Local History #tbt Blog - Aeronca, Disney and a Grasshopper Named "Abel"
What do Walt Disney, a grasshopper, and a World War II airplane have in common?
If you answered, “Aeronca of Middletown, Ohio,” congratulations! You’re ready to compete on “Jeopardy!”
During World War II the aircraft manufacturer (now known as Magellan Aerospace) served the country in many ways, including producing the Aeronca Grasshopper, “a light liaison and observation monoplane” (1) used for “artillery spotting, scouting, and air ambulance duties.” (2)
One can imagine such a plane in the midst of war, maneuvering up and down and in and out of tight, dangerous spots -- similar to a jumping grasshopper -- to provide badly needed supplies to troops below.
Such a battle was depicted in an advertisement, reportedly in the October 25, 1943, issue of Life Magazine, in which a pilot flying an Aeronca Grasshopper drops necessities to embattled soldiers. (3)
The ad also contained a sketch of an insect with a big smile and aviator glasses. The little guy was none other than “Abel Grasshopper -- ...trained, seasoned, effective...doing more and more important missions on many fronts” -- the symbol of Aeronca’s nimble, multi-use war plane.
Who drew the sketch? The copyright symbol names legendary Walt Disney (3), whose beloved comic characters did their part to support the troops and the nation in time of war (4).
Abel the Grasshopper not only appeared in advertisements for Aeronca. He was also the subject of a “full-color book to delight the young in heart” entitled “Mr. Grasshopper Wins His Wings.” The public could obtain a copy of the book by sending “10 [cents] in stamps to Dept. L, Aeronca Aircraft Corp., Middletown, Ohio.” (3).
Copies of “Mr. Grasshopper Wins His Wings” may be difficult to find today. A check of WorldCat, “the world’s largest network of library content and services” (5), lists only one copy -- at Princeton University Library in Princeton, New Jersey.
However, the names associated with the book -- Aeronca and Disney -- have played a vital role in American aviation and culture to this day.
A photographic display celebrating Middletown, Ohio’s 78-year relationship with the aviation/aerospace industry will be available for viewing through September at MidPointe Library, Middletown. A companion exhibit on the library’s interactive touchscreen accompanies the exhibit.
The exhibits highlight the history of Aeronca, a longtime Middletown employer now known as Magellan Aerospace. They also recall the vital role that nearby Middletown Regional Airport/Hook Field played in local aviation.
Visitors can find the display just by looking up to the ceiling. A model of the colorful Aeronca 7AC Champion plane is suspended above the library’s Local History and Genealogy Gallery. The 7AC was one of several popular, private-use planes produced in the post-war era at Aeronca-Middletown before the company became a leader in the aerospace industry.
The Aeronca photo and interactive exhibits will be available for viewing Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ; Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ; and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
MidPointe Library Middletown is located at 125 South Broad Street, Middletown.
“Aeronca, a Photo History” by Bob Hollenbaugh and John Houser and “Aeronca C-2, The Story of the Flying Bathtub” by Jay P. Spenser are available for reading in the Ohio Room adjacent to the Local History and Genealogy Gallery.
From Air Highways Magazine www.airhighways.com/aeronca.htm
Disney to the Front - American in WWII magazine www.americainwwii.com (Type in Disney to the Front)
Disney Design: Aeronca Mr. Grasshopper