Walter Edwards
Walter Edwards
Photo courtesy of Maureen Mann, 3-4-04

Walter Edwards
       The following information pertaining to the air mail flight from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, Washington, carried out by Aviator Walter Edwards on August 10th, 1912, originates from Mr. Burrows who then was doing odd jobs in the postal service and was detailed to run this air mail affait. The writer was showd the metal stamp used on that occasion. It was of the usual type and Mr. Burrows said that as the rubber stamp used looked too much like a private affair he went to the "Oregonian" newspaper and had two rods set "Aviation" and "Station" respectively which were added on top and below the ordinary circular Portland Postmark.
     The text on the hand stamp objected to reads as follows: "U. S. Aeroplane Mail Service. This letter carried by Aviator Walter Edwards from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, Wash.
     He further tells that postal flight came about this way, that the pilot discovered a plane in storage and went to the Post Master with the proposal that an air mail flight would be good publicity. He succeeded in selling his idea.
     The direct benefits accruing to the pilot are difficult to see as no charge was made for organizing the flight or transporting the mail. That the pilot was pretty broke before the event is evidenced by the fact that Mr. Burrows tells that he borrowed 50c. from him, whch it is hoped the pilot does not mind mentioning, because Mr. Burrows says he paid it back after the flight!
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-10-04

Walter Edwards
Montclair, New Jersey - March 11, 1911
     As it is probable that the Montclair branch of the National Security League will purchase an armored aeroplane for the use of prospective air navigators in this town, the publication of the accompanying photograph of Walter Edwards in his war plane is of interest. Mr. Edwards comtemplated bringing his aeroplane here several weeks ago to give an exhibition for the benefit of the Armenian Orphans' Home, but the flight was postponed. He visited Montclair this week however, in the interests of the movement to establish a branch of the Aircraft Defense League, and told them that he would probably bring his machine here shortly, so that those interested may see what is being done through aviation to effect national preparedness along the lines advocated by the Security League.
Formerly Newspaper Man.
     Mr. Edwards is an interesting character. A former newspaper man in California, he turned to aviation as a profession. Like most men who fly, he has had thrilling adventures. He told a Montclair Times reporter that practically every bone in his body, except his spinal column, had been broken by falls sustained when aeroplanes were less dependable that they are now. At the present time, Mr. Edwards said, there is comparatively little risk in flying. The higher he flies, the safer he feels, the aviator asserted, for, should the engine go dead, when the machine is several thousand feet in the air, it is easy to descend by a series of spirals and land at a selected spot. The chief danger to an aviator nowadays, Mr. Edwards pointed out, is for the engine to fail when the machine is flying low. Then it is impossible to control descent to the ground and there is no choice of a place to alight. Mr. Edwards is married and has one child, a few weeks old. His wife frequently accompanies him in his flights.
     Enthusiastic as to the future of aviation, Mr. Edwards believes that it will constitute one of the strongest forces for the defense for this country in combating invasion by a foreign foe. The aviation branch of the United States army and navy, according to Mr. Edwards, is sadly deficient lying in a storage warehouse, instead of being used to train young Americans who are eager to learn how to fly, so that they may be specially qualified to defend their country?"
     Without aeroplanes, the United States army is blind, Mr. Edwards asserted.
     "If war broke out tomorrow," the aviator ..continued.."and Congress rushed through an approved order for 1,000 aeroplanes it would be over a year to train men to handle them. Why wait until the enemy is overhead, dropping bombs on innocent women and children, before taking the necessary steps to defend ourselves. I realize that the average American cannot go to a so-called "flying School." In the first place, the cost--$500 for tuition alone is prohibitive. However, with many of the young men of Montclair, who would learn to fly, it is not so much a question of dollars and cents as time. The young Montclair man just embarking in business or attending school cannot give four or five months to attendance at a flying school. A plan that will allow him to utilize his spare time is what will appeal to him, and this made possible by the establishment of a branch of the Aircraft Defense League."
     "It is not necessary for all the members of the local branch of the Aircraft Defense Laague to be bird-men," Mr. Edwards asserted.
     "This line of the nation's defense, the aviator said, "requires more than fliers. Men must be trained to handle the aiti-aircraft guns. Operators are needed to man the anti-aircraft searchlights. There will be a demand for trained men to receive the wireless messages as they are flashed form the aeroplanes hovering in the clouds above. Even the amateur photographer can find his place in the league by developing the picture taken aloft by the aviators. If your doctor says you have a weak heart and that to soar in the high altitudes in a flying machine might be fatal to you, don't feel that you are incapacitated for membership in the Aircraft Defense league......
Editor's note: The child mentioned above was Sheila Kittel, born December 28, 1915, the mother of Maureen Mann.
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-10-04


