Flying A Studio

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Flying A Studio (American Film Manufacturing Company of Chicago) established its western branch on Mission Street in Santa Barbara on July 6, 1912 when Santa Barbara was a center for motion picture production between 1912 and 1917. The company pioneered western location filming, and many titles were shot on Santa Cruz Island. In 1917, the studio failed because of a lack of distribution. In 1916, cinematic production had begun moving into to Hollywood, which then became the focus of the industry.

In the News~

July 20, 1912 [SBMP]: “Wallace Kerrigan and R. D. Armstrong of the Flying A Company, made the trip to Santa Cruz Island yesterday and secured moving pictures of the transportation of the sheep. Photographs were taken illustrating the loading process, also views at the wharf when the sheep left the ship. The steamer Carmel made two round trips yesterday, moving nearly 4,000 sheep from the island to the mainland. It will make as many trips today. According to Kerrigan and Armstrong, they did not get sea sick, although everybody else did, including a fox terrier. It was observed, however, that both ate very heartily shortly after coming ashore.”

June 2, 1913 [SBDN]: “Captain Ira Eaton gave a number of his friends, mostly members of the Flying A Company, a delightful treat yesterday afternoon, when he took them for a cruise on the bay in his power launch, the Gussie M. The party was out about three hours, and all on board enjoyed every minute of the time. The voyagers were greatly pleased with the fine sailing qualities of the staunch little craft, and the very comfortable quarters arranged through the recent overhauling and refitting given the vessel added greatly to the pleasure of the outing. The Flying A guests were: Misses Vivian Rich, Violet Neitz, ‘Billie’ West, Margaret Kernan; Mesdames Peter Morrison, Carl Morrison, Jean Durrell, Messrs. Wallace W. Kerrigan, Jack Van Cartmell, Chet Withey and Robert Grey. Others in the party were Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Leslie, Mr. Field, Mr. and Mrs. T. F. Cornell, Miss Nina Richdale, J. O. Eaton, E. C. Overman, Captain Hendricks and Jay Richdale.”

September 3, 1913 [SBDN]: “Seventeen members of the Flying A are to journey to Santa Cruz Island tomorrow on the Otter to take pictures in Calamity Ann’s Dream, one of the cleverest numbers in this splendid picture series which Miss Lester is featuring. The costumes brilliant Indian affairs set off the troupe in a most fetching manner. Just how long the troupe will remain on the island is not known, though members may be back in town Thursday night.”

September 4, 1913 [SBDN]: “Seventeen members of the Flying A company went to Santa Cruz Island with Captain Vasquez this morning leaving the commercial wharf at 7:30. Calamity Ann’s Dream, one of the interesting series in which Miss Lester figures prominently, will be worked out and will furnish one of the most amusing numbers of the series. Great difficulty was encountered in persuading Jack, the burro, to enter into the game of a trip on the briny deep and a still greater difficulty was anticipated in getting him to land on the other side. Among the players to make the trip were Miss Lester, Jack Richardson, Mr. Von Meter, Miss Rich, Mrs. Coxen, Mr. Johnston, the director, and Mr. Overbaugh, the cameraman. The party is expected home this evening if all goes well and the work is complete.”

September 26, 1913 [SBMP]: “Julius Frankenburg, as director, and J. W. Brown cameraman, will go to Santa Cruz Island today to make an entire film for the Santa Barbara county World’s Fair exhibit. They will be accompanied by Herbert Rogers, as the representative of the supervisors. The party will probably return next Sunday evening. It is planned to take all that is of interest during this trip, including the seals. While a number of pictures have already been taken by the American Camera for the exhibit, Santa Cruz Island will probably be the first one completed.”

