GILMORE RED LION
Roscoe Turner, one of aviation’s most colorful individuals, was also one of the best pilots of the 1930s. Turner stood well over six feet tall, sported a neatly waxed mustache, and constantly wore a distinctive military-style uniform. He was a serious racing pilot and made several significant contributions to aviation during his career. He was a barnstormer, a Hollywood stunt pilot, a multiple transcontinental speed record holder, and a multiple National Air Race winner. Americans loved Turner because he was just the right combination of showman, daredevil, and talented pilot.
In 1930, Roscoe Turner took on a new and unique partner – a lion. During the previous fall, Turner had convinced the executives of Gilmore Oil Company to sponsor him. Gilmore had a lion as a corporate logo, and Turner, realizing the potential publicity for him and his sponsor, acquired a lion cub and began flying with him. “Gilmore,” as the lion was aptly named, became a well-known figure and, like Turner’s uniform, one of the aviator’s trademarks.
The Gilmore “Red Lion” was the work of Jimmy Wedell, with his Model Number 44 having a smooth cowl contour. Jimmie Wedell and Harry Williams formed an air service in Patterson, Louisiana in 1928, but went on to become nationally prominent during what was known as the Golden Age of Aviation. They won numerous races, but both eventually perished in plane crashes. The Red Lion was one of their most famous planes. The Wedell-Williams Museum was established by the Louisiana state legislature as the state’s official aviation museum.
The Gilmore Oil Company sponsored Rosco Turner in the 1932 Air Race, where he placed third. The engine and cowl were replaced by a more conventional cowl with rocker cover fairings. The “Red Lion” was a classic among the racing fleet of that time. Later, with a new sponsor, the “Red Lion” was replaced by 20th Century Fox, and the colorful paint scheme was a thing of the past.