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There is no biographical file for passenger Putnam in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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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.

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http://www.cafepress.com/content/global/img/spacer.gifThe Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.

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Taylor, Paul Beekman. 2004. Gurdjieff's America, Meditating the Miraculous. Lighthouse Editions. ISBN #190499800-3.

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NICHOLAS HERKIMER PUTNAM

Nicholas Herkimer Putnam, December 13, 1929 (Source: Woodling)
Nicholas Herkimer Putnam, December 13, 1929 (Source: Woodling)

Nicholas Herkimer Putnam was born a child of privilege on August 28, 1908. He was a great grandson of G.P. Putnam, the founder of the G.P. Putnam Sons publishing company. A news article from the Cape Girardeau Southeast Missourian for December 13, 1929, left, quantifies the extent of his privilege. He was a very, very rich man for his day, and for ours.

The New York Times, May 24, 1927 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, May 24, 1927 (Source: NYT)

Putnam landed as a passenger twice at Tucson with pilot Alva Roy Ebrite. A couple of years before the photograph was taken at left, Putnam's first landing with Ebrite was on Tuesday, May 24, 1927 at 1:08PM. Based at Long Beach, CA, Ebrite and Putnam arrived from Santa Barbara, CA in an unidentified Waco aircraft. They remained on the ground until 3:00PM, departing for New York, NY.

Above, right, from The New York Times of May 24, 1927, we find the reason for their landing. Putnam had bought the new Waco airplane, had it christened the "Bat" with some illegal wine (don't forget, Prohibition was the law of the land in 1927), and hired Ebrite to fly it from California to New York. Alas, the flight would soon be interrupted, if not truncated.

Salt Lake City Tribune, Friday, May 27, 1927 (Source: Woodling)
Salt Lake City Tribune, Friday, May 27, 1927 (Source: Woodling)

 

Mr. Woodling (cited, right sidebar) uncovered the news article at right from the Salt Lake City Tribune of May 27, 1927, which gives the reason for the end of their transcontinental flight attempt. After they departed Tucson, they crashed at Sanderson, TX after allegedly running out of fuel.

We can imagine this scenerio. Since they left Tucson on Tuesday so late, they probably remained overnight at El Paso, TX. Departing the next day (Wednesday the 25th), they continued eastbound and crashed late that day at Sanderson about 250 miles to the southeast of El Paso. The article at right is datelined the 26th and was published on the 27th. Their airplane was a total wreck.

 The article mentions the possible continuation of their flight with a new airplane, "... to be obtained at Wichta Falls." Indeed, Ebrite and Putnam made a second landing at Tucson Monday, June 20, 1927 in an unidentified Travel Air. Travel Airs were manufactured at Wichita.

They were westbound from El Paso back to Santa Barbara. I could find no record that their flight was continued from Wichita to New York with a new airplane, or that their second Tucson visit was the homebound leg of their cross-continent flight. About a month had elapsed since their accident, so they could well have bought the new Travel Air, flown it to New York and enjoyed the return trip in early summer weather to appear in the Register again on June20th. Does anyone KNOW if their cross-country flight was completed?

Notice the mention of the Dole Race and Putnam's alleged participation. He did not enter that race, which was run during August, 1927 between Oakland, CA and Honolulu, T.H. The winner, however, was Register pilot Art Goebel.

It's instructive to note, too, that in the remarks column of the Register for their second landing appears the citation, "Frank C. Fitch Patrol Inspector." Fitch was a member of the Border Patrol. You can find an image of Fitch at the link. Officers of the U.S. Border Patrol, established May 28, 1924, appear briefly, and exclusively, in the Remarks column of the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield. Between March and September, 1927, at least ten officers inspected aircraft and pilots on the ground at the Airfield for a total of at least 37 times. Refer to the table at the link.

Putnam lived the good life with all its scrapes, problems, good times and obligations of inherited wealth. Below, from The New York Times of January 15, 1928, we find him in a bind with the law for a minor traffic violation, which was solved by a quick call to his chauffeur.

The New York Times, January 15, 1928 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, January 15, 1928 (Source: NYT)

 

Below, from The New York Times of January 17, 1928, we find him in two different hospitals for an undisclosed malady.

The New York TImes, January 17, 1928 (Source: NYT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of articles from The New York Times during 1929 place Putnam at coming out parties for local debutantes. Below, from December 17th, we find him at the Ballroom of the Ritz Carleton in New York City in the stable of young men fêting Miss Katharine Elizabeth Nichols among "lofty cybotium [sic]" and "garlands of smilax." Putnam's name appears in this article in the third paragraph, second column. He was in elite company: among the names of other attendees were Rockefeller, Auchincloss and Ammidon.

The New York Times, December 17, 1929 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, December 17, 1929 (Source: NYT)

I have no information about Putnam's life between 1929 and 1960, other than around 1930 he became involved in a cult called the Gurdjieff Society. He spent the rest of his life teaching its philosophies, which, according to George Ivanovich Gurdjieff's own words in "Gurdjieff's America, Meditating the Miraculous" (cited, left sidebar), focused on, "... helping man to find the coordination of their inner selves." Gurdjieff was a self-proclaimed mystic, whose teachings included occult studies and dance-like movements combining Eastern philosophy and practices with Western ways.

That Gurdjieff's early operations were on a financial shoestring, and that he professed, "Americans are beneficient factors for my being," (page 111 in the book) he probably loved having Putnam and his bankroll among his flock. Gurdjieff died in 1949 at age 83. If you know anything else about Putnam's life between 1930 and 1960, please let me KNOW.

Putnam died a young man, August 1, 1960 of left ventricular failure due to hypertension. Below, courtesy of Mr. Woodling, is his death certificate issued by the U.S. Department of State in London, England on August 10, 1960.

Nicholas H. Putnam Death Certificate, August 1, 1960 (Source: Woodling)
Nicholas H. Putnam Death Certificate, August 1, 1960 (Source: Woodling)

Notice that Putnam's occupation was cited as "realtor." I expect he probably owned some real estate, so the description is more or less accurate. I don't know why he was in London (perhaps in support of his Gurdjieff Society activities?). Coincidentally, he died during the same year as his pilot of 30-odd years earlier, A.R. Ebrite. I do not know if the two remained in contact over the years.

The New York Times, August 8, 1960 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, August 8, 1960 (Source: NYT)

 

At right, Putnam's obituary as it appeared in a New York Times paid slug, August 8, 1960. Carleton Putnam, his brother, founded and was president of Chicago and Southern Airlines and chairman of Delta Air Lines (see article below).

Putnam was survived by at least one son, Nicholas Herkimer Putnam, Jr., whose marriage was reported in The New York Times of September 1, 1969, below. Note the cross-reference to his uncle Carlton.

The New York Times, September 1, 1969 (Source: NYT)
The New York Times, September 1, 1969 (Source: NYT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/11/12 REVISED:

 
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I'm looking for photographs of passenger Putham and his airplanes to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.
Thanks to site visitor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.
 
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