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Dolly Trent Longren

Dolly and A. K. Longren, Topeka

Aviation promoter:  Born: December 5, 1893 Hardin, Missouri.  Married: Albin K. Longren, 1914.  Died: January 31, 1971, Texas.

"Watch it climb, see it fly, you'll own a Longren by and by." Dolly Longren's advertising copy promised to set a new standard for modern air travel. The Topeka aviation company Dolly and her husband, Albin K. Longren, owned, hoped to market aircraft to the average American. The aviation company was just one of many careers Dolly tackled during her life.

A native of Hardin, Missouri, Lottie Martha "Dolly" Trent was born December 5, 1893, and grew up in Minneapolis. Trent met Albin Kasper Longren at a fair in Minneapolis where was making exhibition flights. Soon after, her family moved to Pittsburg and Trent left home to begin working as a nurse at a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. She and A. K. were married in 1914. A newspaper account of the marriage said her co-workers were hesitant to let her leave; she was a "general favorite among the nurses and with the patients."

At the time of their marriage, A. K. operated Longren Aviation in Topeka where he built planes in addition to his work as a barnstormer. The Longrens traveled throughout the state on barnstorming tours to promote their aircraft. The trips produced little revenue, but created an interest in aviation and offered a chance to test the models. A. K. applied his research and testing to make refinements in his designs. One Longren innovation was a balanced lateral control, which was inspired by watching weather vanes. He noticed the difference between the ones that stayed still and the ones that wobbled.

Dolly began taking an active role in the aviation company in Topeka. Newspaper stories suggested that she was known to repair a plane "as well as any man" and she may have assisted in training pupils. "Her pet hobby is tinkering with engines and mechanical devices, manifesting an especial genius with reference to airplane adjustments."

Dolly enjoyed performing in local plays and was featured in a leading role in Sunflower Princess, an all Kansas motion picture produced in Topeka. Newspaper accounts mention that Dolly won a Sunflower beauty contest in 1920 sponsored by the Topeka Daily Capital and a film company, which included a trip to Hollywood.

A. K. moved his aviation company to 1401 North Winfield in Oakland, near the family home at 1333 Arter. There he began to design The New Longren. Due to his passion for perfection, Longren worked long hours designing and preparing for the plane's production. "Often at midnight Dolly would carry coffee and sandwiches to him from their home across the street," according to the Topeka Daily Capital. His new plane, Model AK, entered production in 1921 and was available by mail order. Designed for the individual owner, it was innovative and sturdier than earlier models; its wings folded to fit in a garage; it could be towed behind a car. The New York Times featured a photograph of A. K. filling the plane at a service station. Dolly and her sister, Etha, sewed cloth wing covers, which slipped on like pillowcases.

To encourage sales, A. K. pursued military contracts, while Dolly worked on marketing. The military ordered a few planes, but the Longren factory was unable to meet its production schedule. By May 1923, the factory had produced 21 planes. Limited funding and too few sales led to the company's close in 1926.

A. K. left Topeka for Oklahoma and eventually California where he worked as a consultant in the aviation industry until his death in 1950. Dolly moved to New York and in 1929 opened an antique shop in the Ziegfeld Theater. She became a respected dealer and was one of the first people to enter France after World War II on a permit to reestablish trade. An avid gardener, Dolly was interviewed on a national television program about her hobby in 1957. An urban renewal project forced her to close her Third Avenue shop and in 1958 she reopened the shop in Topeka. Dolly returned to the home on Arter where her sister had been living. She would marry two other times during her life. Dolly died January 31, 1971, in Texas.

Entry: Longren, Dolly Trent

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: October 2004

Date Modified: February 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.