California State Military Department
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Preserving California's Military Heritage
Californians and the Military
Earle C. Remington
Early Los Angeles Sportsman Pilot and Naval Militia Aviator
 

Earle Remington, one of California's early aviation pioneers and a member of the California Naval Militia was a wealthy young Los Angeles sportsman in the early 1900s.

Earle Remington, son of George Luke and Emma Georgianna (Kimball) Remington, was born on December 14, 1885 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Information is lacking concerning his early life and education. However, we do know that he was a descendant of Colonel Antipas Gilman (his third great grandfather on his mother's side) who served in the Revolutionary War in the New Hampshire State Militia, who was living at the time at Gilmanton, New Hampshire, of which his father (Edward Gilman) was the founder.

Mr. Remington, an electrical engineer and bank vault contractor by profession, was a resident of California since 1908.

In the fall of 1909, just six years after the Wright brothers had managed a 59-second flight 852 feet above the sand hills of the North Carolina coast, the Los Angeles Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association was seeking to hold the country's first International Air Meet. The Los Angeles Air Meet was sanctioned by the Aero Club of America, an organization founded in New York City soon after the turn of the century. Except for the Wright brothers, who refused to participate in the meet, the nation's first International Air Meet promised to draw the most representative collection of aviators in America at that time. Flying machines of all sorts, including biplanes, triplanes, and monoplanes appeared from all over the country. Various experimental models such as the multiplane, aerofoil, and ornithopter were also on hand. Not to mention balloons and dirigibles of every make and their pilots.

Attending the International Air Meet at Dominguez Field, held in Los Angeles on January 10 - 20, 1910, Remington was among the some 20,000 men, women and children who turned up at the Aviation Field the first day at the old Dominguez Ranch to watch Glenn Curtiss take off in a biplane on the West's second powered flight (the first had occurred the day before when Curtiss tested one of his airplanes.).

The justly famous Dominguez Hills international air meet, only the second such aerial congregation the world had witnessed, and the first ever in the United States. Glenn Curtiss opened with what has generally been held to be the first heavier-than-air-flight on the West Coast. The color and success of Dominguez Hills set the tone for California's long fascination with flight.

Like many of California's early aviation pioneers, Remington was struck by the aviation bug following the Dominguez Air Meet. By late fall, his interest in aviation led him to become a founding member of the Southern California Aviation Association. By December of that year, he was selected as one of the members of the Contest Committee for the Second International Air Meet, also to be held at Dominguez Field, Decemeber 24 - January 3, 1911.

This meet promised to be as large an event as the first, with Brookins, Hoxsey, Parmelee, Curtis, Willard, Ely, Martin, and Latham and Radley from Europe. At the meet James Radley, from England, had brought with him a Bleriot monoplane, powered by a 7-cylinder 50 H.P., Gnome rotary engine. He also had a spare plane, less an engine, as a standby. After the Los Angeles Air Meet many of the pilots, including Radley, moved on to the San Francisco Air Meet, held at Selfridge Field on January 7 to 16th.

Two days later Eugene Ely made his second very notable, and undoubtedly most historic flight, when he flew from the site of the Air Meet at Selfridge Field, circled several vessels of the Pacific Fleet at anchor in San Francisco Bay, then made a precise and perfect landing on an inclined platform on the U.S. cruiser PENNSYLVANIA. One hour later Eugene Ely made a perfect take-off from the same platform and returned to the Air Meet at Selfridge Field. Both the landing a take-off were witnessed by Earle Remington.

Inspired by the events, Remington was eager to purchase a plane for himself. Radley, who was preparing to return to England, offered to sell all of his equipment to Remington. Remington purchased the planes and shipped them back to Dominguez Filed, Los Angeles, where William Stevens helped Remington get the planes assembled and ready to fly.

Back in Los Angeles, Remington began to teach himself how to fly. He first started grass cutting practice and by February was making straightaway hops. Later that month he damaged his plane in a minor smashup, but was not injured. He continued his practice and soon succeeded in mastering the art of flying. By April, he had installed a 5-cylinder radial engine in the spare monoplane he had purchased from Radley. This engine had been made by Charles Day and formerly used in an experimental plane built by him. Remington had a second accident in May, when he hit a rut in landing and nosed over.

In June, Bleriot pilot Frank Champion started flying Remington's other plane. Champion had just returned from England where he had graduated from the Bleriot Flying School. Following this, Remington and Champion (1) did some exhibition and cross-country in nearby areas.

Remington now took over operations at the Dominguez Field and, in July, began planning for future aviation meets there. He became a member of the Aero Club of America on October 18, 1911 and was instrumental in the promotion of the third flying meet at Dominguez Field, held January 19 to 28, 1912. Some sixteen pilots competed in this event, which was the last of the large early Los Angeles Air Meets. During the spring and early summer months of 1912 Remington now had several planes at Dominguez Field and was operating a flying school.

