Museum History

The C.R. Smith Museum is named for the innovative aviation pioneer and former President of American Airlines, Cyrus Rowlett Smith. The building of the museum honoring C.R. Smith and his accomplishments was the culmination of a two and one-half year fundraising and building effort led by various AA employee and retiree groups. The museum opened July 3rd, 1993.

Artifacts, which began with the Paul Kent Collection, were acquisitioned, painstakingly catalogued and incorporated into the museum's displays and archives by staff and volunteers. Many of these original volunteers are still actively involved with the museum.

The "star" and centerpiece of the C.R. Smith Museum is its lovingly restored 1940 Douglas DC-3, Flagship Knoxville. Visitors can get a real sense of what air travel was like in the 1940s when C.R. Smith and the DC-3 revolutionized commercial air travel. The retired aircraft was purchased by The Grey Eagles, an AA retiree group, restored by retired and active AA employees, and presented to the museum. A special addition to the museum was completed and dedicated on February 22, 1999, to house this special piece of history and protect it from the elements. The "DC-3 Hangar" was made possible by the fundraising efforts of the DC-3 Coalition, a volunteer group headed by former AA Senior Vice President of Field Sales and Services, Otto Becker. The group sold inscribed bricks that make up the floor of the "hangar". American Airlines was also instrumental in the completion of the project.

November 9, 2007, marked the official unveiling of the museum's updated History Circle as well as a number of new exhibits. New graphics, artifacts and state-of-the-art video monitors bring visitors information on the ever changing world of American Airlines, American Eagle, the commercial aviation industry, the challenges, the changes, and the future. Children will find many new exhibits that will catch their attention and keep them engaged.

Within the History Circle lies a new theater, sponsored by American Express Travel, featuring the original HD film, An American Journey. It is a chance for the visitor to hear the stories of American Airlines/American Eagle personnel, their contributions, and what the airline industry means to them. It is a heart-warming addition to the museum.

Go to the next tab, C.R. Smith History





C.R. Smith History

Cyrus Rowlett Smith became president of American Airlines in 1934 at the age of 35. He led American Airlines for the next 34 years and in the process helped to shape the entire airline industry. He was truly an aviation pioneer, entering the airline business in the days of open-cockpit biplanes and later building American from a small and unprofitable carrier into the largest airlines in the world.

Cyrus Rowlett Smith was born on September 9, 1899, in Minerva, Texas, the eldest of seven children. At the age of nine, he secured his first job - office boy to cattleman C.T. Herring. Young C.R. Smith also worked as a cotton picker, store clerk, bookkeeper and bank teller. Although he had not graduated from high school, C.R. Smith received permission to enter the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied business administration, economics and law. In 1924, he became an accountant with Peat, Marwick, Mitchell and Company in Dallas. One of their clients, A.P. Barrett, owned the Texas-Louisiana Power Company. Barrett noticed the young accountant and hired C.R. Smith as assistant treasurer for the utility company.

Barrett purchased Texas Air Transport in 1928 and asked C.R. Smith to be the firm's secretary and treasurer. On February 18, 1929, Barrett launched Southern Air Transport (SAT), which absorbed Texas Air Transport. Smith served as vice president and treasurer of SAT. Later that year, SAT became part of the Aviation Corporation (AVCO). In January 1930, AVCO's directors created American Airways and appointed C.R. Smith vice president for the Southern Division. In April 1934, American Airways became American Airlines and C.R. Smith was elected president of the new company on May 13, 1934.

To all members of the American Airlines organization, C.R. Smith was "Mr. C.R.," or simply "C.R." Over the next five years, he consolidated American's crazy-quilt routes into a smooth, sensible network and standardized the company's heterogeneous collection of airplanes with a fleet of new DC-3s. C.R. was famous for his memos. He sent out a constant stream of short, terse messages on every subject from aircrew training to the taste of the coffee served to passengers.

On the rare occasions that C.R. was not in his office or on an airplane, he enjoyed being outdoors. An avid hunter and fisherman, C.R. gathered an impressive collection of original Remington and Russell western theme oil paintings. His love of the west even extended to the window drapes in the bedroom of his New York apartment - they were cut in the shape of cowboy chaps. C.R. Smith married Elizabeth L. Manget in 1934 and they had one son, Doug. The marriage soon ended and Smith never remarried. He is quoted as saying that his one and only true love was American Airlines.

When the United States entered World War II, C.R. Smith joined the Army Air Force, as a colonel, to help organize the Air Transport Command. C.R. played a major role in opening the Great Circle Route, which connected Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, Ireland and Great Britain, for use by ATC transports. Earlier in the war, ATC aircraft heading to Europe from the U.S. would head south to Brazil, then east to Senegal and finally north to their destinations. Once the feasibility of the Great Circle Route (the testing was done by an American Airlines crew) had been proven, the ATC averaged 500 transatlantic flights a month. Colonel Smith soon became General Smith, and he was Deputy Commander of the Air Transport Command (and a Major General) when the war ended. In 1945, Mr. C.R. returned to American Airlines. For his World War II service, C.R. Smith was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal, a Legion of Merit and a designation of Commander, Order of the British Empire.

