Amelia Earhart is the most famous aviatrix since the advent of the airplane.
Her early successes include being the first woman to reach the altitude of 14,000 feet on Oct. 22, 1922. From then on she went to set numerous other aviation records including being the first woman to fly over the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 and later piloting the same trip solo in May of 1932. By that time, Earhart’s celebrity was peaking around the world.
Grosse Pointer Roy Chapin, president of Hudson Motor Company (which was later purchased by American Motors, and is now Chrysler), invited Earhart to christen a new line of automobiles.
On July 21, 1932, Earhart was in Detroit for the christening. Her visit followed her solo over the Atlantic and receiving the National Geographic's gold medal during a visit to the White House.
Capitalizing on the aviation fever sweeping across the country, the new car was called the Essex Terraplane.
This was a momentous day in Detroit. Not only was the most famous female pilot in the world in town, but Hudson Motor Company proudly boasted putting 8,000 men back to work in the thick of the Great Depression.
The speech ended with a parade of the new car—2,000 Essex Terraplane’s right out of production and off to be sold in 40 different states.
In her speech, Earhart lauded the development of the automobile as instrumental to our society, “Those of us who fly owe much to those who have pioneered and developed the automobile. Perhaps our largest debt to the motorcar is for its part in making the general public conscious of the advantages of high speed and mobile methods of transportation.”
Earhart stole the show, and the entire event was caught on film.
Grosse Pointe’s Amelia
When Amelia Earhart lost her life on her attempt to circumnavigate the globe on July 2, 1937, Grosse Pointer Alice Hammond was instrumental in forming the first Amelia Earhart Memorial Scholarship.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Hammond began her flight training in 1931 at the Curtiss Wright School at Grosse Ile. Hammond was a charter member of the Michigan chapter of the 99s--the first female pilots' association--in 1934 and later served as the organization’s International President
She along with Michigan chapter member Helen Montgomery proposed the annual scholarship which was approved at the 99s Annual convention in 1941. Today there are 24 such scholarships, one of which was personally funded by Grosse Pointe’s own Hammond.
How does a woman do it all? Hammond was quick to credit her pressure cooker and dishwasher, but the Grosse Pointe Review thought quite a bit more of the talented and modest Hammond, “This may be the machine age—but there’ll never be a dynamo to equal a competent, intelligent woman, whose feet are on the ground—and whose heart is in the air!”
Hammond may not have been as famous as Earhart, but she clearly had the same passion and enthusiasm as Earhart herself.
After the christening of the Essex Terraplane
Chapin invited Earhart to attend a dinner at his home on Lakeshore Road in Grosse Pointe Farms where she was the guest of honor. While there, she inadvertently revealed something about herself that no one up until that point knew. The story has been passed down in the family for generations, and I had the pleasure of hearing it myself a few months ago from Chapin’s own son-in-law.
And next week, I’ll have the pleasure of sharing the story with you.