It was 110 years ago today that the first commercial air-ship line took its inaugural flight. The Lark of Duluth didn’t lift off from Duluth that day, however. Tony and Roger Jannus brought the small hydro-aeroplane to St. Petersburg, Fla. by rail with the mission to develop the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The Lark arrived there on Dec. 31, 1913, and the inaugural flight was on Jan. 1, 1914.
The photo accompanying this post is presumably not from that historic flight in St. Petersburg, but rather from the previous summer in Duluth.
Julius Barnes, president of the Duluth Boat Club in 1913, brought the plane from St. Louis and housed it at the club on Minnesota Point. The Benoist modal XIV was rechristened the Lark of Duluth. That summer, during the Lark o’ the Lake celebration, flights were made along the St. Louis River.
The handwritten caption on the back of this photo reads:
W. D. Jones of Duluth, Minn. First man on the Great Lakes to own and operate a flying boat. Photo shows Mr. Jones in his Benoist airboat giving a friend a joyride.
Though Barnes was the actual owner of the plane, William D. “Gasoline Bill” Jones was generally credited as the owner because Barnes was a grain trader who often needed to borrow money and bankers at the time were not too keen on the risky hobby of flying.
Though Jones was not a pilot when he became the “owner” of the plane, he was a passenger in one of three flights the plane took in Duluth on July 24, 1913, and briefly took control of the plane, according to the Duluth Herald, which noted Jones “expects to take her up alone in a few days.”
The photo is credited to Henry Woodhouse, who apparently was not only a noted aviation journalist but also a forger of historical artifacts. Oh, and a murderer.
Below is the article from the July 25, 1913 Duluth Herald newspaper.
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