Art Smith and Aimee Cour couldn’t marry in Indiana. They could marry in Michigan, but they had to get there. Fortunately for them, Art was a pilot!
In 1912, Art Smith of Fort Wayne, Indiana had gained renown as a stunt pilot. He flew in circuses and exhibitions. His skills, however, did not impress the parents of his girlfriend, Aimee Cour. They deemed Art’s profession to be dangerous. They also felt that nineteen-year old Art and eighteen-year old Aimee were too young to marry.
Because of their young ages, Art and Aimee would need parental consent to marry in Indiana. Michigan, however, had no such law. The couple decided to elope across the state line. Aimee worried that they’d never make it. She knew that her parents were watching them. Art told her that nothing could catch an airplane.
The two set out for Hillsdale, Michigan in late October, 1912. They reached Hillsdale College, and Art then tried to land in a field on campus. He soon discovered that he couldn’t move the ailerons (small flaps used to balance the airplane.). They may have malfunctioned or, perhaps, Art’s hands and feet were too cold to effectively operate the controls. In any case, the plane crashed. It landed in a soft cornfield and turned completely over. Art and Aimee were thrown from the plane, which was now a complete wreck.
A number of bystanders rushed to the crash site. One of these was a driver who was delivering a mattress to a furniture store. The driver and two helpers put Art and Aimee on the mattress and carried them away. At that time, Hillsdale had no hospital, so the couple was taken to a hotel. They awoke there several hours later. Eventually, someone procured a minister, and the two were married from a hotel bed. It was history’s first aerial elopement.
The newlyweds spent another three weeks recovering in the hotel. Their parents, happy to see them alive, forgave them. All seemed to end well.
Of course, the future often unfolds in unforeseen ways. Art continued his work as a pilot and gained national celebrity status. This placed a strain on his marriage, and the couple legally divorced in 1917. Aimee eventually remarried; Art did not.
On February 12, 1926, Art Smith was flying an air route between Chicago and Bryan, Ohio. He was flying at night and encountered some foul weather. His plane crashed, killing him. He was thirty-two years old.
The information for this article comes from Rachel S. Roberts’ book, Art Smith: Pioneer Aviator (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2003). This author obtained a copy quickly through MeLCat, the Michigan eLibrary’s online catalog. MeL provides valuable resources for Michigan citizens. Click www.mel.org to visit the MeL homepage.