Earle Remington was accepted to membership in the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California in May 1913, the leading patriotic organization in the Los Angeles area. With war clouds looming on the horizon in 1914, this membership would prove to open several doors to Remington's work in promoting aviation prior to America's entry into World War I.

California was one of the 24 states which organized a naval militia as an adjunct to the National Guard and by the end of 1915 its naval strength consisted of 64 officers and 785 enlisted men. In November 1915, California became the second state to form a Aeronautic Squadron in the Naval Militia. Los Angeles had a Aeronautic Squadron as part of the Ninth Division, California Naval Militia, under the leadership of Lieut. Frank Seaver. (2)

Another California aviator, Frank Simpson, was responsible for recruiting the unit and set up a course in aviation theory, staffed it with instructors at the Exposition Park Armory, and established a ground school in Inglewood where he saw to that all hands, even the enlisted personnel, received practical instruction in flying. A strong supporter of aviation, Remington enlisted in the California Naval Militia and was designated an aviation engineer.

Remington's continued interest in aviation, in December 1915, helped to establish the Aeronautical Society of California where he served as President, a position he held through 1916. The society consisted of patriotic business people who pledged cash, facilities and talent.

The organization's committee consisted of:

Bradner W. Lee
Attorney and former President, Sons of the Revolution in the State of California
Hon. Chas. E. Sebastian
Mayor of Los Angeles
Hon. John C. Kline
Sheriff of Los Angeles County
Hon. W. D. Stephens
Congressman, Committee on Naval Affairs and member of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California
Robert Wankowski
Brigadier General, California National Guard
Lorenzo H. Woodbine
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy
Wm. G. Schriber
Colonel, 7th Infantry, California National Guard
Andrew J. Copp
Colonel, California National Guard, and President (1948), Sons of the Revolution in the State of California
W. W. Mines
President, Los Angeles Realty Board
Frank Garbutt
Sportsman Aviator
Louis Cole
Ex-Pesident, Chamber of Commerce
Harry E. Andrews
Los Angeles Times
Guy C. Barham
Los Angeles Herald
W. H. Brundige
Los Angeles Tribune and Express
Max Ihmsen
Los Angeles Examiner
Fred L. Baker
Pres., Auto Club of Southern California
W. E. Bush
President Merchants and Manufacturers Association
Hon. Lyman Farwell
Member California Legislature and member of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California

The Officers were:

Earle Remington
President Aeronautical Society
A. H. Rose
Secretary
A. J. Waters
Treasurer; and President, Sons of the Revolution in the State of California

The formation of the California Naval Militia's Aeronautic Squadron could not have taken place had it not been for the support of the newly organized Aeronautical Society of California.

That fall Mr. Remington supplied two planes to the Citizens Volunteer Squad Aviation Training Camp held at Monterey, California, and was responsible for training the men who attended. A newspaper article appeared in the Los Angeles Examiner, May 18, 1916 explaining the reason for the Monterey camp:

Coast Aerial Defense Plans To Be Made
U.S. Aeroplane Equipment Weak,
Sons of Revolution Are Told at Banquet

"Plans will be set on foot for the establishment of a system of aerial defense for the Pacific Coast and the Mexican border from Los Angeles to El Paso by the members of the Pacific Aeronautical Club of San Francisco, the Northwestern Aeronautical Club of Seattle and the Aeronautical Society of California.

Earle C. Remington, president of the last named organization, briefly outlined what Western citizen aviators hope to do last night in addressing the members of the Society of Sons of Revolution at their twenty-fourth annual banquet, held at the Jonathan Club.

According to Mr. Remington at least 100 men can be fairly well trained in running an aeroplane at the Monterey camp. These men, plus the fliers already on the Coast, will give the three organizations an excellent nucleus of men with whom to build a system of air defense. Money only will be needed. Mr. Remington said:

‘We ought to have an aerodynamic laboratory, preferably at Berkeley. We should also have landing stations every hundred miles all along the entire coast.

It seems rather ridiculous that I myself have owned more and better machines than the government. But such is the case. At present there are two aeroplanes in the army and one in the navy. And aeroplanes are the ‘eyes' of a nation's fighting forces. Today all our potential enemies in Europe have hundreds of machines. We are the tailenders.

Ultimately, the defense of this entire coast will be in the hands of aeroplanes operating wireless apparatus by which torpedoes will be controlled and attacks rendered impossible. The time will surely come when a man in a machine can absolutely annihilate any fleet coming near our shores.'

In absence of President Arthur J. Waters, Orra E. Monnette, first vice president, presided; John Griffin Mott acted as toastmaster, and J. A. Graves spoke in addition to Mr. Remington, his subject being ‘Citizenship.'"

