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Your Captions: Merrill and Princess Doreen

Posted on Fri, October 21, 2016
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Last week we asked you to caption a number of intriguing images, and we promised to share more about each photo in the coming weeks. Let’s kick off with this ferociously furry snapshot.

Henry Tyndall "Dick" Merrill (1894 - 1982) and Princess Doreen peer from the cockpit of Merrill's mail plane.

You shared some pretty fantastic captions. Some of our favorites include:

  • We'll be taking off right meow ... and no, I'm not lion …
  • Lion scout to lion leader. Gazelle spotted, bearing oh-seven-five. Recommend stealth approach. Over.
  • When it absolutely has to get to the zoo on time, Pitcairn Aviation is the way to go.
  • Look at me. I am going flion.
  • You don't need a tiger in your tank if you have a lion in your lap.
  • Yeah, but where do you fit the litter box?
  • When he's grown I'm going to have to get a bigger plane ...
  • U.S. Mail - We'll get it there, and we ain't lion!

A number of you thought this photo captured Roscoe Turner and Gilmore. How many pilots have their own lion? It turns out a few.

This image is actually of Henry Tyndall “Dick” Merrill (1894 – 1982) and Princess Doreen. Merrill was a pioneering aviator in the 1930s. In his 41 years as a pilot, he logged more than 8 million miles and 41,709 hours of flying, an equivalent of nearly five years in the sky.

He was a barnstormer, an airmail pilot for Pitcairn Aviation Inc., and piloted passengers for Eastern Air Transport. Merrill was a flamboyant character who attracted the public’s attention. Not least of all for his menagerie of mascots: dogs, flying squirrels, and, yes, a lion cub.

While he avoided alcohol and tobacco, Merrill was a gambler. His lion cub, Princess Doreen, was named after his favorite racehorse. 

Lions have been a popular pick amongst aviators. As readers noted, there was pilot Roscoe Turner and Gilmore, who had his own cub-sized parachute and harness. Whiskey and Soda served as particularly rambunctious mascots for the Lafayette Escadrille, Americans flying for the French air service. The Luftwaffe bomber group Kampfgeschwader 76 also had their own lion cub.

What would your mascot be? Next week, we’ll take a closer look at what this gentleman got himself into.