MS 550 - Milton Hersberger Collection
|Title||MS 550 - Milton Hersberger Collection|
|Subject||Business & Commerce|
The correspondence, printed material, and photographs in the Milton Hersberger Collection deal primarily with the history of Island Air Service, a passenger and freight airline operating between Port Clinton and the Erie Islands that Hersberger created, owned, and managed. Some material concerns Hersberger's work as a barnstormer before he founded the airline in 1930, and as a businessman, after he sold the airline in 1953. The collection includes letters, pilot's logs, ledgers, newspaper clippings, magazine articles and photographs spanning the years 1925-1986.
The collection was donated to the Center for Archival Collections in November 1988 by Hersberger's wife, Marguerite Hersberger of Port Clinton, Ohio. Literary and property rights have been dedicated to the public and duplication is permitted for the purpose of preservation and scholarly research. The collection was processed and the register prepared by James Kaser, a doctoral student in American Culture in April 1989.
Milton Hersberger (29 December 1901-1987) was an aviator who created an air transport service connecting the islands lying off the southwest shore of Lake Erie with the mainland. He operated the service, one of the first of its kind, from 1930-1953. An important figure in the history of the Erie Islands, the success he made of his air service received national attention during the years after World War II when passenger air service was beginning to develop on a large scale. The story of his airline played a small role in the effort to popularize air travel.
Born in Anderson, Indiana, Hersberger was taught to fly by Erret Williams, a barnstormer, in 1923 and soloed the summer of that year at Berry Field in Richmond, Indiana. Between 1924 and 1926, he barnstormed throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. It was while he was airport manager at Sandusky, Ohio during 1927-1928 that he realized how useful air service would be to the Islanders, especially during the winter when they were sometimes cut off from the mainland for several weeks. In the winter of 1928 he made several tripis to Kelley's Island and Put-in-Bay using the frozen Lake as his runway. Father J. A. Maerder, who served the parishes on these islands flew with Hersberger and encouraged him in his dream of starting an air service for the Islands, though financial conditions did not make it an immediate possibility.
Between 1928 and 1930 Hersberger held a number of positions. He was manager and chief instructor at Landsdown Airport in Yougnstown from 1928-1929. In 1929, he began working as a pilot for Ohio Air Transportation which soon after went bankrupt. He then worked for the Argo Company in Alliance as a test pilot. After this, he was a mail carrier for the Cliff Ball Airlines which, after several mergers, became United Airlines. In 1930, Hersberger was working at Chicago's Stinson Airport as chief pilot for Art Killip's passenger service and had an opportunity to compete in the 1930 National Air Show. He won the dead stick landing competition three consecutive days. Late in 1930 he heard of the sinking of the lake Island ferry "Mascot." Learning that its passengers were stranded on the mainland, he flew back to Ohio to transport them to their homes.
When a fire at Chicago Municipal Airport destroyed a number of hangars and forced the sale of salvaged engines, Hersberger was able to replace the water-cooled engine in his Waco. Using this plane and a second plane he had borrowed, he started his air service to the Islands in November of 1930. His mainland air field was on a piece of land near Port Clinton leased from U.S. Gypsum. He also purchased land on Put-in-Bay, which became his base of operations, and leased small plots of land on Middle Bass, North Bass, and Kelley's Islands. With the support of Father Maerder, who flew with him to Washington, he was awarded the mail contract for the Islands (effective 1 July 1931).
Increasing cargo loads and passenger demand soon necessitated larger planes with enclosed cabins. Hersberger thought the Ford Tri Motor would be ideal for his purposes but their expense ($55,000) was prohibitive. He got his chance to buy his first one for $2,500 in 1934 when he heard that one had crashed after running out of fuel near Pittsburgh. Throughout his career he traveled widely to purchase used Tri-motors, making trips to such places as Fairbanks, Alaska, the Dominican Republic, and Havana, Cuba. It is the so-called "Tin Goose" with which his airlines came to be identified.
In addition to flying Islanders and summer residents back and forth to the mainland, Hersberger ferried many visitors, especially during the summer, the pheasant hunting season, and the ice-fishing season. His most frequent cargo, in addition to the mail, was wine from the Lonz Winery and other wineries on the islands. He also transported farm animals, appliances, groceries, and other necessities for the Islanders. His plane was also used as an ambulance by the Islanders and occasionally as a means of transporting the deceased.
Hersberger and his airlines received widespread media attention in the 1940s. Feature articles were written for such publications as Air Transport, Business Week, and Collier's. It was during this period that Hersberger was nominated by then-Governor Frank Lausche, as one of the first members of the Ohio Aviation Board. He served in this position from 1945-1947.
