James Plew was one of those impressed with the Glenn Curtiss demonstrations at Hawthorne Race Track in the fall of 1909. Plew, who was a White Steam Motor Car dealer, also started selling Curtiss airplanes. He dedicated an entire floor of his four-story building to his aeronautic department. 

Plew and another pilot, Otto Brodie, demonstrated his planes from a tent hangar in a farm pasture in the Clearing District, which became Clearing Field. Plew sent Rudolph William “Shorty” Schroeder, who worked for him, to the Curtiss School to become a mechanic.

Clearing Field became the nation’s first permanent full-time airport; however its location is uncertain, since it seems to have had two locations during its existence. Probably Clearing Field’s first location [a] was south of the big rail yards between 69th and 71st streets, and between Central and Menard (58th) avenues. Other sources, probably later, place it north of the rail yards at 65th St. and Major Ave. The former location was remote and ideal for those wishing to develop machines in secret while the latter was somewhat more convenient to the public for exhibitions.[1]

[a] A Chicago Tribune article September 18, 1910, (quoted in Chicagology) gives the location of the first airport as “the vicinity of Berwyn,” which is well north of the two Clearing locations.


[1] Little Known Story of the Land Called Clearing; by Robert Milton Hill; reprint— Lulu.com, 2013; p. 210-11, 219-220.

Chicago Aviation: An Illustrated History; by David M. Young; DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003; p. 63, 72, 74–75.

LincBeachey [online]; "Cicero Flying Field: 1911—Two Great Events"; by Carroll Gray; updated; 2013; accessed 5/5/2017.  "Cicero Flying Field" at Lincoln Beachey site 

Chicagology [online]; "Aeronautical Center Intro—Chicago’s Aviation Pioneers"; chicagology.com ed. Terry Gregory; accessed 2/1/2018.  "Aeronautical Center Intro" at Chicagology site 

EarlyAv [online]; "Rudolph William Schroeder 1886–1952"; Early Aviators: Early Birds of Aviation; ed. George Ficke; accessed 4/24/2017."Rudolph William Sshroeder" at Early Aviators.

  Pioneer Mechanics in Aviation; by Giacinta Bradley Koontz; Prescott AZ: Running Iron Publications, 2011; p. 52-58.

  Shoestring to the Stars: The Life Story of E.M. “Matty” Laird; by Joan Laird Post; Bloomington IN: 1st Books Library, 2000; p. 46.