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How the War Crates Flew: The Constaninesco Interrupter Gear

Link - Posted by David on January 12, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the July 1932 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

The Constaninesco Interrupter Gear

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, July 1932)

ALEC WATSON, leading Hun getter of the 23rd Pursuits, crouched over the stick, glued his eye to the ring-sight, and tripped the triggers. . . .

Now just a second, Alec old sky eagle! What do you mean, tripped the triggers? Generally speaking, that is correct. But technically speaking it is not so correct. You, personally, Alec, do not trip the triggers. Of course, being an A1 Hun getter, you realize that. But there are a lot of fledglings around here who don’t. So I think it would be a pretty good idea if we went into this question of tripping triggers, and found out just what it was all about.

Alright, fledglings, gather ’round, and let’s go!

The pilot of any pursuit plane used in the great war, could only shoot in one direction . . . that was forward. Sometimes he had one Vickers gun mounted on the engine cowling, and one Lewis mounted on the top center section. Sometimes he had two Vickers and one Lewis. And sometimes he had just two Vickers. But regardless of what he had in the way of guns, they were always mounted on something and pointing straight forward. We’ll just forget about the Lewis gun because that was mounted on the top center section and therefore was able to fire clear of the top peak of the propeller disc. Now when I say propeller disc I simply mean the circle inscribed by the revolving propeller.

But, the Vickers gun being mounted on the engine cowling, just forward of the pilot’s cockpit, must fire through the prop disc, if it’s going to fire at all.

I just heard some one ask: “What about hitting the revolving propeller blades?”

Well, fledgling, that’s just what I’m getting at. We don’t want to hit the prop blades, do we? I’ll say we don’t! So some way we’ve got to work things so that the shots from our gun will pass between the prop blades on their way to that Hun johnnie sitting up there in the sky.

And here is how we do that little thing.

As a matter of fact, it has already been done for us. A gentleman by the name of Constaninesco invented what was known as the Constaninesco Interrupter Gear. It was composed of four parts. 1. The generator. 2. The trigger motor. 3. The reservoir with Bowden control. 4. Pipe lines, main and secondary.

The generator is simply a small* cylinder affair with plunger attached, which is mounted forward on the engine, and in a vertical position. The drive for the generator is generally taken (on stationary engines) from the boss of the propeller by means of gears which engage with a cam shaft leading to the vertical generator. To put it another way, the generator is just a small cylinder with a plunger at the top which is forced down every time the revolving cam on the cam shaft strikes it. And that cam shaft is not the cam shaft of the engine itself, but a separate cam shaft which is revolved by means of gears which attach it to the boss of the propeller. And, of course, when I say boss, I mean the metal plates and bolts which hold the propeller on the crankshaft of the engine.

Now, the next thing is the trigger motor, as it was called. As you all probably know, the Vickers gun operates (briefly) by, what is cabled, the lock moving forward and backward inside the gun. The lock is about three inches by four inches and maybe an inch or so thick, and contains all the trigger mechanism of the gun. Now, one of its actions as it moves forward in the gun is to cock the trigger which is a part of it. Then as it rides back again in the gun the trigger, which projects up out of the top a bit hits against a movable pin fitted at the rear of the gun casing. And of course that action trips the trigger and the gun fires.

IT IS that movable pin that I’m yarning about now. It is simply a round slender piece of metal which projects out of the rear end of the gun and is fastened to a thumb lever. In other words, when firing a Vickers on the ground you simply grip the spade handles of the gun and press your thumbs against the thumb levers. That forces the pin forward so that the end of it trips the trigger as the lock slides back. Now, when you don’t press the gun naturally doesn’t fire because the pin, which is really like a plunger on a spring, is forced back by the spring action so that the trigger doesn’t touch it as the lock slides back.

Now, what we’ve got to do is attach something to the rear end of that pin to take the place of the thumb levers. The reason being, that running from our generator up front to the pin at the rear of the gun is a length of quarter inch copper tubing which is filled with oil. Ah, you’re guessing it already. That’s right . . . as the cam rotates and strikes the plunger in the generator it sends a pulsation back along the copper pipe full of oil and forces forward the pin in the rear of the gun so that it trips the trigger of the lock. So what we really do is fit another plunger to the rear of the gun to take the place of the pin with its thumb levers.

Now, so far, we have a plunger at the forward end of the copper tubing, and another plunger at the rear end. The forward plunger is set so that the revolving cam will hit it. And the rear plunger is set so that as a pulsation of oil forces it forward it will trip the trigger lock.

