Oral history interviews with Paul Edward Garber,
1974

Summary
Collection ID:
Record Unit 9592
Creators:
Garber, Paul Edward, 1899-1992. interviewee
Dates:
1974
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
8 audiotapes (reference copies).
Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Introduction
Introduction
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.
Paul E. Garber was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his seminal role in the development of the National Air and Space Museum during his sixty-nine years at the Smithsonian.

Descriptive Entry
Descriptive Entry
Garber was interviewed in 1974 by Smithsonian Institution Archives Historian Miriam S. Freilicher. The interviews discuss his background, living in Washington, D.C., as a child, and early interest in flying; his early career at the Smithsonian as a Preparator; the acquisition of many of the famous aircraft in the National Air and Space Museum collection; his career in the United States Navy during World War II; and the early years of the National Air Museum. The collection consists of 8.0 hours of audiotape recording and 187 pages of transcript, and occupies 0.5 linear meters of shelf space. There are two generations of tape for each session: original tapes and reference tapes. In total, this collection is comprised of 8 original 5" reel-to-reel tapes and 8 reference copy audiotape cassettes. Box 1 contains transcripts of the interviews and cassette copies of the original reel to reel recordings, which are in security storage.

Historical Note
Historical Note
Paul Edward Garber (1899-1992), was the first Curator of the National Air Museum, now the National Air and Space Museum. Garber was born on August 31, 1899, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and moved permanently to Washington, D.C., with his family in 1910. He developed an interest in flight early in life with kites, and it continued with airplanes when he saw Orville Wright fly at Fort Meyer, Virginia, in 1909 while on a trip to Washington with his father. His interest in flight continued to grow as he visited airplane exhibits at the Smithsonian and flew kites on his own. Once while flying a kite outside his family home on Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., he met Alexander Graham Bell, who helped him fix it. During World War I, Garber joined the D.C. National Guard, and then transferred to the United States Army as a Sergeant where he learned to fly airplanes at Bolling Field. After the war, he joined the Air Mail Service as a ground crewman, headquartered at College Park, Maryland.
Garber joined the staff of the Smithsonian Institution in 1920 as a Preparator in the Division of Mechanical Technology where he repaired objects and built models for exhibition. This began his long career at the Smithsonian during which he followed his passion for flight and built a world-class collection of airplanes. Among the airplanes Garber acquired for the collection are the Curtiss NC-4, the first aircraft to fly across the Atlantic; Lincoln Ellsworth's Northrop Gamma Polar Star, which made the first flight across the Antarctic; Wiley Post's Winnie Mae, which established a number of speed records; and Charles A. Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis. During World War II, Garber took military leave from the Smithsonian from 1941 to 1946 and worked for the United States Navy. While a Commander in the Navy, he built recognition models of enemy planes to teach pilots, gunners and observers how to identify the enemy planes.
When the National Air Museum was officially founded on August 12, 1946, Garber was appointed its first Curator. During the early years of the museum, Garber spent much time commuting between Washington, D.C., and Park Ridge, Illinois, where the museum had a storage facility for military aircraft in a Douglas Company building used for airplane assembly during World War II. The Korean conflict made it essential that the storage facility be put back into operation, so Garber had the task of finding a new storage facility. He conducted aerial surveys of the D.C. area by airplane and found suitable land in the Silver Hill area of Maryland. The twenty-one acres of land was acquired by the Smithsonian, and storage and restoration facilities were built. In 1980 the facility was renamed the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility.
In 1967, Garber, in association with The Smithsonian Associates, founded the annual Smithsonian Kite Festival which was first held on March 25, 1967. The festival included kite flying on the National Mall, kite-making workshops, a lecture series, and a special display of kites made by Garber and his wife. In 1969, at the age of 70, Garber retired after serving the Smithsonian for forty-nine years. He continued to work at the museum for another twenty years as Historian Emeritus, and he was the museum's first Ramsey Fellow. He died on September 23, 1992, at the age of 93.

Notes
Oral Histories

Using the Collection
Prefered Citation
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9592, Oral history interviews with Paul Edward Garber

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Curtiss, Glenn Hammond, 1878-1930 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ellsworth, Lincoln, 1880-1951 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Garber, Paul Edward, 1899-1992 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lindbergh, Charles A. (Charles Augustus), 1902-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Post, Wiley, 1898-1935. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Freilicher, Miriam S. interviewer Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum. Department of Mechanical Technology Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Navy Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States National Museum Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air and Space Museum Building (Washington, D.C.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air Museum (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Ramsey Fellowship in Naval Aviation History Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Department of Aeronautics Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Silver Hill Facility Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Air and Space Museum (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautical museums Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aerospace museums Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Curtiss NC-4 (P2N-1) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Polar Star (Airplane) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Spirit of St. Louis (Airplane) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Winnie Mae (Airplane) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum curators -- United States -- Interviews Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Audiotapes Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Oral history Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Washington, D.C.
Contact us at osiaref@si.edu