An Immense Crowd Was Entertained

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In the early 1900s, the Newton Commercial Club, which was made up of local businessmen and community leaders, worked tirelessly to promote Newton as prosperous and progressive.

Newton Commercial Club, 1911.

In 1911, the city leaders published Newton, Kansas:  Past and Present, Progress and Prosperity.  The publication included “sketches of various industrial and business concerns representative merchants, those who stand foremost  in the thought and action in Newton.”    

The Commercial Club was also  involved  with planning and promoting an “Aviation Meet” in 1911.  Aviation Meets were started in France in 1909 and were  popular in the United States in 1910 and 1911. Aviation Meets gave pilots a chance to show their skill and thrill spectators  with their daring.

The the spring of 1911, the Mosiant International Aviators were touring the Midwest with stops in Denver and Kansas City.  After several days of negotiation between P.L. Young, General Manager for the group and the Commercial Club of Newton, the Mosiant International Aviators agreed to make a stop in Newton.

Evening Kansan Republican, 25 April 1911, p. 1.

Evening Kansan Republican, 25 April 1911, p. 1.

According to the editor of the Evening Kansan Republican;

never before in history has a city of the size of Newton undertaken such a tremendous project as bringing a real aviation tournament” to the community.

The Moisant International Aviators had been touring the United States for five months.  Rene Barrier and Rene Simon, French aviators, and Capt. John J. Frisbie and Joe Seymour of the United States would be in Newton to demonstrate the planes. The editor of the Evening Kansan Republican declared that Newton was “offering a treat to all Kansas” by hosting this event.

The newspaper editor described the skill of the participants.  Capt. Frisbie, an officer of the United States Aero Reserves, was “one of the most daring biplane operators.”  Another “noted air-pilot,” Joe Seymour, was a “famed auto racer who has taken to aviation.”  

Rene Barrier, Evening Kansan Republican, 25 April 1911, p. 1

Rene Barrier, Evening Kansan Republican, 25 April 1911, p. 1

Frenchman, Rene Barrier was perhaps the most well known at the time.  He was known as “the greatest altitude and cross country flyer” and in November 1910, he had broken the “world’s speed records when flying in a cross city race over Memphis, Tenn.” 

Rene Barrier “starting,” 27 April 1911. Photo by L.W. Sherer. Postcard, HCHM Collection.

Barrier’s machine was a “racing Moisant monoplane” that could travel from 50-70 miles an hour.

The Meet was held at the large open area north of Newton known as the  “golf links.”

Rene Barrier, Aviator at Newton, KS, 27 April  1911. Postcard, HCHM Collection.


Evening Kansan Republican, 27 April 1911, p. 1.

Evening Kansan Republican, 27 April 1911, p. 1.

The next day, the Evening Kansan Republican reported that a crowd of 8,000 spectators, with around 2,000 from out of town, came out to the field to watch the dare devils.

Scenes from the Day

Aviation Meet, Newton, Ks, 27 April 1911. Postcard, HCHM Collection.


Rene Simon above Spectators at Aviation Meet, Newton, Ks 27 April 1911. Postcard, HCHM Collection.


Aviation Meet, 27 April 1911. Postcard, HCHM Collection.

Curious about Newton’s first airport? Our post next week will explore aviation in Newton during the 1920-40s.


  • Evening Kansan Republican: 19 April 1911, 20 April 1911, 25 April 1911, 26 April 1911, 27 April 1911, 2 May 1911
  • Newton Kansas: Past & Present, Progress & Prosperity, 1911. HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • Unruh, Ernest A. “Newton’s First Airport” undated document, Airport File, HCHM Archives, Newton, Ks

‘What Did It Say To You?” the Art of Vernon Rickman

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Recently, we were pleased to receive a painting by local artist, Vernon R. Rickman, for our collection.  Rickman worked at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for more than 30 years.

He began as technician in 1958. At the time of his retirement in January 1981 he was a senior sculpture. One of many projects he worked on was the Neanderthal figures for the permanent exhibit “Ice Age Mammals and the Emergence of Man.” He later recalled this was one of his favorite projects.  Another project involved preparing full-sized mannequins of Pat Nixon, Betty Ford and Rosalynn Carter for the First Ladies Hall in the National Museum of American History.

During that time, he also painted privately.    His body of work included over 300 oil paintings, in addition to sculptures and reliefs. The collection was donated to the Carriage Factory Art Gallery in Newton, Ks.  One was also given HCHM for our collection of local Harvey County Artists.

Painting by Vernon Rickman. HCHM 2017.1

Vernon Reid Rickman was born in Newton on August 4, 1929 to Theodore and Mattie Jordan Rickman.  He had three sisters and a brother.

Shirley Elliott, a cousin remembered that “he always had a pencil in his hand.” 

At Newton High School he was fortunate to have Marie Orr as an art teacher.  She recognized his talent and encouraged him to explore different mediums throughout high school.  As a senior in 1947 he won the Scholastic art contest and spent a semester at the Cleveland School of Art.

Vernon Rickman. Photo courtesy Julian Wall, Find-A-Grave Memorial Marker #127049881.

After nearly 2 years in the U.S. Army, he enrolled at the University of Kansas. In 1957, he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  He began graduate studies at the Kansas City Art Institute, but quit to “earn a living” at the Smithsonian Institution.

After he retired, Rickman returned to Newton where he continued to paint.  A nephew, Michael Scott recalled one visit to Rickman’s home soon after;

“I looked at paintings everywhere . . . paintings in the basement . . . paintings everywhere.  He was painting all the time.”

In 2007, Rickman had a show of his private work at Bethel College.

Vernon died at Kansas Christian Home in Newton on December 27, 2013 at the age of 84.

Examples of his work  can be found at the Carriage Factory Art Gallery, with some available for sale. The Carriage Factory Art Gallery is located at 128 E. 6th, Newton, Ks.

In a conversation about his work with his nephew Ted Scott, who asked, “Where did this come from?” 

Rickman  replied, “you had to figure it out for yourself-what did it say to  you?”


  • Buller, Beverley Olson. “Vernon Rickman Life Sketch,” 2016.
  • “Vernon Rickman” Find-A-Grave Memorial #127049881.

From the Collection: ’51 Ford Trucks

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A recent addition to the HCHM’s collection of business advertising was this cloth banner.

Advertising Banner for ’51 Ford Trucks

The banner was used to promote the 1951 Ford Truck at the Nordstrom-Mack Auto Dealership located at 200 West Broadway in Newton.

1947 view of 200 West Broadway, Newton, and the Nordstrom-Mack Ford Dealership. Sign reads: “No parking During School Hours Except for Loading and Unloading.

The banner was donated to HCHM by Carol Hoffer.  Her father, Leonard Hoffer, worked as a mechanic for the dealership.

Nordstrom- Mack Ford Dealership, 200 West Broadway, Newton, 1949.

Nordstrom Mack Motor Co, was a Ford dealer for new and used cars in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  The description in the 1952  Newton City Directory also noted that the business was equipped to handle “body repairs and painting -all makes of cars.”

Driver-training class and police officers pose in front of NHS. Nordstrom-Mack Dealership visible.

The company was run by Albert E. Nordstrom (president), Herbert H. Mack (vice president), and Newton O. Ream (sec/treas).  W.E. Hummel was the manager.

Construction in front of NHS, 1954. Nordstrom-Mack Dealership visible.


Newton City Directory: 1952