In 1953, Hersberger sold his airline to Travelair Taxi, Inc., a subsidiary of Sandusky Airport, Inc., headed by Ralph Dietrick, for $95,000. The sale followed a period of conflict between Hersberger, who wished to keep Port Clinton airport closed to other pilots, and Port Clinton officials, who wanted to open it to other pilots.
Hersberger had purchased Urb's Cafe, located in Port Clinton, in 1951. After the sale, he and his wife devoted their energies to operating it and, in 1965, he opened a professional building at 105-109 Madison Street in Port Clinton.
|Scope and Content|
The bulk of the material in the collection deals with Hersberger's airline. The most useful records for understanding its daily operation are the pilot logs and airline ledgers. The pilot logs, available for the entire period Hersberger was involved with the airlines, 1930-1953, provide a record of the number of hours Hersberger was flying on any given day as well as cumulative hour totals. They also indicate the nature of the trips being made and the planes being used. Unfortunately, they do not provide information for the airline as a whole, because there were periods when Hersberger employed other pilots. The ledgers, unlike the pilot logs, provide financial information and a record of the employees of the airline through indications of withholding and social security taxes paid. There is no breakdown of the earnings of the company on a per pilot basis, however, so it is difficult to know how much other pilots were flying in comparison to Hersberger. Ledgers are available for the years 1939 through 1953.
The collection has little correspondence. The main series was created through Hersberger's involvement with the Port Clinton Airport and deals primarily with the attempt to establish it as a municipal airport so that it would be eligible for federal funds to provide for improvement and expansion of its facilities. Hersberger started the airport by leasing land from the U. S. Gypsum Company in 1930. More land was eventually needed and to establish it as a municipal airport all of the land had to be acquired by Port Clinton. The bulk of the Port Clinton Airport correspondence stemmed from Hersberger's membership on the Airport Committee which worked to raise funds to purchase the land and get landowners to sell. Business correspondence and personal correspondence is extremely limited.
The newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and book sections are useful sources for tracing the activities of Hersberger and the history of his airlines. The clippings provide contemporary accounts of major events starting with Hersberger's appearing after the sinking of the "Mascot" to transport its stranded passengers and including an article on the sale of the airline. They also indicate what Hersberger did after selling the airline. Later newspaper articles, treating the airlines as a subject of local history, and magazine articles and book sections often include memories of the residents that provide an understanding of how important the air service was to the Islanders. Articles written for national news magazines in the 1940s show the contemporary importance of the airlines as an example of a successful passenger service in an era when air travel was being popularized.
The richest part of the collection is the extensive photographic record. Even though not all of the photographs have been identified, they show the sorts of planes Hersberger flew from his barnstorming days up until the day he transferred ownership of the airlines, which was also the last day he ever flew a plane. One photograph shows the ice cutters used before plane service supplanted them as the only means of transportation for the Islanders during the winter months. The importance of Hersberger's airlines to the Islanders is demonstrated by the many photographs of the great variety of cargoes flown and the crowded passenger cabins. With very few exceptions the photographs are of extremely high quality; a number of them were taken by photojournalists and ended up serving as illustrations for articles on Hersberger.
A small amount of material deals with Hersberger's career after selling the airline. Three ledgers covering 1951 through 1956 are for Urb's Cafe, which Hersberger operated in Port Clinton. Several newsclippings refer to his operation of a professional building in Port Clinton.
GENERAL MEETING OF ALL ISLANDERS MINUTES
PORT CLINTON AIRPORT CORRESPONDENCE
WESTERN RESERVE HALL OF FAME NOMINATION.
LICENSE AND CONTRACT.
URB'S CAFE LEDGERS
WACO AIRCRAFT RECEIPT
ISLAND AIR SERVICE BROCHURES.
MEIER'S WINE CELLARS OFFPRINT.
PRELIMINARY DRAFTS OF PENINSULAR AIRPORT BROCHURES.
LAKE ERIE VACATION BORCHURES.
CLARK CARRUTHERS COMPANY CIRCULAR.
SCRAPBOOK AND SCRAPBOOK MATERIAL
MAGAZINE ARTICLES AND BOOK SECTIONS.
MAGAZINE ARTICLES ABOUT THE TIN GOOSE.
POSITIVE PRINTS--MILTON HERSBERGER.
POSITIVE PRINTS--PASSENGERS AND INDIVIDUALS.
POSITIVE PRINTS--CLASS TRIPS.
POSITIVE PRINTS--ICE FISHING.
POSITIVE PRINTS--CARGO BEING LOADED.
POSITIVE PRINTS--AERIAL AND LANDSCAPE.
POSITIVE PRINTS--GROUP PHOTOGRAPH.
Shelved at the end of the collection