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Maddux Airlines

During the adventurous days of early aviation a California Maddux formed a short lived airline which was among predecessors to TWA.  This was a big deal in aviation circles.  TWA, along with Pan Am, were the pioneers that refined air service to become what it is today.  The Maddux's enterprise was part of that beginning.  What follows are the snippets we have been able to gather:

First one plane, then a fleet

In the spring of 1927, John Luther "Jack" Maddux took delivery of a Ford Tri-Motor airplane.  Jack was a Los Angeles Lincoln car dealer. Jack decided to make some money with another Ford product. To publicize flying to the West Coast, Jack ordered the ferry pilot to stop in a number of large cities along the way back to Los Angeles.  He talked groups of local businessmen into taking flights around their local areas.  Maddux apparently used the free rides to recruit investment in forming a national airline and it apparently worked.  Maddux Airlines was formed September 2, 1927; its first flight was on November 1, 1928; from Burbank Airport to San Diego's Lindburgh Field.; the cost was $15.     (Shown here, Maddux employees with a hangered Ford TriMotor, 1929.)
One report, probably in error, reads that Charles A. Lindbergh piloted the first Ford 4-AT Tri-Motor "Tin Goose" with paying passengers on 22 September 1927 from San Diego to Los Angeles-the inaugural flight for Maddux Airlines. This would not seem possible as Lindburgh was then on a 85 city tour of the country. Also said to be in the first airliner as co-pilot was Will Rogers, the vaudeville performer, humorist, cowboy and columnist. Among the twelve passengers listed are Harry Culver, developer of Culver City, Benjamin Franklin Mahoney, owner of Ryan Aircraft Manufacturing Company, Mr. and Mrs. Jack L. Maddux, owners of a Los Angeles Ford and Lincoln dealership and former federal judge Benjamin Bledsoe.

      About the end of October, 1927, Jack and Helene were in a Maddux Trimotor that forced landed in a pasture in Derby, Kansas, some 10 or 15 miles southeast of Wichita.  A woman recently interviewed about this incident said she lived across the road from another nearby farm where Maddux had apparently sought help.  She was about 16 at the time of the landing and remembers it well.  She said the plane took out some fences and a few fence posts.   She recalls her father, Henry Nachbor, receiving payment from someone for the wire fence and posts a short time after the landing.  She said the article in the paper was wrong and stated the plane landed on the Parson farm and almost hit the chicken yard. Helene and Jack sent the Parson family the attached photo of them (left and right)  with Lindbergh (center) which had to have been taken only a few months earlier.

By mid 1929, Jack had 16 Tri-motors (the largest fleet of Fords in service) and two smaller planes which he used for private charter.  Business was booming but the risks were great and he was unable to obtain an airmail contract from the government. To get the government's support, Jack merged the airline with Transcontinental Air Transport on November 16, 1929.   It occurred just fifteen days after the October 29, 1929 stock market crash.
At first, they called the new venture TAT-Maddux.   Eight months later on July 19, 1930, TAT-Maddux  merged with another local West Coast air carrier, competitor Western Air Express. The Maddux name was discarded at this time and the carriers actually did fly under their own names even though they were then associated.  Jack did win a seat on the corporate board but he did not, apparently, have a major say in the new airline's operation, which became known as Trans Continental and Western Airlines (T&WA).  Eventually, T&WA became Trans World Airlines.   (If you look at this photo closely, you will see the hangar reads "TAT-Maddux" and in front is a plane and the wing markings read "WAE" for Western Air Express."  That's powerful evidence that TAT Maddux and Western--the elements of T&WA (TWA) were together for a time in the early days!  However, TWA does not credit Maddux as part of its heritage.  It appears more that the aggressive TAT acquired Maddux Air for the purpose of gaining his aircraft fleet and his personnel.)