Just oil (nine parts parafine and one part BB vacuum oil in the copper tubing isn’t going to do us any good unless we put that oil under pressure. So we use what is called the reservoir. The reservoir is something like a double bicycle pump. In other words, a plunger and chamber inside of a larger chamber. At the end of the inner chamber there is a copper pipe-line running to the one we’ve just been talking about. Just so we won’t get too mixed up, the copper tube running from the generator to the trigger motor is called the main pipe-line. And the tube running from the reservoir to the main pipe-line is called the secondary pipeline.

Now, the plunger in the inner chamber of the reservoir is attached to a handle at the top, and there is a strong spring around the stem of the plunger to keep it forced down. In other words, when the handle of the plunger is pulled up and released the spring tries to force it down. And of course the reservoir is attached to the inner right side of the cockpit, at an angle of forty-five degrees, so that the pilot can grab it when he wants to put the oil under pressure.

So now let’s see just how we work the thing.

OF COURSE we assume that there is oil in the main pipe-line, in the secondary pipe-line and in the outer chamber (low pressure chamber) of the reservoir. There isn’t oil in the center chamber (high pressure) because the plunger is down at the bottom. But all of this oil is under atmospheric pressure. In other words, not enough pressure to force the generator plunger up so that the revolving cam will strike it.

Okay, let’s go. We pull up the handle of the reservoir. In doing that we suck oil from the low pressure chamber into the high pressure chamber. Then we let go the handle and the spring tries to force the plunger down, and that action puts the oil under a pressure of 150 lbs. per square inch. Now the oil in the high pressure chamber and the oil in the secondary pipe-line is under pressure. The oil in the main pipe-line is not, because where the two pipe-lines join is a three-way valve. To get pressure in the main pipe-line we have got to open that three-way valve.

We do it this way. From the joy stick to that valve is a movable wire in a metal casing. (Something like the choke wire on your car.) On the joy stick that wire, called the Bowden control, is attached to a clamp you can press. Oftentimes it is attached to a thumb lever you push forward. But squeezing the clamp, or pushing the thumb lever, pulls the Bowden control wire and opens the three-way valve. Of course then the oil in the main line is put under pressure. And in being under pressure the plunger in the generator is forced up so that the revolving cam will strike it.

Alright, the cam strikes the plunger and forces it down. A pulsation, traveling at the rate of 4,000 ft. per second, starts back along the main pipeline. It reaches the point where the main pipe-line is joined to the secondary line. But because of the three-way valve it can’t shoot up the secondary line and hit against the reservoir plunger. So it carries right on along the main pipe-line and hits against the plunger in the trigger motor, and of course shoves it forward. And when the trigger motor plunger is forced forward, it of course trips the trigger of the lock and the gun is fired. Now, that pulsation after it has hit the trigger motor plunger naturally wants to bounce back along the main pipe-line. But we stop that by putting a check valve in the trigger motor. Then, of course, the pulsation can’t bounce back and interfere with pulsation coming forward.

We have yarned about this step by step. But of course you understand that these pulsations are traveling at the rate of 4,000 ft. per second, and things happen fast. And whenever the lock slides back again with its trigger cocked there are always pulsations to slap the trigger motor plunger forward and trip the trigger again.

IN CASE you’ve forgotten, all this is happening because we are still pressing the Bowden controls. Once we let go, the three-way valve closes and the main pipe-line goes back to ordinary pressure and the generator plunger sinks down where the revolving cam doesn’t hit it. To fire again we simply press the Bowden control and that opens the valve again. The 150 lbs. per square inch pressure is maintained for about ten bursts of any length. And then we have to pull up the handle again and renew the pressure. In order to get it clear in your minds about those pulsations, the oil being under pressure, a single pulsation is like a solid rod moving through the main pipe-line. And the number of pulsations is determined on how the cam shaft is geared to the prop boss. In other words, according to the speed of the revolving cam shaft.

And there you are.

No, we’re not. That young fledgling is checking on me again. “How about hitting the prop blades?” he asks.

Alright, it’s like this. The cam is set so that it strikes the generator plunger when the trailing edge of the prop blade (two-bladed prop) is one inch past the bore of the gun. In the case of a four-bladed prop the cam should be set when the center of the blade is right opposite the bore of the gun. That is, of course, assuming that the muzzle of the gun is four feet from the revolving prop blades. The nearer the gun is to the prop the nearer you set the cam to the trailing edge.