September 30, 1913 [SBDN]: “Splendid views of the beauties of Santa Cruz Island, the outside and interior of Painted Cave and a fine photograph showing how seals are captured, were taken at the island the past few days by Julius Frankenburg and crew from the Flying A Company. Herbert Rogers accompanied the party and led them to the seal rookeries where he caught the seal. Mr. Frankenburg said today he believed he had obtained some excellent pictures. They will be used in Santa Barbara’s moving picture display at the Panama-Pacific exposition in 1915. A panoramic view, showing the wine industry on the Caire estate, and pictures of pelicans were also taken. The party left last Friday and returned last evening. The weather conditions were perfect all the time for taking pictures. The seal that was captured was brought back on the launch Gypsy and quite a crowd saw the little fellow in his crate on the wharf.”

November 14, 1913 [SBMP]: “Flying A cowboys assisted in unloading the cattle from the island schooner Santa Rosa, which had been laying outside the wharf twenty-four hours waiting for a chance to land. The eight cowboys did this partly as an accommodation to the Santa Rosa folks, and also to add a bit of excitement to the taking of moving pictures. Thomas Ricketts directed the taking of 300 feet of film to be used in an interesting story. It was a fortunate thing that the picture was planned as the cowboys proved a great help, as the heavy sea made it very difficult to land the cattle. About sixty sheep were dead when the schooner landed them, and this is where the Flying A boys proved themselves as adept and a bit more than the ordinary pictures cowboys. Pictures were taken of the schooner nearing the wharf and about everything that transpired until the cattle were in the corral on the wharf. The Santa Rosa had a very troublesome time. She came across the channel during a storm on Wednesday, but because of the heavy swells found it impossible to land. So she beat about outside until late yesterday afternoon. Mr. Ricketts held the camera in waiting all day yesterday and as soon as he was informed the vessel was to land, he shot his outfit down in an automobile.”

March 22, 1914 [SBMP]: “Captain Rosaline Vasquez, who returned from Santa Cruz Island last Friday night with eight seals for Herbert Rogers, left at six P.M. yesterday with twenty members of the Flying A Company for Valdez Cave, where the party will spend Sunday, returning this evening.”

June 29, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Reaves Eason, one of the members of the Flying A staff of actors, had a thrilling experience on San Miguel Island yesterday, plunging over a cliff and rolling twenty-five feet to the bottom, being badly injured. He was found by a searching party and rescued from the rising tide. Mr. Eason was one of a party of actors who had gone to the island on a hunting trip. He had become separated from his companions, and as night was lowering he hurrying over the rocks to reach camp and allay any anxiety that his absence might have been aroused. Suddenly his foot tripped and he went headfirst over an embankment and rolled to the bottom. While boats were skirting the shore in search of him, and a hunt was progressing ashore, David Greenwall, in one of the boats, heard the injured man groan and directed the boating party to the spot where Eason lay. He was brought to Santa Barbara last night aboard the Otter. The full extent of his injuries will not be known for several days.”

August 24, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Captain Vasquez sailed this morning for Santa Cruz Island on the Otter with members of the Flying A, who go to take scenes not obtainable elsewhere. They particularly wish to secure the romantic waterfall pictures. There are a number of highly effective waterfalls on the island, which will make splendid setting for stories which the Flying A is to film. It is also stated that they will film a Robinson Crusoe skit while away.”

September 9, 1914 [GAB]: “Word comes from Santa Barbara that Reaves Eason fell headfirst from a twenty-five foot cliff whilst hunting on San Miguel Island. The mishap occurred at night as he was hurrying to rejoin his companions. Eason is a member of the American [Flying A] Company.”

October 6, 1914 [SBDNI]: “Two wild boar and 100 pounds of fish were the result of a week-end trip taken by Flying A boys, and workmen on the sea wall, Sunday, to Santa Cruz Island.”

October 26, 1914 [SBDNI]: “To shoot wild boars and hunt fish for a few days, ten young men from the Santa Barbara Motion Picture Company left yesterday in the powerboat Otter, Captain Vasquez, for Santa Cruz Island, to be gone part of this week. A party of eight trained nurses took the ride across the channel, returning with the boat in the afternoon.”

March 16, 1915 [SBMP]: “The Quest, the first Flying A Mutual Master Picture, was given a private showing at the Palace Theater yesterday afternoon... Most of the picture was produced on Santa Cruz Island...”

