The Donald H. Gordon Personal Papers SDASM.SC.10057
San Diego Air and Space Museum Library and Archives
2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park
San Diego 92101
Language of Material:
San Diego Air and Space Museum Library and Archives
Title: Donald H. Gordon Personal Papers
Gordon, Donald H.
Identifier/Call Number: SDASM.SC.10057
0.36 Cubic Feet
Date (inclusive): 1883-1968
Abstract: Donald H. Gordon was an earlier aviator from San Diego. Items in this collection, from 1909 to 1968, with one article from
1982, include biographies on Donald H. Gordon, correspondence, affidavits, notes, newspaper clippings, and photographs and
relate to his life in aviation.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Conditions Governing Use
Some copyright may be reserved. Consult with the library director for more information.
[Item], [Filing Unit], [Series Title], [Subgroups], [Record Group Title and Number], [Repository “San Diego Air & Space Museum
Library & Archives”]
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The materials in this Collection were donated to the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
Biographical / Historical
Born in New Britain, Connecticut in 1883, at three years old Donald H. Gordon moved with his mother, father, and three brothers
to the Bostonia area of Southern California. As a child Gordon watched as his oldest brother built a framework of bamboo,
stretched a sheet of paper over it, and jumped off the barn with it. While that attempt was a failure, it spurred Gordon’s
interest in flight.
During his 20s, Gordon began studying the work of others and by 1908 he had completed his own glider. A true pioneer for the
time, Gordon was able to sit in the plane and control it instead of hanging in it and shifting his weight to control direction.
Gordon’s aircraft was a biplane with a controllable front elevator, not dissimilar to the plane of the Wright brothers. The
wings of Gordon’s plane measured 28 feet and the length of the plane measured 18 feet.
In 1909, after the success of the glider, Gordon added a 2-cylinder Curtiss motorcycle engine to the aircraft. The plane,
with the seven horsepower engine and a three wheel landing gear was light enough that Gordon could lift the entire machine
himself. Though Gordon was able to get a few “hops” from his aircraft, he ultimately was unable to sustain flight. When the
plane crashed, Gordon took the opportunity to obtain a 4-clynider Curtiss engine which could nearly double his horsepower.
Gordon’s a new biplane (a tractor) had a conventional tail, no front elevator, a two wheel landing gear, ailerons, no dihedral,
and his seat was in the rear. Using this plane, Gordon could fly all around his 40 acre field. In doing so, Donald Gordon
became the first person west of the Mississippi River to successfully fly a powered aircraft.
Between 1912 and 1914, Gordon built a monoplane, arranged like Santos Dumont’s “Demoiselle”. It was externally braced, had
a high wing, and outrigger tail and the pilot seated under the engine and wing and very close to the ground. Using a 4-cylinder
water cooled engine of 40 horsepower, Gordon was able to fly successfully around a large field in Ramona, California.
Once WWI started, Gordon stopped working on planes and attempted to join the Air Service, but was rejected on account of his
increasing deafness. After the war Gordon bought a Wright-engine, but never built a plane for it. He later donated the engine
to the then named San Diego Aerospace Museum. Donald Gordon lived out the remainder of his life on 160 acres on Palomar Mountain.
Scope and Contents
This collection is contained in one archive box and has 7 folders. Items in this collection, from 1909 to 1968, with one article
from 1982, include biographies on Donald H. Gordon, correspondence, affidavits, notes, newspaper clippings, and photographs.
Within the miscellaneous correspondence folder the way the letter was addressed is how it is written in the guide. For example,
Donald H. Gordon is also listed as Don Gordon. Major George E.A. Hallett is listed as Geo E.A. Hallett, George Hallett, Major
Hallett, and as George. Mr. Waldo Waterman is also listed as Waldo and E.N. Pickerill is also listed as Pickerill. The photograph
folder has twelve black and white photographs with descriptions and copies, as well as a color photograph and three printed
photographs of a model of an early Gordon aircraft.
Major George E.A. Hallett Special Collection
Waldo Waterman Special Collection
Related Research Institutions:
National Air and Space Museum
Independence Ave at 6th St, SW, Washington, DC 20560
phone: (703) 572-4045
Early Birds of Aviation, Inc. Collection, 1928-[ca. 1980s]
Parramore, Thomas C. First to Fly: North Carolina and the Beginnings of Aviation. Chapel Hill,
N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
Villard, Henry Serrano. Contact! The Story of the Early Birds. New York: Crowell, 1968.
