Aerospace Legacy Foundation

Your portal to America's aerospace history

Aerospace Legacy Foundation (ALF) is a community based non-profit organization (501c3) including aerospace retirees and the public at large. Preserving Southern California's Aerospace and Aviation History including Downey's aerospace legacy.

EMSCO Aircraft Corporation

Downey California, 1929 Rancher James Hughan sold 70 acres of land to E.M. Smith in 1929 which would become EMSCO Aircraft. By late 1932 Security Aircraft's Bert Kinner leased the plant. By 1933, with the Great Depression in full swing, Kinner had moved out. From Vultee Aircraft to Rockwell International and Boeing, this small spot of land would send men to the Moon and help produce the Space Shuttle orbiter!

Downey California, 1929

Rancher James Hughan sold 70 acres of land to E.M. Smith in 1929 which would become EMSCO Aircraft. By late 1932 Security Aircraft's Bert Kinner leased the plant. By 1933, with the Great Depression in full swing, Kinner had moved out. From Vultee Aircraft to Rockwell International and Boeing, this small spot of land would send men to the Moon and help produce the Space Shuttle orbiter!

EMSCO Aircraft aerial view 1929 in Downey, CA. Alameda St. is seen in the upper left passing Alameda School. passing in front of the EMSCO plant is Cerritos Ave., now Lakewood Blvd. Image- Downey Historical Society

EMSCO Aircraft aerial view 1929 in Downey, CA. Alameda St. is seen in the upper left passing Alameda School. passing in front of the EMSCO plant is Cerritos Ave., now Lakewood Blvd. Image- Downey Historical Society

E.M. Smith

E.M. Smith

EMSCO logo

"Emsco Aircraft Company Launched"- September, 1929

Oakland Tribune, September, 1929.

Oakland Tribune, September, 1929.

 

In 1929, a wealthy industrialist named E.M. Smith purchased a 73 acre parcel from James Hughan, who farmed oranges and castor beans on the site. Smith's EMSCO company had a division called Albatross, which manufactured small aircraft. In addition to manufacturing aircraft, Smith saw the former farm land in Downey as a perfect landing field. The oldest buildings on the Downey Site were built in 1929 to support the aircraft manufacturing effort. In 1932, with the Great Depression lagging and poor sales, EMSCO leased the site to Champion Aircraft Corporation who manufactured small, inexpensive 2 seaters meant to fly at low altitudes and low (as little as 10 mph) speeds. Seven months later, Champion also left the site due to poor sales, and the site was leased to Security National Aircraft Corporation. Security was owned by Walter "Bert" Kinner, who designed and built 2 planes for Amelia Earhart.

 

E.M. Smith October, 7, 1923 (LA Times)

E.M. Smith October, 7, 1923 (LA Times)

EMSCO Aircraft
The Los Angeles Times Sun Jun 23,1929. "Emsco begins production."

The Los Angeles Times Sun Jun 23,1929. "Emsco begins production."

EMSCo aircraft flyer

"EMSCO Aircraft was a short-lived division of the E.M. Smith Company (best-known for producing equipment for the oil industry). In 1928, Smith's company bought the Zenith Aircraft Corporation of Long Beach, California, and transformed it into the EMSCO Aircraft Corporation.

Zenith had been formed to develop a range of highly efficient transport aircraft (all powered by Ryan/Siemens-Halske radial engines). [1] These transports were to be made in 3-, 6-, and 12-seat models. 
While constructing a new facility at Downey, CA, the new EMSCO Aircraft Corp. continued Albatross development at the former Zenith plant in Long Beach. In 1929, EMSCO relocated to its new facility -- EMSCO Field at Downey".


 

The Los Angeles Times Sun, Nov. 10, 1929 EMSCO plant opens in Downey, CA.

The Los Angeles Times Sun, Nov. 10, 1929 EMSCO plant opens in Downey, CA.

"At some point prior to January 1930, the EMSCO Aero Engine Co. was also established to pursue diesel engine development under the former head of NACA's Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Leigh M. Griffith. 
EMSCO continued to develop aircraft designs until 1931 but was considered a 'hard luck'  firm. As with many aviation companies, the Great Depression put paid to EMSCO Aircraft Corporation. Some of the design rights stayed with Rocheville (who continued to develop his Arctic Tern amphibian design into 1933).
The EMSCO facility at Downey was leased first in 1931 to Champion Aircraft Corporation of America, in 1933 to Security National Aircraft Corporation (Walter (Bert) Kinner's attempt at aircraft production), before Vultee returned to this site in 1936".

 

EMSCO brochure

Cradle of the Cosmic Age

"When it comes time to memorialize the origins of space flight, there is an industrial plant in Downey, Calif., that would certainly qualify as a shrine. This Downey plant was the birthplace, homestead and laboratory for much of America's wondrous space technology- the Space Age's equivalent of Orville and Wilbur's bicycle shop. It is here in Downey that space structure, guidance and power were prominently pioneered. And it is here that the celebrated Apollo command was created and manufactured". Read more about EMSCO Aircraft and Downey's role in America's aerospace history. More here...

