I Fly Again!!

View products that support dmairfield.org

OTHER RESOURCES

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.

---o0o---

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

---o0o---

 
Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register
CulturalMotion PicturesFriendsNon Profit statusProducts and services
ReferencesPublicationsCollectionsGuest EditorsPress Coverage

RALPH FISHER SKELTON

Ralph Fisher Skelton, 1929 (Source: Eipper)
Ralph Fisher Skelton, 1929

At left, Ralph Fisher Skelton in 1929. The annotation reads, "Love to Ruth and Dan. Ralph, 1929". Born ca. 1899, Skelton was a fine artist of some renown in the international Art Deco community. He studied in England in the 1920s. He specialized in portraiture and advertising. He has a Web presence in that area (see below). He died in April 1930 when his airplane "disappeared" over Lake Michigan.

Ralph Skelton visited Tucson at least twice, on Monday January 27, 1930 and again on Monday February 10, 1930. Based in Chicago, IL, both times he flew the Waco10-T Taperwing NC8572, and both times he carried Jerry Wood as passenger. In January they were westbound from El Paso, TX to San Diego, CA. In February they were eastbound from Yuma, AZ to El Paso. No reason was given in the Register for their trips.

Skelton owned his Waco from September 12, 1929 to April 10, 1930. Please direct your browser to the airplane's page to discover, unfortunately, that pilot Skelton had about two months more to live after his last visit to Tucson.

Below, from pilot Skelton's grand nephew (cited , right sidebar), an image of Ralph Skelton. The airplane he stands next to is not identified in the photograph, but the chance is very good that it is his Taperwing Waco.

Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930 (Source: Eipper)
Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930

Mr. Eipper says about his great uncle, "I've always known of him, but not a lot about him. He died 2 months before my dad was born, or aunt and uncle would have had any memory of him. I only know what little I do from photos and a couple of clippings my grandmother had in her attic when I was a child."

Below, another image of Skelton with his airplane.

Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930 (Source: Eipper)
Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930

Mr. Eipper says further, "With so many siblings she had quite a lot of family pictures -- his memorabilia were always my favorite stuff to pore through. He was born in Port Byron, Illinois, a little town on the Mississippi, one of 12 (13?) children. He graduated from high school there, attended college in Macomb, Illinois, served in the Navy during WWI, and eventually attended the Chicago Art Institute."

Below, a third image. Mr. Eipper says about this image, "I don't know who the fellows are in the full view shot, or anything about the plane with the full cowl [referring to the Lincoln-Page below]." The identity of the two gentleman at left and right is not recorded on the photograph, but "Wichita" can be clearly seen as the first word on the hangar facade behind them. Can anyone identify the other two men?

Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930 (Source: Eipper)
Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930

Skelton's home base cited in the Register was Chicago, IL. Mr. Eipper says, "In Chicago he met and married Meredith Brown, who was from a very wealthy Chicago family. They moved to England in '24 or '25 where he was to pursue his painting studies. In 1925 Meredith suffered burns in an accident (I was told by somebody it had to do with some sort of hair treatment that was popular with women at the time, but unfortunately [was] also quite flammable) and died several days later in a London hospital."

Below, Skelton appears again with his airplane in what appears to be an English Army Aviator's Coat with fur collar. A similar fashion can be found on page 22 of this REFERENCE.

Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930, Location Unknown (Source: Eipper)
Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930, Location Unknown

 

Sketch, 1926 (Source: Eipper)
Sketch, Ca. 1925-26

Mr. Eipper continues, "After a stay back in the U.S. he returned to England in 1926 and pursued his painting in earnest. His specialty was portraiture. While I haven't been able to find any online photos of private portraits (including one of Lady [Nora] Churchill), there is, strangely enough, a portrait he did for a Hoover vacuum ad that comes up when he's 'googled'. It apparently appeared in a book on art deco advertising. The ad copy is about the subject [of the] progressive 'modern woman'. He traveled, tried his hand at auto racing (owning an Aston-Martin at one point), and of course flying."

