James M. Wulpi
James M. Wulpi, 1918
New 2nd Lieutenant
Courtesy of Donald J. Wulpi
History of Early Bird James M. Wulpi
by Donald J. Wulpi, 1-20-03
     James M. Wulpi was not really a pioneer aviator, but one who subsequently helped to transform the fledgling airlines into a world wide industry.
     He was born on August 13, 1889 in Clay Center, Kansas, the only boy in a family of four children. They moved to Omaha, Nebraska, for several years, then to Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
     When he was in high school, he was thrilled with the Wright Brothers first flights, as was his friend, Lawrence Lesh, also an Early Bird. In 1907 and 1908 Lawrence and Jim made and flew gliders made of bamboo sticks, bed sheets, and baling wire on the sand dunes near Saugatuck, Michigan, where the winds off Lake Michigan helped to lift the boys when they ran down the sand dunes. They always crashed when they landed because the glider was going faster than they could run in the soft sand. But they repaired the glider many times with the wire and flew it again and again. They also contacted Octave Chanute in Champaign, Illinois, who had worked with the Wright Brothers, and spent many afternoons in his home discussing wing curves, airfoils, etc., very exciting for the young fliers.
     After graduating from high school, he spent a couple of years at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, then left to work with the DuPont company selling dynamite to farmers in Iowa. After a few years, the war started in 1917 and he learned that the Signal Corps was organizing an air branch. He applied for that and was accepted into the Ground School at Champaign. He graduated and was sent to Love Field, Dallas.
James M. Wulpi
James M. Wulpi, 1918
Aerial Gunner at Selfridge Field, MI.
Courtesy of Donald J. Wulpi
James M. Wulpi
James M. Wulpi
  James M. Wulpi's leather helmet and goggles from Selfridge Field, MI. Leather helmet with flap folded back to show ladies powder puffs to protect ears.
From the
Fort Wayne Air Museum
Courtesy of Roger Myers


     To read a recent, (2-10-03), newspaper article from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette which tells the story of Roger and the aviation museum at the Fort Wayne International Airport, just click on the title above.

       He got his "wings" flying Jennies, but there weren't enough planes so he got bored and applied for the aerial gunnery school in Selfridge Field, Michigan, near Detroit. He finished the course of flying down between the tall buildings in Detroit after the armistice. He got his 2nd Lieutenants bars after graduating.
     He went back with DuPont selling dynamite after leaving the Army, then became co-owner of a garage in Oak Park with his brother-in-law for a few years, but soon found a way to get back in the air.
James M. Wulpi
James M. Wulpi, 1929
Interstate Airlines, Nashville, TN
Courtesy of Donald J. Wulpi
       In 1927 he was offered a job with the fledgling Interstate Air Lines, which was starting to fly mail and passengers from Chicago to Atlanta. He was traffic manager for Interstate, living near Nashville, for a couple of years until the company was bought by the new Aviation Corp., now American Airlines. He then got a traffic manager job with Trans American Airlines, another small line flying from Chicago to Detroit to Cleveland. Shortly, this was also bought by the same Aviation Corp., and he was looking for another job in 1933, in the depths of the depression.
     He had contacts in New York City with managers of Transcontinental and Western Air, Inc., and transferred to the New York sales office where there were a total of five men. After living in the New York area for several years, he was assigned to traffic manager for New England, and moved to Connecticut in 1936. In 1939 he was moved to corporate headquarters in Kansas City as Interline Traffic Manager. In 1941 he was transferred to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as station manager, where he remained until World War II ended. TWA, then changed to Trans World Airlines, had plans to fly around the world. So he was assigned to develop airline traffic in the mid-east region, from Egypt to Singapore. He lived in Bombay, India, from mid-1946 to mid-1947, then was moved to Calcutta until mid-1948, when he returned to the States and became station manager of Scranton, PA and Binghamton, NY, until he retired in 1958 after 25 years with TWA.
James M. Wulpi
James M. Wulpi, 1950's
After India
Courtesy of Donald J. Wulpi
       During retirement, he and Mrs. Wulpi lived in Brevard, NC, Janesville, WI, then finally moved to Fort Wayne, IN, to be near his son and his family. With the fringe benefit of a lifetime pass on TWA, he still traveled the world, once golfing his way around the world! He enjoyed retirement for many years until he finally passed away in July, 1986, in the VA hospital in Fort Wayne. A true air line pioneer!  

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

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