The collection consists of correspondence and scrapbooks. The correspondence is arranged into 15 sub-series: Aerial Experiment Association, Aero Club of America, Aero Club of Washington, Aeronautic Society of New York, Aeronautical Annuals, Octave Chanute and his daughters, Glenn Curtiss, House Resolution #7653, Ernest Jones, Otto Lilienthal, Henry Cabot Lodge, Hiram Maxim, Technical Matters, U.S. Signal Corps, and Albert Zahm. Of the three scrapbooks, one is a photograph album containing early glider photos and travel postcards. The second contains photos and news clippings regarding aviation in the 1890's, especially the work of Langley and Maxim with kites, balloons, and aerial bicycles. Clippings are in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Dutch. The third scrapbook is labeled 'James Means 1892' and consists of photos, letters, manuscripts, clippings in English and German, copies of legislation, and book excerpts.
Biographical / Historical:
James Means (1855-1920) was an American industrialist who sacrificed his business to devote himself to the promotion of aviation. Determined to disseminate information on flying, he collected and edited the most significant works of Otto Lilienthal, Octave Chanute, Samuel Langley and others, producing the 'Aeronautical Annuals' which appeared in 3 volumes in 1895, 1896 and 1897. Dr. Means studied bird-flight, kites and gliders, and designed model gliders in the early 1890s. He was awarded patents for his aircraft smoke signal device (1909), his aircraft launcher (1909), and his simplified control column for airplanes (1909-1911).
James H. Means, gift, unknown, XXXX-0394, unknown
No restrictions on access
The collection is the result of Major Hammer's passion for amassing material related to aeronautics and technology, and it is arranged into eleven series: articles, clippings, correspondence, drawings and blueprints, leaflets, legislation, minutes, miscellaneous, photographs, programs and publications. Housed in 23 folders, the correspondence is the most comprehensive series, reflecting the original order which grouped the letters into series by topic. Much of the correspondence concerns the planning of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909, and the involvement of Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss. There is also a scrapbook of black and white photographs providing front and side views of specified airplanes. Each page has 3 photos showing different views of the same plane accompanied by a label with additional information. (See written copy for details. Also, please see information written on 8x11 notebook paper.)
Scope and Contents:
The William J. Hammer Collection reflects Hammer's great interest in aeronautics --a passion he cultivated for several decades by accumulating a veritable storehouse of materials. Hammer's important contributions to the early development of aviation are also evident in this collection.
The collection of materials listed in the finding aid is arranged into two series. The first series includes correspondence, reports, handbooks, drawings, brochures, programs, leaflets, magazines, articles, newspaper clippings and miscellaneous materials. The second series is comprised of photographs of various sizes, scrapbooks, scrapbook pages and miscellaneous materials (the front pages of newspapers, certificates, posters, etc.).
Hammer's papers are arranged both chronologically and alphabetically. Correspondence, drawings, brochures, programs, leaflets, miscellaneous materials, scrapbook pages, articles and newspaper clippings are organized by the former method. Reports, handbooks, magazines and booklets are grouped alphabetically by either title of publication or author. Photographs are arranged either by subject or chronologically.
The reader should note that at some point, Hammer produced a series of large format photographs. These mounted photographs are duplicates. Due to the very fragile condition of these particular images, the photographs and are not available to researchers.
Additional photographic material regarding Hammer Collection photographs can be found in the NASM Archives Images database. An Archives staff member will assist you with research using this database.
Box 13 of the William J. Hammer Collection has not been scanned.
