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Oscar W. Richards Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Barnaby, Ralph S. (Ralph Stanton), 1893-1986 Search this
3.15 Cubic feet ((7 legal document boxes))
2.94 Linear feet
Ralph Stanton Barnaby (1893-1986) was an aviation pioneer. Barnaby was the first licensed glider pilot in the United States and the first to successfully launch a glider from an airship. He organized and directed the Navy's first school for glider pilots. Barnaby also served as president of the Early Birds and helped organize the Soaring Society of America, as well as authoring a number of books on gliders and paper airplanes.
Scope and Contents:
The Ralph Stanton Barnaby collection consists of approximately two cubic feet of materials relating to Barnaby's personal life and his relationship with the Early Birds of Aviation, Inc. This collection contains approximately one-fourth of Barnaby's personal papers, the remainder being held by the National Soaring Museum and the Franklin Institute. Before being accessioned into the Archives, documents from the Museum's biographical files were added to the collection. These documents are indistinguishable from the donated material and so remain part of this collection.
This collection consists almost entirely of correspondence, newsletters, news clippings, and publications relating to early aviation. A problem arises initially from the fact that all of the material in this collection is supposed to relate to Barnaby's relations with the Early Birds. As the majority is correspondence, it would be logical to arrange by individuals and/or offices first, but the fact that offices in the Early Birds organization were rotated yearly and that much of the correspondence is of a personal nature makes this difficult.
Materials in this collection date between 1911 and 1986 and the bulk dates ranging between 1930 and 1980, when Ralph Barnaby was most active in the Early Birds of Aviation, Inc. The materials were broken down into four series.
The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives received from the estate only those materials relating to his Early Birds affiliation, with his other materials going to the National Soaring Museum and the Franklin Institute. Any researcher interested in information relating to Barnaby's soaring experiences or personal life which NASM does not have should contact these organizations.
Biographical / Historical:
Ralph Stanton Barnaby was born 21 January 1893 in Meadville, PA, but moved to New York City in 1900, Barnaby has his first taste of aviation in 1905, when Roy Knabenshue flew his dirigible over the city. In 1908 Barnaby went to Belleville, New Jersey to see Thomas Baldwin fly what became the Signal Corps Dirigible No. 1. With his inspiration, Barnaby designed, built and flew his first glider in Roxbury Connecticut on 18 August 1909. After improved designs and additional flights, Barnaby was awarded the Fèdèration Aèronautique Internationale Soaring Certificate #1 for the United States, signed by Orville Wright. Now thoroughly bitten by the aviation bug, Barnaby forsook his chosen career as an artist and attended Columbia University, graduating in 1915 with a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical engineering. From Columbia, Barnaby went to the Elco Boat Company, where he worked with Alexander Graham Bell on the design and production of high-speed subchasers for the U.S. Navy. In 1916, he took the position of Assistant Chief Engineer and head of the Engineering Department at the Standard Aero Corporation, under Charles Healy Day.
When America entered World War I, Barnaby resigned from Standard Aero and accepted a commission in the Navy, serving overseas until the spring of 1919. Barnaby then came home and attended the Navy Flight School at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida and the Aviation Ground School at M.I.T., after which he was awarded his wings. Barnaby served as the First U.S. Navy representative on the Army-Navy Standards Committee and, in 1920, he was made Project Engineer for the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
On 31 January 1930 Barnaby performed the first successful glider release from USS Los Angeles during tests at NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey. These tests led to the later operation of powered aircraft from USS Macon and USS Akron. During 1930 he also authored Gliders and Gliding, established the U.S. Navy's Glider School, NAS Pensacola, Florida and served as Chief Engineer and Assistant Manager of the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia. Following the conclusion of the glider/dirigible tests, Barnaby was promoted to the rank of Lt Commander. In 1930 Barnaby joined the recently founded organization known as the Early Birds of Aviation, Inc.
From 1933 to 1939 Barnaby was assigned to a variety of bases in as many roles ranging from aircraft inspector at the Baltimore Naval Aircraft Factory (1933-1934) to repairs officer, NAS Pensacola (1934-1939). In 1938 Barnaby was promoted to the rank of Commander and a year later became Assistant Chief Engineer at the Naval Aircraft Factory, Philadelphia, where he remained until America's entrance into World War II. During the war, Barnaby was assigned to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard handling the design and procurement of troop and cargo-carrying gliders. In 1944 Barnaby was responsible for establishing and directing the Naval Aircraft Modification Unit, Johnsville, Pennsylvania, later known as the Naval Development Center and from 1945 to 1947 Barnaby served as Commanding Officer. In 1947 he retired from the U.S. Navy at the rank of Captain.
