First Advisor

David A. Horowitz

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






American history, Air pilots -- Public opinion -- History, Public opinion -- Oregon -- History



Physical Description

2, v, 117 leaves 28 cm.


Between 1905 and 1915 the aeroplane was tested at exhibitions and became a practical machine. Some observers, however, greeted this technological marvel with ambivalence. Skeptics felt that if the aeroplane could alter common perceptions about natural laws, it might also challenge time honored ideals and attitudes about the nature of man. In response, newspapers and magazines fashioned the aviator's image. The aviator was daring yet responsible, romantic yet reasonable. Some writers and reporters believed that an aviator's self-confidence and high moral character contributed to control in the air. By controlling the aeroplane with mastery and grace, an aviator remained master of the machine and an example of a proper way to adjust to technological changes. Oregonians witnessed significant aviation events between 1905 and 1915. Oregon's newspapers and magazines analyzed the aviator's struggle for control at exhibitions in a manner consistent with coverage in national publications. The aviator was a birdman, a new type of man, triumphant over technology and natural forces, in part because he possessed the noblest human qualities. After 1912 the aviator's image changed. Technological advance made spirals and loops anachronistic. The idea that an aviator was in complete control had been shattered at exhibitions where many had been killed. These deaths did not lessen the aviator's daring appeal, but they did lead to questions about their sanity. With the advent of world War I people could no longer believe that an aviator was a responsible steward for the aeroplane. Governments and businesses took greater interest in the aeroplane, and the aviator's appeal as an individual in a personal struggle for control diminished. Most bibliographical sources consulted were primary. Newspapers, magazines and manuscripts were studied extensively because contemporary accounts focused on cultural responses to the aeroplane. Modern secondary sources often detail technological advances but pay little attention to the aviator's image. This study presents a look at the cultural changes that came with the aeroplane and asserts that the building of the aviator's image was one response to fears about change.


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Portland State University. Dept. of History.

Persistent Identifier