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Finding aid of the Walter R. Brookins Aviation Collection
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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.
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.
1 archives half-carton (0.2 linear foot).
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Collection open for research.