April 10, 1915 [SBMP]: “Beautiful Santa Cruz Island used for Flying A Master Picture, The Quest... Practically all the exterior scenes were taken on the island, which lies about 25 miles from the mainland.”

April 21, 1915 [SBMP]: “Yesterday one of Flying A companies boarded the Sea Wolf for Prisoners’ Harbor to secure pictorial material at that point and in the interior for the great production, The Diamond from the Sky.”

April 22, 1915 [SBMP]: “The fact that all previous attendance records were broken at the Palace yesterday shows to what extent Santa Barbara manifested its appreciation of the great Flying A master picture, The Quest, produced by Harry Pollard, with Margarita Fischer in the lead, supported by a great cast… Visions of wonderful island scenery, rugged shores, caves and romantic canyons …”

April 30, 1915 [SBMP]: “Captain Ira K. Eaton returned from Santa Cruz Island in the Sea Wolf last evening, bringing over 1000 pounds of fish. Tomorrow evening he will take a party of Flying A hunters over to Santa Rosa Island for a boar hunt. The wild hogs are plenty on this island, and these hunters expect to get some thrilling sport in their outing. They will return to the mainland Sunday night.”

April 30, 1915 [SBDNI]: “A robust party of cowboys and other men employees will leave here tomorrow for a wild boar hunt on Santa Rosa Island. The trip will be made in Captain Eaton’s power launch Sea Wolf. The party will remain on the island over Sunday, and expects an exciting time, as ‘wild hawg’ shooting is a sport at once thrilling and dangerous.”

May 8, 1915 [SCICo]: “Mr. R. Vasquez, Santa Barbara, Calif. Dear Sir: We are informed that you have failed to pay for rent for the use of Fry’s Harbor and we note from the Santa Barbara Press that Mr. Bernard Hilbing has secured the Otter for the island excursion business, possibly with the object of landing parties at Fry’s Harbor. Now it becomes necessary for us to advise you that before any consideration will be given the privilege of renting Fry’s Harbor, we must have the rent which you are owing. Besides, as we have not made any agreement with Mr. Bernard Hilbing, he will not be allowed to bring excursionists to Santa Cruz Island, unless he makes previous arrangements with the Santa Cruz Island Company. You will favor us by advising Mr. Hilbing to this effect. Very truly yours, The Santa Cruz Island Company, AJC.”

May 8, 1915 [SCICo]: “Mr. Frank Garbutt, Los Angeles, Calif. Dear Sir: For your information we enclose herewith a copy of letter which we are sending to Mr. R. Vasquez of Santa Barbara. The letter explains itself and our object in sending you a copy is to call your attention to this matter in case Mr. Bernard Hibling [Hilbing] has made any arrangement in the chartering or leasing of your boat Otter for the purpose of bringing excursionists to Fry’s Harbor or any other harbor of Santa Cruz Island. Kindly take notice of our letter to Mr. Vasquez. We remain Yours truly, The Santa Cruz Island Co., AJC.”

May 8, 1915 [SCICo]: “Mr. B. Hiblings [Hilbing], Santa Barbara, Cal. Dear Sir, Here below we mention the conditions under which we can rent you the camping privileges of Fry’s Harbor on Santa Cruz Island, since R. Vasquez has failed to pay and rent and has no more rights at that place. For the next six months on pay rent of a monthly rental of Five Dollars ($5.00). You will have exclusive rights at that place mentioned, of establishing a camp for entertaining visitors; after that time we will discuss the terms under which the privilege may be extended. We will insist upon a strict compliance with the following rules:

* no cutting down of trees or carrying away of ferns or other plants;
* no Indian relics to be taken away;
* no fire arms to be discharged on the island;
* no damage or change of any kind to be allowed.

This contract is made with you personally and even if you are supported by Mr. Garbutt, we will not consider him as having any rights other than those which we are giving you. All permanent improvements to remain our property at the expiration of the contract. By paying the first month’s rent now, you will be considered as having accepted the proposition made by us. Yours truly, The Santa Cruz Island Company, A. J. Caire.”

