The Final Flight of the Wingfoot Air Express
On Monday, July 21, 1919 at 4:55 p.m., a promotional flight of an experimental prototype of the Goodyear blimp flew over downtown Chicago toward The White City Amusement Park. The Wingfoot Air Express’s engine caught fire. As it drifted over the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank at LaSalle and Jackson, the five men on board attempted to escape overboard with parachutes. The pilot and chief mechanic jumped to safety. One man’s parachute caught fire, another’s got caught on the dirigible, and one man broke his legs upon landing his parachute and later died in the hospital. The burning blimp plummeted hundreds of feet, crashing through the huge skylight roof in the main banking hall of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank, where 150 employees were preparing to leave work. Ten were killed and twenty-seven injured.
Eric Edward Esper
After obtaining my BFA in Illustration from Northern Michigan University in 1996 I relocated to Chicago to pursue my artistic endeavors. Here, I began exclusively oil painting and have assembled a body of paintings chronicling scenes of Chicago done primarily in plein air.
Capturing parts of the city’s landscape during its cultural evolution had been my way of conveying history as a painter. My fascination with landscapes and history has led me to create oil paintings of scenes that have affected us in dramatic ways. Recently I have begun painting aerial views of locations that have interesting historical significance, encapsulating true stories that are hard to imagine and harder to forget. My latest paintings capture these places and depict them with historically accurate attention to detail. Using various sources I recreate these scenes with as many photographs of every angle of the incident and research the stories, submersing myself in the event. My newest body of paintings depicts events with a more historically tragic significance, depicting scenes of the darkest hours in America’s Midwest history, where the landscape became the backdrop for tragedy and calamity. These events that irrevocably altered so many lives are important to remember, not only for the people lost and how it affected our culture, but also to remind us that disaster can occur at any time, anywhere.