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
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
along the way back to Los Angeles. He talked groups of local
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.)
probably in error, reads that Charles A. Lindbergh
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
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
, the vaudeville performer, humorist, cowboy and columnist.
the twelve passengers listed are Harry Culver,
City, Benjamin Franklin Mahoney, owner of Ryan Aircraft
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
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
farm and almost hit the chicken yard. Helene and Jack sent the Parson
the attached photo of them (left and right) with Lindbergh (center)
which had to have been taken only a few months earlier.
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
the airline with Transcontinental Air Transport
on November 16,
1929. It occurred just fifteen days after the October 29, 1929
stock market crash.
they called the new venture TAT-Maddux.
later on July 19, 1930, TAT-Maddux merged with another local West
Coast air carrier, competitor Western Air Express
. The Maddux
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
and Western Airlines (T&WA)
. Eventually, T&WA became
. (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)
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
According to his obituary in the NY Times, John Luther (Jack)
was born on 15 July 1888 in Anniston, Calhoun County, Alabama,
his death certificate says he was born in Cherokee County.
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
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
Another man who worked at the airport was Joe Kasulartes also of
The planes only carried about 12 to 14 passengers, who sat in wicker
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
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
were also flown, like this TAT Curtiss Condor, shown here.
The merging of these small start-up airlines into larger ones is what
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
mail for a time. Later, T&WA introduced inflight stewardesses,
then the much more comfortable DC-2, and later the magnificent Lockheed
aircraft, followed by a jet fleet of the Boeing 707
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,
and flown today by proud pilots and Machinists who worked and retired
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
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
The pilot tried to land in an open field after experiencing engine
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
approach, killing five aboard.
Dame coach legend Knute Rockne was killed near Cottonwood Falls
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.
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
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. --
Milestones in TWA History
not really acknowledge Maddux Airlines in its corporate history and Jack
Maddux's enterprise was relatively short lived even though his west
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
THE AIRLINE WAS FOUNDED on July 13, 1925 in Los Angeles as
Western Air Express. It merged with Transcontinental Air Transport in
to become Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). In 1950 the airline
changed its name to Trans World Airlines. In 1986 TWA acquired Ozark
TWA's headquarters are in St. Louis.
July 13, 1925. Western Air Express (WAE) is incorporated.
July 7, 1929. Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) inaugurates
air and rail service on route laid out by Col. Charles Lindbergh from
York to Los Angeles (Glendale) via Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis,
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
Summer, 1931. TWA relocates its headquarters from New York to Kansas
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
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
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,
and artifacts. Unfortunately, a disgruntled employee burned down the
several years ago probably destroying these priceless objects. The
in the old San Diego Aviation Museum consisted of a large glass-covered
display case, probably 6' by 12' filled with small aviation related
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).
recalled there were several logbooks, receipts and other paper artifacts
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
Transcontinental & Western Airlines...and Maddux Airlines!
It's sold mail order, probably also at hobby stores, and through the
by firstname.lastname@example.org (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 <email@example.com>
, who researched most of this article
Oh Historical Society - photos and a nice site for vintage plane
Trans World Airlines
Dinese Maddux - Rootsweb Family Center
Knute Rockne Estate
Chronicle of America, Jacques Legrand, Publisher