National Air and Space Museum Archives

Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection


Collection ID:
Bellanca, Giuseppe M., 1886-1960
Collection is in
Physical Description:
248.5 Cubic feet
245 boxes
This collection consists of the archives of Giuseppe M. Bellanca and his company, including the following types of mediums: drawings, stress analysis tests, reports, photographs/negatives, documents, correspondence, patent information, newspaper clippings, business records, and financial statements.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
Series I: Mr. Bellanca's professional life
Here, the researcher will find documents regarding the day-to-day operations of the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation. The material is generally divided into core documents of the corporation, correspondence, financial documents, subcontracting pursuits, patents, employee relations, and company history.
Series II: Technical Material
This material is separated into the following subseries: Miscellaneous Handwritten Notes and Sketches, Bellanca Aircraft Technical Data, Bellanca Aircraft Corporation Reports, Technical Research Files, Bellanca Aircraft Drawing Lists, Bellanca Aircraft Drawings, and Bellanca Aircraft Drawing Indexes. The Bellanca Collection is not a complete history of the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation. Over the years, it appears that many items were loaned out by the Bellanca Family to researchers and not returned. Therefore, there are significant gaps in correspondence, formal, numbered reports, and other areas of the collection. For example, the earliest report in the Bellanca Collection is Report #28, the next report which appears is report #45.
The Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection contains over 10,000 drawings. (At the time of processing, not all drawings were entered into the Bellanca Drawings Database. These drawings will be entered as time allows.) The drawings vary in size from 8 x 11 inches to 36 x 185 inches. There are original pencil drawings, blueprints, and blueline drawings. Over 130 models of Bellanca aircraft are represented in the Collection. There are General Arrangement, or Three-View drawings for over 80 of these models. Bellanca drawings are not easy to decipher. Most of the drawings have data blocks which contain only a finite amount of information. Often the aircraft has been identified only by serial number. In some cases the model number of the aircraft is also the drawing number. Other times, the aircraft name would be given, but no model number, i.e. Skyrocket. Also, words were abbreviated and it was left up to the processing archivist to determine their probable meaning. Despite the explanation in the scope and content notes, the Bellanca Corporation was not consistent when assigning model numbers. Letters were sometimes assigned that reflected a United States War Department designation, i.e. the VSO and the VF. By using the Bellanca Drawing indexes, the processing archivist was able to supply model numbers for some of the drawings.
7136 Bellanca Aircraft Company Drawings have been added to the National Air and Space Museum Miscellaneous Drawings Database. As time allows, the remaining Bellanca Drawings will be added to this database. An Archives Staff member will assist researchers in retrieving these materials from the database finding aid.
The Bellanca drawings were stored for over thirty years in less-than-ideal conditions. Many of the drawings were drawn on poor-quality tracing paper, and have become extremely brittle and fragile. Therefore, many of the drawings in the Bellanca Collection may not be available to researchers.
During processing of the collection, the project archivist has gained some insight about how Mr. Bellanca chose the model designations for his aircraft. The earliest system of model designations was based upon letters of the alphabet. No model designations appear for any Bellanca design until his work for Maryland Pressed Steel in 1916. The CD, which he designed for that company, was his fourth aircraft design that was built, and the letter D is the fourth letter of the alphabet. This pattern continues through the Bellanca CF. During 1926, when Mr. Bellanca worked for the Wright Corporation, he already had in mind an improved version of the CF, which was designated the CG. This aircraft received the designation WB-1 from the Wright Corporation.
When Mr. Bellanca formed his own company in 1927, the letter pattern described above reasserted itself for a time with the introduction of the Bellanca CH. It was a common practice of manufacturers of the time to also include the engine horsepower as part of the model number, so the Bellanca CH actually received its Approved Type Certificate (ATC) as the CH-200. When the next model came out, it was the CH-300 with a 300 horsepower Wright Whirlwind engine. This system remained in place through the CH-400. Names were given to some Bellanca aircraft. It appears that the names were a marketing tool meant to appeal to the buying public. With this idea in mind, the CH-300 became the "Pacemaker", the CH-400 became the "Skyrocket", and the P 100 was christened the "Airbus". In the early 1930's, the Bellanca Corporation moved away from the alphabetical designations and moved to numerical designations. Later Bellanca aircraft model designations consist of a series of numbers, such as 31-50. The first number was the wing area, in this case, 310 square feet, divided by 10. The second number was the horsepower of the engine, 500, divided by 10. This resulted in a distinctive system of model designations, which lasted until Mr. Bellanca sold the company.
Series III: Mr. Bellanca's personal material.
In this series, the researcher will find personal correspondence among family members, from both Giuseppe and Dorothy Bellanca's families and personal, legal and financial records for Bellanca family. As the lines between Mr. Bellanca's personal and professional lives were sometimes blurred, a fine line of separation between the two was not always possible. For example, at one time or another, two of Mr. Bellanca's brothers, John and Frank, worked for the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation and Andrew Bellanca, Mr. Bellanca's nephew, was his lawyer throughout his life. Therefore, the processing archivist suggests that the researcher look in the professional series of documents as well as Mr. Bellanca's personal papers for a more complete representation of Mr. Bellanca's correspondence.
After processing was completed, publications which previously had been offered to the NASM Branch Library were returned to the collection. They are listed in an addendum at the end of this finding aid.
Series IV: Photographs.
The researcher will find photographs of Bellanca aircraft, including the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation's Master Photograph Files, photographs of the Bellanca factory and factory workers, and photographs of Giuseppe M. Bellanca, business associates, and family members.
Series V: Miscellaneous and Oversize Materials.
This series contains ephemera of the Bellanca Collection: Scrapbooks, Loose Newspaper Clippings, Artwork, Ephemera and Magazine Clippings.
The Bellanca Collection included 27 motion picture films. In May of 2000, this film was transferred to the NASM Film Archives. Researchers wishing to access this part of the collection should contact the NASM Film Archivist.


