1930s Uniform Mystery
June 18, 2012 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone help identify this 1930s-era uniform, and also possibly provide info on a small plane crash at the time?

My fiancee's biological grandfather is pictured here, circa 1935, in Washington state, in/around Olympia. We don't know of any military service, and wondered if he might have been a police or state patrol officer. Also - he died while piloting this small plane one or two years later, and we literally have no other information about the incident, other than the same geographic location. Any online resources for digging up info about such an incident?
posted by davidmsc to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
ALSO: his last name was HOWE, if that helps. Not certain of first name.
posted by davidmsc at 9:05 AM on June 18, 2012

Can you get any more detail on his hat? His coat doesn't have any shoulder markings, nametag, stripes/medals/etc and the pocket layout would lead me to believe it is not military. Closeup on the buttons may help as well.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:10 AM on June 18, 2012

At that time, investigation of plane crashes was under authority of the Dept. of Commerce (PDF, p. 17 "If the accident involved a fatality or serious injury, the Secretary was required to issue a statement of the probable cause"), I think under the Bureau of Air Commerce. They don't seem to have their records online, but some information on this crash might exist in the National Archives. You could try contacting the archivists.

I couldn't find anything in Google relating to the aircraft registration NC550W.
posted by exogenous at 9:27 AM on June 18, 2012

Is this him? If you want a PDF emailed to you, memail me (this is off of NewspaperArchive.com)

Centralia Daily Chronicle, 9-28-1936


OLYMPIA, Sept 23.--Spinning to earth during a demonstration flight, a rebuilt airplaned crashed at the airport here killing two amateur pilots yesterday.

Arthur A Howe, 27, the plane's owner, and Walter E Whitkop, 29, Seattle, prospective purchaser, took off from the field yesterday, started a vertical bank at 300 feet and fell into a tail spin.

The two fliers were killed outright and the ship was torn to pieces.

Airport attendants and other pilots said Howe was in the pilot's cockpit. The plane, formerly an open, two-place monoplane, had been remodeled into a cabin plane. Pilots said it had shown a tendency to go into spins.

Howe, a postal clerk, had the ship for sale and Whitkop came from Seattle with his wife to inspect it.

Surviving Howe are his widow, Mrs. Marie Howe, and their son, Melvin, 9 months; two sisters, Mrs. Marland Roaney, Portland, and Mrs Frank Cushman, Jr., Olympia; three brothers, Lester E Howe, Yreka, Calif., and Alden and Betram Howe, both of Olympia and his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Mevin T Howe, Plympia.

Whitkop is survived by his widow, Mrs. Mary Jame Whitkop of Seattle, and his father, Jake Whitkop, Travers City, Mich.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2012 [17 favorites]

If I'm reading the tail number correctly, NC550W, this civil aircraft register site says it was a Mono Aircraft Monoprep, one of only eight built, apparently.

The only other thing the register list tells me about the airplane is its "c/n" of 6032. That's apparently a 'construction number assigned to the plane by its manufacturer to enable tracing the airplane if the registration should change. The weird thing is that, if I'm reading this page correctly, the construction numbers for the monoprep stopped at 6031.

Now there was apparently also a plane called the Monoprep 218, which was a little more common. Like 60 of those. But I can't find any other references.

So I'm not sure if I've interpreted odd data incorrectly, or if someone miskeyed something at some point. And I'm not sure I've helped move the ball downfield at all. But that tail number should be the one thing that can be kind of unambiguously tracked, I'd think.
posted by Naberius at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Or, someone could just find a news report of the crash. Nice work AzraelBrown.
posted by Naberius at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

This photo of men wearing a very similar uniform is captioned "Letter Carriers, 1926". If he was a postal clerk, that could have been his uniform.
posted by hades at 9:36 AM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

That kind of hat and jacket combo would've been pretty standard for lots of service-type folks, from livery drivers to security guards to theater ushers. Looks like he's a livery driver from the way he seems to be holding that car door open.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:37 AM on June 18, 2012

OMG. AskMeFi, you absolutely never cease to amaze me. Thank you, everyone, and particularly AzraelBrown.
posted by davidmsc at 9:58 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

It looks like ancestry.com has him in a few photos and family trees -- I don't have an account there any more, so I can't get the full info, but there's a 14-day trial available if you're curious. There's a portrait, a photo captioned "Dapper pilot", one captioned "Howe family band", and another of what is presumably him and his wife with an infant.
posted by hades at 9:59 AM on June 18, 2012

Good grief - this is amazing - just called my bride-to-be and shared this info with her, she is stunned. THANK YOU, fellow MeFites, so much!
posted by davidmsc at 10:07 AM on June 18, 2012

Page 24 of The United States Postal Service: An American History 1776-2006 (pdf) shows a man in what appears to be a very similar if not identical uniform with the caption "Rural Carrier, Harbor Springs, Michigan, circa 1910."
posted by clerestory at 11:18 AM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Woodland Daily Democrat for Sept. 28, 1936, identifies Arthur Howe as a postal clerk.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:21 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Once again - thank you everyone! My fiancee has been down the rabbit hole for hours, thanks to your help in launching her on this family tree quest!
posted by davidmsc at 9:13 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

« Older Quick trip to New Orleans?   |   Black Belt Certification Issue - Tae Kwon Do Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.