May 9, 1915 [SBMP]:Otter busy… Today the boat is at Valdez Harbor with a party of twenty-five of the Flying A people who started over at a late hour last night and will return this evening.”

May 10, 1915 [SBDNI]: “Returning with a 250 pound wild boar, one of the veterans of the wild hog tribe on Santa Cruz Island, a party of Flying A employees came back late yesterday from the island, their hunt having been highly successful. The old tusker they brought back is the largest shot on the island this year to date, and when alive must have stood as high as a big Newfoundland dog. The movie men made the trip in the Otter, Captain Vasquez’s boat. ”

May 11, 1915 [SBMP]: “The Flying A boys who went to the island in the Otter last Saturday night, returned at 4 o’clock P.M. on the following day, having had a royal good time at Valdez Cave and in the surrounding country on a wild boar hunt. As a trophy of their chase, they brought home an immense old boar, with tusks seven inches long, the monster having been shot by a member of the party.”

May 26, 1915 [SBMP]: “The powerboat Otter will go to Fry’s Harbor today with a crew to establish a camp there for the summer. There will be a complete outfit of tents, well furnished, and all of the facilities of camp life at its best. Manager Hilbing will provide accommodations at once for twenty-five people, and increased the capacity as may be needed. The next party to go to the island by the Otter will be a company of twenty-five members of the Flying A, who will go over next Saturday night, returning the following night. An excursion party will also make the trip next Sunday morning, returning to the mainland in the evening.”

June 23, 1915 [SBDNI]: “One of the biggest parties taken over in the Otter this season, will leave here Saturday evening at 6:30 for Fry’s Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, for the weekend, staying there until Sunday night. Those going number about 35, and are members of the big Flying A ‘family.’ The party includes actors and actresses, directors and their wives, and other employees of the American Film Company’s Santa Barbara plant. Business agent B. Hilbing of the Otter reports business brisk, and indications that this summer will set a new record for excursions to the beautiful Channel Islands.”

June 26, 1915 [SBDNI]: “Thirty-five American Film Company employees will leave tonight at 6:30 o’clock for Santa Cruz Island to spend Sunday at Fry’s Harbor and return here Sunday night. The party is made up of employees from all departments of the big film company. Business manager B. Hilbing of the Otter, in which the motion picture workers will make the trip, is arranging special entertainment for the big party in the way of a feast at the camps and tours about the island.”

June 29, 1915 [SBDNI]: “The forty Flying A employees who went to the islands Sunday aboard the powerboat Otter, report that they had the finest cruise possible. The party left at 9:30 in the evening and enjoyed a beautiful moonlight voyage to the islands. The voyagers had a good rest at the camp, and were up early in the morning for a splendid breakfast served on camp tables decorated with flowers and ferns. During the day Painted Cave, Ladies Harbor, Valdez, and a number of other interesting places about the island were visited. Fishing, rowing and swimming were enjoyed by the party. A splendid barbecue was arranged for the evening. The boat started home with its crown about 3:30 in the afternoon and landed here on Sunday evening at 6 o’clock. Every member of the big party praised manager B. Hilbing and Captain Rosaline Vasquez for the management of the trip. Those who went were…”

July 2, 1915 [OC]: “There were only a few passengers for the Otter on its trip from Hueneme to Santa Cruz Island, and because there were so few the boat did not return to Hueneme, but went to Santa Barbara instead, the passengers being refunded money for their railroad fare. Having been advertised to make the trip, however, it was made as scheduled. Those who went had a most delightful time, witnessing and taking part in a big barbecue at Fry’s Harbor, given in honor of 45 members of the Flying A motion picture company, who returned to Santa Barbara with the Hueneme passengers.”

October 12, 1915 [SBMP]: “Yesterday afternoon Captain Ira K. Eaton left for Santa Rosa Island waters after a load of fish, the morning hours having been devoted by the boat and her skipper to posing for a scene in a nautical picture by Flying A Company.”