Following his retirement, Barnaby took a position at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Pennsylvania. where he worked in a variety of capacities including Aeronautics Consultant to the Director of the Science Museum and Chief of the Aeronautics Section He was responsible for planning and directing air traffic control research and aeronautical engineering and for the acquisition of many of the Institute's early flight artifacts, most notable their Wright Model B Flyer, the type Barnaby was taught to fly by George W. Beatty in 1912. When he passed away, Barnaby held the title of "Keeper Emeritus, Hall of Aviation."
Aside from his Navy and professional career, Barnaby had a multitude of other interests. Prior to witnessing the Knabenshue and Baldwin dirigible flights, Barnaby wanted to be an artist and studied at the Art Students League in New York City. He was a skilled craftsman, working in several mediums, but is best known for his sculptures. Examples of his work include bronze busts of famous naval leaders at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, pieces at the Mariner's Museum at Newport News Virginia, the bronze of the Wright Brothers at the Wright Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and the bas relief of Thomas E. Selfridge, first man to die in an air crash at Fort Myer, Virginia. In addition, most of the medallions and pins cast and presented by the Early Birds of Aviation were designed by Barnaby. Numerous examples of self-designed greeting cards designed by Barnaby reflect his artistic talents.
Another of Barnaby's hobbies was paper airplanes. Barnaby used a design he perfected while acting as liaison officer at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio in 1927 to win Scientific America's First International Paper Airplane Competition in 1967. In 1968, he authored How to Make and Fly Paper Airplanes which sold widely and discussed holding a program with the Smithsonian on paper airplane construction.
In addition to being a Past President of the Early Birds of Aviation, Barnaby was a member and/or officer of many other aeronautical organizations. In 1960 he was named an "Elder Statesman of Aviation" by the National Aeronautics Association. He was also Fellow of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, Founder of the Soaring Society of America, member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association, Past President of Aero Club of Pennsylvania, member of the Gliding Committee of the Fèdèration Aèronautique Internationale, member of the Twirly Birds, the Philadelphia Glider Council, the Golden Eagles, the Army/Navy Club, the Society of Automotive Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, founder of the New York Model Aero Club and member of the Scientific Research Society of America.
Barnaby's awards are diverse and include the Legion of Merit for Naval Services, U.S. Navy Air Medal and the Medal of Merit from Columbia University. He was the 1955 recipient of the Paul Tissandier Diploma from the Fèdèration Aèronautique Internationale and was named to the Helms Athletic Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport of soaring and gliding in America.
Ralph Stanton Barnaby Timeline
1893 -- Ralph Stanton Barnaby born, 21 January, Meadville, Pennsylvania.
1900 -- Family moved to New York City.
1904-1908 -- Grace Church Choisters School, New York City; Trinity School.
1909 -- Designed, built and flew his own glider, 18 August, Roxbury Falls, Connecticut.
1911 -- Co-founded New York Model Aero Club.
1912 -- Took flying lesson with George Beatty, Long Island, New York.
1915 -- Graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Columbia University.
1915-1916 -- Worked with Alexander Graham Bell on designing high-speed boats for the Navy with the Elco Company, Bayonne, New Jersey.
1915-1916 -- In charge of sub-chaser assembly and testing at Montreal, Quebec.
1917 -- Joined Standard Aero Corporation with Charles Healy Day, was made Assistant Chief Engineer and head of Engineering Department.
1917 -- Accepted a commission in the United States Navy at rank of ensign; First Navy representative on the Army-Navy Standards Committee.
1944 -- Established the Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville, Pennsylvania.
1945-1947 -- Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Development Center, Johnsville, Pennsylvania.
1947 -- Retired from U.S. Navy at rank of Captain.
1947 -- Accepted position at Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1950 -- Served as Captain of the first American soaring team to participate in an international gliding event, Sweden.
1967-1968 -- Winner of the First International Paper Airplane Competition and authored How to Make and Fly Paper Airplanes.
1986 -- Passed away, 15 May, Center City, Pennsylvania.
Additional Materials: The following materials were transferred to the National Air and Space Museum Aeronautics Division -- one Early Bird cap, one trophy, two plaques, medals, pins, and official Early Bird envelopes.
Ralph Stanton Barnaby, gift, 1987, 1987-0048, Not NASM
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