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    Von Richthofen - Aircraft Fabric With Insignia Though there were many notable pilots from the First World War - Eddie Rickenbacker, Rene Fonck, George Guynemer - none have captured the public fancy and been elevated to the mythic proportions of the "Red Baron," Manfred von Richthofen.

    Officially credited with 80 aerial kills, he was the most successful pilot of WWI. He was shot down on April 21, 1918 under circumstances that are still debated today. Manfred was not the only Ace in the von Richthofen family. His brother, Lothar, who inherited the title Baron upon his brother's death, was credited with 40 victories in World War One. His cousin, Wolfram von Richthofen, was also an Ace with eight victories. The few Richthofen items extant are in museums and seldom find their way to private collections.

    The section of lacquered fabric measures 32" x 19.5". The background is a muted olive green with a Balkankreuz (Greek Cross) painted in black. This style of cross was prevalent on German Air Service aircraft from early 1918 until the end of the war. Presumably this section of fabric would be from the rudder of the aircraft. The section of fabric clearly shows use, as there are a number of patched and repainted areas present. Several areas on the cross have been professionally retouched in recent years. The painted surfaces are crazed and there are several areas that are abraded and where the paint has cracked. The section of fabric has been professionally dry-mounted (though it has come loose) and framed under UV protective glass to an overall size of 34.5" x 22.25".

    This historic fabric originally came from the estate of United States Air Force Colonel Kimbrough Brown, a former director of the Air Force Museum and author of the book Von Richthofen and the Flying Circus (Harleyford Publications, 1958). The fabric was given to Colonel Brown by the von Richthofen family in appreciation of his book. In 1986 Brown's wife, Martha, sold the fabric to a noted collector of aviation memorabilia. Included is the notarized typed letter that accompanied that transaction, dated January 30, 1986, signed by Martha Brown, with an attached photograph of the fabric which reads in part: "Statement: The World War German aircraft fabric with black cross, as represented in the photo above, was presented in Germany to my husband, Col. Kimbrough Brown, by the family of the Baron Manfred Von Richthofen as a reciprocal gift when he presented the Baron's family with a copy of his book, Von Richthofen and The Flying Circus. In presenting the fabric to Col. Brown, the family informed him it had been taken from one of Baron Richthofen's earlier fighter aircraft - not from his death plane. The fabric is now in the possession of [name withheld]." Also included is a circa 1961 newspaper article concerning Colonel Brown's extensive collection and mentioning the von Richthofen fabric. This may well be the ultimate artifact from World War I, with an unbroken provenance dating to the late 1950s.

    Enhancing the fabric section is a large photograph album of images of Richthofen, his aircraft, and other German Air Service related images. Most of the images are modern copies but nonetheless provide a wonderful photographic perspective of the Red Baron's military life.


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    Auction Dates
    March, 2008
    25th Tuesday
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