This collection consists of 11.9 cubic feet of material chronicling Lee Ya-Ching's role as a pilot trying to raise funds for China during World War II. The collection contains the following types of material: correspondence, both official and personal; maps; publications; newspapers; invitation; programs from events; lecture notes; scripts from radio shows; photographs, both official and snapshots; trip schedules and agendas; address books; scrapbooks; and official paperwork and licenses.
Scope and Content note:
This collection consists of 11.9 cubic feet of material chronicling Lee Ya-Ching's role as a pilot trying to raise funds for China during World War II. The collection contains the following types of material: correspondence, both official and personal; maps; publications; newspapers; invitations; programs from events; lecture notes; scripts from radio shows; photographs, both official and snapshots; trip schedules and agendas; address books; scrapbooks; and official paperwork and licenses.
This collection of materials listed in the finding aid is arranged into two series, Ms Lee's personal papers and her professional papers. Within each series, items are arranged by material type then chronologically. No attempt was made to translate foreign language material in the collection.
Lee Ya-Ching was born in Canton, China in 1912. As an only child who lost her mother at a young age, Ya-Ching was raised by her father and grandmother. Under her father's guidance she
learned many skills, including martial arts, some previously restricted to male children. Ya-Ching attended English schools in Hong Kong and Shanghai and at the age of 16 was sent to London to attend finishing school.
In 1929 at the age of 17, Ya-Ching went to Geneva, Switzerland. It is there that she took her first ride in an airplane and vowed to learn how to fly. She enrolled in Ecole Aero Club de Suisse and, in 1934, became the first woman to receive a pilot's license from the school. Determined to continue her education, Ya-Ching went to the United States and attended the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California in 1935. In November of that year she became the first
woman licensed through the Boeing School. Upon completion of her training at the Boeing school Ya-Ching returned to China and began campaigning for a Chinese pilot's license, eventually obtaining the license in 1936. Seeing a need to train new pilots, Ya-Ching and some fellow pilots opened a civilian flying school in Shanghai in 1936.
When Japan invaded China in 1937, Ya-Ching volunteered to fly for her country, but was refused. Undeterred, she served her country by establishing hospitals. Leaving Shanghai for Hong Kong just before the city fell, she was finally given the opportunity to fly for China by piloting Red Cross planes ferrying supplies from Hong Kong to Canton. Realizing that China needed aid and supplies, Ya-Ching embarked on a Goodwill Tour of the United States and Canada in 1938. When the war prevented her return to China, Ya-Ching continued the tour expanding her appearances into South America.
Not much is known of Ya-Ching's life after the war. She returned to Hong Kong for a number of years. In the 1960's she returned to California, where she died in 1998 at the age of 86.
Time Line of Lee Ya-Ching
xxxx -- The following timeline covers key events in Ya-Ching's life, as well world events. Events involving Ya-Ching are shown in normal type world events are shown in italics.
1909 -- M. Vallon flies first plane in China
1911 -- China ousts the 2000 year old Imperial System for a Republic
April 16, 1912 -- Lee Ya-Ching is born in Canton, China
1916 -- Ya-Ching's mother dies of tuberculosis
1917 -- China enters World War 1 on the side of the Allies
1926 -- Begins career as a movie actress
1928 -- Leaves the film industry and goes to school in England
1929 -- The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is ousted from China Goes to Switzerland
September 1931 -- Japan seizes control of Manchuria
November 1931 -- CCP resurfaces in China and forms the Chinese Soviet Republic in Jiangxi Province
May 1932 -- Amelia Earhart becomes first woman to solo across the Atlantic
1933 -- Begins flying lessons at Geneva's Cointrin-Ecole d'Aviation
1934 -- Receives her pilot's license from Ecole Aéro Club de Suisse
1935 -- Attends and receives license from the Boeing School of Aeronautics in Oakland, California
1935 -- Falls out of an aerobatic plane, earning her membership in the Caterpillar Club
1936 -- Receives her pilot's license from the Chinese Government First domestic airline established in China Opens a civilian flying school in Shanghai
1937 -- Flies for the Red Cross ferrying supplies from Hong Kong to Canton Japan invades China Earns Hong Kong commercial pilot's license Helps establish hospitals in Shanghai
1938 -- Begins goodwill tour of United States and Canada
1939 -- Appears in US film Disputed Passage with Dorothy Lamour
1940 -- Flies "Estrella China" to Caribbean, Central and South America Aids Ruth Nichols in raising money for Relief Wings
1941 -- Begins working for United China Relief
December 7, 1941 -- Bombing of Pearl Harbor forces American entry into World War II
1944 -- Begins Goodwill and Fund Raising tour of South America and Caribbean
August 1945 -- Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, followed by Japanese surrender and end of World War II
1946 -- Returns to China and retires
1946 -- Fighting between CCP and KMT (Nationalist party) resumes
October 1949 -- KMT retreats to Taiwan Mao Zedong establishes the People's Republic of China
1950 -- Receives Hong Kong private pilot's license
1963 -- Receives Hong Kong Special Purpose Pilot's license
1971 -- Permanently moves to the United States
1997 -- British rule ends in Hong Kong
January 28, 1998 -- Dies at the age of 86
Pax Cheng and Mary Wolfson, Gift, 2007, NASM.2008.0009.
