A. Roy Knabenshue Collection
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NASM.XXXX.0136
Creators:
Knabenshue, A. Roy (Augustus Roy), 1876-1960
Dates:
circa 1890s-1960s
Languages:
English
English
Physical Description:
3.6 cubic feet
8 legal document boxes
3.36 linear feet
Repository:
National Air and Space Museum Archives
This collection contains approximately three cubic feet of material relating to the life and career of A. Roy Knabenshue The collection includes correspondence, a great deal of photographic material, drawings of aircraft and flight records. The material spans over seventy years, from just before the dawn of the twentieth century to the late nineteen-sixties. An autobiographical manuscript entitled "Chauffeur Of The Skies" is also included in this collection.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The A. Roy Knabenshue Collection (accession XXXX-0136 and related accession XXXX-0370) contains approximately three cubic feet of material relating to the life and career of a daring aeronaut and our Nation's first successful dirigible pilot. The collection includes correspondence, a great deal of photographic material, drawings of aircraft and flight records. The material spans over seventy years, from just before the dawn of the twentieth century to the late nineteen-sixties.
Those interested in the life and career of A. Roy Knabenshue may wish to consult with Tom Crouch, Chairman of the National Air and Space Museum's Aeronautics Department. Mr. Crouch is currently editing Knabenshue's autobiography and would be happy to assist any researcher.
The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) received these materials in several parts in the early 1960s. Material was donated by Mrs. A. Roy (Jane) Knabenshue and by Glenn Knabenshue. Original order, where identified, has been maintained.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
Series 1:
Personal
Subseries 1: Biographical
Subseries 2: Acticles and Manuscripts
Subseries 3: Correspondence
Series:
Career
Subseries 1: The Wright Company
Subseries 2: National Park Service
Series 3:
Photographs and Scrapbooks
Series 4:
Drawings
Series 5:
Subject files
Series 6:
Miscellaneous

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Augustus Roy Knabenshue was born July 15, 1876 in Lancaster, Ohio to Samuel S. and Salome Knabenshue. The family later moved to Toledo, Ohio where Roy's father became editor-in-chief of the Toledo Blade. It was there that Roy became interested in lighter-than-air flight after seeing a balloon ascension when he was only five years old. His interest continued to grow in the years that followed and in 1899 he bought a captive balloon and its equipment. The next season, he began to take short leaves of absence from his job at Central Union Telephone Company and was operating his balloon at fairs and carnivals, charging attendees for ascensions. To protect his day job and spare his socially prominent family embarrassment, Knabenshue used the name "Professor Don Carlos" at his balloon engagements. By 1900, Knabenshue had begun to fabricate additional spherical balloons himself, for use in free ascensions.
In October of 1904, Knabenshue took a new balloon to Saint Louis to enter it in contests associated with the First World's Fair, also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. There he met Thomas S. Baldwin, who had brought his dirigible California Arrow to the event. The airship proved incapable of taking off with Baldwin at the helm and the slimmer Knabenshue was asked to substitute as pilot. Possessing no experience with dirigibles, Knabenshue accepted Baldwin's instructions and on October 25 became the first person to successfully pilot a dirigible in the United States.
Roy Knabenshue's name would be associated with the term "first" many times in the next few years. In 1905, Knabenshue built his own airship, the Toledo I, and flew it at its namesake city on Independence Day. It was the first streamlined dirigible in United States. A month later, Knabenshue made the first flight of an airship over Manhattan, taking off from Central Park and circling the Times Building. On December 17, 1908, he made the first successful night flight of a dirigible in the United States.
By 1909, Roy had teamed up with Lincoln Beachey to fly airships at various events. Beachey was to fly a Knabenshue dirigible a year later at the First International Aviation Meet held in the United States. Roy Knabenshue was instrumental in organizing that meet at Dominguez Field, Los Angeles, and raced his own airship during the events, setting several records.
His success attracted the attention of the Wright Brothers, who were considering entering the exhibition field. Knabenshue was hired to manage their exhibition team and did so beginning in 1910 and periodically for the next few years. Associated professionally at times with Glenn Martin, Walter Brookins and James V. Martin, by 1917 he had formed the Knabenshue Aircraft Corporation to produce dirigibles, kite balloons and parachutes. During the First World War, this company made captive observation balloons for use by the United States Navy.
In 1933, Knabenshue began work for the United States Department of the Interior's National Parks Service. His duties included surveying air routes and the management of an autogiro project.
After suffering a heart attack in 1949, Knabenshue retired. He passed away on March 6, 1960 at the age of 83 and was interred at the Portal of the Folded Wings, Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California. He had held Balloon License Number 31, Dirigible License Number 4, built ten airships and numerous balloons, was a prominent member of the Early Birds and had earned a significant place in American aviation history.

Administration
Processing Information
Finding aid prepared by Kate Igoe, 1997.
Finding aid encoded by Elizabeth Bauerle, 2011.
Author
Kate Igoe
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Mrs. A. Roy (Jane) Knabenshue, XXXX-0136.

Digital Content

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Conditions Governing Access note
No restrictions on access.
Preferred Citation
A. Roy Knabenshue Collection, Acc. XXXX-0136, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Diaries Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manuscripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Airships Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Knabenshue, A. Roy (Augustus Roy), 1876-1960 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Early Birds of Aviation (Organization) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
NASMRefDesk@si.edu
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