     Walter Edwards, the prominent American aviator whose name is known for coast to coast for his numerous feats of daredeviltry with aeroplanes, had a narrow escape from a horrible death yesterday afternoon when the Curtiss biplane, in which he was giving an exhibition flight on Waunch Prairie, turned turtle, precipitation the aviator a distance of 60 feet to the ground. That Edwards was not killed is a miracle.
     A crowd of about 500 witnessed the brief flight and subsequent accident. Edwards started from the west end of the big field and flew in a north easterly direction. About 500 yards from the starting point the aviator was forced to fly over a power line, which was at an elevation of about 60 feet. It is supposed that Edwards on approaching the line realized that he could not clear it, and attempted to turn too short to avoid coming in contact with it. At any rate the spectators were horrified to see the machine suddenly point its nose earthward and crash to the ground.
     The crowd was held spellbound in its horror for a space of several seconds, after which it surged forward expecting to find the aviator dead. That Edwards is alive today is a miracle. It is presumed he attempted to jump clear of the falling machine, but that he was held by a wire and partly caught in the wreckage.
     When the advance guard of the spectators arrived on the scene the aviator was writhing in pain, and it was presumed that he was injured internally. It later developed however, that he was more stunned than injured. Dr. Bickford, who was on the field, attended to Edward's injuries, which only consisted of a sprained right ankle, sprained right side and numerous bruises.
     The machine was badly wrecked. The aviator's seat was crushed under the heavy engine, showing only too well what would have been the fate of Edwards had he not used his wits sufficiently quick to protect himself.
     Edwards came to Centralia a little over a week ago with the intention of purchasing the Curtiss biplane of Claude Berlin, the Centralia aviator who gave up the flying game last summer. Edwards had rebuilt the biplane according to his own ideas, and the flight yesterday afternoon was merely for the purpose of trying the machine out.
     This is the third accident in which the Berlin machine has figured. The owner himself fell 50 feet while making an exhibition flight at the local fair grounds last May, while a Canadian aviator, to whom the machine was loaned, later took a bad spill during a carnival held in Portland.
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-10-04

Airman, Who Made Sensational Flights During 1912 Potlatch, Takes Miss Grace Wauchope as Bride.
     Aviator "Walter Edwards." here of the Golden Potlatch 1912 aviation features, whose true name as announced at that time was Walter Edward Kittle, was married December 25 in New York to Miss Grace Harriett Wauchope, after having renounced flying for all time.
     The airman, engaged at the last moment, did some sensational flying over Seattle during the 1912 Potlatch and saved the aviation features. Later he flew in a homemade machine and had a bad wreck on Harbor Island, sustaining injuries which laid him up for several weeks.
     He then went to Centralia and attempted a flight in an underpowered biplane, the property of Claude Berlin. The machine refused to maintain its altitude and collided with a telegraph wire which crossed the prairie and both airman and biplane were badly damaged.
     Later "Edwards" signed a contract with the Mutual Film Corporation to "fly for the movies" and did some sensational work. But ill luck followed him and one day he and Rodman Law had a terrible fall when the machine shook out several struts while flying in a high wind. Luckily both fell on marshy ground, but sustained serious injuries.
     "Edwards," or Kittel, then engaged in the automobile business in New York City, and is said to have effected a reconciliation with his family, who reside on Riverside Drive and who are prominent.
from unidentified newspaper
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-4-04


Death Message, Instead of Husband's,
Sent to Woman by Police Officers.
     Walter Kittel, 42 years old, proprietor of the taxi service at Wardman Park Inn, died shortly after 1 o'clock this morning from the effects of a fall at his home, 2822 Wisconsin avenue northwest.
     Mr. Kittel was on his way to the telephone on the first floor to put in a long-distance call to his wife, who is spending the summer at Hammondsport, N. Y., when the accident happened. He was found by Lieut. Col. Harold Evans Hartney.
     Col. Hartney lives with Mr. Kittel, and his wife is spending the summer with Mrs. Kittel in Hammondsport. Col Hartney had come home after midnight and gone upstairs. The two men conversed for a while and planned to call their wives by long distance telephone. Going downstairs to put in the call, Mr. Kittel fell against the bannister.
     Dr. J. J. Bateman was summoned and pronounced Mr. Kittel dead. Dr. Bateman then notified the police and Sergt. Marks, Lieut. Conlin, Officer Behrer and Headquarters Detective Scrivener went ot the house. Deputy Coroner Herbert E. martin was notified and Mrs. Kittle was notifiedof her husband's death by the police.
The Washington Post, August 3, 1922
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-4-04

     If you search for "Walter Edwards +aviation", using the Google search engine, (1-18-04), you will find about 35 links. Among the most helpful are the following.

