A Battle Between Experience and Daring

William M. Evans
". . . a battle between a grizzled veteran and a youth who has shown wonderful daring as an aviator."
- Kansas City Post, 7 October 1910, p. 1.

William Evans poses at the steering wheel of his 1910 Greene biplane

For the first time in all the West, two aviators will contest in the air for a $500 trophy, offered by The Kansas City Post, at Elm Ridge this afternoon. The competitors will be Captain Thomas S. Baldwin, universally known as 'King of the Air,' and William Evans, a young Kansas City aviator, who has the ambition to wrest the crown from him.

The event promises to be one of the most remarkable in the history of heavier-than-air flying machines. There have been several races and tournaments in this country and abroad, but there never before has been exactly such a battle - a duel in the clouds.

- The Kansas City Post, 7 October 1910, page 1.

Thomas Baldwin's flights at Elm Ridge were the talk of the town. F.G. Bonfils, publisher of the Kansas City Post, saw an opportunity for bigger crowds and even bigger news. One of William Evans' friends boasted of Evans' flights at Overland Park and "hazarded the opinion that the young Kansas Cityan could meet Captain Baldwin on equal terms, if the proper chance offered." Bonfils promptly declared a contest between the two men and staked a $500 prize for the longest and best flight, with the one showing the most control of his machine and the most "spectacular evolutions" to be named the winner.

The Post promised Kansas City "a battle between a grizzled veteran and a youth who has shown wonderful daring as an aviator." The paper rhapsodized over Baldwin's status as the King of the Air, his pioneer status as the first man to parachute from a hot air balloon, and his success as the first man to sell the U.S. government dirigibles for military use. Baldwin, the paper reported, had worked for years on heavier-than-air flight, and “after the Wrights and others had made successful flights and astonished the world with apparently incredible feats, Captain Baldwin went out and did feats that were even more astonishing.” He would be hard to beat.

“Evans, on the other hand,” said the Post, “is a comer. He has tried ballooning successfully and recently he turned his attention to aeroplanes. He sprang into the limelight at Overland Park several weeks ago when nobody was expecting anything unusual.” Overland Park may not have expected anything unusual, but it saw a spectacular series of flights by Evans, who had been practicing in a Kansas field prior to his public debut. “The spectators held their breath in astonishment,” said the Post, “The young man appeared to be wholly without fear.”

The Post described Evans as a “devoted admirer” of Baldwin who had been preparing for the day when he could compete against his hero. That day had come, and Evans moved his Greene biplane from Overland Park to Elm Ridge, staking his tent right next to Baldwin's.

Next: Veteran Aviator and Daring Amateur