Gates Flying Circus Curtiss JN-4 Jenny
First Albuquerque Visit: 1923
The Curtiss JN “Jenny” was a series of biplanes built by the Glenn Curtiss Aeroplane Company of Hammondsport, New York. Although the Curtiss JN series was produced as a training aircraft for the US Army, after World War I it became the “backbone of American postwar aviation”. The Curtiss JN-4 ended up as North America’s most famous World War I aircraft. It was widely used during that War to train new pilots and an estimated 95 percent of all trainees learned to fly in a JN-4. Thousands of surplus Jennies were sold at bargain prices to private owners in the years after the war, and became central to the barnstorming era that helped expose the United States to civil aviation throughout much of the 1920s.
Ivan Rhuele “Van” Gates (January 15, 1890 – November 24, 1932) was an American aviator and successful entrepreneur. While working for the San Francisco Police Department, he became the first to transport prisoners by air. He was instrumental in the founding of the barnstorming troupe the Gates Flying Circus, which attained much success and fame in the 1920s. Gates and aircraft designer Charles Healy Day soon partnered to establish the Gates-Day Aircraft Company. The company was subsequently renamed the New Standard Aircraft Company and their goal was to design and manufacture airplanes.
Gates, along with Clyde Pangborn, founded the Gates Flying Circus in 1921. The Flying Circus was the most spectacular of the barnstorming troupes in the 1920s and they attracted tens of thousands of visitors to a single show in their heyday. Time Magazine, in an article, estimated Gates staged 2000 air shows in 44 states.
The Gates Flying Circus performed in Albuquerque in the 1920s putting on a series of daredevil routines. Many of the exhibitions included wing walkers and aerial acrobatic stunts. A local pilot, Tommy Thompson, who was a barnstormer on the side while he was attending the University of New Mexico, joined the Gates Flying Circus in late 1923. Flying circus acts and barnstorming shows were popular throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
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