In the post-World War II years, C.R. led American Airlines through a period of great change in the air transportation industry. He was not afraid of taking heavy financial risks to find a technological advantage over a competitor or to re-invest in American and its employees. One of the first actions American took after World War II was to find a replacement for the DC-3. The non-pressurized DC-4, though inexpensive and available, was only a stopgap aircraft and could not compete with the Lockheed Constellations of TWA. Bill Littlewood, American's great aeronautical engineer, pushed Convair to develop the Convair 240. The CV-240 was a twin-engine aircraft capable of carrying 40 passengers (hence the "240" - 2 engines, and 40 forty passengers). The CV-240 proved to be the closest DC-3 replacement built after World War II. American joined with United to help develop the DC-6, which could compete with the Constellation on more than even terms. Later, in the late 1940s, he pushed Douglas into developing the DC-7. The DC-7 was an enlarged DC-6 with very complex turbo-compound engines. Douglas was reluctant to build the aircraft because they wanted American to wait until their first generation jet airliner became available. However, after Smith hinted that American would look elsewhere for the new plane, Douglas agreed to build the DC-7. Although hindered by mechanical problems, American's DC-7s proved to be a full half-hour faster than TWA's Constellations on the New York to Los Angeles route - a fact often mentioned in American advertising campaigns.

Finally, C.R. took the bold step of ordering Boeing 707 jets in the mid-1950s instead of the Douglas DC-8. At that time, Douglas was the premier commercial transport company in the United States and nearly all other major U.S. airlines had lined up to order the DC-8. However, even if Boeing's ability to build a jet airliner was unknown, the 707 would be available a year earlier than the DC-8. C.R. took the risk and ordered the 707. Events proved that C.R. had made the right move. On January 25, 1959, American Airlines introduced the first transcontinental jet service. The 707s were a huge success and American's competitors had to wait for nearly a year until their DC-8s allowed them to catch up.

In early 1968, C.R. Smith retired as chief executive of American Airlines. His long-term friend, President Lyndon B. Johnson, appointed him Secretary of Commerce, a post C.R. filled during the last year of President Johnson's administration. C.R. had much he could look back upon. C.R. helped American Airlines grow through its formative years in the 1930s and 1940s and then watched it bloom in the 1950s and 1960s. During his watch, C.R. had, more or less, successfully adapted to a number of industry altering forces including: pressurized aircraft, World War II, international trans-Atlantic competition, the rise of labor unions in air transportation, the jet engine and the coach fare.

In January 1973, American's Board of Directors asked Mr. C.R. to return as interim chairman while they searched for a permanent chief executive. He agreed to come back to American, but with the condition that he would not be paid for his time. C.R. remained until Albert V. Casey was elected chairman in February 1974.

Following his second (and final) retirement, C.R. Smith remained active in civic affairs in Washington, D.C. In recognition of his role in shaping commercial air transportation in the United States, C.R. Smith was named to the Aviation Hall of Fame, the Travel Hall of Fame and the Business Hall of Fame. He died on April 4, 1990 at the age of 90 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Go to the next tab, American Airlines History