According to his obituary in the NY Times, John Luther (Jack) Maddux was born on 15 July 1888 in Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama, but his death certificate says he was born in Cherokee County. Neither county has surviving birth records from that period.  The Maddux family lived on the line between the two counties for a couple of generations.  Jack's youth and early career is still undiscovered Jack married Helene Doris (Kuehne) Bowler in San Diego on 7 Oct 1919.  The genealogist who prepared their genology saw their marriage license.  Helene had previously been married to Herbert Newman Bowler who she divorced on 7 Mar 1919.  The divorce papers are in the research archives of the San Diego Historical Society.

Both Helene and Jack died of heart attacks, Helene on 19 May 1932 in LA, Jack on 26 July 1937 in NYC.  There is some onfusion about just when and where Helene was born.  She was probably born on 29 Dec 1890, in Marionville, Lawrence Co., MO.

Early Maddux flying

If you took the last road south just as you left town toward Hodge there was an airport at the end of the road. At one time there were at least 3 buildings; a restaurant, ticket office and lounge and a hanger. I used to go out in the old model T and watch the tri-motor Ford aircraft come and go. As a small boy I was thrilled by the then huge planes. Looking back in an old autograph book I found this "Dear Jack, Keep on going and you will be and aviator, by heck, by gee" signed Jack Melcher TAT-MADDUX Airlines. I don't remember if he was a pilot or if he worked on the planes. Another man who worked at the airport was Joe Kasulartes also of TAT-MADDUX.  The planes only carried about 12 to 14 passengers, who sat in wicker seats. This was truly a no frills flight. Sometimes the flight would go on to Glendale and sometimed on the San Francisco area, with stops along the way.   --From "LIFE AS A BOY IN LENWOOD, CALIFORNIA, As Remembered by: JACK GAFNEY

Airlines of the time were ambitious and air travel was becoming accessible to all.  Tiny airlines were springing up all over the country.  Many were flying Ford's all-metal trimotor, known popularly as the "Tin Goose" and it had a reputation as the most durable plane in the air.  TAT began its first coast to coast service in July, 1929.  Other aircraft were also flown, like this TAT Curtiss Condor, shown here.   The merging of these small start-up airlines into larger ones is what made commercial aviation viable.  These consolidations brought together the routes, the pilots, and the equipment needed to build networks for national air services.

Pan Am  became the nation's largest carrier when it merged with some smaller airlines and Pan Am with T&WA made more money hauling mail for a time.  Later, T&WA introduced inflight stewardesses, then the much more comfortable DC-2, and later the magnificent Lockheed Constellation aircraft, followed by a jet fleet of the Boeing 707 and then the transcontinental Boeing 747.  (Should you visit Kansas City's Downtown Airport, an early home to TWA before they moved the corporate flag to St Louis, you'll see a Constellation, restored, maintained and flown today by proud pilots and Machinists who worked and retired from TWA.   --Webmaster.)

Early airlines weren't just financially risky

Aviation circles on the web note two "Maddux Air" crashes, one in 1929, and another in 1930.  There were others involving TAT and T&WA later.   Crashes in those early days were not uncommon.  Flying was new and the safety technology was virtually non existent then.

The first "Maddux" crash was a midair collision at San Diego on April 21, 1929.  The Maddux Ford 5-AT-B Tri Motor crashed with all six aboard after a midair collision with a US Air Force Boeing PW-9D.    The second was on January 19, 1930 at Oceanside, California.   The aircraft which was on a flight from Aqua Caliente, Mexico to Los Angeles. The pilot tried to land in an open field after experiencing engine trouble but misjudged the distance in rain and poor visibility, slid 200 feet, crashed and burned.  All sixteen aboard perished.  The TAT merger was to happen just a few months later.

On December 30, 1929 at Amarillo Tx, a TAT Travel Air 6000 crashed on approach, killing five aboard.