The Editor of this mag of yours has just looked over my shoulder and reminded me that I’m not writing a book, so I’d better quit.

And so, you fledglings, when these leading Hun getters trip triggers again, don’t let ’em kid you. They are just pressing the old Bowden control to open that three-way valve to put the main pipe-line under pressure so that the oil pulsation will trip the triggers. Can you beat it? . . . These sky birds are just a bunch of oil pumpers!

Leaving the Scrapbooks Behind

Link - Posted by David on December 31, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS month we’ve been delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil who, like many at the time, had a keen interest in all things aviation. The scrapbooks contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What he assembled was a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI and the time.

The back covers of the two scrapbooks.

Robert’s father was in and out of VA Hospitals during the time Robert was assembling the scrapbooks, 1929-1932. By 1940, his parents had divorced with his father trying to strike it rich as a prospector in Searchlight, Kansas. He passed in 1947 at the age of 70.

Ancestry.com points to Robert getting involved in the movie industry after the war. His obituary has him starting in the movie industry in some capacity as early as 1943. Somehow he found his way on to the big screen where IMDB lists mainly uncredited parts in fifteen movies from 1947 to 1951. Some with big stars like Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Donald O’Connor, Lauren Bacall and Burt Lancaster!

Who will ever forget his turn as a heckler in Donald O’Connor’s “Are You Worth It?” (1947); or the informer in “Johnny Stool Pigeon” (1949); or the Irishman in the Ronald Reagan – Virginia Mayo Warner Bros’ big laugh-holiday “The Girl from Jones Beach”(1949).

He played a bum in 1950’s “Young Man with a Horn” staring Burt Lancaster, Lauren Bacall and Doris Day; a cropper in the Civil War Technicolor extravaganza “Tap Roots” staring Van Heflin, Susan Hayward and Boris Karloff (1948); and “townsmen” in the Donald O’Connor vehicle “Feudin’, Fussin’ and A-Fightin’” (1948), Bill Elliot’s trucolor western “Hellfire” (1949), and the Ginger Rogers – Ronald Reagan KKK classic “Storm Warning” (1951).

A number of his movies can be found on YouTube, like the “The Baron of Arizona” where Vincent Price plays James Reavis, a master swindler who painstakingly spends years forging documents and land grants that will make his wife and him undisputed owners of the entire state of Arizona. Robert has one of his showier parts with a name and lines as Brother Paul.


Robert, pictured center, appeared as Brother Paul in The Baron of Arizona (1950).

FILMOGRAPHY

date title role
1947 The Crimson Key Gunman Driver (uncredited)
1948 Are You With It? Heckler (uncredited)
1948 Feudin’, Fussin’ and A-Fightin’ Townsman (uncredited)
1948 Tap Roots Cropper (uncredited)
1949 Johnny Stool Pigeon Informer (uncredited)
1949 Hellfire Townsman (uncredited)
1949 The Girl from Jones Beach Irishman (uncredited)
1949 Roseanna McCoy A Hatfield (uncredited)
1950 Young Man with a Horn Bum (uncredited)
1950 The Fargo Phantom (short) Agent
1950 The Kid from Texas Townsman (uncredited)
1950 The Baron of Arizona Brother Paul (uncredited)
1951 Storm Warning Townsman (uncredited)
1951 Drums in the Deep South Soldier (uncredited)
1951 The Raging Tide Spade-Face (uncredited)

 

Sadly, Robert passed away when he was only 40 years old in 1951.


From The Los Angeles Times October 12th, 1951.

But what of the Scrapbooks? They were probably kept by his mother until her death in 1972 where they may have passed into his sister’s possession up in Multnomah, Oregon until she passed away in 1994 since the scrapbooks were sold by a rare book dealer out of Portland, Oregon.

 

From the Scrapbooks: Letter Postcards

Link - Posted by David on December 29, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, we find two acknowledgments that had been sent out for having written a letter in to the pulps!

The first, from Battle Aces, is an actual postcard mailed on March 28th 1931 at 7:30pm from the Grand Central Annex branch of the post office. It pictures Sarge and a happy plane dancing about and reads:

“SAY, YOU! Thanks for the swell letter! Yours for happy landing,
—Editor Battle Aces”

but upon it, Sarge has written Robert a handwritten note that reads:

“Never mind that ride with my blonde Jane, Bob.
She goes sky bugging with yours truly only!
Gene”

The second is from War Birds magazine. Unlike the Battle Aces card, this is not a postcard, just a slip of paper and was most likely sent in an envelope. It pictures that “same hard boiled, son-o’a gun, Sarge” reading letters while being flown about and says simply: “Thanks for your Letter!”

