We recently mentioned Schenectady’s aviation pioneer Victor A. Rickard, who not only managed the airport but gave flying demonstrations and lessons all over the area. But we missed that he was also involved in a fashion first, combining promotion for the nascent Schenectady Airport at Thomas Corners in Glenville with an air express shipment for the Carl Company department store. The Gazette reported on it on June 14, 1927:
Within three hours after exclusive summer fashions had been completed by leading New York designers they were on display in Schenectady late yesterday afternoon.
In this manner the Carl Company gave a tremendous impetus to the country-wide campaign to demonstrate the feasibility of commercial air transportation and play its part in the opening of the financial drive for the adequate equipment of the municipal airport at Thomas’ Corners.
The plane which made the trip was the Carl Company “Special Air Express” and the pilot was Victor A. Rickard, the local veteran birdman. Pilot Rickard was accompanied on the trip by F.E. Baldwin of the Gazette reportorial staff.
The “special” made its departure from Schenectady early yesterday and arrived at Fokker field on the outskirts of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., less than two hours later. Here the plane was held in readiness until the merchandise was speedily dispatched from New York to the airdrome. Leaving the designers shortly after 1 o’clock, the merchandise was placed aboard the plane shortly before 2 o’clock. Then with a roar of the propeller, a brief taxi over the Fokker field runways, the plane leaped away on its journey northward.
Notwithstanding that the trip up the Hudson was against a strong head wind the plane nosed into Port Schenectady shortly after 4 o’clock. The merchandise was immediately loaded into an automobile truck and taken to the Carl store. Within a half hour after the arrival here the fashions were on display in one of Carl Company’s windows. This s believed to be a precedent in regard to the speedy shipment of merchandise and its consequential display in northern New York. It also marked the initial air express shipment of merchandise to arrive at the local port.
Lest you think that the miracle of one-day delivery is something Amazon.com cooked up, consider that window dressing wasn’t the only thing that Rickard brought north that day.
“As the result of yesterday’s trip of the Carl Company air express there are two Schenectadians who will attest to the advantages of commercial aviation. William W. Patten, 1178 Glenwood boulevard, had placed with the Carl Company an order for a special golf ball. He wanted them in a hurry, and he obtained them in a hurry. They were in his hands in less than 11 minutes after the plane arrived at the Schenectady airport.
Yesterday morning Mrs. W.L. Fodder of 72 Union street placed with the Carl Company an order for hosiery of a special color. Special orders were telephoned to the manufacturers in New York and the goods were rushed to the Carl airplane at the Fokker field. As in the case of Mr. Patten, the hosiery was delivered to Mrs. Fodder in a similarly short time after the special express ship arrived.”
While they were at Fokker field, Rickard and Baldwin got to view the Fokker airplane manufacturing plant, including an army bomber then under construction that would carry six machine guns, four tons of bombs, and four passengers, at a cost of $125,000. (That’s about $1.76 million in today’s dollars (the new B-21 bomber is expected to cost $606 million, each).
Charles W. Carl, head of the Carl Company, said that he was convinced that commercial aviation in regard to the delivery of express merchandise was entirely feasible and “bound to play a prominent part in department store business.” He said that ordinary speedy delivery was 15-16 hours from New York.
General Electric had moving picture photographers on hand to capture the plane as it landed, along with its unloading. “These pictures will be shown at Proctor’s Theater within a few days, the date to be announced tomorrow.”