Whitehouse, Arthur George Joseph. The Early Birds, the Wonders and Heroics of the First
Decades of Flight. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
World War, 1914-1918
Ford Building (San Diego)
Gillespie Field (El Cajon, Calif. : Airport)
Gordon, Donald H.
Waterman, Waldo Dean
Folder 01 – Gordon Biographies
Physical Description: 1. Copied of typed interview with Donald Gordon.
2. Copy of notes for a paper on Donald H. Gordon.
3. Copy of hand written notes on Gordon.
4. James Tank Porter to John Hettich on Donald H. Gordon biography.
5. Handwritten notes for a Gordon biography.
6. Biography of Donald H. Gordon.
7. Hallett’s hand written Don Gordon biography.
8. Greenfield Junior High 1965 yearbook tribute.
9. “Powered Flight”, Gordon Biography.
10. San Diego Aerospace Museum pamphlet on Donald H. Gordon, includes reprinted black and white photographs.
11. “The Donald H. Gordon Story” by James Gordon, as corrected by Donald H. Gordon.
12. Major George E.A. Hallett intro, copy of James Gordon biography, and Hallett’s Gordon biography.
13. “A ‘Build It Yourself’ Flying Machine”, Gordon biography.
14. “Donald H. Gordon-El Cajon’s Early Bird Flyer and The Story of the D.G. Gordon Family and Ranch in early Bostonia”, as
compiled by Hazel Sperry.
15. “Donald H. Gordon Early California Aviation Pioneer”, from the Flying Pioneers Biographies of Harlod E. Morehouse.
16. “An Old Resident Gome – (Mrs. D.G. Gordon)”, from El Cajon Valley News 1920.
Folder 02 – Correspondence between Donald H. Gordon and Major George E.A. Hallett
Physical Description: 1. Typed letter to Hallett and envelope, May 25, 1963.
2. Typed letter to Hallett, July 15, 1963.
3. Typed letter to Hallett, August 12, 1963.
4. Typed letter to Hallett, August 26, 1963.
5. Typed letter to Hallett, October 16, 1963.
6. Typed letter to Hallett, December 2, 1963.
7. Typed letter to Hallett and envelope, December 29, 1963.
8. Handwritten letter to D. Gordon, 1964.
9. Handwritten letter to D. Gordon, May 23, 1964.
10. Typed letter to Hallett and envelope, June 8, 1964.
11. Handwritten letter to D. Gordon, June 10, 1964.
12. Typed letter to Hallett, June 11, 1964.
13. Typed letter to D. Gordon, June 16, 1964.
14. Typed letter to Hallett, January 10, 1965.
15. Handwritten letter to D. Gordon, January 22, 1965.
16. Typed letter to Hallett and envelope, June 15, 1965.
17. Typed letter to Hallett, June 26, 1964.
Folder 03 – Correspondence between James H. Gordon and Major George E.A. Hallett
Physical Description: 1. Handwritten letter to J. Gordon, July 3, [no year].
2. Copy of typed letter to J. Gordon, August 1. 1963.
3. Typed letter to Hallett, August 4, 1963
4. Typed letter to Hallett, August 8, 1963.
5. Typed letter to Hallett, August 20, 1963.
6. Handwritten letter to J. Gordon, August 24, 1963.
7. Typed letter to Hallett, September 2, 1963.
8. Typed letter to Hallett, September 21, 1963.
9. Typed letter to Hallett, October 12, 1963.
10. Dictated typed letter to Hallett, April 12, 1964.
Folder 04 – Correspondence, Miscellaneous
Physical Description: 1. Copy of a page a second page of a letter (first page missing) from George Hallett.
