JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Propellerhead: 1918

Propellerhead: 1918

June 1, 1918. Katherine Stinson, "the flying schoolgirl," and her plane at Sheepshead Bay Speedway in Brooklyn after completing a flight from Chicago. 5x7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Paisley purse

I'm late,
I'm late,
For a very important bowling date.

Found the plane

It's the "Curtiss-Stinson Special" -- a modified JN built for Katherine, and it still exists!

Early Lady of the Air

Interesting to know that there were female aviators before Amelia Earhart, who I always thought was the first. Sometimes, history's not what you learn in school, it went another way... which was not documented properly, for one reason or another.

What a nice person.

Thanks to one and all. Ms. Stinson did things she wanted to do and I am glad for her.

Another connection for me

This is another photo that makes me wonder about the state of Shorpy 50-100 years down the road (God willing). I will be starting on my pilot's license in 2009. Though I wouldn't be able to have as monumental flights as Katherine, I'm sure I'll be taking pictures of my personal milestones.

This photo endures because the idea of a woman flying alone to New York was novel at the time. Today, nobody would blink at the thought of women flying for sport, pleasure, or as a career.

By the time the pictures of my flights become "classic," will we have made advancements that make my hobby a curious thing?

I love the photos like this. They make me think of my own personal place in history. They make me wonder if Katherine knew she would be the subject of conversation 90 years later.


She had an interesting life. Katherine Stinson was only the fourth woman in the United States to earn a pilot's license. In July 1915 she was the first woman to perform a loop. During World War I she flew as a fundraiser for the American Red Cross, and completed the second mail flight ever in Canada, between Calgary and Edmonton. Sometime around the period when this photo was taken she became a Red Cross ambulance driver in France. There she contracted influenza, which turned into tuberculosis. The TB forced her to give up flying in 1920, after which she began a second career as an architect. She died in 1977 and has a middle school named for her in San Antonio..

Curtiss OX-5

Curtiss OX-5 engine - V-8, liquid cooled. I used to own one at Hooterville but now it's an exhibit in an aviation school near St. Louis. Maximum takeoff power: 90 horsepower at 1400 rpm! Apparently at idle you could see the propeller blades ticking over. And the round radiator -- that's a first, never seen one before. And the propeller with the curved leading edges was known as a "scimitar" prop.

John Warner
Hooterville Airport
Clinton, Illinois

The little prop... an air speed indicator.

In-Flight Goober Peas!

I'll bet it was her snack bag. I don't know what kind of plane that is, but I doubt it flew faster than 120 mph. The 800 mile trip probably took 10 hours or so including fuel stops.

[Katherine covered the 783 miles from Chicago in 10 hours, her trip ending prematurely when she ran out of fuel and crash-landed in Binghamton, New York. Besides breaking her propeller when the plane flipped over, she also broke the distance record set two years earlier by Ruth Law. A week later she reached New York City (our photo), her intended destination. - Dave]

Stinson Aircraft

As I recall the story. Her father leveraged her fame to create his own company - Stinson Aircraft, maker of the famous biplanes. Katherine's sister Marjorie also got in on the act as the flying sisters.

[Stinson Aircraft seems to have been started by Katherine's brothers. - Dave]


A better question: What could that little propeller on the wing be?


I'd guess at a clean set of underwear, a set of spanners and some spare spark plugs!

Mysterious handbag

What might be inside the handbag?

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2023 Shorpy Inc.