The Story of Enterprise: The Airline Industry Flying High
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On Jan. 27, 2010, Herb Kelleher Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence and business history enthusiast Gary Hoover presented the second in his series of four talks on business history. Using more than 300 color images from airline history, Hoover began with the rise of the early industry, consisting of many small airlines.
When Charles Lindbergh made the first successful transatlantic flight in 1927, the possibilities of air travel became apparent to both travelers and investors. By the early 1930s, President Herbert Hoover’s Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown personally shaped the industry into the “Big Four” domestic carriers – American, United, Transcontinental & Western Air (TWA), and Eastern. In addition, Juan Trippe’s Pan American Airways was selected to be the “chosen instrument” of the U.S. government to compete with the older, state-supported airlines of Europe.
Further steps during the FDR administration solidified the strength of these five carriers while at the same time allowing a handful of smaller “trunk” airlines to grow.
Hoover focused on the history and evolution of the five giants as well as some of the Texas-based carriers, such as Braniff, Continental and the highly successful late-comer Southwest. American Airlines was led for many years by former UT accounting student C.R. Smith, one of the great industry pioneers.
The story of the airlines is the story of maps and geography, technology from Ford Tri-Motors to Boeing jets, flight attendants and their uniforms, and globalization, all of which Hoover showed with vivid imagery. Hoover's "Flying High" talk was preceded by coverage of the movie industry and followed by the history of the auto industry.
The fourth and final talk, Ringing Registers: The Story of American Retailing, will take place at the AT&T Conference Center on Wednesday, March 31. A reception starts at 5:30 and the free talk begins at 6:15 in Room 204.