Another newspaper article which appeared in the Los Angeles Harold three days earlier, May 15, sheds some interesting light on those who would be in attendance:

Sons of Revolution to Drill at Camp

"The Society Sons of the Revolution today announced that many of its members will attend the military training camp at Monterey this summer. Among those who will represent the society, according to Pierson W. Banning, secretary, are Everett R. Perry, Earl Remington, aviation engineer of naval militia; Dudley Lindsey, Mark H. Slosson, George S. Patton, James R. Page, Dr. Chas. D. Lockwood, Lynn Helm, Walker K. Tuller and Hoyt Post, jr."

An example of the type of people who attended the training camp is demonstrated by the membership of the Sons of the Revolution. Perry was the Librarian for the City of Los Angeles; Remington,* a bank vault contractor; Lindsey, an attorney; Slosson,* a banker in Los Angeles; Patton, an attorney and father of General George S. Patton of World War II fame; Page* was involved in securities; Helm, an attorney; Lockwood,* a physician; an attorney; Tuller,* an attorney; and Post, an attorney. Other members of the Sons of the Revolution attending the training camp, not mentioned in the article, were William P. Kelly,* Postal Clerk; William J. Ladd, Accountant; Henry L. Miller, Manufacturer; Paul A. Herron,* Securities; Wilbur D. Tolerton, Designer; Horace R. Boynton, Jr., Salesman; and Alexander MacDonald,* Attorney.

Dr. Lockwood made the following remarks in The Liberty Bell, Vol. II, No. 6, January 1917, showing the impression the training and life of the camp made upon most of those who were there:

"The recent experience at the Monterey Training Camp was a unique one for most of us. It was an expression, I believe, on part of most of the older men, of suppressed emotions engendered by the great conflict across the seas and we enlisted for this voluntary training partly because of the satisfaction experienced in action, expressive of our feeling, and partly because it afforded an opportunity to actually do something to express our patriotism and our devotion to the cause of preparedness. Most of us were disappointed in one thing only, and that was that we did not become proficient soldiers as we hoped we were going to become in a month. We found that a soldier cannot be made overnight, as was so glibly stated recently by one our distinguished citizens.

For the first few days, I, with most of the older men, was haunted by the fear that I might not be able to endure the discipline and hardships incident to military training. The hours at first seemed uncanny and we would lie awake at night wondering how we would get through the next day. But as time went on, we learned that common sense rules in military things as well as in other practical affairs in life. A schedule of training is arranged to suit the man of average endurance and intelligence. Ten minute rest periods are allowed in every hour's work and you have only to submit to orders, do your best and the day soon passes.

Three distinct impressions were left upon my mind by the experience at Monterey. First, that the good soldier requires many months of training to make him efficient and useful in modern warfare. Second, that the regular officers of the United States Army are patriotic, sincere and highly efficient men, fully the equal of the best trained men in the other learned professions. Third, that the voluntary surrender of one's self to rigid military discipline is one of the most satisfactory and helpful things a man can do, and if this is true in adult life, how much more valuable would it be to boys and young men while still in the formative period of their lives? I believe the military training camp idea will grow and that it may prove the solution of our national defense problem. Certainly, every man who takes the training and wears the army uniform will be better fitted to discharge the duties of a citizen in a democracy such as ours."

Hundreds of California's patriotic citizens attended the training camp. The training camp served to prepare men for war. Upon returning from the camp, Dr. Chas. D. Lockwood, for example, set about to organize in Pasadena a Red Cross Ambulance Company and upon declaration of war found Ambulance Company No. 1 completely organized and ready for service, the first one in the United States under the Red Cross. Ultimately, he would be enter the service as a Lieutenant and would be promoted to the rank of Major, serving in France. In all, eight of the eighteen men from the Sons of the Revolution who attended the camp went on to serve their country as officers in the U.S. military during that war.

Earle Remington's dream of service to his country in World War I materialized in the Aviation Corps. He also received commendable mention throughout the country for his work with the California Aviation Company before the United States entered the war, and later for the part he took as one of the organizers and enthusiastic supporters of the Aeronautical Society of California.

Earle Remington met his untimely death when he was shot in the driveway of his home in Los Angeles just before midnight on February 15, 1923. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding his death but the New York Times reported:

Engineer Ambushed and Slain at Door

‘Earl Remington of Los Angeles, who made planes in War, is found dead in driveway: Wife asleep in the house; Victim shot as he stepped from automobile, met death he had feared."


Footnotes
 
(1) Frank Champion will move to Overland, Kansas to start the Frank Champion Aeroplane Company Factory and School there in 1914. Mr. Champion will move his manufacturing business to Chicago in 1916.
 
(2) Frank Seaver, also a member of the Sons of the Revolution in the State of California, became a member of the Aeronautical Society of California.

Credits:
Article written by Mark J. Denger, archival research by MAJ John R. Justice and LTC Norman S. Marshall. Special thanks to Kate Igoe, Archivist, Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum for providing photocopies of the contents of Earl Remington's file from the Harold E. Morehouse Flying Pioneers Biographies Collection (Accession XXXX-0450) and to the Sons of the Revolution Library for providing access to their files on Mr. Remington.


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