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Monument to Birdboy.
Monument to Birdboy.

Monument to Birdboy

Field review by the editors.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Arthur Smith was so nutty about flying that his Fort Wayne friends named him "Birdboy." In 1910, when Arthur was only 19, he built and flew his own plane from a Fort Wayne golf course. It crashed, but Birdboy didn't mind, and he kept flying (and crashing) until he was one of the top stunt pilots in America. He and his girlfriend eloped by plane, crashed, and were married in their hospital beds.

Birdboy eventually became an Air Mail pilot, and it was on an Air Mail flight that he crashed for the final time, not far from Fort Wayne, on February 12, 1926. The city felt that Birdboy deserved a memorial, and erected a 40-foot-high limestone shaft topped by an eight-foot-high statue -- "The Spirit of Flight" by James Novell -- of a nude man wearing only bird wings and a leather flying helmet. It stands on the former golf course where Arthur first flew into the air.

The monumental scale of Birdboy's memorial was probably helped by the fame of another Air Mail pilot, Mr. New-York-to-Paris Charles Lindbergh, who became the most famous aviator on earth between Birdboy's death and the memorial's completion on August 15, 1928. The monument's plaque even includes a picture of a plane that looks like Lindbergh's custom-built Spirit of St. Louis, although the airplanes that Birdboy flew (and crashed) didn't look anything like it.

Plaque: In memory of Arthur R Smith.
Plaque: In memory of Arthur R Smith.

Monument to Birdboy.

At the monument's dedication ceremony, Birdboy's mom pulled the cord that unveiled the statue. Planes from the Army Air Corp and Air Mail Service flew overhead and dropped flowers.

Also see: Sky Kings

Monument to Birdboy

Memorial Park

1152 Glasgow Ave., Fort Wayne, IN
Memorial Park. East side of the city. Park entrance is on the east side of Glasgow Ave. just north of its intersection with Maumee Ave. Park in the lot, then walk east. The towering monument is in the middle of the park's oval walking trail.
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