A Competition Celebrates Its Centennial

A Competition Celebrates Its Centennial

A Competition Celebrates Its Centennial

By Michael Smith, National Model Aviation Museum Director

NEXT YEAR, 2023, marks an important date in aeromodeling history. On October 3, 1923, modelers lined up to compete for the Mulvihill trophy, the first national model airplane contest to be awarded to one individual.

Although a national model airplane contest had previously been held, the Villard Cup, in 1915, 1916, and 1919, was for clubs. Now things were different and a single person could win, with his or her name forever etched in the history of model aviation lore.

The Villard Cup, located in the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

The Villard Cup, located in the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Bernard Mulvihill, vice president of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA), put forth the money for the trophy and stipulated the rules. Art schools along the East Coast were asked to submit designs. A preliminary design of a boy launching a model was considered before the design of Icarus fastening on his wing was selected.

The original proposal for the Mulvihill Trophy. National Model Aviation Museum archives.

The original proposal for the Mulvihill Trophy. National Model Aviation Museum archives.

For the event, models had to be rubber powered, have no more than a 40-inch wingspan, and could be no longer than 40 inches. For contestants, there was no age restriction, but they had to be members of the NAA’s newly created Junior Flying League that was free to join. A $2 registration fee was charged but returned if the contestant appeared for the event.

The rules for the Mulvihill Contest. National Model Aviation Museum archives.

The rules for the Mulvihill Contest. National Model Aviation Museum archives.

Today, this trophy survives in the AMA National Model Aviation Museum. It is awarded each summer to the winner of the Mulvihill event at the Nats. It is this event that is the basis for today’s Nats.

The 100th Nats celebration will take place in 2026. There was a slight gap between events during World War II because no Nats were held from 1942 through 1945.

The following articles highlight that first Mulvihill event.

 The St. Louis Star and Times, September 10, 1923. Above (L-R): Model event entry blank, The St. Louis Star and Times, September 13, 1923; contest results in The St. Louis Star and Times, October 4, 1923; contest announced: The St. Louis Star and Times, September 10, 1923.

 

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