No restrictions on access.
The Bowman Family Papers contain 1.28 cubic feet of material related to the aviation careers of Leslie (Les), Marguerite (Martie), and Larnie Bowman.
Scope and Contents:
The Bowman Family Papers contain: log books, licenses, and membership cards for Marguerite, Larnie, and Leslie Bowman; loose materials including maps, newspaper clippings from the 1930s, 1972 and 1985; and miscellaneous photographs, including two of Charles Lindbergh. Three scrapbooks at the end of the collection (1923-1931, 1932-1935, 1936-1987) include photographs (some autographed), personal and business correspondence, and newspaper clippings.
The Bowman Family Papers are arranged by content type.
Biographical / Historical:
Leslie (Les) and Marguerite (Martie) Bowman were married in October 1919 and had both learned to fly by 1925. Les, a mechanic, worked as an engineer and salesman for the Kinner Engine and Aircraft Company and was involved in both the production and testing of airplanes. Martie was a charter member of both the Ninety-Nines, a women pilots' association, and the National Air Race Association. She set women's speed records and swept three women's racing events on one day in 1938. Les and Martie both tried wing walking, as did their daughter, Larnie, at the age of eight. Larnie learned to fly by the time she was twelve. During World War II, the Bowmans ran one of five civilian schools for the training of Navy fighter pilots. Les and Martie retired from aviation after the conclusion of the war.
Mrs. M. Lorraine Allen, gift, 1991, NASM.1991.0042
No restrictions on access
The collection is the result of Major Hammer's passion for amassing material related to aeronautics and technology, and it is arranged into eleven series: articles, clippings, correspondence, drawings and blueprints, leaflets, legislation, minutes, miscellaneous, photographs, programs and publications. Housed in 23 folders, the correspondence is the most comprehensive series, reflecting the original order which grouped the letters into series by topic. Much of the correspondence concerns the planning of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909, and the involvement of Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss. There is also a scrapbook of black and white photographs providing front and side views of specified airplanes. Each page has 3 photos showing different views of the same plane accompanied by a label with additional information. (See written copy for details. Also, please see information written on 8x11 notebook paper.)
Scope and Contents:
The William J. Hammer Collection reflects Hammer's great interest in aeronautics --a passion he cultivated for several decades by accumulating a veritable storehouse of materials. Hammer's important contributions to the early development of aviation are also evident in this collection.
The collection of materials listed in the finding aid is arranged into two series. The first series includes correspondence, reports, handbooks, drawings, brochures, programs, leaflets, magazines, articles, newspaper clippings and miscellaneous materials. The second series is comprised of photographs of various sizes, scrapbooks, scrapbook pages and miscellaneous materials (the front pages of newspapers, certificates, posters, etc.).
Hammer's papers are arranged both chronologically and alphabetically. Correspondence, drawings, brochures, programs, leaflets, miscellaneous materials, scrapbook pages, articles and newspaper clippings are organized by the former method. Reports, handbooks, magazines and booklets are grouped alphabetically by either title of publication or author. Photographs are arranged either by subject or chronologically.
The reader should note that at some point, Hammer produced a series of large format photographs. These mounted photographs are duplicates. Due to the very fragile condition of these particular images, the photographs and are not available to researchers.
Additional photographic material regarding Hammer Collection photographs can be found in the NASM Archives Images database. An Archives staff member will assist you with research using this database.
Box 13 of the William J. Hammer Collection has not been scanned.
William J. Hammer was born in Cressona, Pennsylvania, on February 26, 1858, was an associate of Thomas Edison and an early aviation supporter and enthusiast. He began his career as an assistant to Edward Weston of the Weston Malleable Nickel Company. In 1879, he moved on to a new position as laboratory assistant to Thomas Edison at Menlo Park, New Jersey. His duties ranged from aiding in conducting experiments on such devices as the phonograph, telephone and ore separator to acting as Edison's key person in further developing the incandescent electric lamp. By 1880, he was made chief engineer of the Edison Lamp Works. A year later, Edison dispatched Hammer to London to be chief engineer of the English Electric Light Company. In this position, he helped construct the Holborn Viaduct Central Electric Light Station in London. This was the first central station ever built for incandescent electric lighting. In 1883, Hammer became chief engineer for the German Edison Company. This task included planning and supervising the construction of all Edison plants in Germany. He returned to the United States late in the following year and acted as chief inspector of central stations of the parent Edison Electric Light Company. In 1886-87, Hammer was general manager and chief engineer of the Boston Edison Electric Illuminating Company. In 1888, he worked as an independent engineer and supervised the completion of the then-largest isolated electric lighting plant, located at the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, Florida. During that year, Hammer also was chosen as consulting electrical engineer to the Cincinnati Centennial Exposition. Subsequently, Edison selected him as his personal representative to the Paris Exposition of 1889. This assignment rounded out Hammer's eleven years with Edison. During his time as one of Edison's most trusted and important employees, Hammer devised a number of innovations to the incandescent electric lamp. He designed and built the first electric sign, which spelled out the name "Edison". While in Germany, he invented the automatic motor-driven flashing electric lamp sign. This particular sign flashed the word "Edison" letter by letter and then all at once. At the International Electrical Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1884, Hammer also constructed the first flashing column of electric lights.