N. C. Stibbs Airport
     The website of the Nelson Municipal Airport offers this information about Walter Edwards.
     "The City of Nelson attracted pilots and their aircraft as early as 1912. September 24, 1912 found Walter Edwards flying his 60 hp Curtiss Pusher from a ball park (Civic Centre grounds). He made three flights from the ball park and one from some nearby flats. The airplane was shipped, from eastern Canada, by rail to the south end of Kootenay Lake, then loaded onto a sternwheel steamboat and shipped sixty miles to Nelson. Another aircraft attracted attention at Nelson. This one flew off the water in 1914 - a Curtiss "Hydro-Aeroplane". In 1928 Capt. E. C. (Ted) Dobbin was hired by the B. C. Forest Branch in Nelson. He flew a Gypsy Moth float plane based here by forest fire patrol. This phase of aviation has been carried on during summer months in Nelson since that time."
     While on the website, if time permits, you will want to read the rest of the story about the history of and the current status of the airport. You will may also want to investigate some of the many other features which are available. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.

     This page on Carroll Gray's Early Birds website offers the story of pioneer aircraft builder, Charles Herman Paterson. There is only a brief mention of Walter Edwards, but the story of Paterson himself is very interesting in its own right. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.
     This page on the website offers a photograph and story of the annual commemoration of "Walter Edward's flight on August 10, 1912. He carried letters from a country club in Portland to the aviation field in Vancouver that would later be called Pearson Airpark." You can access the page by clicking on the title above.
     If time permits, I think you will enjoy a visit to the:
Pearson Field National Monument
     The story includes references to Lincoln Beachey, Charles Walsh, Silas Christofferson, Oakley Kelly, John Macready and Alexander Pearson, for whom the field was named. You can access the site by clicking on the title immediately above.
Pearson Air Museum.
     "The museum is located on historic Pearson Field, the oldest, continuously active airfield in the West. Our new museum is the first step in a three-phase project to recreate a pre-WWII Army Air Corps Field that existed at Pearson Field in the 1920's and 1930's."
     This website is a "Must See" for any early aviation enthusiast. It offers several fascinating features including; History, About Us, Calendar, Museum Online, Volunteers and E-mail.
     The Museum Online offers: the John P. Wulle Restoration Center, Children's Hands On Center, Computer Resource Center, Theater, Main Display Hangar and Gift Shop. You should plan to spend a long time on this site. You can access the homepage by clicking on the title above.

     If you search for "Mutual Film Corporation +"Walter Edwards", using the Google search engine, (3-12-04-04), you will find one interesting link.

The Battle of Gettysburg
     This page on the "Silent Film" website offers a comprehensive revue of this film in which Walter Edwards performed. It includes a list of everyone who participated in the film, which unfortunately appears to be lost. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.

Tale of Two Cities/In the Switch Tower (1915) (1911-1915)
     This link was suggested by Maureen Mann and appears on the "Rotten Tomatoes" website. It results when the name "Walter Edwards" is entered into the "Search" field and offers a few details of the film, including a partial list of the cast. You can access the site by clicking on the title above.

Air Mail
  Author: Donald B. Holmes
Publisher: Clarkson N. Potter
Place published: New York
Date published: 1981
ISBN: 0517541467
Format: Hardcover
     "From the first airborne letter, written by George Washington and carried aboard a balloon from Philadelphia in 1793, to the complex network of air mail services we take for granted today, here is the complete story of the tremendous achievements of air mail entrepreneurs and aviators. These courageous man and women--including such celebrated personalities as Glenn Curtiss, Henry Ford, Katherine Stinson and Antoine de Sait Exupery--built the air mail syhstem despite underpowered airplanes and the lack of airfields, accurate weather charting and parachutes.
     With hundreds of postage stamps, covers, and other official markings reproduced in exacting color, dramatic black-and-white photographs of personalities and historic moments in air mail history, (many never before published), and a detailed bibliography, this book will be an indispensable reference source for every aviation buff and philatelist."

Former Banker and Aviator Succumbs to Heart Disease.
     Walter E. Kittel, an automobile dealer, formerly a noted professional aviator, and a son of the late Joseph J. Kittel, President of the Nineteenth Ward Bank of this city, died last night, after three hours' illness of heart diisease, at his home, 2,822 Wisconsin Avenue, Washington, D. C. He was 42 years old. His mother lives at 64 Madison Avenue.
     At the time that Kittel was performing daring aviation feats before carnival crowds in Seattle in 1912 he used the name of Walter Edwards. On his identity being discovered he issued a statement that he had left his home in New York at 495 Riverside Drive owing to his dislike of the luxurious mode of living of his relatives. He had been Vice President of the United States Exchange Bank until its liquidation in 1907. A member of his family said last night that any estrangement was of brief duration and that Walter Kittel had given up aviation after a serious aeroplane accident on Long Island in 1918.
from unidentified newspaper clipping
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-4-04

  KITTEL--Walter E., suddenly, Aug. 2, 1922, son of the late Joseph J. and Mathilda G., and beloved husband of Grace Kittel and father of Sheila and Patricia. Notice of funeral hereafter. Washington, D. C., papers please copy.
from unidentified newspaper clipping
Collection of Maureen Mann, 3-4-04

Editor's Note:
If you have any more information on this pioneer aviator,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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