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    Horace Kearney purchases a Curtiss Aeroplane in 1912, seven months before he dies in the first attempt to fly over the ocean.

    Glenn Curtiss/Horace Kearney Archive. On May 4, 1912, aviator Horace Kearney purchased a Model "D" Curtiss Aeroplane, equipped with a Hall-Scott 60 horsepower motor, from the Curtiss Aeroplane Company for $5,000. He had been flying for about a year. Kearney paid $2,500 and agreed to pay Curtiss Aeroplane Company 50% of all moneys received by him from flights made in the plane until the balance of $2,500 was paid off. He flew at air meets in Los Angeles and Oakland, many times with airmail aboard, and, in a 105 day tour through the midwest, he flew every day, with only one minor accident due to engine failure. In September, 1912, he was the pilot for the airmail flights during the Illinois Aviation Meet and Street Circus. On December 14, 1912, 26-year-old Horace Kearney took off from Los Angeles, piloting a hydro-aeroplane called "Snookums" (his pet name for his fiancee). He was headed for San Francisco in the first attempted "over-ocean" flight. Also aboard was Los Angeles newspaperman Chester Lawrence. Soon after takeoff, the plane vanished in the mist off Point Fermin. Parts of the plane, including a pontoon and a wing tip, were found at Fishermans' cove, south of Redondo Beach, on December 17th. The bodies of Kearney and Lawrence were found off the California coast near Rocky Point on December 19th. Almost exactly nine years after the Wright Brothers had made man's first successful airplane flight (December 17, 1903), Horace Kearney became the first aviator to be lost at sea. The Archive of letters and documents comprises:

    (1) Typed Contract Signed: "Horace Kearney" and "By H C Genung" as Vice President of Curtiss Aeroplane Company, one page, 8" x 13". Hammondsport, New York, May 4, 1912. In part: "The party of thefirst part hereby agrees to deliver to the party of the second part, one Model 'D' Curtiss Aeroplane at Hammondsport, N.Y., said aeroplane to be equipped with a Hall-Scott 60 H.P. Motor, for the sum of Five Thousand Dollars to be paid for as follows: $2500.00 (Twenty Five Hundred Dollars) down upon the execution of this contract, for which first party will give second party its receipt, the residue to be paid as provided for in supplementary contract to be drawn before the said aeroplane leaves Hammondsport, N.Y. The title of the entire aeroplane, including said motor is to remain in first party until the purchase price shall be fully paid...."

    (2) Typed Receipt Signed: "G. H. Curtiss" possibly by a secretary, one page, 8" x 6.5". Hammondsport, N.Y., May 4, 1912. In part: "The Curtiss Aeroplane Co., hereby acknowledges the receipt from Horace Kearney of $2500...."

    (3) Typed Supplemental Contract Signed: "H. C. Genung" as Vice President and "Horace F. Kearney", witnessed by "G. R. Hall", 1.5 pages, 8" x 13". Hammondsport, N.Y., May 24, 1912. Hall was Secretary-Treasurer of the Curtiss Aeroplane Co. Kearney agrees, in part, "to keep said aeroplane, at his own expense in as good repair as when delivered to him...agrees to pay over to party of the first part 50% of all moneys received from flights made by second party until the above mentioned residue is fully paid, and second party further agrees to execute in favor of first party a written order on the promoters of flights in which he may participate, instructing such promoters or parties to pay over to first party 50% of all moneys due him from such promoters or parties as provided herein...."

    (4) Typed Assignment with Power of Attorney Signed: "Horace F. Kearney", witnessed by "G R Hall", one page, 8" x 13". Hammondsport, N.Y., May 24, 1912. In part: "I Horace Kearney of Kansas City, Mo. in consideration of one dollar and other valuable consideration to me paid by The Curtiss Aeroplane Co. of Hammondsport, N.Y., the receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge, do hereby assign and transfer to the said Curtiss Aeroplane Co. fifty percent (50%) of all claims and demands which I now have, and all which, at any time between the date hereof and until such time as I have paid over to the said Curtiss Aeroplane Co. the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars ($2500.), I may and shall have against The Aviators Co. of Bath, N.Y. or any other promoters of exhibition or prize flights for all sums of money due, and for all sums of money and demand which, may and shall become due to me until such time as the full amount of $2500. has been paid...."