American Airlines History

1930s The first of many - these four pioneering women were hired in 1933 to serve passengers on American Airways' routes between Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Pictured from top: May Bobeck, Agnes Nohava, Marie Allen and Velma Maul.
  • In 1933, American began flying the 18-passenger Curtiss Condor. With its introduction, stewardesses – now called flight attendants – made their first appearance on American Airways aircraft.
  • American Airways was reorganized in 1934 and became American Airlines, Inc.
  • On May 13, 1934, Cyrus Rowlett Smith was elected president of American and, except for a period during World War II when he served as Deputy Commander of the Air Transport Command, continued as chief executive officer until 1968 when he was named Secretary of Commerce by President Johnson.
  • On June 25, 1936, American flew the world’s first commercial Douglas DC-3 flight, with a trip from Chicago to New York.
  • American carried its one-millionth passenger on February 16, 1937.
1940s Passengers enjoyed the roominess of the massive Boeing 377 Stratocruiser. American Overseas Airlines used the Boeing 377 to carry passengers in unmatched splender on Trans-Atlantic flights in the late 1940s. This picture was taken the aircraft was on the ground; the note the ramp through the aircraft windows.
  • American entered the airline catering business in 1942 with a subsidiary called Sky Chefs to provide food service for its passengers as well as those flying other airlines.
  • American introduced international service to two cities in Mexico – Monterrey and Mexico City – from New York and Dallas/Fort Worth in September 1942.
  • American established its Tulsa Maintenance & Engineering base in 1946.
  • In 1947, American introduced the fully pressurized Douglas DC-6, offering sleeper flights between New York and Los Angeles via Chicago and other points such as Dallas/Fort Worth.
  • In 1948, American introduced the Family Fare Plan to enable families to travel together by air at reduced rates and also introduced scheduled coach service as an economical and comfortable alternative to first class travel.
1950s  The Douglas DC-7 was the last piston-engined airliner built by Douglas. American's DC-7Cs were capable of non-stop Trans-continental flight in both directions. However if the prevailing winds were too strong on westbound flights, the DC-7C often would have to make a quick stop in Phoenix for fuel and oil. 
  • American introduced the Magnetronic Reservisor in 1952 to keep track of seats available on flights, replacing the large display boards which, since the 1930s, have listed entries on space availability at reservation offices.
  • American pioneered nonstop transcontinental service in both directions across the United States with the Douglas DC-7 in 1953.
  • The world’s first special facility for stewardess training, the American Airlines Stewardess College (today called the American Airlines Training & Conference Center), was built in Dallas/Fort Worth in 1957.
  • On January 25, 1959, with the Boeing 707, American became the first airline to offer coast-to-coast jet service.
1960s  In 1967, American Airlines introduced the American Beauty line of stewardess uniforms. Made in red, white, and blue, the American Beauty uniform was not in service long (little more than a year), but it represented a shift away from the traditional military style uniforms. 
  • American, teaming with IBM, introduced SABRE, the largest electronic data processing system designed for business use.
  • The Boeing 727 was added to the fleet in 1964. It was the first three-engine airliner since the mid-1930s.
  • The last flight by an American Airlines four-engine piston plane was made on December 1966, the 63rd anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first power-driven flight.
  • The first issue of American’s in-flight magazine, The American Way (today called American Way, was published in Winter 1966/Spring 1967.
  • Construction on the American Airlines Flight Academy began in 1968, on an 80-acre site just north of the Stewardess College in Fort Worth. It opened in 1970 and was staffed with some of the industry’s best instructors. Before long, it was full of state-of-the-art aircraft simulators. The new Flight Academy saved money and time and standardized training.
1970s  First opened in 1974, the D/FW International Airport has become one of American’s major hubs. American announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters from New York to D/FW in 1979 — a move that brought the company back to the area where fifty years earlier, C.R. Smith got his start in aviation. 
    • Albert V. Casey was elected president and chief executive officer in February 1974. He assumed the additional position of chairman of the board in April.
    • Airline deregulation took place in 1978, removing strict governmental control over which airline could fly which routes inside the U.S. and at what price. The immediate effects of deregulation were to open new markets for many old-line airlines, to encourage the formation of new airlines and to spark development of the hub-and-spoke system of airline routing.
    • In 1979, American moved its headquarters from New York metropolitan area to Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Also located at the headquarters complex: the training facility called The Learning Center, the pilot training facility called the Flight Academy and the Southern Reservations Office.
    1980s   The MD-80 is the backbone of the American Airlines fleet. American flies more than 270 MD-80 series aircraft — and is the world’s largest operator of the type. The first American MD-80 was delivered on May 12, 1983. The introduction of the MD-80 in the mid-1980s allowed American to rapidly expand its route system and fleet. In 1984, American operated a fleet of 244 aircraft by 1997 that number had grown to 649 aircraft, 250 of which were MD-80s. 
    • 1980 – Robert Crandall became president and chief operating officer of American Airlines.
    • On June 11, 1981, American established its first hub in Dallas/Fort Worth.
    • American welcomed its 500 millionth passenger on May 18, 1982, and introduced the Boeing 767 to its fleet.
    • On May 19, 1982, stockholders voted to approve a plan of reorganization under which a new holding company, AMR Corporation, was formed and became the parent company to American Airlines, Inc. It was established for increased flexibility for financing and investment.
    • AMR Services was formed as a subsidiary on December 12, 1983, to provide aviation services, including flight operations services, passenger services, cargo handling and warehousing, cabin services and facility cleaning, fuel services and aircraft handling service, operate flight service centers, market used aircraft, provide ground transportation services and offer security services.
    • On February 29, 1984, American placed the largest single aircraft purchase in U.S. aviation history when it ordered 67 Super 80s and placed options on 100 more.
    • In 1984, American introduced the American Eagle system – a network of regional airlines fully integrated into the American Airlines domestic route system.
    • On Albert Casey’s retirement in late February 1985, Robert L. Crandall became the chairman and chief executive officer of AMR Corporation and American Airlines.
    • In 1986, American Airlines employees topped 50,000 for the first time.
    • In 1986, American sold its subsidiary, Sky Chefs.
    • Because of market changes, American began acquiring ownership of some of the Eagle carriers and established a new subsidiary, AMR Eagle, Inc. in 1988.
    1990s American Airlines added the Boeing 757 to its fleet in 1989. The 757 shares the same fuselage width as the earlier Boeing 707 and in many ways the 757 is really a much more efficient, twin engined 707. Seating 176 passengers in a two-class configuration, American's 757s are used mostly on medium haul or high-density routes. Behind the MD-80, the 757 is the second most numerous aircraft in American’s fleet (American operates 102 Boeing 757s). To mark the 50th anniversary of the first American Airlines jet powered commercial flight, American painted a Boeing 757 in the 1959 paint scheme carried on American’s first Boeing 707. This 'retro-jet' is seen at Dallas, TX in the spring of 1999 during a celebration of 50 years of jet service from Love Field.
    • 1990 – Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for: a $276 million expansion of American’s facilities at DFW International Airport, a 72,000-square-foot expansion of the pilot-training facilities at American’s Flight Academy, and a new $26 million reservations center in Tucson. A new state-of-the-art System Operations Control (SOC) center opened at the headquarters complex.
    • American’s long-time president, C.R. Smith, died at the age of 90 on April 4th, 1990.
    • American flew its one-billionth passenger on March 27, 1991.
    • On January 16, 1992, American officially opened Alliance Maintenance and Engineering Base, the first state-of-the-art airline maintenance facility to be built in the United States in more than 20 years. The Base is located in Fort Worth, Texas, at Alliance Airport, the United States' first industrial airport.
    • In 1993, AMR Corporation formed the SABRE Technology Group, which includes under one umbrella AMR Information Services (AMRIS), SABRE Travel Information Network (S.T.I.N.) and SABRE Computer Services (SCS), plus newly formed SABRE Development Services and AMR Project Consulting and Risk Assessment units.
    • On July 3, 1993, the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum opened.
    • Robert Crandall retired as president of American Airlines on May 20, 1998. On that day Don Carty becomes President, CEO and Chairman of AMR. AMR sells the AMR Combs business unit to the BBA Group for $170 million. On Dec. 31, AMR closes the most profitable year in its history with $1.3 billion in earnings.
    • AMR completed the spin-off of SABRE into its own company.
    • American announced that it had agreed to purchase substantially all the assets of Trans World Airlines, Inc.
    • On Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy struck the United States, New York City, Washington, D.C., American Airlines, United Airlines, and the world. Four aircraft – two from American Airlines, two from United Airlines – were hijacked in coordinated attacks. All 246 passengers and crewmembers aboard the four aircraft perished. So did 19 hijackers.
    • On April 24, 2003, Edward A. Brennan was named Executive Chairman of AMR Corporation and Gerard J. Arpey became Chief Executive Officer and President of AMR. In May 2004, Gerard Arpey was elected chairman.
    • On July 10, 2004, Albert V. Casey, who served as Chairman and CEO of American from 1974 until 1985, died at his home in Dallas, Tex. He was 84.
    • In June 2004, AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle, celebrated 65 years of being listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
    • On August 20th, 2008 American Launched Aircell's Mobile Broadband service 'GoGo'.  American is first airline to offer full inflight internet on the entire 767-200 fleet.


