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Glenn L. Martin

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Glenn L. Martin

Glenn L. Martin
Glenn L. Martin in pusher-biplane, circa 1912 (note the newspapers stacked on wing; Martin delivered newspapers as a part of his promotional efforts to fund his first plant)
Born Glenn Luther Martin
January 17, 1886
Macksburg, Iowa
Died December 5, 1955(1955-12-05) (aged 69)
Baltimore, Maryland
Known for Aviation pioneer
Awards Daniel Guggenheim Medal (1940)

Glenn Luther Martin (January 17, 1886 – December 5, 1955) was an American aviation pioneer. He designed and built his own aircraft and was an active pilot. He founded his own aircraft company in 1912 which today through several mergers is amalgamated into the Lockheed Martin company.[1]

Early years

Glenn L. Martin was born in Macksburg, Iowa, on January 17, 1886 to Minta Martin and her husband. At the age of two, Martin's family moved to Salina, Kansas, so that his father could run a wheat farm. By age six, he became interested in kites, but at first his friends made fun of box-kites he built. When the kites flew well, people paid him twenty-five cents to build one for them. He turned his mother's kitchen into a "factory" to produce more kites. Martin also began using sails on everything from ice skates to wagons, and even his bicycle to move faster with less effort. [2]

Aviation career begins

As he grew up, he became fascinated with flight, first with kites, then later the Wright brothers' airplane. In 1909 he decided to build one himself based on the Curtiss June Bug,[3] but it was destroyed on the first test flight. For his next effort, Martin used silk and bamboo in the aircraft's construction. This airplane made a short flight. Martin was often assisted by his mother Minta Martin holding a lamp in the building of his first few airplanes.

Over water record

On May 10, 1912, Martin flew a self-built seaplane from Newport Bay, California to Avalon on Catalina Island, then back across the channel. This broke the earlier English Channel record for over-water flight. Martin's total distance was 68 miles (109 km), with the Newport-Avalon leg taking 37 minutes.[4] He picked up a bag of mail on the island on the way, and was presented with $100 ($2300 in 2011) prize for his achievement. In 1913, Martin was not as fortunate while competing in the Great Lakes Reliability Cruise, a 900 miles (1,400 km) race of seaplanes around the Great Lakes. Martin's pontoon hit a wave at high speed and low altitude, causing the plane to somersault, and sink to the bottom with Martin, who escaped and attempted to salvage the plane to finish the race.[5]


Kenneth Douglas, aviator Glenn Martin, and Mary Pickford in the silent comedy A Girl of Yesterday (Famous Players-Lasky, 1915). A Martin Model TT biplane is behind them.

In 1912, Glenn L. Martin built an airplane factory in an old Methodist church in Los Angeles, California. To make money to finance this business, he began to stunt fly at fairs and local airfields. He saw an advertisement for a pilot/airplane owner to play a role in a movie. Sensing an opportunity to market his airplanes, he replied to the ad and got the part. He was to play the role of a dashing hero in the movie A Girl of Yesterday (1915) starring Mary Pickford. He soon found that it would be harder than he thought. In addition to flying Pickford around in his airplane, he had a scene where he had to kiss Frances Marion, who later became a legendary Hollywood screenwriter. Martin in describing his hesitance having to kiss Marion declared "my mother would not like it" which astounded Pickford. He worked up the courage however after persuasion by Paramount boss Adolph Zukor and completed the scene.[6][7]


Martin held a record for longest American over-water flight, 66 miles. His company designed aircraft for the military, including bombers for both world wars. An early success came during World War I with production of the MB-1 bomber. The MB-2 and others were also successful. In 1932, Martin won the Collier Trophy for his involvement with the Martin B-10 bomber.


He founded the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912. In 1916 he merged his company with the original Wright Company, forming the Wright-Martin Aircraft Company. He soon left and founded a second Glenn L. Martin Company in 1917. That company merged with the American-Marietta Corporation in 1961, becoming the Martin Marietta Corporation. This company merged with the Lockheed Corporation in 1995, forming Lockheed Martin, a major U.S. aerospace and defense contractor. In the 1940s, towards the end of Martin's life, he and his beloved and now aged mother Minta were photographed touring the Martin facilities in Baltimore and celebrating Martin's success as one of the captains in the aviation industry.

The Glenn L. Martin Company moves to Maryland

In 1925, the Industrial Bureau contacted Glenn Martin at his plant in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the Bureau's job to attract Martin to Maryland. After speaking with Martin, a site in Middle River was chosen. From this point it was a three-year-long struggle to acquire the land needed from forty-five property owners. This struggle involved convincing the citizens that this was going to become a booming industry and would provide many jobs in the area. At the end, only one man stood in the way: an old fisherman who was determined not to sell. After a few discussions with the man, he still refused. An oddity then occurred when the man contacted Martin and told him he was willing to sell. Martin met the man, made a deal, and shook hands. Later, the man regretted the decision but stated that a deal is a deal and that he was a man of his word. At that point, in 1928, the Glenn L. Martin Company moved to Maryland, bringing hundreds of much needed jobs, an airport, and a booming aviation industry.[8]


He died on December 5, 1955 in Baltimore, Maryland.[1]

Schools by Glenn L. Martin

Martin's donations to the University of Maryland, College Park, created the Glenn L. Martin Institute of Technology, which includes the School of Engineering. The University's wind tunnel also bears Martin's name.

He attended the Kansas Wesleyan business college in Salina, Kansas. Kansas Wesleyan University is home of the Glenn L. Martin stadium.


  1. ^ a b "Glenn L. Martin Dies of Stroke. Pioneer Pilot and Designer, 69. Early Barnstormer Built First Plane in 1909 of Bamboo. Aided Navy and Air Force Glenn L. Martin, Aviation Pioneer, Dies".  
  2. ^ Glenn Martin Industrialist, National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 10, 2009
  3. ^ Yenne. The pictorial History of American Aircraft. 
  4. ^ The San Francisco Call (May 11, 1912). "Old Ocean Defied by Daring Aviator". Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  5. ^ "Flying Boats have hard time". Ludington Daily News. 26 June 1913. 
  6. ^ Law, Aline. "Glenn L. Martin," Baltimore Sun. April 13, 1947.
  7. ^ Mary Pickford Rediscovered by Kevin Brownlow and Robert Cushman c.1999
  8. ^ "People In The News." Baltimore (May 1937).
  • Glenn Martin flies to Avalon to celebrate a 25-year-old record. LIFE May 10, 1937. pg 30
  • From Barnstorming to Bombers. Popular Science Sep 1941. pg 51
  • U.S. Patent D134,875, Design for a lapel pin or the like
  • U.S. Patent 1,165,891, Packed parachute
  • U.S. Patent 2,411,382, Docking flying boats
  • U.S. Patent 2,147,795, Aircraft construction

External links

  • Martin's biography at the GLM Maryland Aviation Museum
  • Kites to Bombers (Time Magazine, May 29, 1939)
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