Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Walter R. Brookins Aviation collection
Collection number: h1950.1
Brookins, Walter R., 1888-1953
1 archives half-carton
(0.2 linear foot).
Claremont Colleges. Library. Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd
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
Physical location: Please consult repository.
Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English
Collection open for research.
All requests for permission to publish must be submitted in writing to Special
[Identification of item], Walter R. Brookins Aviation collection. Special
Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library, Claremont University Consortium.
Donor and date of acquisition unknown. The collection came to Special Collections
together with the James Carruthers Memorial Aviation Collection of the Institute of
Collection processed by Michael P. Palmer, July 2004.
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,
- Dave Kendziora, "Wright trainee flew high, set cross-country record,"
July 10, 2003, (last accessed June 7, 2004).
New York Times, April 30, 1953,
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.
The collection is arranged in two series: (1) Photographs, and (2) Printed
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Brookins, Walter R.,
Early Birds of Aviation (Organization)
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