Quirky Des Moines #8- University of Lawsonomy

Photo from research.sabr.org

Alfred Lawson created a few notable things in his lifetime but for the most part he has remained a relatively unknown figure in history. He created the first airliner after having a short career in baseball. He also created a college in Des Moines to spread his Lawsonomy philosophy and his Lawsonian religion.

Born in London, England on March 24, 1869, Alfred Lawson was a minor league baseball player from 1890 to 1895 playing for the Boston Beaneaters and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. After leaving baseball in 1908, Lawson created the magazine, Fly, to educate readers on what was at the time the new science of aviation.  The magazine covered the technical advancements in the field but low readership forced it to close in 1914.

In 1913, Lawson learned to fly monoplanes and became an accomplished pilot. In 1917, he built his first airplane, the Lawson Military Tractor 1 (MT-1) and founded the Lawson Aircraft Corporation in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After the first World War, Lawson made it his goal to create the nation’s first airline. The Lawson L-2, an 18 passenger plane, was created in five months. He held a 2,000 mile multi-city publicity tour to show off the plane’s capabilities which created enough positive press to secure him $1 million in funding to create a 26 passenger plane called the Midnight Liner. The 1920 recession forced Lawson to back out of government contracts for airmail routes due to not having the $100,000 in cash reserves needed to operate them. Lawson created his last airline in 1926 with a 56 seat, two tiered super airliner that proceeded to crash on takeoff during it’s maiden flight.

After leaving the aviation field, Lawson became focused on healthy living and even became convinced he knew the secret to living to the age of 200. During this time he created Lawsonomy with concepts such as “penetrability” caused suction and pressure to cause currents that enable movement. Zig-zag-&- swirl described the pattern of motion caused by the pushing of pressure. Though having no actual proof to any of the claims he made, he published multiple books of his theories and believed the world would adopt Lawsonian principles by the year 2000.

In 1943, the University of Lawsonomy was created in Des Moines at the site that was previously the Highland Park College to spread his theories and offered the degree of “Knowledgian”.  Lawson was brought before a Senate investigative committee on allegations his school had bought surplus war machines and sold them for a profit but was still claiming to be a non profit organization. After numerous IRS and other government investigations, the University of Lawsonomy was closed and eventually sold in 1954 which was also the year that Alfred Lawson died.

Lawsonian Religion failed to last beyond Lawson’s death mainly due to the 30 year program of exclusive study to Lawsonomy required of it’s followers. A few devoted followers ended up completing their “Knowledgian” degree after Lawson’s death but it is to be assumed these people are just as unemployable as those holding English Writing degrees such as the writer of this story.

The University of Lawsonomy may not have lasted long in Des Moines but Alfred Lawson should be best remembered as an innovative thinker who was one of the pioneers in the world of aviation advancement. He created the first airline in the world and was able to build planes in months rather than years. He was also crazy as a loon.


To learn more about Ozzy Osbourne’s famous bat biting incident in Des Moines, click here.

Lawsonomy Volume One $49 @ Amazon.com



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