aeronautics at LaGuardia Airport, New York, followed in 1940.  He passed away in 1976.

This bronze bust of Charles “Casey” S. Jones, by Charles Andrews Hafner, was donated to the Museum in 1963 by the Academy of Aeronautics. It is currently in storage. 

Caption: This bronze bust of Charles “Casey” S. Jones, by Charles Andrews Hafner, was donated to the Museum in 1963 by the Academy of Aeronautics.  It is currently in storage.

The Central Labor Union Trophy was never awarded again. At the 1925 Air Races at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York, Casey Jones won a similar race for the Merchants Association of New York Trophy.

The Cleveland National Air Races have historically been celebrated over the long Labor Day Weekend.  Do you have Labor Day plans or are they still up in the air?!