                    Apr 13, 2009

                    American Invests in Its Future With First Deliveries of New Boeing 737-800s

                    American Continues to Invest for the Long-Term With Fuel- Efficient Aircraft


                    Dec 2, 2009

                    American Named Best Domestic First Class Airline by Global Traveler Magazine

                    Fourth Consecutive Year


                    Nov 8, 2010

                    oneworld Voted Leading Airline Alliance for Eighth Year Running 


                    Jun 30, 2011

                    American Leads The Industry With Its Mobile App Offerings

                    Debuts Apps for BlackBerry and Windows Phone Smartphones


                    Jul 20, 2011

                    AMR Corporation Announces Largest Aircraft Order in History With Boeing and Airbus 

                    American Airlines to Order 460 Narrowbody Jets to Replace and Transform its Fleet


                    Aug 3, 2011

                    American Becomes the First North American Airline to Offer Inflight Streaming Video 

                    American Enhances Onboard Experience with Rollout of Entertainment On Demand to

                    767-200 Fleet


                    Aug 29, 2011

                    American Airlines Unveils New Suite of Premium Products on International Flights 

                    First U.S. Airline to Offer Turndown Service, Quilted Bed Topper, Pajamas and slippers 


                    Sep 15, 2011

                    American Airlines Ranks No. 11 on 2011 InformationWeek 500 

                    American is Only Commercial Airline in the Ranking


                    Nov 29, 2011
                    Thomas W. Horton Named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of AMR Corporation
                    and American Airlines; Succeeds Gerard Arpey Who Decided to Retire
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