  • Series I: Mr. Bellanca's Professional Life
  • Series II: Technical Data
  • Series III: Personal Papers
  • Series IV: Photographs
  • Series V: Miscellaneous and Oversize Materials

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Giuseppe Mario Bellanca was born in 1886 in Sciacca, Sicily. As a young man, he attended the Technical Institute in Milan, graduating with a teaching degree in mathematics in 1908. During his quest for a second mathematics and engineering degree, he became enamoured of aviation, and set out to design and build his own airplane. Bellanca's first aircraft design was a "pusher" aircraft, somewhat similar to the Wright Flyer. Lacking funds for such an endeavor, he joined with two partners, Enea Bossi, and Paolo Invernizzi. The union of the three produced the first flight of a totally Italian-designed and Italian-built aircraft in early December of 1909. The flight was short, but it was a start. Bellanca's second design was a tractor-type aircraft. Although the aircraft was successfully constructed, it was never flown due to insufficient funds for an engine.
At the urging of his brother Carlo, who was already established in Brooklyn, New York, Giuseppe Bellanca immigrated to America in 1911. Before the end of the year, he began construction of his third airplane design, a parasol monoplane. After construction was completed, he took the small craft to Mineola Field on Long Island, NY, and proceeded to teach himself to fly. He began by taxiing. He then, taxied faster, which gave way to short hops. The hops got longer, until, on May 19, 1912, there was not enough room to land straight ahead, and Bellanca had to complete a turn in order land safely. Having successfully taught himself to fly, Bellanca then set about teaching others to fly, and from 1912 to 1916, he operated the Bellanca Flying School. One of his students was a young Fiorello La Guardia, the future mayor of New York City. In return for flying lessons, La Guardia taught Bellanca how to drive a car.
In 1917 the Maryland Pressed Steel Company of Hagerstown, MD hired Bellanca as a consulting engineer. While there, he designed two trainer biplanes, the CD, and an improved version, the CE. With the conclusion of WWI, Maryland Pressed Steel's contracts were cancelled and the company entered into receivership. Thus, the CE never went into production.
In 1921, a group of investors lured Bellanca westward to Omaha, NE, in hopes of establishing that town as a center for aircraft manufacture. Before the aircraft could be built, the company went bankrupt, but construction of the aircraft continued under the financial backing of a local motorcycle dealer named Victor Roos. The resultant aircraft, the Bellanca CF, was called by Janes's All the World's Aircraft "the first up-to-date transport aeroplane that was designed, built, and flown with success in the United States." Among the local people helping to build the aircraft was the daughter of Bellanca's landlord, Dorothy Brown. Giuseppe and she were married on November 18, 1922.
Despite its advanced design, the Bellanca CF could not compete with the economics of the time. In the days just after World War I, a surplus Curtiss Jenny could be purchased for as little as $250.00. A Bellanca CF, with a price tag of $5000.00, was just too expensive and the aircraft never went into production. After the disappointment of the CF, Bellanca designed wings for the Post Office Department's DH-4's. His new wings were a tremendous improvement over the original design, but only a few aircraft were so modified.
In 1925, Bellanca went to work for the Wright Aeronautical Corporation of Paterson, NJ. His assignment there was to develop an aircraft around the new Wright Whirlwind engine. He already had a design in mind, which was an improved version of the CF, called the CG. This design evolved into the Wright-Bellanca WB-1.
The WB-1 enjoyed a short, but successful flying career. The aircraft had already won one race and efficiency contest before an untimely accident destroyed the craft during preparation for an attempt to break the world's non-refueled endurance record. Fortunately, at the time of the crash, Bellanca was already working on an improved version, of the WB-1 designated the WB-2.
During 1926, the WB-2 won two efficiency trophies at the National Air Races in Philadelphia. Wright considered putting the aircraft into production, but decided against it to avoid alienating other aircraft companies that were potential customers for their engines. Disappointed by Wright's decision, Bellanca left the company and joined with a young businessman named Charles Levine to form the Columbia Aircraft Company. Wright sold the WB-2 and all drawings and production rights to the new company. The WB-2 went on to a long and fruitful flying career starting with establishing a new world's non-refueled endurance record of 51 hours, 11 minutes, and 59 seconds in April of 1927.
In the latter half of 1926, Charles Lindbergh wanted to buy the WB-2, now named the 'Columbia', for his proposed flight from New York to Paris. He was rebuffed by Levine who also had designs on the flight and the $25,000 prize money. Lindbergh then went to Ryan for his specially designed NYP. Meanwhile Levine, in choosing the crew, managed to promise two seats to three people. So while the Columbia was grounded by a court order brought by the third party, Lindbergh took off on his successful flight to Paris.
