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Glenn L. Martin in pusher-biplane

Glenn L. Martin

Glenn L. Martin in pusher-biplane. Note the newspapers stacked on wing. Martin delivered newspapers from Fresno to Madera in California as a part of his promotional efforts to fund his first aircraft-building plant. [Photo circa 1912 courtesy of Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum at Martin State Airport in Middle River Maryland.]

Glenn L. Martin was born in Macksburg, Iowa on January 17, 1886. At the age of two, Martin's family moved to Salina, Kansas, so that his father could run a wheat farm. By age six, he became interested in kites, but at first, his friends made fun of 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 the Wright brothers' airplane. In 1909 he decided to build one himself 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 in the building of his first few airplanes. He made his test flights in a field just south of the campus of Kansas Wesleyan University, which was at the southern end of the City of Salina. 

On May 10th 1912, Martin flew a self-built seaplane from Newport Bay, CA to Avalon on Catalina Island, then back across the channel. This broke the earlier English Channel record for over-water flight. Martin's total distance was 68 miles (109 km) with the Newport-Avalon leg taking 37 minutes. He picked up a bag of mail on the island on the way, and was presented with $100 ($2300 in 2011) prize for his achievement. In 1913, Martin was not as fortunate while competing in the Great Lakes Reliability Cruise, a 900 miles (1,400 km) race of seaplanes around the Great Lakes. Martin's pontoon hit a wave at high speed and low altitude, causing the plane to somersault, and sink to the bottom with Martin, who escaped and attempted to salvage the plane to finish the race.

In 1912 Glenn L. Martin built an airplane factory in an old Methodist church in Los Angeles, California. To make money to finance this business, he began to stunt fly 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. He was to play the role of a dashing hero in the movie A Girl of Yesterday (1915) starring Mary Pickford. He soon found that it would be harder than he thought. In addition to flying Pickford around in his airplane, he had a scene where he had to kiss Frances Marion who later became a legendary Hollywood screenwriter. Martin in describing his hesitance having to kiss Marion declared "my mother would not like it" which astounded Pickford. He worked up the courage however and completed the scene.

Martin held a record for longest over-water flight, 66 miles. His company designed aircraft for the military, including bombers for both world wars. An early success came during WWI with production of the MB-1 bomber. The MB-2 and others were also successful. In 1932 Martin won the Collier Trophy for his involvement with the Martin B-10 bomber.

He founded the Glenn L. Martin Company in 1912. In 1916 he merged his company with the original Wright Company, forming the Wright-Martin Aircraft Company. He soon left and founded a second Glenn L. Martin Company in 1917. That company merged with the American-Marietta Corporation in 1961, becoming the Martin Marietta Corporation. This company merged with the Lockheed Corporation in 1995, forming Lockheed Martin, a major U.S. aerospace and defense contractor.

In 1925 the Industrial Bureau contacted Glenn Martin at his plant in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the Bureau's job to attract Martin to Maryland. After speaking with Martin, a site in Middle River was chosen. From this point it was a three-year long struggle to acquire the land needed from forty-five property owners. This struggle involved convincing the citizens that this was going to become a booming industry and would provide many jobs in the area. At the end of the three-year struggle only one man stood in the way- he was an old fisherman who was determined not to sell. After a few discussions with the man he still had his foot down and refused. An oddity then occurred when the man contacted Martin and told him he was willing to sell. Martin met the man, made a deal, and shook hands. Later, the man regretted the decision but stated that a deal is a deal and that he was a man of his word. At that point in 1928 the Glenn L. Martin Company moved to Maryland bringing hundreds of much-needed jobs, an airport, and a booming aviation industry.

Martin's donations to the University of Maryland, College Park, created the Glenn L. Martin Institute of Technology, which includes the School of Engineering. The University's wind tunnel also bears Martin's name.

Martin attended the Kansas Wesleyan business college in Salina, Kansas. He established the first Endowed fund for KWU in 1940 and gave over $500,000 to the university during his lifetime and later through his estate. 

Kansas Wesleyan University home of the Glenn L. Martin stadium, a W.P.A. project, which was dedicated in 1940 in Salina Kansas.

