Little Bits of History

Dole Air Race

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 16, 2012

A plane participating in the Dole Air Race

August 16, 1927: The Dole Air Race begins. Lindberg had flown across the Atlantic and inspired by this feat, James D. Dole offered a prize for the flying across the Pacific. Since that ocean is so much larger, the trip would only cover from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. The flight would cover 2,400 miles. The first team to accomplish this would receive $25,000 and the second place team would take $10,000. That would be ~$311,000 and $124,000 respectively in today’s currency.

James D. Dole, also known at the Pineapple King, was born in Massachusetts in 1877. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in agriculture. He saved his money until he accumulated a rather large sum for the times – $16,240. At the age of 22, he moved to Hawaii where his cousin was governor. James purchased a 64-acre government homestead on Oahu and began experimenting with crops. He finally settled on the pineapple. As his farm grew, he opened a cannery and packing plant. He also purchased advertising in magazines and developed the first nationwide consumer ad campaign. Demand for the pineapple grew and the Pineapple King was poised to meet that demand.

On June 28, 1927, the first California to Hawaii flight was completed by military flyers. They made the trip in 25 hours and 50 minutes. A second military flight reached Hawaii but Dole disqualified both because they did not land at Honolulu. Between 15 and 18 teams signed up to compete in the Dole Derby. Only 11 of these qualified and three of those crashed in the week between qualification and the race itself. On this day, a field of eight planes took off from Oakland before a crowd of 75,000 – 100,000 spectators.

Starting positions were chosen by lot on August 8 after the qualification process was completed. The takeoffs did not go smoothly. One plane had to abort before even reaching San Francisco. The next plane to take off swerved and crashed before even clearing the runway. Another plane flew approximately 7,000 feet before crashing. In all, only two planes made it all the way to Hawaii. Ten men died in the attempt and six planes were total losses. Woolaroc piloted by Arthur C. Goebel with William V. Davis, Jr. as navigator won the race in 26 hours and 17 minutes. Martin Jensen and Paul Schluter aboard Aloha also made it to Honolulu after 28 hours and 16 minutes.

All serious daring starts from within. – Eudora Welty

For strange effects and extraordinary combinations we must go to life itself, which is always far more daring than any effort of the imagination. – Arthur Conan Doyle

If you do things well, do them better. Be daring, be first, be different, be just. – Anita Roddick

No crime is so great as daring to excel. – Winston Churchill

Also on this day:

Ray Chapman – In 1920, a baseball player is struck in the head with a baseball, the only death from the game.
Not Waterloo – In 1918, the Peterloo Massacre took place.
High Flyer – In 1960, Excelsior II was tested.


3 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on August 16, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    After the race James Dole admitted that he was having the event only to give estimates of the flying times to Hawaii to cargo companies that may interested in flying his products to the US mainland. In that statement he started with: “Damn the Pacific”. James Dole was very slow in giving out the prize money- paid only after being sued by the first and second place finishers in a local Hawaiian court.

  2. EconomicDisconnect said, on August 16, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Great work!!!! Linked it tonight, was thinking about this story today!

  3. […] that happened I would not include it. It’s a shocking tale! Please take a trip on over and read the whole thing. A reader left a comment on the article, I cannot vouch for the truth of it, but would be nuts if […]

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