Knabenshue, A. Roy (Augustus Roy), 1876-1960 Search this
3.6 Cubic feet (8 legal document boxes)
This collection contains approximately three and a half cubic feet of material relating to the life and career of A. Roy Knabenshue. The collection includes correspondence, photographic material, drawings of aircraft, and flight records.
Scope and Contents:
The A. Roy Knabenshue Collection (accession XXXX.0136 and related accession XXXX.0370) contains approximately three and a half cubic feet of material relating to the life and career of a daring aeronaut and the United States' first successful dirigible pilot. The collection includes correspondence, photographic material, drawings of aircraft, and flight records. The material spans over seventy years, from the end of the nineteenth century to the nineteen-sixties.
The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) received these materials in several parts in the early 1960s. Material was donated by Mrs. A. Roy (Jane) Knabenshue and their son, Glenn Knabenshue. Original order, where identified, has been maintained.
Series 1: Personal
Subseries 1: Biographical
Subseries 2: Articles and Manuscripts
Subseries 3: Correspondence
Series 2: Career
Subseries 1: The Wright Company
Subseries 2: National Park Service
Series 3: Photographs and Scrapbooks
Series 4: Drawings
Series 5: Subject files
Series 6: Miscellaneous
Augustus Roy Knabenshue was born July 15, 1876 in Lancaster, Ohio to Samuel S. and Salome Matlack Knabenshue. The family later moved to Toledo, Ohio where Roy's father became editor-in-chief of the Toledo Blade. It was there that Roy became interested in lighter-than-air flight after seeing a balloon ascension when he was five years old. His interest continued to grow in the years that followed and in 1899 he bought a captive balloon and its equipment. The next season, he began to take short leaves of absence from his job at Central Union Telephone Company and was operating his balloon at fairs and carnivals, charging attendees for ascensions. To protect his day job and spare his socially prominent family embarrassment, Knabenshue used the name "Professor Don Carlos" at his balloon engagements. By 1900, Knabenshue had begun to fabricate additional spherical balloons himself, for use in free ascensions.
In October of 1904, Knabenshue took a new balloon to Saint Louis to enter it in contests associated with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. There he met Thomas S. Baldwin, who had brought his dirigible the California Arrow to the event. The airship proved incapable of take off with Baldwin at the controls, and the slimmer Knabenshue was asked to substitute as pilot. Possessing no experience with dirigibles, Knabenshue accepted Baldwin's instructions and on October 25 became the first person to successfully pilot a dirigible in the United States.
Roy Knabenshue's name would be associated with the term "first" many times in the next few years. In 1905, Knabenshue built his own airship, the Toledo I, and flew it at its namesake city on Independence Day. A month later, Knabenshue made the first flight of an airship over Manhattan, taking off from Central Park and circling the Times Building. On December 17, 1908, he made the first successful night flight of a dirigible in the United States.
By 1909, Knabenshue had teamed up with Lincoln Beachey to fly airships at various events. Beachey was to fly a Knabenshue dirigible a year later at the Los Angeles International Air Meet, held at Dominguez Field, Los Angeles, which Knabenshue was instrumental in organizing. Knabenshue also raced his own airship during the event, setting several records.
His success attracted the attention of the Wright brothers, who were considering entering the exhibition field. Knabenshue was hired to manage the Wright Exhibition Team beginning in 1910, and worked with the team periodically for the next few years. Associated professionally at times with Glenn Martin, Walter Brookins and James V. Martin, by 1917 he had formed the Knabenshue Aircraft Corporation to produce dirigibles, kite balloons and parachutes. During the First World War, this company made captive observation balloons for use by the United States Navy.
In 1933, Knabenshue began working for the National Park Service. His duties included surveying air routes, and the management of an autogiro project.
After suffering a heart attack in 1949, Knabenshue retired. He died on March 6, 1960, at the age of 83, and was buried at the Portal of the Folded Wings, Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California. He had held Balloon License Number 31, Dirigible License Number 4, built ten airships and numerous balloons, was a prominent member of the Early Birds of Aviation, and had earned a significant place in American aviation history.
Mrs. A. Roy (Jane) Knabenshue, NASM.XXXX.0136.
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.
Note: The digital images in this finding aid were repurposed from scans made by an outside contractor for a commercial product and may show irregular cropping and orientation in addition to color variations resulting from damage to and deterioration of the original objects.
The William J. Hammer Collection is arranged by content type.
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
No restrictions on access
7.28 Cubic feet (5 records center boxes, 1 16 x 20 x 3 inch flatbox, 1 12 x 16 x 3 inch flatbox)
7.66 Linear feet
The Bendix Corporation (1924-1983), manufacturers of devices for the automotive and aviation industries, sponsored the Bendix Trophy Race—a transcontinental speed competition for aircraft—annually from 1931-1939, then sporadically from 1946-1962. This collection includes race-related materials from the Bendix Advertising and Publicity department, along with materials from other aviation events for which Bendix was a sponsor. Approximately a third of the collection relates to the corporation's activities from circa 1960 to 1983, including military and commercial avionics and communications systems, and support for the Unites States space program, particularly the construction of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39.
