The Highball Express

The Highball Express at the end of the America’s Cup Races in Keyport, New Jersey, July 29, 1920

The 1920 summer brochure for the Aeromarine Navy-Cruiser described the aerial cruiser as “A large, perfectly appointed aerial yacht for weekend parties, off-shore trips and long flights along the coast.” Model 75 was a modification of the ex-Navy Curtiss F-5Ls that the company acquired as surplus after World War I. Governor Edwards of New Jersey launched the first of these flying yachts on June 22, 1920.

Pictured here is an Aeromarine 75 on July 29, 1920 after being an unusual addition to the spectator fleet of the 1920 America’s Cup.

Throughout that summer, the New York Times briefly reported on many flights of Model 75: “15 Fly to Atlantic City on an Aeromarine Cruiser” and “Fly to Southampton for Week-End” listing the prominent passengers by name and profession. “BANKERS IN 100-MILE FLIGHT: Party of Ten Fly to Southampton in a Seaplane” was the headline for the “Wall Street Air Special” that arrived in Peconic Bay where motor boats blew their whistles and automobiles tooted their horns as passengers climbed from the hull.

On November 1, 1920, the first international flight occurred from Key West to Havana, Cuba. Aeromarine soon expanded international service for passengers and freight to the Bahamas. The international flights brought thirsty wealthy people to the “wet” islands of the Caribbean during these first years of Prohibition and so the Model 75 became informally known as the Highball Express.

Not only did the company promote “Speed, Safety, Comfort,” the 1920 brochure also promised: “You will no longer be denied the advantages of this recreative kind of journeying, of this delightful, almost magical method of meeting Time’s demands. No longer will you be satisfied with the snail-like pace of the then old-fashion types of travel. You will want to fly – and you will fly – you will live as you never lived before.”

-Carol Mowrey