The Wedell-Williams Air Service Comes to New Orleans

Stop 1 of 7 in the Wedell-Williams Airport in Jefferson Parish tour

The Wedell-Williams Air Service originated on May 1, 1929, a time in which American aviation was full of potential. As increasing numbers of people attained pilot’s licenses, more air routes came into existence, and airplane exports increased. Originally operating out of the Wedell-Williams Airport in Patterson, Louisiana, the company set up a new location in New Orleans to expand their business.

James Wedell, the President of the air service, had previously worked for James Menefee of Menefee Airways in New Orleans. Harry Williams, Vice President of the Air Service and major financial backer of the company, bought out the company, gaining Menefee's airfield and equipment.

The Wedell-Williams Air Service used the Menefee Airfield in St. Bernard Parish while the new Wedell-Williams Airport was under construction in Jefferson Parish. The air service provided flight education and passenger service from its temporary home until the new airport was ready in 1931.

Images

1920's New Orleans

1920's New Orleans

This bustling city had two airports: Alvin Callendar Airfield and the Menefee Airport. This would be the environment in which the Wedell-Williams Air Service would operate. Photo courtesy of the E.F. Newman Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans. View File Details Page

Jimmie Wedell at Menefee Airways

Jimmie Wedell at Menefee Airways

Automobile entrepreneur James Menefee started Menefee Airways, which performed many of the same services as any other air service companies. (Wedell is in the far left of the photo). Image Courtesy of the Wedell Williams Memorial Foundation and the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

Daredevil and The Nerve Girl

Daredevil and The Nerve Girl

The Menefee Airport in St. Bernard Parish had its share of excitement before the Wedell-Williams Air Service arrived. In early 1929, Miss Babe Smith suspended herself from a plane with silk stockings before doing a parachute jump. Air shows often featured dangerous stunts such as this. Image courtesy of The Times-Picayune. View File Details Page

Jimmie Wedell

Jimmie Wedell

Texas-born Wedell had engineering skills and a penchant for danger from an early age. Though a motorcycle accident left him blind in one eye, he learned how to fly and sharpened his skills transporting rumrunners and weapons across the Mexican border during World War I. After the war, he and his brother, Walter, worked for Menefee Airways. On a sales trip, Wedell met his future friend, Harry Williams. Image Courtesy of the Wedell-Williams Memorial Foundation and the Louisiana State Museum View File Details Page

Patterson's Lumber Man

Patterson's Lumber Man

Harry Williams met Jimmy Wedell at a plane demonstration in Patterson, Louisiana. Wedell taught Williams how to fly and convinced the lumber man of his aerial genius. Williams put great faith in Wedell and a lot of money into the air service. Image courtesy of the E.F. Newman Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans View File Details Page

The Wedell-Williams Air Service Logo

The Wedell-Williams Air Service Logo

This emblem went on every plane in the air service's fleet and on every worker's jumpsuit. Image courtesy of the E.F. Newman Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans View File Details Page

The Alabama Air Tour

The Alabama Air Tour

The air service publicized itself in air races and tours, which allowed the company to advertise. Image Courtesy of the E.F. Newman Collection, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Teresa M. Thessen, “The Wedell-Williams Air Service Comes to New Orleans,” New Orleans Historical, accessed March 28, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/678.

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