EMSCO's E.M. Smith spent thousands to get his fledgling company off the ground. But, the Depression of 1929 stopped him cold.

EMSCO's E.M. Smith spent thousands to get his fledgling company off the ground. But, the Depression of 1929 stopped him cold.

EMSCO Challenger

EMSCO Challenger

EMSCO B-8 Flying Wing. E.M. Smith on the left.

EMSCO B-8 Flying Wing. E.M. Smith on the left.

Emsco "flying wing".

Emsco "flying wing".

Emsco Flying Wing in 1930.

Emsco Flying Wing in 1930.

E.M. Smith (2nd from right) meets with Downey officials, 1933.

E.M. Smith (2nd from right) meets with Downey officials, 1933.

EMSCO Aircraft at 12214 Lakewood Blvd. in Downey, CA in 1929. This building (a portion of) still stands.

EMSCO Aircraft at 12214 Lakewood Blvd. in Downey, CA in 1929. This building (a portion of) still stands.

Read Memories of Uncle Ed, by Pat Kearns, about E.M. Smith, growing up in Downey and much more...

Memories of Uncle Ed (E.M. Smith of EMSCO)

E.M. Smith Patented Starting Gate for Starting Running Horse Races with Rubber Safety Barrier Manufactured by Globe Oil Tools Company, Los Nietos, Calif.  

E.M. Smith Patented Starting Gate for Starting Running Horse Races with Rubber Safety Barrier Manufactured by Globe Oil Tools Company, Los Nietos, Calif.

 

EMSCO Asbestos employees November, 1933. This business was in Downey, California.  

EMSCO Asbestos employees November, 1933. This business was in Downey, California.

 

 

"E. M. Smith was a Pennsylvanian, born in Pittsburg (as it was then spelled) in 1881. He came west for clean air and room enough for his great ambition. A family fortune derived from an oil-well drill-bit patent allowed him to pursue several ventures before he formed the first of his EMSCO companies in 1911 to manufacture transmission belting, rubber products, and brake linings. The latter line developed into a separate business, EMSCO Asbestos. And then the EMSCO's multiplied like rabbits: There were soon the EMSCO Refractories Company, the EMSCO Derrick and Equipment Company, the EMSCO Aero Engine Company, and the EMSCO Aircraft Corporation. It was his aviation-related units that seemed to capture Smith's interest the most. In the late '20s he bought a 73-acre ranch in Downey and built an airport with two runways and an assembly plant to manufacture a full line of land and amphibious aircraft. Special orders included eight bombers for the Mexican government (bombers for Mexico?) and a stunt plane for a Romanian prince. EMSCO Aircraft was well capitalized and able to attract some of the best talent in the industry, including Gerald Vultee, whose initial would later become the "V" in Convair (the contraction of "Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft"). The Depression, however, slowed orders to the point that it became more profitable for Smith to lease his facilities to other firms. It wasn't as though E. M. didn't have other businesses to attend to, however—not only were there the other EMSCOs, there were now the D&B Pump and Supply Company, the Peerless Pump Company, the National Tools and Metals Company, and his presidency of the Pacific National Bank. Even pushing 40, E. M. would probably have been content to work hard and play the field—but then he met a wily woman with a big bear trap, the woman behind 33 Berkeley Square." More on E.M. Smith's fascinating life.

EMSCO Oil Derrick Company. Image- Downey Historical Society.

EMSCO Oil Derrick Company. Image- Downey Historical Society.

More Information on Industrialist E.M. Smith

The Los Angeles Times - Saturday Feb. 29 1936- Emsco Chief Indicted

The Los Angeles Times - Saturday Feb. 29 1936- Emsco Chief Indicted

REMEMBERING EDWARD MORRIS SMITH (E.M. SMITH)

Stonewood Shopping Center in Downey. The Los Angeles Times Sun. Dec. 1, 1957. E.Morris Smith is E.M. Smith, the man who built Emsco Aircraft in Downey.    

Stonewood Shopping Center in Downey. The Los Angeles Times Sun. Dec. 1, 1957. E.Morris Smith is E.M. Smith, the man who built Emsco Aircraft in Downey.

 

 

Remembering Edward Morris Smith (E.M. Smith)

E.M. Smith and his Chain of EMSCO Corporations. LA Times Jan. 1, 1925

E.M. Smith and his Chain of EMSCO Corporations. LA Times Jan. 1, 1925

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33 Berkeley Square-

The Curious Story E.M. Smith and his wife Marian McGuire Smith

E.M. Smith and wife Catherine.

E.M. Smith and wife Catherine.

Aerospace Legacy Foundation

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