Donna Montran Biplane Flights – 1915

Originally Published: Oct 29, 2015
UPDATED: May 20, 2021

The Boston Glove –  July 22, 1915, Page 8

TO FLY OVER COMMON

Miss Donna Montran Expects to Drop Pennants and Tickets for Show From Biplane,
Miss Donna Montran, one of the pretty “belles of 1861” in “The Birth of a Nation,” at the Tremont Theatre, is anticipating the time of her life this afternoon, when she expects to make two round trips between Saugus and Boston Common with Capt J. Chauncey Redding in his biplane, incidentally showering “Birth of a Nation” pennants and free tickets for the Tremont Theatre on the heads of the crowd that will witness the flight from the Common. The two flights over the Common in the vicinity of the Tremont Theatre are scheduled, one for about 1:30, or not long after, the other a short time before the matinee performance is over, probably about 4:30. During the first flight the biplane will circle about above the State House dome.
Miss Montran will be attired similarly to the lobby girls at the Tremont Theatre, though without the hoopskirt. She will drop 100 pennants on the Common, 25 of which will have tickets for the theatre attached to them. The distribution will take place during both flights, and those who capture the tickets will be able to see “The Birth of a Nation” free of cost.

Sadly, she wasn’t able to make that flight.  The theatre was unable to get approval for the flight over Boston Common and the State House. They did, however, get approval to drop the pennants over Revere Beach the following Day. This was a really big deal and the Boston Globe covered it with a photo article on July 23rd.

Source: Boston Globe 23 July 1915, pg 5 – “Free Tickets From the Sky” via Newspaperarchive.com

According to the article, rather than wearing a Tremont Theatre lobby girl’s outfit as reported she would the day before, she wore an aviator’s trim costume. Also, the article says, “On the descent of the machine Miss Montran expressed herself as delighted with her 50 minutes in the air.”
There were articles in other papers including The Boston Herald, 23 July 1915.
Boston Herald, July 23, 1915
Via Genealogy Bank
“Actress Make Two Flights in Biplane.”  She flew in Capt. J. Chauncey Redding biplane on July 22nd.

A google search for J. Chauncey Redding yielded a photo of the plane.  The photo was taken the week of 6 September, just six weeks after Donna’s flights.  If you wonder how dangerous was it to fly in a biplane in 1915, the pilot, Capt. J. Chauncey Redding, died on October 21st when his biplane collapsed while in midair while over the Lynn, MA, marshes.

Washington Herald
August 15, 1915
Via Library of Congress
Another article appeared in the Washington Herald a few weeks later.  That article indicates that the plane was a Burgess-Wright aeroplane as reported in Aerial Age Weekly. It also mentions that Miss Montran was, “delighted with her fifty minutes in the air.”
I was able to find Aerial Age Weekly online at Google Books. The Washington Herald article is a reprint of the same article and provides no additional information..
J. Chauncey Redding’s aeroplane on the beach, Week of 6 September 1915. (about six weeks after Donna’s Flight) — Photo Courtesy: Gertrude Palmer.
From HAMPTON: A CENTURY OF TOWN AND BEACH, 1888-1988 by Peter Evans Randall
Finally, I was able to find a photo on Wikimedia photo of the Wright Model B which was licensed to Burgess to make the Burgess-Wright Model F.  This was the exact type of aircraft J. Chauncey Redding used during Donna’s flight.
Burgess-Wright Model F – Photo © Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GDFL

Update 20 May 2021

Donna’s stunt not only made the local newspapers, it was also reported in both Moving Picture World and in Pictures and the Picturegoer.

Moving Picture World – August 21, 1915, Page 1306

We do not like to realize that there is anyone in the Hub who has not seen “The Birth of a Nation,” which I have had the good fortune to see several times, always finding something new and wonderful to fill the eye. The last weeks are announced. A novelty in the way of advertising this picture was put forth the other day when one of the pretty girls of ’61, gowned as in the play, went up in an aeroplane and scattered pennants, some of them having free tickets. She was dainty Donna Montran.

Pictures and the Picturegoer – 4 September 1915, Page 420.

Donna Montran. a player in The Birth of a Nation (a picture we all hope to see) has been making aeroplane-flights and dropping pennants bearing the sign, The Birth of a Nation, to which were attached free passes, and worth picking up.

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