Title: Albert Adams Merrill Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1892-1951
Extent: Number of containers: 1 box
Linear feet: 0.5
California Institute of Technology. Archives.
Pasadena, California 91125
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All
requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing
to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the
California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not
intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be
obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item, Box and file number], Albert Adams Merrill Papers, Archives,
California Institute of Technology.
Albert A. Merrill was an aviation pioneer and designer. He was born on October 23, 1874
in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. From 1894 to 1911 he worked for Boylston National Bank in
Boston, then from 1911 to 1918, as an accountant for T. C. Edwards and Waldron Rand in
Boston, finally ending up at Price Waterhouse in Los Angeles. In 1918, he joined the
Throop faculty as an instructor in accounting and aeronautics. Merrill left the Caltech
staff in 1930 to engage privately in airplane design, but later returned in 1940.
At Caltech, Merrill supervised the design, construction, and operation of a small wind
tunnel on campus. It was the first wind tunnel on the west coast, and continued in
operation until it was destroyed by fire in the 1930s. He helped to develop small
subsonic wind tunnels operable by one person. A 110-foot long tunnel of this type was
built at Caltech in the late 1940s and dedicated to Merrill in August, 1950.
He held several patents for airplane design. One of his earliest was for the 'up only'
aileron, which provided lateral control by deflecting upward only and eliminating drag on
the down aileron. Accordingly, it eliminated the need for combined use of rudder and
aileron, which had been necessary for many years. The Merrill Aircraft Company built the
Stagger-Decalage biplane based on his designs, which claimed to land "safely without
manipulation of controls and...will not nose dive, stall, or spin."
Throughout his lifetime Merrill was interested in flying. Upon his graduation from
English High School in Boston in 1892 and 11 years before the Wright Brothers' first
flight, he delivered an essay on aerial navigation. In this essay, he predicted that man
would be able to fly in small ships with light, powerful engines within 10 to 15 years.
In 1894, he started the Boston Aeronautical Society and was both secretary and treasurer
until it disbanded in 1912. Merrill learned to fly in 1911, first at Squantum and later
at the Wrights' place in Dayton. He published numerous articles on airplane design and
other contemporary topics as well. Merrill died in 1952.
The collection contains biographical material, a small amount on wind tunnels and early
flight, reprints of Merrill's articles, manuscript articles, patent specifications, and
manuscripts of three books.