George W Thompson
CAHS Honored in 1969

Click to view the THOMPSON_GEORGE album
Click to view the THOMPSON_GEORGE albumGeorge Thompson was born April 3, 1888 in a sod house near Sharon Springs, Kansas, although some records indicate he was born in Denver. He built a Matthewson biplane, based on a Curtiss design and soloed it on January 4, 1911. His mother aided him by sewing all of the fabric on her sewing machine. He was a completely self-taught flyer, and is generally conceded to be the first Coloradan to fly.

One of his first jobs in Denver was working for the Matthewson Auto Company. The company name later became the Matthewson Aeroplane Co. George made several flights on his first flying day, and in the first year, about 100 flights during 1911. He flew at Pueblo, Trinidad, Lamar, Loveland and Greeley, as well as a short trip to fly in Wyoming. He was much in demand at county fairs, to make exhibition flights to thrill the crowds.

During his lifetime, he built nine "headless biplanes," flew them all and taught others to fly. He also helped to organize the American Federation of Aviators, and served as president in 1911-1912.

On July 19, 1911, he took a Colorado visitor up in his plane for a sightseeing ride. This passenger was Mrs. O.N. Stonebreaker, visiting Denver from Lincoln, Nebraska. She may have been the first woman to fly in this state, although some sources credit this distinction to the mother of Billy Parker, CAHOF-1969.

Most of George's flights took place at the Sable airstrip, which was a primitive airfield and auto racing track, located between the Fitzsimmons Hospital and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. When he traveled some distance to fly an exhibition flight, he took his plane apart, shipped it in a boxcar, and reassembled it at the place where it was to fly.

George Thompson made a number of early contributions to Colorado aviation, but his life was cut short by a crash at the Powers County Fair at Lamar, Colorado on August 21, 1912, when he was just 24 years old. His plane apparently tumbled, hit a treetop, and threw him out, to fall about 40 feet to the ground. Early flyers didn't have seatbelts. After falling out of his plane, it fell on him.

On his headstone at Crown Hill Cemetery in Denver, are carved the words "George W. Thompson, Colorado's First Aviator".