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Archives at The Museum of Flight

William S. Luckey Aviation Collection

Identifier: 2007-09-24
The William S. Luckey Aviation Collection consists of visual and textual materials that document Luckey's short career as an aviator for the Curtiss Flying Team from 1913-1915, and also includes materials related to his wife, Laura Luckey.

Photographic materials make up the bulk of the collection, with a total of 286 prints, 10 negatives, and 5 photomechanical postcards. They primarily consist of black-and-white snapshots 5x7" and smaller, though some prints up to 8x10" are present. The majority of the photographs depict the various flying exhibitions that Luckey participated in, such as ones in Charleston, South Carolina, various sites in New York State, and in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Luckey's award-winning race around Manhattan is represented in a few prints along with a few images of his trophy. The bulk of the photos of aviation exhibitions are unidentified and undated, but images with a given location and date were placed in chronological order followed by the unidentified events. Among the pictures are a few other identified people including Glenn H. Curtiss, Lincoln Beachy, Henry Robinson, and Henry Ford. A photograph album is also present in the collection with additional images of aviation events as well as portraits of Luckey. The images in the album sometimes duplicate or provide additional images of some of the events depicted among the loose prints. Prints were removed from the album for preservation purposes but maintained in original order. In addition to the photos of aviation events, several formal studio portraits of Luckey are present. Several images also depict Luckey's wife Laura, sometimes as a spectator at the exhibitions but some showing her behind the wheel of an aircraft, and some in casual scenes with family and friends.

In addition to the photographs, the collection includes some textual materials related to Luckey's aviation career as well as personal life. Among these are a blank betting book; a Curtiss Aeroplanes Catalogue from 1912-1913; approximately 50 newspaper clippings of articles describing Luckey's flights; contracts for exhibitions at Renfrew, Ontario, Canada and Oakland, Maryland; some flyers promoting his services and broadsides advertising Luckey at events in Isle of Palms (South Carolina), Big Stone Gap (Virginia), and Walkerton (state unknown). Documents acquired by Luckey's wife Laura after his death related to his birth and military service are also present along with items related to their marriage and other personal documents of Laura's.


  • Majority of material found within 1913-1915
  • 1898-1959


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.75 Cubic Feet (1 full-width legal size document box, 1 half-width legal size document box, 1 oversize folder)


William S. Luckey was an acclaimed Curtiss Flying Team pilot best known as the winner of The New York Times race around Manhattan Island on Oct. 13, 1913. The William S. Luckey Aviation Collection consists of visual and textual materials related to Luckey's aviation career and to his wife, Laura Luckey.

Biographical Note: William S. Luckey

William S. Luckey was an acclaimed Curtiss Flying Team pilot best known as the winner of The New York Times race around Manhattan Island on Oct. 13, 1913.

William Sofield Luckey was born February 15, 1875 in New Jersey. He served in the Spanish American War, enlisting as a Private, Company B, Fourth regiment, Infantry, New Jersey National Guard on July 2, 1898 and was discharged on September 10 of the same year. He later worked as a manufacturer of trunks and suitcases.

He took an interest in aviation in 1912 and learned to fly at the Curtiss Flying School in Hammondsport, New York. He was taught by Francis "Doc" Wildman. After his training, he joined the Curtiss Exhibition Flyers and flew his first public exhibition date at Hershey, Pennsylvania on May 30, 1913. Then, with R. V. Morris and Charles Niles, he flew in Kingston, Ontario, Canada from June 3-13. In July Luckey flew a hydroplane at Sullivan's Island, South Carolina and then hydro and land planes at the Isle of Palms, Charleston, South Carolina. From there he flew at Walkerton Fair (unknown state) on September 11-12; in Buffalo, New York on September 13 for the Perry Centennial Celebration; and he made hydroplane flights in Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 23.

On October 13, 1913 Luckey won the New York Times-sponsored Race Around Manhattan, part of the Aeronautical Society of New York’s memorial to Wilbur Wright’s first powered flight a decade earlier. Luckey was in competition with Charles Niles, C. Murvin Wood, Tony Jannus, and J. Guy Gilpatric. The 60-mile event started at Staten Island, then went counter-clockwise across New York Bay to the East River, up the east side of Manhattan, through the Harlem River to the Hudson, then back to the starting point at Staten Island. Luckey won the 1st-place prize of $1,000 with a time of 52 minutes, 54 seconds.

Over the winter of 1913, Luckey went to Hammondsport, New York where he developed the sport of "snowboating" in which a hydro or flying boat could be operated from a snow-covered frozen lake and did some test flying for Curtiss in the spring of 1914. On July 1, 1914 Luckey resumed exhibition flying with an event at Smith Falls, Ontario, Canada on July 1. By the first week of November he flew at the Velodrome Race Track, Buffalo, New York, in a race against a motorcycle.

He continued exhibition flying in 1915. From February 11-18, he flew in a Mardi Gras Carnival in Apalachicola, Florida; July 2-3 he flew at Big Stone Gap, Virginia; and he flew July 27-28 in Peekskill, New York. In August, from the 9th to 15th, he conducted demonstration flights at the National Guard Camp of Pennsylvania at Indiana, Pennsylvania. He carried two officers and (possibly) the state Governor as passengers. On August 14 he flew at Big Stone Gap again; he flew at various locations in Kentucky and then Ohio, and on September 1 was at a fair in Warren, Pennsylvania.

On September 6, 1915 he was scheduled to fly at Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, Canada. His first flight and landing was sucessful, but on the second flight his tail struck an embankment as he was landing, throwing him out while still airborne. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal where it was found he had a broken back. He remained there in a critical condition until he died on December 20, 1915.

Luckey was married to Annie Laura Barlow on Decmeber 25, 1907.

Biographical note derived from collection materials and records on


The materials were arranged by format. Photographs in an album were removed for preservation purposes but remain in their original order.


No further accruals are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.

Related Materials

The Museum of Flight Archives also has the Curtiss-Wright Company Records (accession # 2002-01-15) with more information on early Curtiss aircraft and early exhibition flying.

Separated Materials

The following items have been separated from the archival component of this collection and are kept in Objects storage:

  • 1st Place Trophy for winning Times Aerial Derby on Oct 13, 1913n
  • Medal of Merit in clamshell case referencing Aerial Derby
  • Goggles

One copy of Aeronautics Magazine, October 1913, was transferred to the Library.
Guide to the William S. Luckey Aviation Collection
Completed - Level 3
N. Davis
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
2nd edition

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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