Upon his return to the U.S. in 1890, Hammer worked as an independent consulting electrical engineer by assisting in a variety of electrical projects, carrying out tests, giving lectures and providing expert testimony in patent disputes. He based this modest enterprise in an office in New York City and continued in this occupation until 1925. His career as an electrical engineering consultant was interrupted by World War I. In June 1918, he was commissioned a major in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the Inventions Section of the War Plans Division of the General Staff in charge of Aeronautical and Electrical Inventions at the Army War College, Washington, D.C.. By December of that year, he was attached to the Operations Division General Staff at the War Department (Inventions Section). During the war and on into 1919, Hammer also worked for the U.S. Patent Office by identifying any aviation-related patents likely to convey too much information to potential enemies. In conjunction with his War Department duties, he acted as a member of the Advisory Board of Experts affiliated with the Alien Property Commission.
Busy as he was with his private consulting work, Hammer also immersed himself in other scientific activities. He took a particular interest in radium after visiting Pierre and Marie Curie in Paris in 1902. The two discoverers of radium gave him some samples of this substance. Soon after returning to the United States, Hammer experimented with radium. His research yielded numerous useful applications for this material such as radium-luminous powders and paints that were used to coat everything from watch and clock dials to aeronautical instruments, switches and toys. Hammer also advocated the use of radium for cancer and tumor treatment. Beyond his interest in this material, he invented selenium light-sensitive cells and recommended many practical uses for them. He also conducted a great deal of laboratory work on X-rays, ultraviolet and cathode rays, phosphorescence and wireless communications. Accordingly, he lectured and published extensively on many of these fields of research and study.
Hand in hand with his overall interest in science and technology, Hammer had a particular passion for aeronautics. Beyond paying careful attention to the rapid progress made in this field at the turn of the twentieth century, he also played an active role as participant and supporter. He made his first balloon flight over France during the Paris Exposition of 1889. His last lighter-than-air journey took place in 1931 aboard the U.S. Navy dirigible Los Angeles. Moreover, he attended and officiated over many balloon, airship and airplane exhibitions and races. Hammer was a member of the Aero Club of America and a director of the Aeronautical Society. This latter group made the first ever purchase of an airplane in January 1909. He served as expert and secretary of the Aeronautics Committee on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission of 1909 and wrote the contracts for Wilbur Wright and Glenn Curtiss to fly their airplanes for this event. This occasion in New York was important as it marked the first time a large gathering of people in the U.S. witnessed heavier-than-air powered flight. As a friend of the Wright brothers, Hammer testified as an expert witness on their behalf during various patent litigation suits. His contact with aviation pioneers went beyond the Wrights and Curtiss. He also knew and interacted with, among others, Samuel Langley, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henri Farman and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Even his work with radium had applications for aviation. Hammer developed radium-based luminous compounds and used them on aircraft instruments so pilots could more easily view their cockpits' dials and gauges.
Hammer's last years were filled with serving as Historian General of the Military Order of the World War, as well as participating in many scientific, engineering and aeronautical committees and societies. During this time, he was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Elliott Cresson Gold Medal, John Scott Medal from the Franklin Institute and the Cross of the Legion of Honor from France. Up until his death on March 24, 1934, he also labored in his efforts to organize a vast personal collection of rare and valuable scientific artifacts, photographs and other materials accumulated since his days with Edison. Following Hammer's death, this important collection was left in the care of his daughter Mabel (his wife of twelve years, Alice, having died in 1906). Some years later, International Business Machines (IBM) acquired it. In 1962, IBM donated the William J. Hammer Scientific Collection to the Smithsonian Institution. The bulk of the collection resides with the National Museum of American History's Archives Center. In the mid 1980s, the aeronautical portion of this collection was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Archives.
IBM (Mr. William J. Hammer Collection), gift, 1961, XXXX-0074, not NASM
No restrictions. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. Contact SIA Reference Staff for further information (email email@example.com)
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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