Gerard Post Herrick (1873-1955) was a lawyer and engineer who is known as the inventor of the convertible aircraft. In 1911 Herrick, a graduate of Princeton (A.B.1895) and the New York Law School (L.L.B.1897), founded the Herrick Engine Co. to market his "balanced rotary engine" concept. During World War I, he served as a captain in the Army Air Service (1918-19). After the war, Herrick developed the concept of the convertible aircraft, which could operate both as a fixed-wing airplane and as a giroplane. In late 1930, Herrick engaged F. E. Seiler, ex-chief engineer of Kellett Aircraft Corp, to assist in the design of a full-scale Vertoplane, as Herrick called his invention. After delivering a number of drawings and reports to Herrick, Seiler began work at Heath Aircraft Co. and, before his death in mid-1931, pedaled the convertible aircraft concept and the data from his work with Herrick to C. L. Stauffer, a promoter and Heath dealer. In the meantime, Ralph H. McClarren, who had met Herrick in the late 1920s at the Guggenheim School of Aeronautics and had been Seiler's assistant at Kellett, left Kellett to join Heath, where he uncovered Seiler's and Stauffer's activities. By this time Herrick had established the Vertoplane Development Corp. of New York to finance his aircraft. Herrick contracted with Heath for the actual construction of the craft, the design of which fell to McClarren. The first aircraft, the HV-1, was ready on November 6, 1931. The test pilot, Merrill Lambert, made several successful test flights in both fixed- and rotating-wing mode, but when he attempted an in-flight transition between the two, the aircraft fell out of control and crashed. Lambert bailed out of the aircraft, but was killed when his parachute failed to open. Post-crash analysis found no fault with the basic convertible aircraft concept and Herrick continued development work with McClarren remaining as consulting engineer. The new aircraft, the HV-2, was flight tested beginning October 31, 1936 with George Townson as test pilot. Although the aircraft flew in both fixed- and rotating-wing mode, vibrations in the rotating wing delayed the first in-flight conversion until July 30, 1937. Herrick continued to develop the convertible airplane concept with McClarren and others, including designs with both powered and unpowered rotors, as well as a variety of configurations and power plants. In the immediate post-World War II years, he changed the company name to Convertoplane Corp. and unsuccessfully lobbied financial interests and the government for support. He remained the president of Covertoplane and stayed active in the development process until his death in 1955.
Arranged and described by Paul Silbermann, 2002 and 2004. Encoded by Amanda Buel, 2013.
Herrick, Gerard Post, 1873-1955
Gerard P. Herrick, gift, 1958, NASM.XXXX.0097, unknown.
17.68 Cubic feet (2 records center boxes; 5 drawers)
This collection consists of correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, handwritten technical notes, drawings, photographs, reports, and affidavits in support of historical statements. Also included are several hundred black-and-white negatives and three reels of motion-picture film of the Herrick Vertoplane.
Please see NASM Archives for restrictions.
Motion pictures (visual works)
The collection has been divided into four series. The first series contains patent-related material. The second pertains to technical materials. The third series, created during processing primarily from loose, unorganized materials, consists of miscellaneous material. The fourth series contains engineering drawings and oversized material which had been stored rolled or folded. A collection of negatives are currently housed in the curatorial files of the NASM Aeronautics Department. Some photographs from the collection were included in the NASM Archives Videodisc project; such photographs and others from the collection are housed in the NASM Archives Technical Reference Files. Three motion picture films from the collection were transferred to the NASM Film Archives in January 1995. SERIES I: Patent-Related Material SERIES II: Technical Material SERIES III: Miscellaneous Material SERIES IV: Engineering Drawings and Oversized Material
The material in this collection was donated to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in December 1958 and relates to Herrick, the Herrick Balanced Rotary Engine, and the Herrick Vertoplane/Convertoplane series. The material consists primarily of correspondence, news clippings, and engineering drawings or sketches. Portions of the collection were discovered in the Paul E. Garber Papers (NASM Archives Accession 1991-0063) during the preliminary processing of that collection and were returned to the Herrick Collection at that time. Only the materials that now make up the bulk of Series I (Patent Related Material) and Series II (Technical Material) were found in their original enclosures (mostly envelopes) and were organized based on those enclosures. Series III (Miscellaneous Material) was created during processing primarily from loose, unorganized materials. Series IV (Engineering Drawings) consists of oversized materials and engineering drawings which had been stored rolled or folded. A collection of negatives donated with the accession are currently housed in the curatorial files of the NASM Aeronautics Department. Some photographs from the collection were included in the NASM Archives Videodisc project; such photographs and others from the collection are housed in the NASM Archives Technical Reference Files. Three motion picture films from the collection were transferred to the NASM Film Archives in January 1995. Note: The digital images in this finding aid were repurposed from scans made by an outside contractor for a commercial product and may show irregular cropping and orientation in addition to color variations resulting from damage to and deterioration of the original objects.
Motion pictures (visual works)
Herrick, Gerard Post, 1873-1955
Herrick Vertaplane Family
Herrick rotary engine
Aeronautics, Commercial -- United States
Gerard Post Herrick Papers, NASM.XXXX.0097, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
National Air and Space Museum Archives