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Guide to the Harlan D. Fowler Papers
MSS-1995-04  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Separated Material
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Project Information
  • Biographical History
  • Chronology of Employment
  • Bibliography
  • Related Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Harlan D. Fowler Papers
    Dates: 1920-1980
    Collection number: MSS-1995-04
    Creator: Fowler, Harlan Davey, 1895-1982
    Collection Size: 7 file boxes, 6 tube boxes, 2 flat file drawers, 4 custom boxes (27.5 linear feet)
    Repository: San José State University. Library.
    San José, California 95192-0028
    Abstract: The Harlan D. Fowler Papers (1920-1980) document the career of Harlan D. Fowler, inventor and aviation engineer. Fowler is recognized for inventing the Fowler flap, a variable area wing high-lift device for aircraft still used on most commercial airplanes today. The collection consists of his professional papers including technical reports, blueprints, original data, technical publications, drawings, and photographs, as well as airplane models relating primarily to the Fowler flap and the Fowler-designed air cargo container. This collection documents the history of technology, the history of aviation, and the development of the aircraft industry during World War II. The collection is arranged into nine series: Series I. Commercial Uses of Fowler Designs; Series II. Fowler-Designed Aerodynamic Flow Control Devices; Series III. Original Fowler Aircraft Designs and Data; Series IV. Air Cargo Reports and Data; Series V. Miscellaneous Reports; Series VI. Aircraft Conversion Reports and Data; Series VII. Aircraft Models; Series VIII. Publications; and Series IV. Additional Images.
    Physical location: Vault 1, Range 26B
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Access

    Collection is open for research, however, all negatives and unprocessed drawings are restricted.

    Separated Material

    All large-scale blueprints noted in the collection are stored separately in flat-file storage. A model of an airplane cargo container, which was previously part of this collection, is owned by the SJSU Aviation and Technology Department.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright is assigned to the San José State University Special Collections & Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Special Collections & Archives. Copyright restrictions may apply to digital reproductions of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    Harlan D. Fowler Papers, MSS-1995-04, San José State University Library Special Collections & Archives.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Sara Chabino Lott in 2004. Revised by Mary Ellen Petrich in 2009. Encoded by Mary Ellen Petrich. Reviewed by Danelle Moon and Erin Louthen.

    Project Information

    This finding aid was created as part of the Survey and Cataloging Project, a two-year San José State University Library grant project funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The project began in 2008. The Project Director is Danelle Moon. The Project Archivist is Erin Louthen.

    Biographical History

    Born June 18, 1895, Harlan Davey Fowler grew up in Sacramento, California. Fowler married twice and had two children. He spent his professional life as an aeronautical engineer and inventor. He died on April 27, 1982.
    The year 1917 marked the beginning of Fowler's life-long career as an aeronautical engineer and inventor. Fowler worked as an independent consultant and also for a number of aeronautical firms including: Fokker, The Glenn L. Martin Co., Convair, Douglas Aircraft Co., Fowler Aircraft Co., the Bureau of Aeronautics, and the U.S. Air Force. He also patented twenty inventions, the most significant of which include: Variable-Area Wing, 1921, patent #1392005; Cargo Container for Airplanes, 1948, patent #2442459; and Convertible VTOL Aircraft, 1963, patent #3093347, and 1967, patent #3312426.
    His greatest professional achievement was the development of the variable area wing, commonly known as the Fowler flap. The Fowler flap is a high-lift device located on the trailing edge of an airplane wing that increases wing area and lift. During the late 1910s and early 1920s, many engineers experimented with wings, slots and flaps to improve airplane performance. Fowler developed a flap that slid back from the wing and rotated down, creating a slot. This flap increased the curvature and area of the wing, which tunes it to operate more efficiently at lower speeds occurring during take-off and landing. The design and testing of the Fowler flap was performed as a private venture, using Fowler's own time and funds.
    In the summer of 1927, Fowler and airplane mechanic Stanley Crowfoot first tested the Fowler flap. Several years of tests followed, after which the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) concluded that the Fowler flap would reduce landing speed, decrease landing and take-off runs, and improve climbing ability. In 1937 Lockheed added the flap to the Lockheed 14 twin-engine airliner. Previously the flap had been used on German planes such as the Fieseler Fi 97. Later it was used on Boeing B-29 bombers, some versions of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the Boeing B-17. Today, variations of the Fowler flap are still being used on many commercial aircraft.
    In 1949 the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania awarded Fowler with the John Price Wetherill Medal for the development of the "Variable Lift Airplane Wing." In 1971 the Institute elected him to Life Fellow Membership. Fowler was active in the Society of Automotive Engineers and was elected to the status of Fellow in 1977.
    Fowler wrote a comprehensive text on flap design, Fowler Flaps for Airplanes: An Engineering Handbook (1948). He also published three books outside his field: Camels to California (1950), Three Caravans to Yuma (1980), and Behold the Flaming Sword (1983).

