The MHS is pleased to announce the acquisition of a collection of papers and memorabilia of Charles W. “Speed” Holman, famed aviator, first chief pilot of Northwest Airlines, and namesake of St. Paul’s downtown airport. Highlights of the collection include three licenses (1927-1928) signed by Orville Wright, a 1926 license to carry air mail for the United States Post Office, and Holman’s personal flight logbook covering his flights from December 5, 1929, to May 17, 1931. On that date Holman flew to Omaha, Nebraska, where he died in a horrific crash while performing at an air show before 20,000 spectators. Dozens of letters and telegrams document Holman’s international flights, the New York to Spokane air race that ensured his place in aviation history, and expressions of sympathy to his widow and Northwest Airways after his death. Famed World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker telegraphed “We grieve with you and Charles family in this hour of loss.” Other “personal” items document the purchase and sale of his Minneapolis home and include a life insurance policy, his 1927 income tax return, and his Northwest Airways business card.
The collection also includes artifacts from Holman’s life – a leather box for important documents inscribed with his name, his baby rattle and leather baby shoe spats, a leather wallet, license holders, and empty shell casings from the salute at his funeral, one of the largest held in St. Paul to that time.
The Society was able to acquire this collection with monies from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The collection will be available for research and viewing after it has been arranged and cataloged. Some of the documents will be digitized and available through the Society’s website.