Air Museum to host presentation on pioneer American aviator

10 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A presentation on pioneer American aviator Clarence D. Chamberlin, hosted by the Presque Isle Air Museum, will be held at noon Wednesday, June 4 in the Edmunds Conference Room at NMCC.
The spring of 1927 was an important time for American aviation, and crossing the Atlantic was a challenge that many fliers had in their sights. Many were drawn by the Orteig Prize, a $25,000 reward offered by New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig to the first aviator who could fly non-stop from New York to Paris. There were multiple contenders for the prize — Charles A. Lindbergh and the “Spirit of St. Louis,” Chamberlin and “Columbia,” and Richard E. Byrd and “America.”
While Lindbergh ultimately won the prize and received international acclaim, another competitor was prevented from flying before Lindbergh through no fault of his own. Chamberlin was grounded due to a technicality and a court order that idled the plane. Once the injunction was lifted, Chamberlin became the second man to pilot a non-stop fixed-wing aircraft from the United States to the European mainland and the first to carry a transatlantic passenger.
His famous flight occurred June 4-6, 1927, just two weeks after Lindbergh had flown his solo flight. Chamberlin flew farther than Lindbergh (3,911 miles in 42 hours, 45 minutes), carrying Charles A. Levine as a passenger, and landed in a small village outside of Berlin. The flight would prove to be the first in a long list of notable aeronautical achievements.
Chamberlin was born in Denison, Iowa Nov. 11, 1893, the son of a jewelry store owner. He graduated from Denison High School in 1912 and attended Iowa State University, later serving in the Army Air Service during World War I. He returned to Denison to work in his father’s jewelry store and also owned his own motorcycle and car repair shop. He later moved to New York and purchased his first airplane in 1919 from famed airplane designer and builder Giuseppe Bellanca.
During his barnstorming days he came to the Presque Isle Fair in 1935 and advertised for stewardesses for his planned airline. It was there that he met Louise Ashby of Fort Fairfield, the daughter of state Sen. George F. Ashby, when she applied for the job. On June 26, 1936, Louise Ashby and Chamberlin were married at the home of the bride’s parents in Fort Fairfield. Louise Chamberlin later became a noted aviator in her own right.
Chamberlin was internationally well-known and admired for his daring and skill in the early years of the 20th century, but due to his boyish appearance and modesty, his name is all but lost to popular culture. Nevertheless, Chamberlin was one of America’s finest pilots and took on many challenges that significantly expanded the field of aviation. He continues to be an important figure in America’s aeronautical history, and his achievements stand in equal measure to those of Lindbergh.
Chamberlin’s daughter, Clarisse “Claire” Hodgkins, will attend the presentation and share some memories of her father and his inspiring and interesting career.
This event is free and open to the public.