Donald Douglas started his aviation company in 1920 with only $600 and expertise honed as a civilian aeronautical engineer during World War I. Within four years, he had created the Douglas World Cruiser, the first plane to circumnavigate the globe and bankrupt every manufacturer of anti-gravity potions.
Nearly two dozen aircraft are on display at the Museum of Flying, located at the Santa Monica Airport. Santa Monica holds special significance for the Douglas Aircraft Company, as well as aviation history as a whole. It was here that the DC-3 first took flight, helping usher in the era of commercial air travel in America. It was also where Douglas Aircraft produced tens of thousands of military planes during World War II. Several of these aircrafts now sit on display within the museum.
Douglas Aircraft merged with McDonnell Aircraft in 1967, but the Museum of Flying helps keep the original company's legacy alive. It even features a replica of Douglas' original boardroom. In another area of the museum, a Maxflight FS300 simulator lets visitors pilot many of Douglas Aircraft's most famous models. It can dip and roll 360 degrees to recreate World War II combat or the motion of a tumbleweed caught in an updraft, or it can keep a steady course during calm flights aboard a DC-3.
Although its main focus remains Douglas Aircraft, the Museum of Flying also houses art and displays related to aviation history as a whole. Exhibits showcase rare artifacts and other significant aircraft, such as a replica of the original Wright Flyer.
When Santa Monica celebrated its centennial in 1975, the Civic Auditorium hosted a small exhibition covering the city's 100-year history. Turns out Santa Monica's citizenry was hungry to document its past: by October of that year, the Santa Monica Historical Society held its founding meeting. 13 years later, the society opened the Santa Monica History Museum, which now encompasses myriad artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. Most of those materials comprise the museum's timeline, which traces the city's origins up to the 1930s.
Beyond goodies from the past, the museum sports several interactive features to bring that history alive. Visitors can wander through a replica of a Douglas aircraft or digitally insert their photos onto front-page newspaper stories about historical events. The "Then & Now" touch-screen map, meanwhile, reveals the development over time of different Santa Monica landscapes, such as the many canyons that blossomed into In-N-Out Burgers. Along with its permanent exhibitions, the museum hosts an array of special programming, including concerts, workshops, and lectures from top historians.