Ralph C. Diggins
Ralph C. Diggins
President of the Ralph C. Diggins Company,
with the first commercial airplane
ever used in the U.S.
Popular Mechanics Magazine
Vol. 35 1921

Ralph C. Diggins
L E A R N   TO   F L Y
In Chicago with
YOU start flying the day you arrive. Competent Instructors. Newest Types of Planes Gosport System of Instruction. Thorough Ground Course, including instruction in Motors, plane assembly, wireless, nagivation, cross-country flying, field management. Living quarters right here on the field.
PILOTS Receive $5,000 Per Year and Up

Write for literature and enrollment offer.
Dept. 203                     140 N. Dearborn Street
AERIAL AGE WEEKLY, August 29, 1921

Ralph C. Diggins
Lieut. Turner Says Big Passenger-Carrying Plane to Be Used Here
The Sunday Record, Columbia, SC, Sun, May 15, 1921: p. 7, c. 5

      An eight passenger aerial limousine is to be brought to Columbia within the next 30 to 60 days, according to announcement made by Lieutenant Turner on his return Saturday from New York. This new car is both large and handsome and more details will be given of the "ship" later. This plane is to be used, it is stated, in flying trips in the city and on the proposed aerial route between Columbia and Charlotte and Winston-Salem.
      Lieutenant Turner has returned from the East where he visited aviation plants in New York and Philadelphia and inspected some of the latest models. He also states that a New York financier is to take a large block of stock in the corporation here. It is further planned to have activities in progress making Columbia as the distributing point for three of the most popular planes in use at the present time.
      Dr. Clarence E. Owens, who was on a professional visit to Philadelphia joined Lieutenant Turner in New York. He is also interested in aviation.
      Lieut. Harry J. Runser has also returned from Illinois. While there he visited the Ralph C. Diggins aviation school and states that fine progress is being made. There are now 40 student pilots, among them being two women, he said. The school turns out a number of fliers fully educated in the art every six weeks.
      Lieutenants Runser and Turner will be at Emerson field Sunday afternoon to make flying trips and to take up passengers.
From Corinth Information Database Version 1.3 (6-4-00)

     We were happy to hear from Ralph C. Diggins, a lost bird who was recently listed in our "Gone with the Wind" column. Ralph, we learn, lives with Mrs. Diggins on a large dairy farm about 50 miles from Chicago where, as he puts it, he has been taking it a bit easier than in the rugged days of the past. They have been lining on the farm for the past 20 years. Out of touch with EB's for some time, hsi is anxious to get all the news and to receive the CHIRP.
     Ralph's mailing address is 904 Jefferson St., Harvard, Illinois. The Harvard Herald Centennial Edition of May 31, 1956 honored him witha story and three pictures of him and his old pusher plane, and he was labeled Harvard's first pilot. The pictures were taken in 1912 and 1919.
  Editor's Notes: This reference to Ralph C. Diggins has been excerpted from a really remarkable website which is devoted basicly to Roscoe L. Turner. It is a vast and comprehensive collection of all sorts of material including an extensive and detailed online display of newspaper articles of the period. Unfortunately, it seems to have disappeared from the net. (10-1-03)  

     If you search for "Ralph Diggins", using the Google search engine,
(8-11-11), you will find about 241 links.

This Teacher Found His Fortune in Flying
     This page on the Popular Science of July, 1922, has a very interesting article on Ralph and his career. I have extracted the following portion of it for your convenience. If you want to read the entire article, and a few associated articles on pioneer aviators, click on the title.
This Teacher Found His Fortune in Flying
     When Ralph C. Diggins, a young school teacher, decided in 1911 to learn to fly, he spent six months and $800 in a "flying school" without getting off the ground. So he determined that the only way to fly at that time was to make his own machine and fly it. With the help of a friend, he put together a conglomeration of wires, linen, wood and metal--and a motor, and after about three months' practice he finally was able to stay in the air about 10 minutes at one time without the motor going bad.
     Those wild 10-minute flights led to exhibition contracts in 1912 and started him on a career in aviation. Today he is making money and success as one of America's foremost aviation instructors and active head of a successful aviation school in Chicago, which trained 73 students in 1921, with a record of 15,000 flights for a distance of 70,000 miles.
     The same determination with which he built his first crude plane carried him through the pioneer days, through distinguished overseas service during the war, and now is responsible for the enlargement of his school, established in 1919, to train 250 young fliers this year.
Ralph C. Diggins

     "This site blends fact-based original short stories, image files, and primary source documents to sketch the life of Alfred William Lawson (1869-1954). Although obscure (in terms of historical significance), Lawson has gained a reputation as the " Leonardo da Vinci of kooks." Though he certainly belongs on the Honor Roll of Eccentrics, there's more to his story. Lawson embodied many traits atrributed to the American national character, taken to their extreme; he moved through many realms of American popular culture: tramp life, baseball, con-art, aviation, health fads, utopian fantasies, social reform, twisted patriotism and religious cults. Moreover, trapped as he was in a reality of of his own making, there's a chance that he still achieved moments of grace."
(Excerpt from the website)

     This story by Carl Schory, one of ten first-person accounts on the website of Lawson's Progress by Jerry Kunz, is a very personal account of his part in Lawson's failed attempt to establish the first airliner. Ralph Diggins plays an important part in the project and you will become familiar with this phase of his career. You can go directly to this story by clicking on the title above.
     While on the site, if time permits, you will also enjoy one of the other stories which recount Lawson's efforts as an "Aviation Visionary," The Superairliner and Alti-Man. You can access that story by clicking in the title.

Ralph C. Diggins died in 1959
From The Early Birds of Aviation ROSTER, 1996
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