EARLY BIRDS OF AVIATION
Much of the historic data on pioneer aviation would have been lost had it not been for the Early Bird Society which had its origin at the Air Races in Chicago in 1928. A group of pioneer flyers headed by Jack Vilas and Ernest Jones got together and decided it was time to form an organization to keep track of pioneer flyers, to work out some safe place to store and exhibit their records, historic data, souveniers, and pictures and to preserve these for posterity before it should be too late. They also resolved to bring all possible pressure to bear for the return of the original Wright aiplane to the United States from England, where Orville Wright had allowed it to be shipped after a misunderstanding with the Smithsonian Institute about the wording on a plaque placed there in memory of Dr. Langley, another pioneer of aviation.
A Story of Early Aviation Days
The meeting was held in Chicago on that famous date in history --- December 17, 1928 --- the 25th anniversary of the first Wright flight at Kittyhawk.
*Capt. Horace Wild
L. A. Vilas
*Richard H. Depew, Jr.
Ivan J. Gates
*Col. Chas. de F. Chandler
*P. G. B. Morris
Capt. J. F. deVillard
*Anthony H. B. Fokker
Dr. H. W. Walden
*P. G. Morris, President
Gen. B. Foulois, Vice President
*A. H. G. Fokker, Vice President
J. F. deVillard, Vice President
Lt. Col. H. C. Richardson, Treasurer
*E. L. Jones, Secretary
*R. H. Depew, Jr.
Dr. H. W. Walden
July, 1956, Number 54
So many requests have been made for information regarding the original formation and purposes of the Early Birds, that is seems appropriate to review a bit of the history of the organization in this issue of Chirp. An excellent treatise on this subject was found in the 1956 calendar of Thompson Products, Inc. --- a calendar which paid tribute to the Early Birds, the aviation old-timers who flew solo before December 17, 1916.
The idea of forming an ogranization of aviation pioneers grew out of a conversation between two old-time pilots. The more they thought about it the more appropriate it seemed, and the idea was presented to others who might be eligible for membership in such a group. The enthusiasm with which it was received led to the formation of the Early Birds in 1928.
Prompted by the urge to fraternize with others who had been a part of aviation's beginning, about thirty eligibles who attended the 1928 Los Angeles Air Races decided to form an organization. Pride in their accomplishments and a desire to foster aircraft development and to achieve the recognition due the pioneers in this great industry proved additional incentives in the formation of the group.
The organization committee of thirty sent out letters to all those who could be located and called for a meeting in December, 1928 during the Aeronautic Show in Chicago. At this meeting articles of incorporation were drawn up, a constitution was adopted, and officers were elected. The formal name of Early Birds, Inc. was authorized. The first president to be elected was the late P. G. B. "Bud" Morriss. Among other famous names on the first roster were such celebrities as Walter Brookins, Earle Ovington, Dr. H. W. Walden, A. H. G. Fokker, General Benjamin Foulois, Clyde Cessna, Major T. deWitt Milling, Billy Parker, Augustus Post and Charles Willard, just to name a few.
Basis for membership in E.B. was actual solo flight as a pilot prior to December 17, 1916, which meant prior to America's entry into the First World War, or for European pilots prior to August 4, 1914. Although the ranks of these old timers is thinning somewhat, new eligible pioneers are being found today, with the result that new members are still being taken into the organization. Nearly every issue of the CHIRP introduces another bird who flew prior to World War I and whose exploits have been authenticated to make him eligible for membership. Today, 29 years after the founding, the Early Birds are very much a live organization interested in aviation progress as well as past history, and meeting as opportunities permit, both on a sectional and national basis. Their presence at national air races and shows has always been symbolized by the checkered caps they wear.
June, 1957, Number 57
Displayed at Steven Udvar-Hazy Center
Photo courtesy of Ross Levin,
Owner of the Aviation Art Hangar.