Pilot Eyes!

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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Graham, CG-478000-01, reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.


Your copy of the "Davis-Monthan Airfield Register" with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. Or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author. ISBN 978-0-9843074-0-1.


You may view a motion picture film of the 1928 Air Tour arriving at Tucson on this site by visiting the MOTION PICTURES page on dmairfield.org. The Buhl Airster NC5861 is visible about 28 seconds into the film.


An excellent source for the Ford Reliability Tours is this link. I highly recommend this site, because it is rich in relevant material.

Specific to our pilots and the 1928 tour, you should look at Forden's book (with the yellow cover) that's available from that site as PDF downloads for each chapter (click Read the Book Online to download individual chapters). You may want to consider buying the book, too. Give 'em support for putting together such a useful Web site!

Chapter 4 of Forden's book covers the 1928 tour, and includes wonderful photos of some of our airplanes and pilots who visited Tucson. Of the 25 entrants in the Tour that year, 14 of the airplanes and pilots are signed into the Register.

The other two small books available to download ("One Two" by John Livingston; "A Four Thousand Mile Trip By Air" by Ralph W. Cram) are also interesting reading.

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Alger Graham was born at Mount Clemens, MI in 1899.  I do not know when he passed away.  He landed four times at Tucson, flying three different aircraft. 

His first landing was on July 10, 1928 as a participant in the National Ford Reliability Tour for that year.  He was flying Buhl Airster NC5861, based out of Detroit, MI.  He carried two passengers, Ray Cooper and Faye Shumate.  Refer to the links in the left sidebar for motion picture footage of the 1928 Tour as well as an excellent reference that covers all the Tours.

Below, is a rare occurence courtesy of Tim Kalina. It is a "hat trick" news photo of Register people and their airplane. The photograph shows our pilot Graham, passenger Cooper and their Buhl. Although the date and location are unknown, the date is probably ca. 1928.

Ray Cooper (L), Alger Graham & Buhl NC5861 in Detroit Board of Commerce Livery, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Kalina)
Ray Cooper (L), Alger Graham & Buhl NC5861 in Detroit Board of Commerce Livery, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Kalina)

Mr. Kalina says about the photograph, "Cooper at the time of this photo was Aviation Director of the Detroit Board of Commerce.... The plane was owned by the Detroit Board of Commerce." Below, the caption on the back of the photograph.

Caption, Ray Cooper (L), Alger Graham & Buhl NC5861 in Detroit Board of Commerce Livery, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Kalina)
Caption, Ray Cooper (L), Alger Graham & Buhl NC5861 in Detroit Board of Commerce Livery, Date & Location Unknown (Source: Kalina)


Graham is pictured in chapter 4 of the Forden reference, on page 83 (he is identified as number 11 in the group photo).  He is cited in the table on page 84 as the pilot of Buhl NC5861 (race #7).  His final standing was in 16th place.  He landed at Tucson a second time with this airplane on September 22, 1928.  He carried passenger Cooper again, and they were eastbound from Phoenix, AZ to El Paso, TX.

According to his NASM file (cited in the left sidebar, top), he enlisted in the Canadian Royal Flying Corps and saw active service in France and Belgium during WWI.

Graham acted as ferry pilot for the first Wilkins Arctic Expedition (1913-18).  While with the Expedition, in 1917 he flew gasoline and supplies across the Endicott Mountains, in Alaska, to Point Barrow.  He was an expert mechanic and one of the most experienced commercial pilots in the U.S., having accumulated 2,500 flight hours.

He was also affiliated with the Wayco Air Taxi Service in Detroit, MI (owned by Edward Schlee), and with Scenic Airways, Inc.  He flew surveys for Scenic Airways, and was employed with them as of 1927.

Besides the Buhl, Graham landed at Tucson February 15, 1930 and signed the Register with a Stearman, NC8827.  He carried one unidentified passenger.  He came through again about a year later on February 25, 1931 flying solo with an unidentified biplane, NC9596.  If you know more about Pilot Graham or his airplanes, or have images you'd like to share, please let me KNOW.


On 4/7/08 I received the following from Dr. George Bohmfalk, "This may be a red herring, but I found a 'short-snorter' $1 bill signed by members of the XI Bomber Command, stationed in Crab Bay, Alaska, in 1942. Alger Graham was one of the signers. His experience in Alaska in WWI that you mention suggests this may be the same person."

Below are front and back images of the short-snorter. Note that the bill is a "Silver Certificate"; these are not in circulation any more. The top three images are unenhanced...

"Short-Snorter", 1942, Front
"Short-Snorter", 1942, Front
"Short-Snorter", 1942, Back
"Short-Snorter", 1942, Back






















Below is an undated column from an issue of Coin World, which describes this dollar bill and lists the signers by name. I am listing them as text as follows in order to let Google index them and maybe someone with knowledge about them will contact us.

News Article, "Short-Snorter", Date Unknown
News Article, "Short-Snorter", Date Unknown

The signers of the "short-snorter" from the 11th Bomber Command are: William Dancer, Jr., Major E.B. Wolford, Captain W.C. Becks, Lt. E.J. (unreadable), Capt. Henry S. Mailer, Roy Smeltzer of Platinum, Alaska, E.W. Knight.

Jeanne Moore, 1st Lt. John C. Tyler, Lt. Brook Hobson, Bill Wellborn, G.F. Borgas, Alger Graham, Capt. Cal Godshall, Lt. C.L. Overton.

Lt. Fritz Sahl, Lt. Charles F. Frink, Walt P. Shaff of the 22nd Fighter Group, James T. O'Neill and Don Oelerich.

None of the other people's names appear in the Register.

Further, Dr. BohmfaIk states about his short-snorter, "I Googled 'short snorter,' never having heard the term myself. It seems there are several ideas what it means, and no general agreement. But as relates to money, it seems that, during WWII, a tradition developed, particularly among Americans, that, perhaps in the interest of building camaraderie and group loyalty, everyone in a squadron or similar small-size group took a small bill and had everyone in his group sign it. Then, whenever one soldier encountered another in a bar, he could challenge him with, 'Are you a short-snorter?' If the challenged person could produce his signed bill, he was safe; if not, he had to buy a round for everyone in the bar or something."

Please contact us if you know something about "short-snorters", too. Below, I have "forced" the contrast of the bill images to bring out the handwriting so it is a little more legible. Our pilot, Alger Graham, is readable as the first entry on the front of the bill.

"Short-Snorter", 1942, Front, Enhanced
"Short-Snorter", 1942, Front, Enhanced
"Short-Snorter", 1942, Back, Enhanced
"Short-Snorter", 1942, Back, Enhanced























Dossier 2.1.91

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 04/06/07 REVISED: 04/15/08, 08/03/10

The Register
I'm looking for photographs of pilot Graham and his airplanes to include on this page. If you have one or more you'd like to share, please use this FORM to contact me.
Thanks to George Bohmfalk of Texarkana, TX for images and information about the "short snorter", below.
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