Scope and Contents:
This collection centers on the activities of the Bendix Advertising and Publicity department (later Advertising and Public Relations), for many years directed by William A. Mara (later Eldon E. Fox) and assisted by the New York public relations firm Carl Byoir and Associates, Inc. Materials include correspondence, telegrams, documents, brochures, press releases, photographs, and black and white and color negatives and transparencies. As the Bendix Trophy Races were closely associated with the National Air Races, the collection includes race programs, schedules, entry forms, and related air racing ephemera, as well as a number of photographs by Robert E. Burke and Associates, for many years the official photographer of the National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. Similar materials relate to the National Soaring Contest held in Elmira, New York (1935-1946), and the All Woman Transcontinental Air Race (1956-1962) for which Bendix was a sponsor, various National Aircraft Shows and National Aviation Shows, and Bendix's membership in the Aircraft Industries Association of America (AIAA). The collection also includes materials relating to the design and production of the Vincent Bendix Trophy and related replicas and engraved plaques by the Medallic Art Company (New York, NY) and plaster models and plaques by The Potter-Bentley Studios, Inc. (Cleveland, Ohio). Also included are photographs and two sets of 11 audio cassette tape recordings each of interviews made as part of the 1985 program "The Golden Years," and photographs taken at the related October 30, 1985, event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The later third of the collection relates to Bendix's activities circa 1960-1985, with documents and photographs relating to the construction of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39, followed by a small amount of assorted advertising ephemera for various Bendix electronic products and services.
The materials are arranged in the original physical order as received from the donor, and have been grouped into four series. Folders within a series generally run in chronological order, although the last series contains an assortment of materials many of which would be more logically placed in earlier series. Folders of correspondence are generally arranged in reverse chronological order within the folder. Many of the photographs appearing in Series 2 (Bendix Trophy Races, By Year) can be found duplicated elsewhere in the collection. Boxes 6 and 7 both contain oversized materials.
Biographical / Historical:
The Bendix Corporation, founded in 1924 by inventor Victor Bendix, began as a manufacturer of devices for use in the automotive industry, initially of engine-related items such as starting motors and carburetors, but soon expanding to brakes and hydraulic systems. In 1929, renamed as Bendix Aviation, the corporation branched out into the design and manufacture of equipment for the closely related aeronautics industry, including aircraft hydraulics for brake and flap systems, aircraft engine carburetors, and various electric and electronic instruments. In 1931, Bendix decided to sponsor the first Bendix Trophy Race—a transcontinental speed competition open to all comers, male or female—"to encourage experimental developments by airplane designers and to improve the skills of aviators in cross-country flying techniques such as weather plotting, high altitude and instrument flight." The Bendix Trophy Races were held in conjunction with the National Air Races, occurring with great fanfare annually from 1931-1939, but were suspended from 1940-1945 during World War II. In 1946, the races resumed, but now had to contend with the invention of the jet engine—accordingly, the Bendix Trophy Race was split into two categories: the "R" Division for reciprocating engine airplanes, and the "J" Division for U.S. military jet airplanes. Interest in air racing had declined in the post-war period, and no race was run in 1950. In 1951 the races resumed, and from this point on were limited to U.S. military jets only. Subsequent Bendix Trophy Races occurred in 1953-1957, and then (after a three-year gap) in 1961, with the last race held in 1962.
By this point in time, the Bendix Corporation—which had branched out to dominate the US market in aircraft radio and radar equipment during World War II—was producing missile and radar systems for the US military. In the 1960s Bendix was also building ground and airbourne telecommunications and telemetry systems for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Bendix Field Engineering division worked on the construction of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex 39 at the Merritt Island Launch Area (MILA) adjacent to Cape Canaveral, Florida, including the Apollo Launch Control Center, Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and operational support equipment. In the 1970s, Bendix and its numerous Divisions were involved in a series of mergers, sales, and other changes involving the Raytheon and Allied (later Allied-Signal Aerospace) corporations, followed by a hostile takeover attempt in 1982 by Martin Marietta. In 1983, Bendix was acquired by Allied-Signal Aerospace (later Honeywell International) which retained the avionics part of the business.
The original Vincent Bendix Trophy was donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in 1985 [artifact number A19850368000]. On October 30, 1985, an event sponsored by Bendix/Allied-Signal was held at the museum in Washington, D.C., honoring aviators involved in the Bendix Trophy Races. Titled "The Golden Years," the program included interviews with several winners of the Bendix Trophy.