Albin K. Longren
Aviator, airplane manufacturer: Born: January 18, 1882, near Leonardville, Kansas. Married: Dolly Trent, 1914. Died: November 19, 1950, California.
Born January 18, 1882, on a farm near Leonardville, Albin Kasper (A. K.) Longren was one of eight children of Charles and Emma Longren. As a young child he watched turkey vultures soar effortlessly through the sky and dreamed that someday he would also fly. He would spend most of his life working in the field of aviation.
In the early 1900s, Longren ran a hardware store in Walsburg. Known locally as a genius, he made his own car and motorcycle. As a member of the Kansas National Guard, Longren was called to assist with an airplane demonstration in 1910 in Clay Center. The pilot crashed the plane, and Longren was inspired to design his own aircraft.
A. K., his brother, Ereanius (E. J.), and his friend William Janicke, secretly began to craft a pusher-type biplane near his brother's house. After a few trials, the Topeka I made history with a brief flight September 2, 1911; the first Kansas-made aircraft to actually fly.
Longren flew throughout the Midwest as a barnstormer. For thousands of midwesterners, the "Birdman," as Longren became known, was their first encounter of a man in flight. Money was often an incentive for young barnstormers. At one event, Longren was guaranteed $5,000 if he could get his plane airborne. After waiting all day for the wind to die down, he finally took off. His plane managed to get only a few feet off the ground before crashing into a river bank. Longren was reported to be uninjured, and it is unknown whether he was able to collect his prize money. He made a total of 1,372 exhibition flights from 1911 to 1914 without a major mishap.
Longren met Dolly Trent at a fair in Minneapolis where was making exhibition flights. They were married in 1914, and Dolly assisted with the airplane factory.
The Topeka factory, mostly funded through Longren's barnstorming income, was the first successful aircraft manufacturing firm in Kansas. A. K. moved his aviation company to 1401 North Winfield in Oakland, near the family home at 1333 Arter. There he began to design The New Longren. Due to his passion for perfection, Longren worked long hours designing and preparing for the plane's production. His new plane, Model AK, entered production in 1921 and was available by mail order. Designed for the individual owner, it was innovative and sturdier than earlier models; its wings folded to fit in a garage; it could be towed behind a car. The New York Times featured a photograph of A. K. filling the plane at a service station.
By May 1923, the factory had produced 21 planes. Limited funding and too few sales led to the company's close in 1926. Longren spent the next 20 years as a consultant for other manufacturing companies.
Longren died November 19, 1950, in California at the age of 68. The only known surviving example of his work, a pusher-type biplane built in 1914, is on exhibit in the main gallery at the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Longren, Albin K.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: January 2016
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