Los Angeles and Early Commercial Airline Travel

The late 1920s included a proliferation of small, independent airlines cropping up throughout the United States. One of the main emerging markets was the Los Angeles region, which had plenty of open space and unparalleled weather to assist in the development of the commercial air travel industry.

Among the many airlines to open in the era was Maddux Air Lines, Incorporated, founded in September 1927 by Jack Maddux, a Los Angeles car dealer specializing in Ford automobiles. This was just four months after Charles Lindbergh completed his famed trans-Atlantic solo flight that made him a worldwide name and boosted the prospects of commercial airline travel.

Maddux, not surprisingly, developed a fleet of Ford tri-motor airplanes for his venture and, on April 14, 1928, the inaugural flight was made from Los Angeles to San Francisco. By the time the folder spotlighted here was published that July, Maddux claimed that “thousands of passengers have been carried luxuriously” in the company’s cadre of Ford planes.

By the middle of 1929, the firm flew 16 planes with service to several California cities and a few locales in Baja California and Phoenix, Arizona. While business grew, Maddux coveted a government air mail contract for steady income, but was unable to secure it on his own.

Consequently, a partnership was formed with Transcontinental Air-Transport, formed in 1928, and who counted Lindbergh as one of its principal investors, along with film stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. The airline was hardly transcontinental, as direct travel from the West Coast got as far as New Mexico and, even then, conditions were rudimentary and flights often late.

The merged company, known as TAT-Maddux, was incorporated just weeks after the stock market crash of October 1929 and another partner, Western Air Express, another Los Angeles-based company, joined in July 1930. Rechristened Transcontinental and Western Airlines, with the Maddux name discarded, the new firm was far more successful and, as the jet age and international air travel loomed, the company was reconstituted in 1950 as Trans-World Airlines (TWA), one of the most famous airlines in the industry, until its 2001 merger with American Airlines.

As for Jack Maddux, who once dreamed of a $10 million empire spanning the country, he died following a heart attack in 1937 shortly after his 49th birthday and is largely a forgotten figure in early Los Angeles aviation history.


Just in time for summer travels! Thanks to the Homestead’s Assistant Director, Paul R. Spitzzeri, for this contribution. 

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