Yes, it’s the same Sarge, well…. Depending when the card was sent. Eugene A. Clancy was the editor of War Birds magazine from 1928 to whenever he left in 1930 to take over duties at Battle Aces. The letters column over there was full of all the same things—except the Prince of Zanzibar and a big Swede are his cohorts in his escapades. Aside from that, he’s still going down to Mike’s Place and the Blonde Jane is still helping out. His replacement carried on as Sarge, but it’s obvious it’s not the same Sarge.

 

From the Scrapbooks: Cover Cut-Outs

Link - Posted by David on December 27, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items. Robert was also fond of including cut-outs from covers of all kinds of aviation themed magazines.

Here are a few along with the full covers Robert excised them from:


AIR TRAILS
August 1931


POPULAR AVIATION
September 1931


MODEL AIRPLANE NEWS
OCTOBER 1931


SKY BIRDS
August 1931


SKY BIRDS
MARCH 1932


SKY BIRDS
APRIL 1932


NATIONAL GLIDER
and AIRPLANE NEWS

July 1931


BATTLE STORIES
August 1931


FLYING ACES
August 1931


BATTLE STORIES
May 1931


ACES
August 1931

 

From the Scrapbooks: A Seasonal Mystery

Link - Posted by David on December 24, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, we find a Happy New Years greeting from George Bruce scrapbooked in. . .

Measuring 5″ x 5¾”, it’s a cartoon by Jonny Pike of two soldiers from opposing countries ambling down the street, arm-in-arm, with several bottles.

The first couple times I looked through the scrapbooks, I thought this was just some festive image taken from a page in a pulp magazine, probably from one of the many George Bruce magazines that seemed to proliferate in the early ’30’s. It wasn’t until I was going through the scrapbooks and scanning things for these posts that I realized I was totally mistaken. It wasn’t a page from a pulp, it couldn’t have been—the image is printed on card stock.

Unfortunately, the card stock is too heavy to shine a light through to pick up what’s on the other side—if there is anything on the other side. There is a bit of creasing and ware down the two sides—a little more on the left than right if that means anything.

And to compound the mystery, Robert has written on the top corner of the page, “xmas – 32 Sky Fighters” as if to say that this came with Sky Fighters magazine. I combed through the issues of Sky Fighters from around that time and saw no mention of it in any of the issues.

Bruce could have sent these out on his own to those who had written in or were involved in the “Win Your Wings” contest that had just ended—Robert had both written in and placed in the second month of the contest. Who knows. Hopefully someone does. If you know, please, by all means, leave a comment below.

From the Scrapbooks: A Letter from Sarge!

Link - Posted by David on December 22, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, we find another letter removed from its envelope and scrapbooked in. . .

Opening it, we find a letter from “Sarge” on the official Popular Publications letterhead. Sarge was the assumed character and nom de plum of Eugene A. Clancy that he used for answering letters sent into Battle Aces magazine’s letters column, The Hot Airdrome.

SARGE AND THE HOT AIRDROME

SARGE was a grizzled old war bird often found downing Iotas at Mike’s Place with his distinguished friend Colonel Houseboat, one of the most important unofficial diplomats of two continents when not in the “hanger” answering the reader’s questions and spinning tall tales of his misadventures. Those misadventures start to take on a life of their own from month to month and often involve the likes of Clarence Hip Lee, the well-known Chinese diplomat and representative of the great Chinese general One Lung Gut, Abdul Benny Smid, the former ex-sultan of Morocco, Issac O’Connor, the Swedish ace, and sometimes the authors of the stories from the magazine!

Battle Aces’ letters column, The Hot Airdrome, was the meeting place for The Iota Club. It was a club that was easy to join—one need only need to send in the coupon at the end of the letters column that asked you to list which stories you’d like to see more of as well as your name and address. Sarge had a secretary he often referred to as a “Blonde Jane” who assisted him in sorting through the coupons and pasting them down in the Iota Club Book. She was of Norwegian decent and was not of fan of Sarge’s terse language or his ham-handed advances.

