What follows has to be one of the most significant insights
into a Davis-Monthan pilot's private judgement about things
that are important. What's in a box? Scroll on and you'll
realize what I mean.
Image, above, of the small wooden box found along with other
artifacts and memorabilia in the cardboard carton. Image,
below, shows the inside bottom of the box. It was made in
1907 by Edward G. Russell, Hap's father (and Hap's son's
The box appears to be a craft project kit, which would be
bought undecorated and unfinished. A pencil wood burner was
used to burn the designs and texts, color added, and the
whole shellacked. The latch and hinges were of brass-colored
Hap was born on March 4, 1904, so it is easy to imagine
this could have been a project where a curious three-year
old stood watching his father etch the box, smelled burning
wood and alcoholic shellac, and maybe learned some early
mechanical skills and aesthetic sense through seeing the
cherry motif develop under his father's touch. While the
sketch symbolism is open for interpretation, the box could
very well have been a Christmas present for Hap's mother,
with Cupid's arrow and a peace dove signifying the nature
of the family bond.
Inside the box come wonderful things. Like this image and
article of Hap's school. Note the folds from being in the
Like these two flood scenes
at the early Dutch Flats landing field (Ryan Field) in San Diego. Hap
learned to fly here in the early 1920s. Click this link to
view a related news article (PDF download 749KB) from 1923.
This article was tightly folded in the box. Besides images
of Hap in this download, at the far right of one of them
you'll see a very young Claude
Ryan, who owned and operated the field at that time...
Like Hap's original
transport license, number 2571, dated May 23, 1928. Since
this is a "duplicate" certificate, and "American Airways"
is on his cap, this is probably not the actual license
he carried in his pocket when he flew for Standard Air Lines
and landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield. We may never know
what happened to the original...
This early (probably official) American Airways portrait....
Below, reviewing flight plan (?) during early
American Airways job. Note the prop is turning! This image
looks like it was taken in conjunction with this
A news article from 1936 during his American
Airlines career. Note the accompanying article describing
telephone hookups to airplanes on the ground. It was decades
later that passenger access to air-to-ground telephony was
"Stepping Ahead on Wings" details
Hap's flight hours at 10,500 during 15 years of service.
That equates to 700 flight hours per year, a considerable
total for the era.
News article: pilot at leisure...
Bendix Trophy Race Ribbon
Left, an identification ribbon for the 1937
Bendix Trophy Race at Union Air Terminal. There is no information
about whether this ribbon was worn by Russell.
The Bendix Race started at Burbank, CA. Total
prize money was $25,000. The Los Angeles to Cleveland race
was won in 1937 by Frank Fuller in a Seversky P-35. His
speed was 258.20 MPH and he covered the distance in 07:54:26.3.
He won $9,000.
Below, fishing in Galveston, TX...
Below, a box within a box. These brand-new
business cards, in protective sheath, were used by American
Airlines Flagship pilots: a status symbol equal to their
role in early air transport.
Below, an inexpensive plastic slide rule,
with instructions. We can see him solving wind triangles
Below, two American Airways pilots, probably
during the early 1930s. Russell is at right. The other pilot is
unknown (but he appears in another image on Harold Kelsey's biography page). Does anyone KNOW who he is?
Below, the lucky rabbit's foot, showing wear
from the two-million miles he flew. Although the use for
the keys is unknown, we hypothesize they were company locker
keys. The hula fob "dances" when tilted back and
Below, a letter from Hal Forrest, author of the "Tailspin
Tommy" pulp hero series. This letter was probably written
when Russell looked like the sixth image on this page. The "original" autographed copy of "Tailspin Tommy" was not among Russell's materials.
Below, the mature American Airlines pilot. A two-million
Below, American Airlines company ID from his later career.
Note the employee number!
Below, three articles from his Standard Air Lines days in
the late 1920s.
These links will get you PDF downloads of various news articles
(some undated) that were folded in the box. Link one (undated
articles, 245KB), link two (News
Article 11/21/42, 809KB), link three (News
article 11/23/42, 1.16MB). These images are not high-quality,
because the articles were folded tightly in the box.
Finally, we save the
best for last. Below, two views of the most significant treasure
from the box. A simple charm bracelet? Not likely. Rather,
it is a rare and comprehensive symbol and representation
of one pilot's 35-year career with a major U.S. air transport
American Airlines presented its pilots with
five-year pins. The first one held a single ruby. The ten-year
pin was graced with a single diamond. Fifteen years, a diamond
and a ruby, and so forth. Study the bracelet and find three
diamonds and a ruby. Russell had each pin attached to a blank
charm, fashioned into a bracelet, and presented to his wife.
A career on a wrist!
So, you ask, what's in a box? When you can see and handle
a humble guy's ego through his
personal treasures, as a
researcher of Golden Age history and builder of this Web site,
it just doesn't get much better for me than this. Thanks,
Ed, and thanks "Hap."
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 11/13/06