One hundred years ago--a couple years after Hubert Latham's infamous flight over the Bolsa Chica Wetlands (see March 16, 2012 post, Hubert Latham's infamous aerial duck hunt over the Bolsa Chica, http://historicwintersburg.blogspot.com/2012/03/part-two-of-our-interview-series-with.html)--a few residents of Wintersburg and next-door Smeltzer decided they, too, would invest in a newfangled flying machine. Or, more specifically, an aviator.
The peatlands aviator
LEFT: Koha Takeishi, circa 1913, of the Smeltzer Flying Company. (Photo, Portraits of Modern Japanese Historical Figures, www.ndl.go.jp)
In addition to his studies, Takeishi worked at the Rokki Jiho (Rocky Mountain Times) Japanese-language newspaper in Utah.
Takeishi also arranged to attend the Curtiss Flying School in San Diego County--at the time, a competitor of the Wright Brothers flying school--receiving his pilot's license by the end of 1912 in a small, diverse class with international students, including Mohan Singh from India and Julia Clark, knicknamed "Bird Girl." Takeishi was the third Japanese civilian pilot to receive his license and became a source of community pride for Japanese Americans in the peatlands of Orange County.
ABOVE: Members of the Smeltzer Flying Company and farmers from around the countryside, dressed in their Sunday best, gather for a group photo in a Wintersburg field. Takeishi is at center, wearing a beret, gripping the airplane's control wheel. (Photo snip of larger image taken by Charles Furuta, March 1913, courtesy of Furuta family) © All rights reserved.
Memories of Takeishi
LEFT: An illustration from the 1933 publication, Echo, shows a monoplane flying over farmland. Echo was produced by the Nisei-generation Young Men's Association, part of the Smeltzer Japanese Association in Orange County. Many in the Young Men's Association had attended Huntington Beach High School. (Image, Echo, 1933) © All rights reserved.
American aviator Glenn Curtiss, Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company, was at the first American airshow at Dominguez airfield in 1910, along with French aviator Hubert Latham. Takeishi received his pilot's license from the Curtiss Flying School in San Diego, before becoming the focus of the Smeltzer Flying Company. He flew from Dominguez airfield to Wintersburg in March 1913.
"So each one invested $25 in stock payment and a company was formed," continued Akiyama. "Mr. Asari became the president of this company, which was named the Smeltzer Flying Company."
Hansen's oral history includes the notation that Southern California Japanese, 1956, reported Takeishi successfully flew a plane from the Dominguez airfield to Wintersburg in 1913. This account is further documented by photographs taken by Wintersburg's Charles Furuta on the day of the flight, his bride of several months, Yukiko, in the crowd that gathered to watch.
Last flight of the White Dove
ABOVE: A close-up image of Koha Takeishi on the day of his flight into Wintersburg. Charles Furuta documented the flight with his box camera, his bride, Yukiko, watching in the crowd. (Photo snip of larger image taken by Charles Furuta, March 1913, courtesy of Furuta family) © All rights reserved.
Reviewing the prior year's aviation accidents in a 1914 edition, Popular Mechanics noted there were more airplane deaths in 1913--a total of 192--"than in all the years before 1912, since the Wrights made the first public flights in a heavier-than-air machine..." Their report contained a list of aviator deaths and included the name of Koha Takeishi.
LEFT: An illustration from the 1933 publication, Echo, acknowledges the transition of culture and technology, from Japan to America, from the Issei generation to the Nisei generation. Echo was produced by the Young Men's Association, part of the Smeltzer Japanese Association in Orange County. (Image, Echo, 1933) © All rights reserved.
More details and images of the Smeltzer Flying Company are in my book, Historic Wintersburg in Huntington Beach (History Press 2014).
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