The Museum of Flight is located near the site of one of King County’s historic landmarks—the Meadows Race Track. The Meadows was the premier venue in the Northwest for horse racing in the early twentieth century. Motorcycles and cars also shared the track, and airplanes soon followed. One hundred years ago, on March 11, 1910, American aviator Charles K. Hamilton, known as the “Crazy Man of the Air”, became the first to fly an airplane in Washington State at the Meadows. His air show, flying Glenn Curtiss’ Reims Racer, was advertised for March 12th, 13th and 14th and attracted a huge crowd. His final show on the first day ended when he dunked his biplane into a pond. Hamilton was hurt and the airplane was damaged, but he was able to return on Monday and flew two free shows. After recovery, the aviator continued flying for a few more years.

Charles K. Hamilton

In his brief but remarkable career, Hamilton (1885 – 1914) tried just about every kind of flying machine then available to aviation enthusiasts: parachutes, balloons, dirigibles, and heavier-than-air craft. Of this latter category, he flew machines by Curtiss, Wright, and Blériot, each with a control system greatly different from the others. He performed in fairs and exhibitions throughout the United States, and even in Japan and Mexico. Near the end of his life, Hamilton also tried his hand at piloting flying boats. In the words of author Colin Green, “Very few, if any, contemporary aviators could claim such a wide range of skill.”