November 1, 1915 [SBDNI]: “The Universal company of motion picture people, who have been working at and around Santa Cruz Island for many days under the direction of Henry Otto, formerly director with the American Film Company here, will be through their island sea ‘stuff’ this week, according to Captain Ira Eaton of the Sea Wolf, who was here today for supplies for the company. There are now about 26 workers at the island. The party numbered 46 at one time. The piece being filmed is a mystical sea story with mermaids and fairy characters.”

November 9, 1915 [SBMP Flying A Notes]: “Captain Ira Eaton will convey half a dozen American players to Santa Cruz Island this morning. The players include William Russell, Charlotte Burton and Roy Stewart, who are in the three-reel clipper Out of the Darkness, being directed by Donald MacDonald. The company will spend three or four days at the island, and upon the return will go to Point Conception.”

November 17, 1915 [SBMP/ Flying A Notes]: “William Russell and other players under the direction of Donald McDonald have been at the Point Conception lighthouse the last two days working around the lighthouse for a three-reel clipper, Across the Sunset Sea. Scenes for this were also made at Santa Cruz Island. The players returned to the city last evening.”

April 19, 1916 [SBMP/Flying A Notes]: “A shack has now been built on top of a high cliff over on Santa Cruz Island and most any time now it will be blown to pieces as a scene in The Secret of the Submarine, directed by George Sargent. The company will be across the channel several days. Workmen were sent over with several hundred feet of lumber last week, and as all has to be conveyed to the top of the cliff, they had an unusual task on their hands. Tom Chatterton and Juanita Hansen figure in this stirring scene.”

April 20, 1916 [SBMP]: “Yesterday Captain Ira K. Eaton came over from Pelican Bay with a number of Flying A actors who had just finished their work on scenes for the play, The Secret of the Submarine. The captain returned to the island last evening.”

April 25, 1916 [SBDNI]: “Santa Barbara seals, shipped east by Herbert A. Rogers a year ago to a trainer, are now entertaining large crowds at the Portola. They are a part of the Strassle animal show, now at the theatre. The seals are splendidly trained. They ride horses, play tunes on musical instruments, juggle with fire, and perform many other remarkable feats. There are also trained birds and dogs on the program, whose stunts are very entertaining. Raynor and Belle present a singing and whistling novelty that is highly pleasing, Belle proving to be a very clever whistler. Their act contains plenty of acting, and a number of good songs which they know how to sing. Miss Bennett of the Flying A sings a number of selections in her usually winning way. The motion pictures, in addition, are very good, the program as a whole setting a new record for this popular house of entertainment.”

April 26, 1916 [SBMP/Flying A Notes]: “Some unusual stunts were done at Santa Cruz Island for The Secret of the Submarine, and still photos secured by Faxon Dean are exceptional. One shows the house on the cliff after it had been dynamited. It was caught toppling down the cliff-side. Another shows Al Thompson making a leap over a precipice sixty-five feet high. This was not a regular dive. Thompson struck the water below, but was not hurt.”

April 26, 1916 [SBDN]: “Ulpiano Larco made a catch of 400 pounds of rock bass with set lines yesterday. A fisherman from the Flying A company, who was out three hours, brought in the biggest catch of the year for the time he was fishing yesterday afternoon. He was lucky enough to have several of the Flying A men at the wharf as he came in with his string. They were there to take part in the work of filming the ship explosion for The Secret of the Submarine.”

May 26, 1917 [SBMP]: “Yesterday morning Captain Ira K. Eaton returned from Pelican Bay in the Sea Wolf, bringing over 15 members of Director Sturgis' company of American Film actors who had spent five days on the island and had worked a great deal of the picturesque island coast for a new picture show in the making, most of the scenes being laid between Valdez Cave and Pelican Bay... From June 10 to July 15 a company of 15 people, headed by Henry Otto, formerly of the Flying A and now a director in the Marine film company of Los Angeles, will encamp at Pelican Bay for work on a big picture.”