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As It Was: Medford Airplane Introduces Public to Flight

The owners of the first private airplane in Medford, Ore., named it the Mayfly, as in the expression, “it may fly.”  It became better known as “Old Sturdy” after introducing dozens of people to the miracle of flight.
World War I veterans Seely Hall, Floyd P. Hart, and Frank P. Farrell formed the Medford Aircraft Corp. and bought the war-surplus Curtis Jenny biplane in 1919.  They raised money by promising a ride to anyone who bought a $100 share in the company, creating an investor list resembling  “a who’s who of Southern Oregon.”

Old Sturdy barnstormed regional communities, attracting long lines of people anxious to pay $10 or $15 for short rides.

The Medford Mail Tribune reported on Aug. 4, 1919, “The familiar sight of the plane sailing over the city never grows tiresome and citizens watched its every movement.”  Once it flew low over the city, dropping free tickets to a musical comedy.

Seely Hall later established an air transport business and spearheaded the move of the municipal airport to its present-day Biddle Road location.  He retired in 1958 as United Airlines’ vice president for Western operations.

Sources: “Old Sturdy, the Medford Plane." Southern Oregon History, Revised, edited by Ben Truwe, Ben Truwe, 9 Mar. 2017, truwe.sohs.org/files/oldsturdy.html. Accessed 7 Aug. 2019.In 1919; Alissa, Corman. "Mail Tribune 100, July 30,31, Aug. 4, 5, 1919." Mail Tribune, July 30,31, Aug.4,5, 2019 [Medford, Ore.].

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.