Description

    Fantastic Archive of Early Commercial Aviation
    Pioneer and Pan American World Airways President

    Fantastic Harold E. Gray, Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic Flight Pioneer Archive. Harold E. Gray (1906-1972) was a pioneering commercial aviator chiefly responsible for mapping and establishing trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic routes for Pan American World Airways long-range flying boats called "Clippers" in the 1930s. Gray learned to fly at the Army school in San Antonio, Texas and later attended the University of Detroit, graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Gray's first job was as a pilot for the Ford Motor Company, flying the famous Ford Trimotor aircraft. In 1929, he was hired by Pan American as its tenth pilot. Initially he was hired to fly the jungle and mountain routes over Central America. He started mapping routes for Pan American across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In 1934, he qualified as the company's first master of ocean flying boats. From 1937 to 1939 he conducted the first survey flights to Bermuda, Ireland, England, the Azores, Lisbon and Marseilles. In 1939 he commanded the Yankee Clipper on the first round-trip mail flight over the northern route between the United States and England. In 1941 he commanded the Capetown Clipper on what was then the longest proving flight - a route of more than 19,000 miles from La Guardia Airport to Leopoldville, Belgian Congo and return. Gray made the transition from flying to administration in 1947 when he became manager of the Pacific-Atlantic division of Pan American. Two years later he was named a vice president, ultimately the airlines President and retiring as the Chief Executive Officer. He died on December 23, 1972 from cancer.

    This extensive archive spans Harold E. Gray's career and includes countless important items from both his active flying service as well as his management days with Pan American World Airways. The archive includes many photographs, personal and business correspondence, scores of contemporary newspaper clippings and magazines concerning Gray and his groundbreaking flights, reports, technical information, cables and telegrams of congratulations and flight log books. The size of the archive will make it impossible to describe in detail, but the more important items will be identified and discussed at length.

    Of particular interest is Gray's Mexican Commercial pilot's license, number 6, issued to him while flying the jungle and mountain routes in Central America for Pan Am. Gray's picture taken at the tender age of 23 is attached to the first page and subsequent pages have stamps affixed for his various revalidations, circa 1929 through 1935. His wife's Mexican visa from the period is also included, as well as Gray's U.S. Department of Commerce Pilot's Identification Card picture ID, dated 1928. Commencing in 1935 Gray started surveying and mapping routes across the Pacific and Atlantic for Pan Am. In what we consider one of the single most import item in the group, Gray's Airline Pilot's Log Book spanning from December 3, 1935 to December 19, 1940, is included. This is particularly noteworthy as it was during these years that Gray made all his historic and groundbreaking flights, and the date, location, type of aircraft, type of engine, number of passengers and flight times are recorded in Gray's hand and each page signed by him. All of his survey flights are listed including the first Trans-Pacific passenger flight of the Hawaii Clipper from San Francisco to Honolulu on October 21-22, 1936, and Gray's participation in the first Trans-Atlantic airmail flight July, 5, 1937 from Botwood, Newfoundland to Foynes, Ireland. Gray's archive includes a congratulatory telegram from Irish President of the Executive Council Eamon De Valera. The archive includes over ten contemporary congratulatory telegrams, including one intriguing one from actress Maureen O'Sullivan. Gray's good looks and adventurous nature obviously brought him to the attention of Hollywood as evidenced by a one page typed letter, dated June 11, 1937 on Paramount Pictures letterhead from Donald Lurie of the talent department which reads in part: "Dear Captain Gray: A number of newsreel people have told me that they thought you had fine motion picture possibilities. I don't know whether or not you have ever entertained such an idea but if you are interested in the possibility, I should be very happy to speak with you about it here at our offices when you are next in the city." Numerous contemporary publicity photographs of aircraft, crew, and a host of other images are included in the archive, many signed by Gray's crew or other aviation and political dignitaries. Two large scrap books of contemporary newspaper clippings concerning Gray are included in the archive. Four Pan Am commemorative glasses. A beautiful graphite print of the venerable flying boat, signed by artist Clayton Knight, and framed and matted under to an overall size of 24 x 19" is from Gray's personal archive. Among the many other interesting mementos from Gray's aviation career is a silver plate serving tray commemorating the first scheduled airmail service between America and Ireland. The tray is engraved "Céad Míile Fáilte / Presented to the Captain / "YANKEE CLIPPER" / By the Foynes Development Assn. / To Commemorate the / FIRST AIR MAIL SERVICE / Between America & Eire / June 26th, 1939". The tray is accompanied by a real photo postcard of the Gray and his crew receiving it. Not less important is a large quantity of Gray's correspondence and papers from his later career in various executive positions at Pan Am. And, we must not forget that Harold Gray had a personal life as well. He and his wife Exa Bell made a family together, sadly losing a son to the Vietnam War. Harold E. Gray, Jr. followed his father's footsteps into the world of aviation becoming a Navy pilot, flying a Douglas A-1 Skyraider off the carrier U.S.S. Midway in the South China Sea. He was killed in action on August 7, 1965 while on a bombing mission over Dong Hoi, North Vietnam. Gray was the first pilot from the USS Midway lost in the Vietnam War. A contemporary newspaper clipping and a photocopy of a heartfelt condolence letter from Harold, Jr.'s commanding officer is included.
    This archive would certainly provide a sound base for researching and writing a biography of Harold E. Gray, early aviation pioneer and airline executive in the Golden Age of flight.


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    Auction Dates
    November, 2015
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
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