    (5) Typed Document Signed: "Martha Genung" as Notary Public, one page, 8" x 13". Hammondsport, N.Y., December 17, 1912. In full: "On this 17th day of December A.D. 1912, before me personally appeared H. C. Genung of Hammondsport, N.Y., who being duly sworn deposes and says: I reside in Hammondsport, N.Y. and was a Director and Vice-President of The Curtiss Aeroplane Co. at the time attached papers were executed by Horace Kearney, and I have at all times since the execution of attached papers been a Director and Vice-President of The Curtiss Aeroplane Co. and I hereby certify that the papers attached hereto are originals."

    The autograph of pioneer aviator Horace Kearney is extremely rare and virtually unobtainable in any form. All five documents are attached together by two circular metallic fasteners punched in the upper blank margins. The December 17, 1912, notarized statement is first. It is interesting to note that on December 17, 1912, parts of Kearney's plane had been found but it wasn't until December 19th that Kearney's body was found.

    Accompanied by two affidavits "In the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the City of San Francisco," January 6, 1913:

    (1) Carbon Typed Document Signed: "Glenn H. Curtiss" in ink, 1.5 pages, 8" x 12.5". In the case of The Curtiss Aeroplane Company (a corporation), Plaintiff vs. Roy Francis, Defendant. Curtiss, President of the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, says, in part: "That said plaintiff is the owner of a certain Model 'D' Curtiss Aeroplane and entitled to the possession thereof, which said aeroplane is that described in the complaint in the above titled action. That said aeroplane is wrongfully detained by defendant Roy Francis, the defendant in the above entitled action. That affiant is informed and believes that said Francis alleges that for cause of detention of said aeroplane, that pending the administration of the estate of Horace Kearney, deceased, he does not believe he has authority to part with the possession of said aeroplane...that the present actual value of said aeroplane is One Thousand Dollars."

    (2) Carbon Typed Document Signed: "Glenn H. Curtiss" in ink, one page, 8" x 12.5". In the case of The Curtiss Aeroplane Company (a corporation), Plaintiff vs. Hall-Scott Motor Car Company (a corporation), Defendant. Curtiss says, in part: "That said plaintiff is the owner of a certain 60 H.P. Hall-Scott Motor, which motor is that described in the complaint on file in the above entitled action. That said motor is wrongfully detained by the Hall-Scott Motor Car Company, a corporation, defendant in the said action. That affiant is informed and believes that the alleged cause of said detention is that one Horace Kearney, deceased, in whose possession said motor was at the time of his death, was indebted to said defendant at the time of his death aforesaid...that the present actual value of said motor is One Thousand Dollars."

    Also present is a collection of 32 letters, invoices, telegrams, and retained copies of letters sent, mostly dated 1913, each relating to Curtiss' attempt to recover the aeroplane and motor.

    Accompanied by an Autograph Letter Signed: "Whipple Hall," one page, 8.5" x 11". Hotel St. Francis stationery, San Francisco, January 13, 1911. To G. H. Curtiss. In full: "Am in receipt of your check for three hundred and eighty dollars which I will return to you when I collect same from either J.C. Mars or Capt. Tom Baldwin." Promoter Whipple Hall worked for Curtiss and flew Curtiss aeroplanes. James C. "Bud" Mars flew Curtiss aeroplanes in meets and exhibitions. Capt. Tom Baldwin was a pioneer dirigible balloonist who built more than a dozen dirigibles, all equipped with Curtiss motors. With four related items. Minor defects. Overall condition of the entire archive is fine. 40 items.


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