Eventually, the 'Columbia' was cleared of litigation and took off on its successful transatlantic flight on June 4, 1927. In the cockpit were Clarence Chamberlin, one of the pilots of the endurance record and Charles Levine, who became the first transatlantic passenger. The plan was to fly all the way to Berlin, and Chamberlin had vowed to fly until they ran out of fuel. Forty-three hours later, they landed in Eisleben, Germany, the first of two successful Atlantic crossings for Bellanca's most famous aircraft.
Disappointed because the 'Columbia' was not the first aircraft to accomplish the New York to Paris flight, Bellanca severed all relations with Levine, and started his own company, the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America, and rented facilities on Staten Island, NY. The new Bellanca model was designated the CH, and was basically a commercial version of the WB-2. The new company also had two other models that were built for special orders, the Bellanca Model J and the Model K.
It was not long before Bellanca caught the attention of the Du Pont family of Delaware. They wanted to start aircraft manufacturing in Delaware, and in late 1927, an agreement was made with Bellanca to locate his factory outside of Wilmington. The site was large enough for a first-class airfield, with a seaplane ramp on the nearby Delaware River.
This was a busy time in Bellanca's life. Along with all that was happening in his professional life, he and Dorothy celebrated the birth of their son August T. Bellanca in March of 1927.
With the exception of a few years immediately before and during the early stages of WWII, Bellanca was President and Chairman of the Board from the corporation's inception on the last day of 1927 until he sold the company to L. Albert and Sons in 1954. After his departure from the company, Giuseppe and his son, August, formed the Bellanca Development Company with the purpose of building a new aircraft. It would have increased performance due to the use of lighter materials for its structure. Work on this aircraft was progressing when Giuseppe Bellanca succumbed to leukemia and died on December 26, 1960. After his father's death, August continued the project, and under his guidance, the aircraft first flew in 1973.
In 1993, August Bellanca donated his father's personal and professional papers to the National Air and Space Museum Archives. Prior to that time, they were kept in the Bellanca home near Galena, MD, and administered by Dorothy and August Bellanca.
Born in Sciacca, Sicily
Built first airplane. It completed the first flight of an Italian-designed, Italian-built, aircraft on December 8, 1909.
Immigrated to America, settled in Brooklyn, NY.
Completed construction of parasol monoplane. Successfully learned to fly this aircraft at Mineola, Long Island, NY.
1912 - 1916
Taught others to fly the parasol monoplane, including Fiorello LaGuardia.
1917 - 1920
Employed as a consulting engineer for Maryland Pressed Steel Company of Hagerstown, MD. While there, Bellanca designed and built the Bellanca CD and CE tractor biplanes.
1921 - 1922
Moved to Omaha, NE, and with Victor Roos, formed the Roos-Bellanca Aircraft Company. Bellanca designed and built the Bellanca CF.
Married Dorothy Brown on November 18, 1922, in Omaha, NE.
Moved back to New York, and designed and built new sets of wings for the Post Office Department's DH-4 mailplanes
Employed by the Wright Aeronautical Corporation of Paterson, NJ, designing an aircraft around their new "Whirlwind" engine. The Wright-Bellanca 1, or WB-1, was the result, and was first flown in the latter part of that year.
First flight of the WB-2.
Bellanca started the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of America, on Staten Island, NY.
Bellanca established the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation of New Castle, DE.
Wright decided not to enter into quantity production of the WB-2. Bellanca entered into a partnership with Charles A. Levine, and together, they formed the Columbia Aircraft Corporation. From Tuesday, April 12 to Thursday, April 14, Clarence Chamberlin and Bert Acosta set a new world's non-refueled endurance record in the WB-2, which was shortly thereafter, renamed the "Columbia". On June 4th, the Columbia set off across the Atlantic, and landed in Eisleben, Germany.
1941 - 1943
Head of the aviation department at Higgins Industries, Inc., in New Orleans, designing large cargo aircraft for troop movement during the war.
Formed the Bellanca Development Company, to conduct research in lightweight aircraft construction materials.
Died of leukemia in New York, December 26.


David Schwartz
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Mr. and Mrs. August Bellanca, Gift, 1993, NASM.1993.0055
Processing Information
Encoded by Tyler Love, 2013

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Access note
No restrictions on access.
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.
Preferred Citation note
Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection, Acc. NASM.1993.0055, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Correspondence Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Financial records Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newspaper clippings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographic prints Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bellanca WB-2 "Miss Columbia" Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transatlantic flights Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wright Aeronautical Corporation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chamberlin, Clarence Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bellanca Aircraft Corporation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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