From the outset, the Iota Club seem to be on it’s way to becoming a real card carrying club like other pulp clubs. Sarge would reference that he’d give the readers full particulars about the new Iota Club in the next issue (October 1930) or that he was working on getting cards—they “weren’t quite ready yet” in January 1931, but would be sent out when they were. But these teases were never followed up on and the Iota Club remained a place where—as they state at the start of the column—”the readers of BATTLE ACES gather every month to tell each other and the editor to go to hell—on wings.”

Sarge’s load of tall tales and abuse were doubled up when Popular Publications started up Dare-Devil Aces in February of 1932. Dare-Devil Aces’ letters page, The Hot Air Club, was more of the same with Sarge dishing up over there as well as he did at the Hot Airdrome. Eventhough Battle Aces folded with the December 1932 issue (to be reborn ten months later as G-8 and his Battle Aces) Sarge wasn’t idle, as The Bull Flight Club took off that month in Battle Birds.

Like all good things, The Bull Flight Club closed its hanger doors when Battle Birds ended in June 1934 and Nosedive Ginsberg took over the bull sessions over at the Hot Air Club in April 1936.

EUGENE A. CLANCY

EUGENE A. CLANCY, born in 1882, was a New York City native and graduate of St. Francis Xavier College. He started getting his stories published in 1910 in publications like Harper’s Magazine, Short Stories, Munsey’s Magazine, Lippincott’s Magazine, Snappy Stories, The Parisienne Monthly, Top-Notch, People’s Story Magazine, and Complete Story Magazine to name but a few. It’s estimated he wrote some 1500 stories over his career.

By 1926 he started editing various aviation and war magazines for Dell—War Stories, War Novels, War Birds, and Navy Stories, before Henry Steeger brought him along when he left to start Popular Publications where he put him in charge of Battle Aces right from the get go with the October 1930 issue. From there his editing duties increased with the addition of Dare-Devil Aces in February 1932 and later Battle Birds in December 1932.

During the Second World War he served as executive secretary of the Quincy Council of Social Agencies in Massachusetts. After the war he held the position of South Side correspondent for the Boston Herald-Traveler until he passed away on March 29th, 1952 at the age of 69.

A LETTER FROM SARGE

EUGENE CLANCY replies to Robert’s request to get a copy of the June 1931 issue of Battle Aces and possibly pictures of war planes in combat. Dated July 23rd, 1931:

Dear Robert:

    This is to acknowledge receipt of forty cents in stamps for the June issue of BATTLE ACES, which was sent out under separate cover by first class mail and you should have received it by this time.

    The best way for you to get framed pictures of war planes in combat would be to write to the Signal Corps in Washington for the pictures and then have them framed. The Signal Corps has a fairly complete list of photographs which they will send upon request and you can have them framed at any art dealer’s for about seventy five cents a piece.

    Now lissen’ Bozo—no wise cracks about the blond jane. You lay off or I’ll fly over your drome and drop a load of TNT on your neck.

    Hope you get as much kick out of reading the magazine as we do out of putting it together.

                              Yours for happy landings,

                              THE SARGE


Clancy signed the letter simply as “Gene.”

   

From the Scrapbooks: The Sky Riders Club

Link - Posted by David on December 20, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, we find one of the Birdmen Club cards paired with the Sky Riders Club Card!

The Sky Riders magazine started in November 1928. A year later, in the November 1929 issue there was a brief mention in the magazine’s letters column, The Bung Bung, that they would be announcing details of a club in the subsequent issue. And sure enough, avid Sky Riders readers who had been pestering the editors for a club were granted their wish.

As the chief laid out the Sky Riders Club guidelines in the December 1929 issue:

First off, the name will be THE SKY RIDERS CLUB, and it will be open to all readers of the mag. But just being a reader of the mag is no free ticket for joining this new bunch of cloud-busters, not on your dizzy life.

The club will be divided into three squadrons. Squadron 1 includes those who have actually piloted a plane, and by piloting a plane, I don’t mean no dare-devil stunt like pushing the joystick around inside the hangar. To get into Squadron 1, the requirements are that you send in one coupon and a letter stating (a) why you are interested in aviation, and (b) one constructive idea that you have for the promotion of aviation.

Squadron 2 includes those who have been up in a plane, regardless of whether they have handled the joystick themselves or not. These members will be required to send in the coupon from two successive issues of the mag, together with the letter as explained above.

And Squadron 3 will include those modocs who have never been up in a plane, but are just feverish with the aerial itch. Membership in Squadron 3 will be given to these who send in the coupon from three successive issues of the mag and also the letter as outlined for members of Squadron 1.