Notre Dame coach legend Knute Rockne
was killed near Cottonwood Falls Kansas on March 31, 1931 when a Fokker F-10A crashed en route from Kansas City to Los Angeles.  He was heading to California to sign a movie deal.  None of the eight aboard survived the crash.  Accident information reports the plane lost a wing due to a structural design flaw.  There is a memorial site in the Kansas Flint Hills where the plane went down.  Rockne's death shocked the nation because of his fame. Will Rogers put it best when he said, " It takes a big calamity to shock a country all at once, but Knute, you did it. You died one of our national heroes. Notre Dame was your address, but every gridiron in America was your home."    It does not appear Maddux Air was linked to the crash which occurred nearly a year after he sold the airline.  The carrier listed was T&WA.  Aviation sources say the crash of the Fokker effectively ended the use of mostly wooden airplanes in passenger aviation.  -- webmaster

Milestones in TWA History

TWA did not really acknowledge Maddux Airlines in its corporate history and Jack Maddux's enterprise was relatively short lived even though his west coast fleet was large.  It was the merger of TAT and Western that TWA cites as its roots although Maddux aircraft and some of its employees played major parts in building the early TWA.  Here's how TWA describes its origins:
THE AIRLINE WAS FOUNDED on July 13, 1925 in Los Angeles as Western Air Express. It merged with Transcontinental Air Transport in 1930 to become Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). In 1950 the airline officially changed its name to Trans World Airlines. In 1986 TWA acquired Ozark Airlines. TWA's headquarters are in St. Louis.
  • July 13, 1925.  Western Air Express (WAE) is incorporated.
  • July 7, 1929.  Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) inaugurates coast-to-coast air and rail service on route laid out by Col. Charles Lindbergh from New York to Los Angeles (Glendale) via Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri; Wichita, Kansas; Waynoka, Oklahoma; Clovis and Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Winslow and Kingman, Arizona.
  • October 1, 1930.  The "TWA" brand is born when TAT and WAE merge to form Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc.
  • October 25, 1930.  TWA inaugurates coast-to-coast all-air service. The cross-country journey takes 36 hours, including an overnight stop in Kansas City.
  • Summer, 1931.  TWA relocates its headquarters from New York to Kansas City.
  • August 6, 1931.  TWA inaugurates the first air cargo service in the U.S. with a shipment of livestock from St. Louis to Newark.
-- From TWA's corporate Website

TWA grew during the '30's, for a time as WAE and TWA, and used the pilots and aircraft from all the predecessor airlines (including Maddux pilots and employees) to build its fleets.  One early Maddux employee, Tommy Tomlinson, had a major hand in building TWA during this period.  Even so, it was still rough going. In 1939, a minority stockholder named Howard Hughes took over the airline to build TWA into what it was to become.

Remembering Maddux and Maddux Air

When Vernon Maddux was in the Marine Corps, he was stationed for several years in San Diego.  He wrote the air museum located near the downtown zoo had a wonderful display of Maddux airlines wings, photos and artifacts. Unfortunately, a disgruntled employee burned down the museum several years ago probably destroying these priceless objects. The display in the old San Diego Aviation Museum consisted of a large glass-covered display case, probably 6' by 12' filled with small aviation related items and photos. There were at least a few dozen Maddux airline wings (as he remembers, it was a gold wing with an "M" in a shield in the center). Vernon recalled there were several logbooks, receipts and other paper artifacts as well.

A Scale Model airplane

The plastic model giant, Revell Corp., offers a 1/72 scale model of the Ford Tri-Motor.  In the box are decals to put on the model plane...to include replicas of the markings for Admiral Byrd's 1929 Antarctic Expedition,  Transcontinental & Western Airlines...and Maddux Airlines!   It's sold mail order, probably also at hobby stores, and through the internet by mailorder@squadron.com (they accept email creditcards.)
WW-RM0015       Ford Tri-Motor Reissue with original box        $11.00  +  4.95 s&h

Following works deserve credit and source for this article:
Vernon Maddux <vmadd@juno.com> , who researched most of this article
 Port Columbus Oh Historical Society - photos and a nice site for vintage plane buffs
Trans World Airlines
Dinese Maddux - Rootsweb Family Center
Knute Rockne Estate
Chronicle of America, Jacques Legrand, Publisher