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Finding aid of the Walter R. Brookins Aviation Collection
h1950.1  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Processing Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Walter R. Brookins Aviation collection
    Dates: 1900-1954.
    Collection number: h1950.1
    Creator: Brookins, Walter R., 1888-1953
    Collection Size: 1 archives half-carton (0.2 linear foot).
    Repository: Claremont Colleges. Library. Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library.
    Claremont, CA 91711
    Abstract: Photographs of the Wright glider and flyer, 1900 and 1902, and of various air meets circa 1910-circa 1912, as well as of reunions of the Early Birds, and of Walter Brookins; a loose-leaf binder containing typed transcripts of newspaper articles and book chapters concerning the Wright brothers and Brookins' career; a portfolio of photographic plates published in 1952 by the National Aerographic Society, a subsidiary of the Institute of Aeronautical History, commemorating important events in the history of flight; newspaper article, 1930, containing reminiscences of Brookins of his early days with the Wright brothers.
    Physical location: Please consult repository.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Access

    Collection open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish must be submitted in writing to Special Collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Walter R. Brookins Aviation collection. Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library, Claremont University Consortium.

    Acquisition Information

    Donor and date of acquisition unknown. The collection came to Special Collections together with the James Carruthers Memorial Aviation Collection of the Institute of Aeronautical History.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Michael P. Palmer, July 2004.

    Biography

    Walter Richard Brookins was born in Dayton, Ohio, on July 11, 1888. He first knew Orville and Wilbur Wright at the age of four, and was a student of their sister, Katherine, a school teacher. As a teenager he spent much time at the Wright brothers' bicycle shop, observing them testing their theories, and after their successful first flight the brothers promised Brookins a plane as soon as he was old enough. Brookins, along with J. W. Davis, Spencer C. Crane, Arch Hoxsey, and Arthur L. Welch, was one of the five men chosen to be trained as pilots to engage in exhibition flying for the Wright Company, and with Davis was the first to arrive at the Wright Brothers' training camp, at what is now Maxwell Field, outside Montgomery, Alabama, on March 19, 1910. Brookins was the first civilian pilot taught to fly by Orville Wright, taking to the air after two and a half hours of instruction, controlling a flight from start to finish on April 30, and flying alone for 12 minutes on May 6. On May 10, Orville Wright left Montgomery to return to Dayton, leaving Brookins in charge of training the other two students. As a member of the Wright Company's exhibition team, Brookins was under a two-year contract, receiving a basic salary of $20 a week, supplemented by $50 per day for every flying day; prize money was turned in to the company. Brookins was one of the most daring and accomplished members of the Wright team. On July 10, 1910, at Atlantic City, he became the first person to reach an altitude of one mile in an airplane, winning a $5,000 prize for the Wright Company from the Atlantic City Aero Club, and on September 29, 1911, he set an American distance record by flying 192 miles from Chicago to Springfield, IL, making two stops.
    Although he broke with the Wright team in 1911 and retired as an instructor in 1914, Brookins remained active in aviation throughout his life. In 1928, He was a founding member of the Early Birds, an organization of those who had piloted a glider, airship, or airplane before December 17, 1916; he was also president of the organization in 1937. In his later years he was a partner in the Davis-Brooking Aircraft Co., of Hollywood, California, which developed the wing assembly used on all World War II B-24s. He was also sometime president of the Institute of Aeronautical History, and a leading member of the Friends of Aeronautical History, which in 1949 organized the Brookins Lahm Wright Aeronautical Foundation (incorporated in December 1953, after his death) to support (1) the Portal of the Folded Wings, a burial place for pioneer aviators in Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, in North Hollywood, California; (2) the Library of the Institute of Aeronautical History (incorporated 1933), now the James Carruthers Memorial Aviation Collection of the Institute of Aeronautical History, Claremont McKenna College, deposited in the Honnold/Mudd Library, Claremont, California; and (3) the Gillette Museum Center of International Aeronautical Documentation, of which nothing further is known at present (cf. the James N. Gillette Aviation Collection, Photographic Collection P-140, Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of the County of Los Angeles).
    Brookins died at his home in Hollywood, California, on April 29, 1953, after an illness of four months. He was the first aviator to be buried in the Portal of the Folded Wings, in Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, in North Hollywood, California.
    Sources:
    1. Dave Kendziora, "Wright trainee flew high, set cross-country record," Hilltop Times  , Thursday, July 10, 2003, (last accessed June 7, 2004).
    2. Obituary, New York Times, April 30, 1953, p. 31:1.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The collection contains photographs of the Wright glider and Wright flyer from circa 1902-circa 1903, and of various air meets circa 1910-circa 1912, as well as of reunions of the Early Birds, and of Walter Brookins. It includes a loose-leaf binder of typescript transcriptions of newspaper articles and book chapters concerning the Wright brothers and Brookins' career, as well as a portfolio of photographic plates published in 1952 by the National Aerographic Society, a subsidiary of the Institute of Aeronautical History, commemorating important events in the history of flight, and a newspaper article from 1930, with reminiscences of Brookins of his early days with the Wright brothers.

    Arrangement

    The collection is arranged in two series: (1) Photographs, and (2) Printed Matter.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Aeronautical sports--History
    Aeronautics--History
    Brookins, Walter R., 1888-1953
    Early Birds of Aviation (Organization)
    Photographs
    Prints
    Wright, Orville, 1871-1948
    Wright, Wilbur, 1867-1912

    Related Material

    James Carruthers Memorial Aviation Collection of the Institute of Aeronautical History, Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library, Claremont.
    James N. Gillette Aviation Collection, Photographic Collection P-140, Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of the County of Los Angeles.