If you are accepted into the club, you will receive a membership certificate, and the right to wear the silver wings of the outfit. The silver wings can be had by sending in fifty cents, but this is not a commercial organization and will make no money. As a matter of fact, there will be various contests in the future with prizes awarded to the winners. But I’m going to wait until the next issue before I get all steamed up and fiery about what this nose-diving club is going to do.

>

It was announced in the March 1930 issue that the silver wings were just being made and would be sent to people starting the next month.

Robert was listed with the new members in the June 1930 issue.
(That’s the coupon at the bottom of the page.)

By the September 1930 issue, The Sky Riders Club had been combined with those members of the short lived Flying Corp Cadets which had been formed by readers of the first and sadly only issue of Clayton Magazine’s Sky High Library published in February 1930. The increase in new memberships allowed them to drop the price of the silver wings pin from 50¢ to 25¢ (September, 1930)

Sadly, Sky Riders published their final issue in May 1931.


The Club page from the February 1931 issue with angular wings logos for both the SKY RIDERS CLUB and FLYING CORP CADETS.

   

Robert had also joined the Flying Aces Club. The FAC is so ubiquitous, I thought it best to cover the two clubs cards we had not seen before. Plus, the FAC itself could fill a whole month of posts to cover all they had to offer. Here is a comparison of the four cards Robert included in the scrapbooks.


The FLYING ACES CLUB card measures: 2.5″ x 4″; the SKY RIDERS CLUB card is:
2.75″ x 4.5625″; while the BIRDMEN CLUB card measures: 3″ x 5.125″.

 

From the Scrapbooks: The Birdmen Club

Link - Posted by David on December 17, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page from the George Bruce letter we find a membership card and folded note from the Birdmen club!

The Birdman Club was run by Air Trails and started right from their first issue in October 1928. It was a great brotherhood of those who roam the high spaces of the air, in either fact or fancy. It was for professional and amateur flyers, and air fans who have yet to make their first flight. All were banded together in the cause of American aviation.

It was not necessary to own a plane or to be actively engaged in some branch of aviation to join the club. The Birdmen band was divided into three classes. These were: Class A: those who have piloted planes; Class B: those who have been in the air but are not pilots; and Class C: those who have not yet been aloft, but who are interested in flying and expect to go up in an airplane at the first opportunity. Readers who were applying for membership were asked to state which class they would be in.

Membership in the Birdmen Club was absolutely free to all readers of Air Trails. Prospective members only had to fill out and send in the coupon from the Birdmen Club pages in any issue of Air Trails and their membership card would be sent to them.

For those who desired a Birdmen club emblem—a handsome blue-and-gold wings pin, could be obtained from the secretary for twenty-five cents in stamps or coin.

All Birdmen were afforded the same privileges regardless of their class. All members were welcome to write in and use the Birdmen Club pages to share stories and comments on those published in the magazine; the could list themselves as someone looking to be a pen pal to a like minded reader, or list stuff for sale or trade.

Unfolding the note…


The card is a very pale blue color. For some reason he had trimmed his card down—and did a poor job of it considering his razor like precision at cutting out other items he had pasted down.

Robert reapplied for membership in the Birdmen Club in 1931. I couldn’t say why. His class had not changed, he was still Class B. Maybe he felt poorly about butchering his original card so, who knows. Either way, he did reapply and was presented with another card in 1931.

At this time he received two letters from the Secretary of the Birdmen on Air Trails stationary which he also included in his scrapbook.


The first was the letter that came with his new card…


the other in response to inquiring about the blue-and-gold wings of the club.
(Sadly, he did not paste the wings into the scrapbooks.)

The Birdmen Club officially ran until the end of the magazine with the October 1931 issue. The Bill Barnes magazine assumed it’s place on the newsstand in February 1932 and it had it’s own club—The Air Adventurers!

 

From the Scrapbooks: A Letter from Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by David on December 15, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Moving on from the George Bruce letter, a few pages later we find what looks like another letter, folded into thirds like it too had just been pulled out of an envelope and pasted to the page. . .

Unfolding the sheet of paper reveals a letter from Arch Whitehouse on Magazine Publishers Incorporated letterhead from March 7th, 1929.