William J. Hammer was born in Cressona, Pennsylvania, on February 26, 1858, was an associate of Thomas Edison and an early aviation supporter and enthusiast. He began his career as an assistant to Edward Weston of the Weston Malleable Nickel Company. In 1879, he moved on to a new position as laboratory assistant to Thomas Edison at Menlo Park, New Jersey. His duties ranged from aiding in conducting experiments on such devices as the phonograph, telephone and ore separator to acting as Edison's key person in further developing the incandescent electric lamp. By 1880, he was made chief engineer of the Edison Lamp Works. A year later, Edison dispatched Hammer to London to be chief engineer of the English Electric Light Company. In this position, he helped construct the Holborn Viaduct Central Electric Light Station in London. This was the first central station ever built for incandescent electric lighting. In 1883, Hammer became chief engineer for the German Edison Company. This task included planning and supervising the construction of all Edison plants in Germany. He returned to the United States late in the following year and acted as chief inspector of central stations of the parent Edison Electric Light Company. In 1886-87, Hammer was general manager and chief engineer of the Boston Edison Electric Illuminating Company. In 1888, he worked as an independent engineer and supervised the completion of the then-largest isolated electric lighting plant, located at the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. During that year, Hammer also was chosen as consulting electrical engineer to the Cincinnati Centennial Exposition. Subsequently, Edison selected him as his personal representative to the Paris Exposition of 1889. This assignment rounded out Hammer's eleven years with Edison. During his time as one of Edison's most trusted and important employees, Hammer devised a number of innovations to the incandescent electric lamp. He designed and built the first electric sign, which spelled out the name "Edison". While in Germany, he invented the automatic motor-driven flashing electric lamp sign. This particular sign flashed the word "Edison" letter by letter and then all at once. At the International Electrical Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1884, Hammer also constructed the first flashing column of electric lights.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1890, Hammer worked as an independent consulting electrical engineer by assisting in a variety of electrical projects, carrying out tests, giving lectures and providing expert testimony in patent disputes. He based this modest enterprise in an office in New York City and continued in this occupation until 1925. His career as an electrical engineering consultant was interrupted by World War I. In June 1918, he was commissioned a major in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the Inventions Section of the War Plans Division of the General Staff in charge of Aeronautical and Electrical Inventions at the Army War College, Washington, D.C.. By December of that year, he was attached to the Operations Division General Staff at the War Department (Inventions Section). During the war and on into 1919, Hammer also worked for the U.S. Patent Office by identifying any aviation-related patents likely to convey too much information to potential enemies. In conjunction with his War Department duties, he acted as a member of the Advisory Board of Experts affiliated with the Alien Property Commission.
Busy as he was with his private consulting work, Hammer also immersed himself in other scientific activities. He took a particular interest in radium after visiting Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris in 1902. The two discoverers of radium gave him some samples of this substance. Soon after returning to the United States, Hammer experimented with radium. His research yielded numerous useful applications for this material such as radium-luminous powders and paints that were used to coat everything from watch and clock dials to aeronautical instruments, switches and toys. Hammer also advocated the use of radium for cancer and tumor treatment. Beyond his interest in this material, he invented selenium light-sensitive cells and recommended many practical uses for them. He also conducted a great deal of laboratory work on X-rays, ultraviolet and cathode rays, phosphorescence and wireless communications. Accordingly, he lectured and published extensively on many of these fields of research and study.
Hand in hand with his overall interest in science and technology, Hammer had a particular passion for aeronautics. Beyond paying careful attention to the rapid progress made in this field at the turn of the twentieth century, he also played an active role as participant and supporter. He made his first balloon flight over France during the Paris Exposition of 1889. His last lighter-than-air journey took place in 1931 aboard the U.S. Navy dirigible Los Angeles. Moreover, he attended and officiated over many balloon, airship and airplane exhibitions and races. Hammer was a member of the Aero Club of America and a director of the Aeronautical Society. This latter group made the first ever purchase of an airplane in January 1909. He served as expert and secretary of the Aeronautics Committee on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission of 1909 and wrote the contracts for Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss to fly their airplanes for this event. This occasion in New York was important as it marked the first time a large gathering of people in the U.S. witnessed heavier-than-air powered flight. As a friend of the Wright brothers, Hammer testified as an expert witness on their behalf during various patent litigation suits. His contact with aviation pioneers went beyond the Wrights and Curtiss. He also knew and interacted with, among others, Samuel Langley, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henri Farman and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Even his work with radium had applications for aviation. Hammer developed radium-based luminous compounds and used them on aircraft instruments so pilots could more easily view their cockpits' dials and gauges.
Hammer's last years were filled with serving as Historian General of the Military Order of the World War, as well as participating in many scientific, engineering and aeronautical committees and societies. During this time, he was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Elliott Cresson Gold Medal, John Scott Medal from the Franklin Institute and the Cross of the Legion of Honor from France. Up until his death on March 24, 1934, he also labored in his efforts to organize a vast personal collection of rare and valuable scientific artifacts, photographs and other materials accumulated since his days with Edison. Following Hammer's death, this important collection was left in the care of his daughter Mabel (his wife of twelve years, Alice, having died in 1906). Some years later, International Business Machines (IBM) acquired it. In 1962, IBM donated the William J. Hammer Scientific Collection to the Smithsonian Institution. The bulk of the collection resides with the National Museum of American History's Archives Center. In the mid 1980s, the aeronautical portion of this collection was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives.
IBM (Mr. William J. Hammer Collection), gift, 1961, XXXX-0074, not NASM
0.88 Cubic feet (2 flat boxes and 1 oversized folder)
This collection chronicles the exploits of Charles F. Walsh during the years 1909-1912. There are five scrapbooks and three packets of information.
