1938 – Airplanes and Chicken Eggs

“Police were trying to keep order, but thousands had already spilled over onto the tarmac where Hughes was expected to bring the plane to a stop.  By the time he had finally come around and brought the ship in, twenty-five thousand cheering, hysterical people were there to greet him.

It was 2:37 P.M., July 14, 1938.  The New York World’s Fair 1939 had set a record for flying around the world – three days, nineteen hours, and seventeen minutes.  From now on, Howard Hughes was going to find out what it was like to be one of the most famous men in America.”

(Source: Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness, Barlett & Steele, ©1979, ISBN: 0393326020)

Ted Gilcrease was a 22-year old farmer living with his mother and younger brother in Las Vegas.  He was fascinated by all things mechanical, and followed the flight of Howard Hughes with the rest of the world.  By 1939 “the prospect of war in Europe had created a soaring demand for American airplanes.”  A family friend offered to help Ted secure a position with the Hughes Aircraft company.  After being home schooled all his life, and picking up mechanical skills by tinkering with farm equipment and reading books, Ted felt the opportunity of a lifetime was within his grasp.

Elda Gilcrease didn’t want to quash the ambition of her elder son, but she also didn’t think she could keep the ranch afloat without his help.  He’d been keeping track of the books, and already knew how much was needed to finish paying off their 1925 mortgage.  Ted had made suggestions for expanding the ranch, and this protective mother was finally ready to let him begin making some independent decisions that might help them to finally get ahead of their bills.

By the spring of 1941, Hughes Aircraft was 500 employees strong and growing.  That was also the year Ted Gilcrease made his first purchase; 200 acres from the Nevada Land office. 

If Ted Gilcrease had not decided to stay at the Gilcrease Ranch that critical year, Las Vegas may not have had this longest running family farm. 


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