Arch Whitehouse was one of the most prolific aviation writers out there. He created numerous series characters with names like Buzz Benson, Tug hardwick, Coffin Kirk, Crash Carringer, the Casket Crew, and many more. These series characters created for Flying Aces and Sky Birds were extremely popular with the readers back in the 30’s and 40’s. Month after month he brought these colorful aces to life. Whitehouse scope and breadth of information on aviation was so great that he also answered all questions written in to the magazines from the readers.

Robert had apparently written in about learning to fly and Arch Whitehouse felt the need to respond with words of encouragement personally to a then 19 year-old Robert.

Writing from New York City, Whitehouse advises:

Dear Robert:

    You have the right idea. Stick to it. Aviation has come to stay and a few accidents will not keep the real air-minded Americans out of the sky. I myself have flown several thousand hours, including two-thousand in France during the war, and I have yet to break a wire.

    A good training course will cost anything from $300 to $500 and the time required depends all upon yourself, if you are a natural born flier, you will learn quickly and save that much money, –but do not be in too much of a hurry.

                    Hoping to hear from you again soon, I am,
              Sincerely yours,                        

                              Arch Whitehouse
                              Technical editor
                              Sky Birds and Flying Aces Magazines.

   

From the Scrapbooks: Battle Birds Covers

Link - Posted by David on December 13, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. In addition to Flying Aces’ “War Planes Album” and Sky Birds’ “Model Planes of All Nations”, Robert also featured Frederick Blakeslee’s magnificent Battle Aces covers.


The section features it’s own introductory page

Although the first scrapbook featured the cover of the premiere issue of Battle Birds on its cover, Robert’s scrapbooked covers from Battle Birds were in the second book along with the Battle Aces covers. Unlike the scrapbooked Battle Aces covers, Robert trimmed off the text portions of the covers and just included Blakeslee’s great arial combat illustration portion.

When possible, he made note of the planes Blakeslee portrayed on the covers!



May 33


Dare-Devil Aces
Jan ‘33


Feb ‘33


Jan ‘33


Dec ‘32


Apr ‘33


Jul ‘33


Jun ‘33


Aug ‘33


Dare-Devil Aces
Jun ‘33


Mar ‘33


Sep ‘33

 

From the Scrapbooks: Blakeslee’s Plane Plans

Link - Posted by David on December 10, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes.

Another great feature from the pulps Robert chose to include in his scrapbooks were Frederick Blakeslee’s 3 plan views of planes that he rendered for Battle Aces.

Rather than giving each its own page, Robert chose to glue one down along the top edge and then slot a few others beneath it, loose on the page. He had the first four on the first page, three on the second and just two on the third, although he appears to have gotten the September issue as well.



German
Fokker D-7
Dec ‘32


British
S.E.5-A
Jan ‘33


Pfalz Scout
type DXII
Feb ‘33


Bristol Fighter
type F2B
Mar ‘33


German
Friedrichshafen Bomber
Apr ‘33


Sopwith
“Snipe”
May ‘33


Halberstadt C4
Jun ‘33


Westland Wagtail
Jul ‘33


Halberstadt C2
Aug ‘33

 

From the Scrapbooks: A Letter from George Bruce

Link - Posted by David on December 8, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. But amongst all the planes and air race flyers and info on Aces are some surprising items.

Turning the page, is what looks like a letter, folded into thirds like it had just been pulled out of an envelope and pasted to the page. . .

Unfolding the sheet of paper reveals a letter from George Bruce on his own letterhead addressed to Robert from July 28th, 1932!

George Bruce was a prolific pulp writer and heavily involved with the initial year of Sky Fighters Magazine. He not only has a story in each of the first year’s issues, but also his own column in the back, “George Bruce Says” in which he answer any questions which the reader may have about the how, where or whens of flying, past, present or future. He even listed those readers whose letters he would reply to personally—and the list was quite long for those who had written in for the first issue (and whose letters had arrived by July 15th)!

Writing from Provincetown, Massachusetts, Bruce says:

Dear Bob:

    I am sorry I have not had an earlier opportunity to reply to your letter. I spent the first part of this month in a hospital in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where a group of surgeons could not resist a curiosity as to what was contained in the Bruce belly. In otner words I underwent an emergency operation caused by acute appendicitis, and was out of the picture for a few days. Please let me offer my thanks and gratitude for your letter. You may be sure it was appreciated and read with much interest and it reached me at a time when I needed all of the friendliness and interest you expressed, I’m quite sure that the mail carrier who delivers to St. Luke Hospital will never forgive George Bruce and will be permanently round-shouldered because of carrying into the hospital hundreds of letters from all over the country from fellows who had been readers, but who, in writing those letters, became friends.

    I hope through the medium of SKY FIGHTERS and your continued interest in George Bruce this friendship will extend inflefinitely.

                    Sincerely yours,

                                                George Bruce.

   

Editor’s note: Robert also got his name listed in the following issue as one of the runner-ups for the second round of the “Win Your Wings” Contest. The Sky Fighters “Win Your Wings” contest was not a contest to win actual wings, but rather cash prizes and foster continued readership of their new magazine. Each month for the first six months of the magazine, they posed a question. The reader with the best response would win $5 while 20 runners up would win $1. Robert was one of the runner-ups for the second round. At the end, the reader with the best record over the six questions would win the grand prize of $100!

From the Scrapbooks: Battle Aces Covers

Link - Posted by David on December 6, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. In addition to Flying Aces’ “War Planes Album” and Sky Birds’ “Model Planes of All Nations”, Robert also featured Frederick Blakeslee’s magnificent Battle Aces covers.

The second scrapbook which features the March 1932 Battle Aces cover as it’s cover, starts off with a collection of Blakeslee’s covers. each speed features a full fresh-off-the-newsstand cover and the story behind the cover lovingly typed on the facing page. I don’t know why he didn’t just clip out the story page from the issue instead, although he did clip out Blakeslee’s pen and ink rendering of the featured cover plane on several pages of those images collaged together.

He does not have all the Blakeslee Battle Aces covers, but he does have a majority of them.


He included the picture of O.B. Myers with the write-up for the November 1931 cover which tells how O.B. got his D.S.C.


Similarly, he includes Wilbert Wallace White’s picture with Blakeslee’s cover about White. (January 1932)

Covers he includes are:



Jan ‘32


Feb ‘32


Mar ‘32


Apr ‘32


May ‘31


Jun ‘31


Jun ‘32


Jul ‘32


Jul ‘31


Aug ‘31


Sep ‘31


Oct ‘31


Nov ‘31


Dec ‘31


Dec ‘32

From the Scrapbooks: Aces of Note

Link - Posted by David on December 3, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and not just the planes, but also some of the men who made a name for themselves flying them in The Great War.

Chronicled within the pages of the scrapbooks are such Aces the likes of:


Billy Bishop

and The Red Baron himself––


Baron Manfred von Richthofen

He has a page devoted to Rickenbacker’s Victories

And includes the four installments of Flying Aces’ “Lives of the Aces in Pictures”. Here, he’s taken the images from the two page feature (as they were in the pulp-sized issues), pasted them on a page with the accompanying captions, typed out on the facing page.


Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace

He gave the same treatment for the Lives of Bert Hall, Soldier of Fortune (Flying Aces, June 1932), Georges Guynemer, Falcon of France (July 1932), and Lt. Werner Voss, German Ace (July 1933) as illustrated in pictures.

Scattered throughout are various mentions of aces from the pulps or the newspapers or other magazines.

From the Scrapbooks: Planes of the World

Link - Posted by David on December 1, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

THIS Holiday Season we’re delving into a pair of scrapbooks that were created in the late 20’s and early 30’s by an industrious youth, Robert A. O’Neil, with a keen interest in all things aviation. The books contain clippings, photos and articles from various aviation pulps as well as other magazines. What has been assembled is a treasure trove of information on planes and aces of WWI.

Like many in the late 20’s and early 30’s, Robert O’Neil was fascinated with aviation and as such, a large part of both volumes of his scrapbooks is taken up with a cataloging of the many different types of planes. Many of the aviation pulps featured monthly articles on this subject. Flying Aces called theirs “War Planes Album”. Each month they featured six planes with a simple illustration by C.B. Colby and an informative write-up on each of the planes.


Two of the six planes featured in the November 1932 Flying Aces

Good news for those who wanted to clip and save the plane images and paste them into an album as Robert had done, the illustrations were laid out in the article so no two images would be on the back of the other.


The opening spread of the “Model Planes of All Nations” from (Sky Birds, November 1931).

Robert also clipped similar images also by Colby from Sky Birds’ monthly feature “Model Planes of All Nations.” Sky Birds’ feature was essentially the same as Flying Aces’ feature. You get six planes an issue.


Two of the six planes featured in the November 1931 Sky Birds

Robert generally featured two images per page, but for a few, he pasted a single image on the page and below it typed the informative part of the article about that plane.

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