Today, airplanes and Flora Loughead. The University
of Houston's College of Engineering presents this
series about the machines that make our
civilization run, and the people whose ingenuity
Flora Haines was born in
Milwaukee in 1855. She graduated from Lincoln
University in Illinois and began writing for
various western magazines and San Francisco papers.
She also married a Californian and moved to San
Francisco, where she wrote her first book,
Libraries of California -- now a
But the marriage ended. In 1886 she wrote a
Hand-book of Natural Science and then
married John Loughead (spelled L O U G H E A
D). After that, she became a prominent fiction
writer, with books like The Man Who was
Guilty and The Black Curtain. Her
marriage to Loughead also ended, and she married a
third time when she was 53.
Her son by the first marriage, Victor, was a noted
American automotive engineer, strongly interested
in flight. Soon after the Wright brothers flew, he
wrote two books on airplanes. He worked with
California inventor John
Montgomery on airplane experiments.
Victor's younger half-brothers, Allan and Malcolm
Loughead, followed those interests. Allan became an
automobile mechanic and then learned to fly. He did
some early exhibition stunt flying -- horribly
dangerous work. But he looked at those hopelessly
unsafe airplanes and realized he could do better.
He went back to San Francisco and talked Malcolm
into going into the airplane-building business.
Working part time, Allan and Malcolm Loughead
produced a little seaplane -- a biplane with one
That modest effort turned into a major airplane
factory, making bigger and better seaplanes. They
named the company after themselves and, in 1926,
legally changed their own and their company's name
from the old Scottish spelling of Loughead
into Lockheed. The rest, I suppose, is
But the shadowy figure of their mother, Flora
Haines Loughead, catches my attention -- in and out
of marriages, always writing. An 1898 article in a
Catholic magazine tells us something about her. She
talks about San Francisco's first cathedral, St.
The Jesuits had abandoned the church to a
neighborhood near Market Street. Paulist fathers
made it a base for work among the poor and for
teaching English to Chinese laborers, while the
neighborhood slowly died of crime and prostitution.
Now she points her accusing finger at city hall
with barely-bridled fury.
That same focus and intensity was driving the new
technology of flight. And, by 1900, both Flora and
a younger woman, Harriet
Quimby, were writing feature articles for the
San Francisco Chronicle. Quimby also took
up flying and was the first woman to fly the
English Channel. She died in an air show ten weeks
I don't know whether they talked to one another,
but I'll bet they did. For Flora Loughead, this
mother of the Lockheed company, overlooked by
history, left her mark on the world around her.
Social reform, suffrage, and technology, all
running in overdrive, those were the forces that
formed the new twentieth century.
I'm John Lienhard, at the University of Houston,
where we're interested in the way inventive minds
Lockheed Horizons, Issue Twelve, The
Lockheed Corporation, 7 June 1983, pp. 4-11.
See also the articles on Flora Haines Loughead in
The National Cyclopaedia and The
Dictionary of American Biography.
F. H. Loughead, The Old Cathedral: St. Marys in San
Francisco, CA. The Ave Maria, Vol. XLVII,
No. 24, December 10, 1898.