Archives On The Air 146: Barnstorming—Neil Taylor McMillan Papers

Apr 29, 2019

At the end of World War I the U.S. government had a surplus of small planes. They sold them for low prices. Many former fighter pilots bought the planes and became barnstormers.

Barnstormers traveled the country in shows called flying circuses. They performed death-defying stunts like diving straight down at night with only a flashlight to see the ground or even playing tennis on the wings. It was a risky sport and some stunts were deadly.

Many Americans had never seen airplanes before seeing barnstormers perform.

Neil Taylor McMillan from Denver was a pilot during World War I and then a barnstormer. Later in life he flew planes for the postal service and wrote adventure stories for kids.

You can relive the barnstorming age in the Neil Taylor McMillan papers at UW's American Heritage Center.