At right, a sketch in green ink of his accommodations in London. According to Mr. Eipper, this sketch appears in an, "... old letter he mailed to my grandparents in 1924 [December 26th], just talk about a portrait he was working on mostly, but he did a little wintry holiday scene of his London neighborhood. Just a small ink sketch. Part of the sketch was his address - 24 Yeoman's Row, London." The citation on the letter is "Dear Ruth & Dan". Compare to the image at the top of this page.

Another example of pilot Skelton's artwork is a very striking portrait of an attractive, young woman. This portrait is interesting not only because of the subject, but also for the leather coat she is wearing.

It would be simple to assume the subject was Meredith Brown.  Painted in 1928, the coat looks very much like the English Army Aviator's Coat worn by Skelton in at least two of the images above. David DeCaro, who owns the portrait, identifies the subject as "Miss Sabin". The simple drapery in the background does not detract from the rugged nature of the coat and the simplicity of his subject's face. Indeed, from the details of the painting, one could guess that Skelton wasn't as interested in his human subject as he was in representing his coat!

It would be simple, too, to compare her coat with that worn by Skelton.  Here we are on a little firmer ground. She has the sleeves rolled up, but the split on top of the right sleeve matches the tailoring details of Skelton’s coat, above.  Also the double-breasted front button pattern is the same.  I believe these coats had a removable fur collar, so she or Skelton might have removed it for her portrait sitting to better expose her face.

Portrait By Ralph Skelton of "Miss Sabin", 1928 (Source: Eipper)
Portrait By Robert Skelton of "Miss Sabin", 1928

The English Army Aviator's Coat had a removable wool lining, too.  Her coat looks like the wool collar of the lining is exposed.  If I enlarge the second photo down, above, and imagine the fur collar has been removed, I can barely make out the lower edge of a wool collar on Skelton’s left lapel. 

Below, our final image, which is probably not of pilot Skelton in the leather jacket. Mr. Eipper conjectures, "The fact that it is the only well-composed shot of the Waco (cans and tools randomly left, or puposely placed for foreground interest?) leads me to believe he may actually have been the photographer for that one."

Likewise, the clothing is not the same as in the photos above (no fur collar; trousers solid color). From the lighter-weight clothing, this photo may have been taken during the fall of 1929, somewhere warmer during his winter Tucson itinerary, or later in early April 1930. It looks to be a staged photograph, or perhaps a real fuel and oil opportunity in a rustic, Golden Age setting. The gentleman in leather is otherwise unidentified (his passenger, Mr. Wood?). The Speedwing character of the airplane is shown to good advantage.

 

Ralph F. Skelton (L), Date, Location Unknown; Other Person Unidentified (Source: Eipper)
Ralph F. Skelton, Ca. Winter-Early Spring 1930, Location Unknown; Other Person Unidentified

If you follow the link to his Waco, NC8572, you'll find that, according to the NASM record for the airplane, “Ship and pilot disappeared over Lake Michigan on or about April 12, 1930.”

---o0o---

Below, an image from pilot Skelton's effects, not related to the Davis-Monthan Register. This airplane, registration number 5330, is a Lincoln-Page LP-3, S/N 205 probably manufactured ca. 1927-28.

5330, Lincoln-Page LP-3, S/N 205 (Source: Eipper)
5330, Lincoln-Page LP-3, S/N 205

I put this photograph here in the event someone is looking for information about the airplane.

---o0o---

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 01/04/09 REVISED: 11/16/09

 
Home
The Register
People
Places
Airplanes
Events
CREDITS
Thanks to pilot Skelton's grand nephew, Dave Eipper, for sharing the information and images on this page.
 
Contact Us | Credits | Copyright © 2008 Delta Mike Airfield, Inc.
This website is best enjoyed in a 1024 x 768 screen resolution.
Web design by The Web Professional, Inc