Nationally known pilot landed here

Monday, March 11, 2002

Tony Jannus created ripples of excitement when he landed his Benoist Co. hydroplane along the Mississippi River in downtown Cape Girardeau in 1912.

Jannus, a nationally known aviator, was hired by Benoist to fuel interest in the company's proposal to build an aviation factory in Cape Girardeau. The appearance of Jannus made a splash, but Benoist's plan to locate a plant in Cape Girardeau apparently went under.

Jannus, who made a name for himself entering biplane contests, was also the pilot of the first scheduled airline flight. Jannus, using a Benoist biplane seaplane in the flight from St. Petersburg, Fla., to Tampa, Fla., made his flights about 15 feet high on his trips across the bay.

Jannus died Oct. 12, 1916, at age 27. He was testing a Curtiss H-7 for the Russians when he had engine trouble and crashed into the Black Sea.

The picture of Jannus' Benoist plane was shown recently on the "Faces & Places" page of the Southeast Missourian. During that trip to Cape Girardeau, Jannus took a couple of area men -- A.M. Tinsley, manager of the local utilities plant, and August Siemers, a farmer -- on flights around town.

Only one person, Scott Shivelbine of Cape Girardeau, correctly identified the photo. Shivelbine said the plane may have been the first to land in Cape Girardeau. Turns out that Shivelbine, who has quite a collection of old photographs, also has a picture of the same plane. His photograph shows a large crowd gathered along the riverfront. The river was up, and the biplane landed on the water near the downtown railroad tracks.

Water transportation

Harold Webber knew immediately that the steamboat shown on the Faces & Space page of The Missourian, was a ferryboat.

"You can tell by the open decks and size of the boat," said Webber of Chester, Ill.

Webber also noted the tanker in the background.

"This was probably a naval ship used in the Spanish-American War," said Webber. "Several of the naval ships toured the Mississippi and Ohio rivers following the war, showing people naval vessels."

Ferries were big in the immediate area before the bridge was constructed at Cape Girardeau.

The first ferry was operated between Cape Girardeau and Illinois in 1805. Ferries continued, almost non-stop until the Mississippi River bridge opened in 1928.

Gladys was a steam ferry service and began operations in 1911. It was eventually replaced by the A.C. Jaynes, which operated here until the bridge opened.

Cape Girardeau also had a special ferry -- a railroad transfer boat -- which ferried railroad cars and engines across the river, using specially built inclines on both sides of the river. The railroad ferry service continued until the early 1900s.

Ferries continue to operate in various areas along the river, taking cars, trucks and passengers across the river.

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