2. Emma Gordon to Major Hallett, undated.
3. Don Gordon to Mr. Waldo Waterman, December 5, 1950.
4. Don Gordon to Waldo Waterman, June 9, 1951.
5. Don Gordon to Waldo, January 14, 1951.
6. Don Gordon to Waldo, January 23, 1951.
7. Don Gordon to Waldo, November 5, 1953.
8. Donald H. Gordon to The Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, April 30, 1954.
9. Donald H. Gordon to Frank T. Courtney, May 10, 1954.
10. Donald H. Gordon to Mr. Clarence A. DeGiers, April 2, 1954.
11. George E.A. Hallett to Mr. J. Rodgers Magee, August 6, 1963.
12. Copy of typed letter from Preston M. Fleet to Mr. Donald H. Gordon, August 12, 1963.
13. Copy of typed letter from George Hallett to Mr. J. Rodgers Magee, August 13, 1963.
14. Geo E.A. Hallett to Mr. E.N. Pickerill, January 1964.
15. Pickerill to Waldo D. Waterman, April 2, 1964.
16. Envelope adressed to George E.A. Hallett from E.N. Pickerill.
17. Letter from George, April 30, 1964.
18. George and Edith to Harold E. Morehouse, March 15, 1969.
Folder 05 – Miscellaneous, Notes, and Affidavits
Physical Description: 1. Handwritten notes and questions for Donald Gordon.
2. Four affidavits confirming the flight of Donald Gordon.
3. Copy of affidavit to San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce from E.H. Bates.
4. Handwritten note on mono plane and St. Louis engine.
5. Handwritten note to call Waldo.
6. Handwritten note to Elmo from George Hallett and typed portion to EB from E.N. Pickerill.
7. Two handwritten notes, one with the phone number of Jackson C. Roether and the other concerning Hall and Waldo.
8. Copy of a handwritten note of plane parts.
9. Handwritten note to call Porter, James Tank.
10. Card in memory of Donald Hazen Gordon, and the address for his memorial service.
Folder 06 – Magazine and Newspaper Clippings
Physical Description: 1. Copy of “The Wright Engine Donated by Donald H. Gordon”.
2. “Bostonia Rancher Was Pioneer Airman”, circa 1960s.
3. “Hermit Donates Wright-Type Engine” and “Center for Science At Park Proposed: Aerospace Museum Group Urges Ford Building
Renovation, Use”, crica 1960s.
4. “Hermit Donates Wright-Type Engine”, circa 1960s.
5. “A Man With An Urge to Fly Like the Birds”, May 3, 1964.
6. “Along Main Street”, June 17, 1964.
7. “Air Pioneer to Help Open Park Museum”, June 21, 1964.
8. “Ceremony Honors County Air Pioneer”, June 24, 1964.
9. “Plaque Presented Aviation Early Bird”, June 24, 1964.
10. “Air Pioneer Honor Urged”, July 31, 1964.
11. “Honor Proposed For Air Pioneer”, July 1, 1964.
12. “Donald H Gordon—Pioneer Aeronaut”, October 1964.
13. “Behind Locked Gates, He Lives A Life Of Freedom”, October 11, 1964.
14. “A look back/ El Cajon’s first aviator helped conquer the sky”, May 20, 1982.
15. “Donald H. Gordon Services Tomorrow” and “Aviation Pioneer D.H. Gordon Dies” and “D. H. Gordon Dies; Was Air Pioneer”,
June 13, 1968.
16. “Pioneer Pilot Wills Park”, 1968.
Folder 07 – Photographs
Physical Description: 1. Donald H. Gordon taken late into his retirement.
2. David Gilchrist Gordon and Helen Hazen Gordon and their four sons Ralph, Grant, James, and Donald.
3. Donald H. Gordon taken about 1910.
4. The four little Gordon sons-James, Donald, Ralph, and Grant.
5. The fours Gordon sons-“Grown Up”.
6. May 1969 reprint of Don Gordon’s glider.
7. Gordon’s hill during 1916 big flood.
8. The Gordon Monoplane.
9. Don Gordon’s second powered plane.
10. David Gilchrist Gordon and Helen H. Gordon.
11. Don Gordon in flight in his second powered plane, 1912-1913.
12. Gordon homes on the hill with citrus trees in the foreground.
13. The Gordon home in the early days in Bostonia.
14. Donald H. Gordon home on Palomar Mountain.
15. Side and front view of Gordon aircraft model.
16. Bottom view of Gordon aircraft model.
17. Front view of Gordon aircraft model.