Glenn Martin - Aircraft Pioneer and Producer
9717 Lake Shore Boulevard
Glenn Martin came to live in Bratenahl after founding the second Glenn L. Martin Company in 1917. He was lured by a group of Clevelanders with a 70,000 square-foot airplane factory at 16800 St. Clair Avenue.
He founded the original Glenn L Martin Company in August 1912 in an old Methodist church in Los Angeles. To make money to finance this business, he began stunt-flying at fairs and local airfields. He saw an advertisement for a pilot/airplane owner to play a role in a movie. Sensing an opportunity to market his airplanes, he replied to the ad and got the part of a dashing hero in the 1915 production A Girl of Yesterday starring Mary Pickford.
Martin merged his company with the original Wright Company in 1916, forming the Wright-Martin Aircraft Company. He soon left and moved to Cleveland.
The federal government first supplied the demand for the company’s product. The military wanted planes for war and the Post Office for moving mail. In 1918, Martin produced Cleveland’s first airplane.
The company continued to build mail airplanes, the Martin Bomber for the Army and developed hydraulic landing gear. The company made Cleveland a leader in the plane manufacturing industry. Martin also helped the establishment of Cleveland’s airport as well as the airmail service in Cleveland.
By 1928, Martin’s need for year-round access to unfrozen water to test his beloved hydroplanes led him to look for a new home for his company. Frequent plane crashes near the plant caused the City of Cleveland to refuse the company additional landing sites needed for larger aircraft. City leaders tried to convince Martin to stay with an offer of more space at the municipal airport, but Martin decided to move his company to Baltimore, which offered him a free 50-acre site for his plant.
The St. Clair plant was later used to produce airplanes by a local successor firm, the Great Lakes Aircraft Company.
Glenn Luther Martin was born on January 17, 1886, in Macksburg, Iowa to Clarence and Minta Martin. By age six, he became interested in kites, but at first, his friends made fun of the box-kites he built. When the kites flew well, people paid him twenty-five cents to build one for them. He turned his mother's kitchen into a "factory" to produce more kites. Martin also began using sails on everything from ice skates to wagons, and even his bicycle to move faster with less effort. As he grew up, he became fascinated with flight, first with kites, then later the Wright Brothers airplane.
Martin studied business at Kansas Wesleyan University. After college, he found his calling in aviation, moved to California and taught himself how to fly. In 1909, he decided to build an airplane based on the Curtiss June Bug, but it was destroyed on the first test flight. For his next effort, Martin used silk and bamboo in the aircraft's construction. This airplane made a short flight. Martin was often assisted by his mother Minta Martin holding a lamp in the building of his first few airplanes. He made a name for himself and money for his business by barnstorming airshows.
The Glenn L. Martin Company merged with the American-Marietta Corporation in 1961, becoming the Martin Marietta Corporation. This company later merged with the Lockheed Corporation in 1995, forming Lockheed Martin.
Martin died on December 5, 1955, from complications of a stroke in Baltimore, Maryland. His donations to the University of Maryland, College Park created the Glenn L. Martin Institute of Technology, which includes the A. James Clark School of Engineering. The University's wind tunnel and a classroom building (the home of the Department of Aerospace Engineering and other units) also bear Martin's name.
The Glenn L. Martin Stadium on the campus of Kansas Wesleyan University opened in 1940 but was demolished in 2014. In 1977, Martin was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame.