Early Birds of Aviation, Inc. Collection

Founded after the National Air Races of 1928, the Early Birds (later to be known as the Early Birds of Aviation, Inc.) consisted of pioneer aviators banded together for the purposes of preserving aviation history, advancing interest in aeronautics and the enjoyment of good fellowship. Membership in the group necessitated documentary evidence of solo flight in heavier- or lighter-than-air craft before December 17, 1916. This date was of some significance to the Early Birds, being the thirteenth anniversary (that number being considered propitious) of the first sustained, powered, heavier-than-air flight by the Wrights at Kitty Hawk. Those interested in flying in this pre-World War I period were often required to build their own craft and instruct themselves in the necessary skills to pilot it and members took great pride in this evidence of initiative. (For nationals of countries other than the United States which were engaged in the War the conditional date was set at August 4, 1914.) As an organization, the Early Birds was responsible for the preservation of aircraft and records, the erection of numerous markers and monuments and the education of the public on the importance of aviation. With members including Glenn Curtiss, Blanche Stuart Scott, Matilde Moisant, Grover Loening, Roy Knabenshue, Sir Thomas Sopwith, Katherine Stinson, Marjorie Stinson, Earle Ovington, Matty Laird, Anthony Fokker and Giuseppe Bellanca, their contributions as individuals were incalculable. Numbering nearly 600 members at its peak, the Early Birds was conceived of as a "last man's club" whose existence would cease with the passing of its last surviving member.