The Glenn L. Martin Company was an American aircraft and aerospace manufacturing company that was founded by the aviation pioneer Glenn L. Martin. The Martin Company produced many important aircraft for the defense of the United States and its allies, especially during World War II and the Cold War. Also, during the 1950s and 60s, the Martin Company moved gradually out of the aircraft industry and into the guided missile, space exploration, and space utilization industries.

In 1961, the Martin Company merged with the American-Marietta Corporation, a large sand and gravel mining company, forming the Martin Marietta Corporation. Then, in 1995, Martin Marietta merged with aerospace giant Lockheed to form the Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Glenn L. Martin Company was founded by aviation pioneer Glenn Luther Martin on August 16, 1912. Martin started out building military trainers in Santa Ana, California, and then in 1916, Martin accepted a merger offer from the Wright Company, creating the Wright-Martin Aircraft Company in September. This new company did not go well, and Glenn Martin left it to form a second Glenn L. Martin Company on September 10, 1917. This time based in Cleveland, Ohio. (Later, its headquarters would be moved to Baltimore, Maryland.)

Glenn Luther Martin Obituary


January 17, 1886 - December 5, 1955
"The way to build aircraft or anything else worthwhile is to think out quietly every detail, analyze every situation that may possibly occur, and, when you have it all worked out in practical sequence in your mind, raise heaven and earth and never stop until you have produced the thing you have started to make."

- Glenn L. Martin, 1918

At the time he taught himself to fly in 1909 and 1910, Glenn Luther Martin was a youthful businessman, the owner (at age 22) of Ford and Maxwell dealerships in Santa Ana, California. Although he had taken courses at Kansas Wesleyan Business College before his family moved west in 1905, Martin lacked a technical background. His first planes were built in collaboration with mechanics from his auto shop, working in a disused church building that Martin rented. In 1909 Martin made his first successful flight; by 1911 he numbered among the most famous of the "pioneer birdmen." Never forgetting his original business training, Martin was not content with simply performing. In 1912, he set up as a manufacturer, incorporating his operation as the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company. Unlike the companies launched by the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss, which soon came to be managed by people other than their namesakes, the Martin Company remained for forty years under the direct control of its founder. During these four critical decades Glenn Martin was the senior aircraft manufacturer in the United States.

From the early years of the company, Martin hired trained engineers to design his planes and talented managers to run his factories. The Martin Company provided training and experience to a remarkable number of other aviation manufacturers who later struck out on their own. William Boeing, Donald Douglas, Lawrence Bell, and James S. McDonnell founded companies that bear their names. Charles Day, chief designer for Standard Aircraft in World War I, and Charles Willard, co-founder of L.W.F. Engineering in 1917, were both former Martin employees as were J.H. Kindleberger and C.A. Van Dusen, who ran North American and Brewster, respectively, during World War II.

Glenn Martin had a taste for large planes, and his company came to depend on military orders. As these pages will testify, this meant bombers. The vast majority of the more than 11,000 planes built by the company before it ceased producing aircraft in 1960, "Martin Bombers" pioneered the doctrine of airpower in the 1920's and '30's and served in all theaters in World War II. Martin Marietta, corporate successor to the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Company, continued to be a major defense contractor, producing missiles, space hardware, guidance systems, sonar, and avionics. Through its merger with Lockheed in 1995, it rejoined the ranks of aircraft builders.

Between the years 1909 and 1960, The Glenn L. Martin Company produced over 80 different types of aircraft totaling more than 11,000 planes, including 536 Boeing B-29s (50 of which were the "Atomic Bombers" including Enola Gay and Bockscar). Since then, the company ventured into missiles, space and electronics and, since the Lockheed merger in 1995, has now re–established itself as a prominent aircraft manufacturer.

Moving from Los Angeles to Cleveland and then to Baltimore in 1928, Glenn Martin bought over 1260 acres in the suburb of Middle River and built some of the most modern aircraft manufacturing facilities of its time. Huge buildings sprang up including an airport (with hangars and terminal) and several working force communities that still exist today.