Collection Item Summary:
S. Albert Reed had a successful career as an engineer and inventor before entering aeronautics. Observation of a foghorn allegedly led him to a better way to generate acoustic noise with electric motors whirling duralumin vanes. In 1920 neighboring Curtiss employees challenged Reed to instead design lightweight, but strong and efficient aeronautical propellers made from duralumin.
Reed began manufacturing propellers for the Army Air Service in 1922, with the Reed Propeller Company being formed as a subsidiary of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in 1924. By early-1926, the Reed propeller was used in more than eighty engine and airframe combinations, and was the choice of racing teams for the Pulitzer and Schneider Trophies. Reed was awarded the Collier Trophy for 1925. However, with daily use by the U.S. Air Mail Service and others, it became apparent that his propeller was structurally unsound and, with its inability to vary pitch, the concept did not survive the 1920s.