Scope and Contents:
This collection chronicles the exploits of Charles F. Walsh during the years 1909-1912, including the following: numerous photos of the Walsh 1911 Silver Dart, Curtiss biplanes and aircraft engines; photos of personalities such as Lincoln Beachey, Glenn Curtiss, Thomas Sopwith, Eugene Ely, John McCurdy, and Beckwith Havens; an original drawing of the Silver Dart dated 1908; miscellaneous memorabilia including a business card, tickets to air shows, benefits, and state fairs during 1911-1912; Walsh's Aero Club of California and Aero Club of America licenses; and a ticket to the Panama-California Exposition of 1915.
The collection is arranged according to type of material; albums are arranged according to size of enclosure required to safely house them.
Biographical / Historical:
Charles F. Walsh (1877-1912) is credited with being the first man in California to build a practical flyable airplane, the Walsh 1911 Silver Dart, and received Pilot's License No. 1 issued by the Aero Club of California. Walsh was taught to fly by Lincoln Beachey in 1909, and he quickly gained fame as an aviator, travelling throughout the US and Cuba from 1910 through 1912. Walsh flew as an exhibition pilot for the Curtiss Company and was killed October 3, 1912 when his plane experienced structural failure at Trenton, New Jersey.
Frank E. Martin, Gift, 1968
No restrictions on access.
This collection consists of documents and memorabilia relating to Curtiss during the years of his active aviation pursuits. The bulk of the material relates to patent suits, including Wright v. Curtiss, Herring v. Curtiss, and Curtiss v. Janin.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of the personal papers of Glenn H. Curtiss. These papers relate to his career as an aviation pioneer and aircraft manufacturing business owner. This collection also includes a small amount of personal correspondence. Moreover, materials pertaining to patents filed by Curtiss and the Wright brothers, as well as legal documents and testimony, are found in this collection.
Series 1: Professional materials
Subseries 1.1: Corporate correspondence
Subseries 1.2: Personal correspondence
Subseries 1.3: Miscellaneous corporate materials
Subseries 1.4: Patent materials
Subseries 1.5: Reports
Subseries 1.6: Photographs
Subseries 1.7: Menus, programs and tributes
Subseries 1.8: Books, journals, newsletters, and miscellaneous materials
Subseries 1.9: Newspaper clippings and articles
Series 2: Legal materials
Subseries 2.1: Curtiss versus Herring
Subseries 2.2: Curtiss versus Wright Brothers
Subseries 2.3: Lena P. Curtiss versus Herring
Glenn Hammond Curtiss (1878-1930) is best known as an aviation pioneer and inventor and founder of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Co. Initially a bicycle repairman and designer, by 1902 Curtiss had begun to manufacture motorcycles using a lightweight internal combustion engine of his own design and founded the Curtiss Manufacturing Co. By 1904 Curtiss' engine had been co-opted by Thomas Baldwin for his airship experiments. This activity led to a connection between Curtiss and Alexander Graham Bell and, in 1907, to the foundation of the Aerial Experiment Association. In 1909 Curtiss joined with Augustus M. Herring to form the Herring-Curtiss Co to manufacture powered vehicles, but Herring's unsubstantiated claims to priority over the Wright Brother's aeronautical patents led to the Wright and Curtiss patent suits which continued until the merger of Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor with Wright Aeronautical in 1929. Curtiss and Herring split after the Wright's filed suit and Herring sued Curtiss, claiming that Curtiss had failed to turn his air race winnings over to the company. Despite these, and other, suits, Curtiss continued to advance the cause and technology of aviation, founding the first public flying school (1910) and later a chain of schools across the US, inventing the aileron (1909), the dual-control trainer (1911) and the hydroaeroplane (1911). In 1920 Curtiss retired from active aviation pursuits. After Curtiss died, his wife continued the legal fight on her husband's behalf until a judge decided in Herring's favor (1931).
This scrapbook was kept by Johnson's wife Florence, and is a collection of photographs and newspaper clippings outlining his career. It also contains correspondence written to Mrs. Johnson concerning her husband.
Biographical / Historical:
Walter E. Johnson was a pioneer in early aviation and a World War I aviation instructor. He was also a member of the 'Early Birds,' a group recognized as flying before December 17, 1916. His first job dealing with aviation was working for Glenn H. Curtiss as a mechanic and later flying for the Thomas Brothers Aeroplane Company.
Elizabeth J. Harrison, gift, 1987, 1987-0068, not NASM
No restrictions on access