    Chronology of Employment

    1910 Built man-carrying kites of Cody/Hargrave type.
    1917 Signal Corps; Aeronautical Engineer Production.
    1919-1920 McCook Field, Dayton, OH. Engineering Division; Assistant Engineer in charge of design.
    1921 Mather Field, Sacramento, CA; Assistant Engineer; Aerial Forest Fire Patrol.
    1922-1925 G. Elias & Bros., Buffalo, N.Y.; Aeromarine Plane and Motor Co.; Naval Aircraft Factory.
    1925-1927 Pitcairn Aviation Co., Philadelphia, PA.
    1927 U.S. Army Air Corps; Engineer.
    1928 Miller Corp., New Brunswick, NJ; Chief Aeronautical Engineer.
    1929-1936 Glenn L. Martin Co., Baltimore, MD; Staff Engineer.
    1943 Fowler Aircraft Co., San Diego, CA.
    1946 Independent Consulting Aeronautical Engineer. Whittier, CA.
    1951 McCook Field, Dayton, OH; Engineering Division.
    1956-1957 Independent Consulting Aeronautical Engineer. Longmont, CO.
    1962-1974 Independent Aeronautical Consultant. Burlingame, CA.
    1975-1982 Retired. Solvang, CA.

    Bibliography

    Day, Dwayne A. "Slotted Wings, Flaps, and High Lift Devices." Washington DC: United States Centennial of Flight Commission. http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Evolution_of_Technology/High_Lift_Devices/Tech6.htm 
    Hansen, James R. The Bird is on the Wing. College Station, Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. pp 52-53.
    Miller, Ronald, & Sawers, David. The Technical Development of Modern Aviation. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968. pp 83-84.

    Related Material

    San José State University Aviation Department Collection. SJSU University Archives Collection.
    NASA Ames Research Center, NASA Ames History Office, MS 207-1, Moffett Field, CA 94035. http://history.arc.nasa.gov/ 
    San Francisco Airport Commission, Louis A. Turpen Aviation Archive and Museum, San Francisco International Airport Terminal, P.O. Box 8097, San Francisco, CA 94128. http://www.sfoarts.org/ 

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Harlan D. Fowler Papers (1920-1980) document the career of Harlan D. Fowler, inventor and aviation engineer. Fowler is recognized for inventing the Fowler flap, a variable area wing high-lift device for aircraft still used on most commercial airplanes today. The collection consists of his professional papers including technical reports, blueprints, original data, technical publications, drawings, and photographs, as well as airplane models relating primarily to the Fowler flap and the Fowler-designed air cargo container. This collection documents the history of technology, the history of aviation, and the development of the aircraft industry during World War II.

    Arrangement

    The collection is arranged into nine series: Series I. Commercial Uses of Fowler Designs; Series II. Fowler-Designed Aerodynamic Flow Control Devices; Series III. Original Fowler Aircraft Designs and Data; Series IV. Air Cargo Reports and Data; Series V. Miscellaneous Reports; Series VI. Aircraft Conversion Reports and Data; Series VII. Aircraft Models; Series VIII. Publications; and Series IV. Additional Images.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Fowler, Harlan Davey, 1895-1982
    Fowler flaps
    Aerofoils
    Aeronautics -- History -- 20th century
    Aeronautics -- Research -- United States -- History
    Airplanes -- Design and construction -- History