Robert F. Shank
Robert F. "Bob" Shank
Air Mail Pilot New York
Washington Route
August 13, 1918

From the Collection of Joe Gertler

Editor's Note:
Joe Writes, "I have about 70 of these 5 x 7s in fancy folding mats made especially for this set and inscribed front and inside as Paul Matt's. Nice shredded cotton rag edges too. A beautiful set that cost me a LOT more than I would have "liked" to pay. But it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Important (mostly signed) collection,from photographer/historian/author/editor Paul Matt's personal collection. He went to many of the Early Bird meetings as an invited guest/historian. he corresponded with many of them and was an avid collector for himself. I don't remember when he died, but it is quite a few years ago, now. More than half of these photos are signed and dated, which makes them doubly useful, (as sample references for collecting and authenticating letters and autographs)"
"Feel free to include my email address with your references and feel free to mention that I own the complete, original archives of The Wright Company (1909-1915); the Glenn Curtiss archives (1910-1923); and the "first' Glenn Martin Co.(1912-1917)
Cheers, Joe Gertler"
Joe's email address is

Stupar Airplane - 65 H.P. Maxi-Motor
I had a mortgage on this airplane
and got my money 39 years later.
Les Bishop
Robert F. Shank
Left to Right: Mary Alexander Dahlberg, Robert F. Shank, instructor
unidentified, unidentified
Ellamary Falyor, Joe B. Lievre, mechanic
San Antonio, Texas, May 5, 1917
Photo from collection of Lester Bishop
Courtesy of David Balanky

via email from Fred Stadler, 12-26-06
      I have spoken with his surviving son, William Edward Shank, who is still alive and living in Indiana. He relates how his brother, Robert B. Shank, was killed in an airplane accident that was a great blow to his father, Robert F. Shank, who later created an Robert Shank airport in memory of his son.

       Robert F. Shank, pioneer air mail pilot and a flight instructor during both World Wars, died in Indianapolis, Ind. April 12, 1968. He was born in Hurricane, W. Va. Oct. 5, 1891; married Lena Mae Scott and had three children, Robert Bruce (deceased), Rosemary and William Edward.
     In 1915, Bob bought an airplane before he knew how to fly it. After one lesson he began barnstorming at county fairs and carnivals and earned a reputation as an exhibition pilot. During World War I he was a civilian instructor for the Army at Kelly and Love Fields, Texas. At the end of the war Bob became one of the first four civilian pilots to fly scheduled air mail routes. The first route was between New York and Washington. During World War II, he trained Butler University flying students.
     In 1944, he founded the Bob Shank Airport and operated it until his retirement in 1957. He was awarded the Haire Publishing Co.Trophy for the most outstanding airport development in 1946.
     Memorial services were held April 16, 1968 at St. Mark Church in Indianapolis and burial was in Crown Hill Cemetary. Surviving are his widow Mrs. Lena Mae Shank; a daughter, Mrs. Rosemary Schwartz; a son, William Edward Shank; four grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
From The Early Birds of Aviation CHIRP, January, 1969, Number 75
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