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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel Collection

Identifier: 1992-09-26
The Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel Collection contains scrapbooks, manuscripts and photographs documenting Stenzel's career as one of the first female stunt pilots. The materials primarily date from 1929-1933, the height of Stenzel's fame.

At the beginning of the collection are several assorted textual materials, including maintenance log books for her Great Lakes (1929) Model 2T-1A (NC315Y) and its American Cirrus engine (serial number 3002). The February 1932-December 1932 maintenance log book includes a note from Tex Rankin on the inside cover that certifies that this book replaced one lost on or around February 20, 1932. Additionally, there is a blue composition notebook used by Tex Rankin and Dorothy Hester during flights. Because of the noise of the engines, the only way to communicate during flights was to write notes to each other in the notebook and pass it back and forth. Assorted documents such as flight planning notes, a promotional brochure for Rankin's flying school, and a letter from Stenzel to her sister, Helen, that discusses completing 62 loops and the death of a fellow barnstormer are also included. There are also two copies of an information packet about the development of the aviation industry sent to both Dorothy Hester and her husband, Robert Hofer, by the Bureau of Air Commerce.

Additionally, there are seven (7) black-and-white photographs, one of which is a very large panoramic group portrait taken at the May 1931 Omaha Air Races. There is an accompanying sheet that identifies several of the people in the shot, including Stenzel. The remaining six (6) are various portraits of Dorothy Hester.

The bulk of the collection consists of seven (7) scrapbooks, six (6) of which were likely created by Stenzel. All but one of the scrapbooks are in various stages of dissassemblage. Four have no cover, but are still bound together, while two include the covers but are not bound. The final scrapbook is fully bound with a cover and was given to Stenzel by Vernon and Dorothy Cady, who created it.

The scrapbooks focus on Stenzel's career, mostly covering the 1920s-1930s, although some later dates appear. The scrapbooks are primarily clippings from a wide array of publications. Duplication of the clippings occurs as many appeared in multiple publications. Also included is correspondence to and from sponsors and vendors, event organizers, and friends, and printed ephemera, such as event passes and tickets, programs, and ribbons. Topics cover aviation events, such as races and derbies, obituaries, news events, and articles primarily focused on Stenzel's aerial stunts, but also touching on other notable aviators, such as Tex Rankin, Ruth Nichols, Wiley Post, Ernst Udet, Boleslaw Orlinksi, and R.L.R. Atcherley, to list just a few.

The last scrapbook covers the 1931 National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. It includes a total of eighty (80) black-and-white photographs, forty (40) of which are printed with a caption in the front center of the image. The caption relates to the opposing photograph. The photographs depict Stenzel, some aircraft (mostly obscured), and other pilots and participants, such as Alford J. Williams, Mario de Bernardi, and Alois Kubita. There is also an image depicting Stenzel with Dorothy Cady.

At the end of the collection are twenty-three (23) maps and charts used by Stenzel during her aviation career. Many of the road maps and aviation charts were annotated by Stenzel as she prepared for various flights all over the United States. Also included in this box are seven (7) unsigned and undated pen-and-ink drawings of ships created for Stenzel by one of her daughters.


  • circa 1928-1991


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.


4 Cubic Feet (1 half-width legal size document box and 7 flat boxes)


Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel (1910-1991) was born in Ardenwald, Oregon and learned to fly in the late 1920s. Stenzel then gained fame for stunt flying and broke several records through the mid-1930s. The collection contains seven (7) scrapbooks and assorted textual materials and photographs that document Stenzel's career as one of the first female stunt pilots.

Biographical Note: Dorothy Hester Stenzel

Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel was born September 14, 1910 in Ardenwald, Oregon (now known as the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhood of Portland) to William J. and Margaret (Burke) Hester. Her mother died when she was nine, leaving her father to raise her and her four sisters.

Stenzel dropped out of high school in her senior year to attend ground school, and did parachute jump exhibitions to raise the money she needed to get her through the flight training. She attended Tex Rankin's school in Portland and was the only woman in her class when she graduated from ground school. She continued on from ground school to flight training, despite the doubts Tex Rankin and others had about women flying. She found success during her flight training and soloed with Elrey Jeppesen on September 27, 1928, the fourth woman in Oregon to do so.

Stenzel impressed Tex Rankin with her perseverance and skill, and he asked if he could teach her acrobatics in return for her doing shows on Sundays. He now wanted to attract more people to his school and show that flying was for everyone. Stenzel's participation in these shows started her on a meteoric rise to fame as an acrobatic aviator. On June 30, 1930 she completed the first outside loop performed by a woman, and soon she was performing at air shows all over the country. During her shows, Stenzel flew a Great Lakes (1929) Model 2T-1A owned by Tex Rankin.

In addition to the performances, Stenzel operated a flying school at the Swan Island Airport (Ore.). She married Robert D. Hofer in 1934, but found out shortly after that he had advanced tuberculosis. Stenzel announced her retirement, giving up her flying and her school so that she could nurse her husband back to health.

Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel never lost her love for flight, and she stayed involved in the aviation industry. Her record of 56 inverted snap rolls still stands. She later married Franklin H. Stenzel, and died of lung cancer on February 25, 1991 in Bend, Oregon.


Biography derived from collection material and donor information.


The following items are on display in the Red Barn, Pacific Northwest Room:
  • White Rankin School coveralls
  • Flying boots
  • Canvas pouch for log books
  • Sign for Stenzel's flying school

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the Museum of Flight by Stenzel's daughters in 1992.


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 Archival Materials at Other Institutions

The Oregon Aviation Historical Society features Dorothy Hester Stenzel in their Hall of Fame and is currently restoring her Great Lakes (1929) Model 2T-1A, although they are restoring it to the configuration used by Tex Rankin when he flew the aircraft. Online at
Related Materials at The Museum of Flight There are materials, primarily photocopied clippings and articles, in the Biographical Files.

Separated Materials

The following materials have been separated from the archival component and are kept in Objects Storage:

  • three (3) protractors
  • three (3) flight computers
  • Propellor
  • Navigation ruler
  • White Rankin School coveralls
  • Flying boots
  • Canvas pouch for log books
  • Sign for Stenzel's flying school
  • Title
    Guide to the Dorothy (Hester) Stenzel Collection
    Completed - Level 3
    L. Zaborowski, J.Parent
    Description rules
    Language of description
    Edition statement
    3rd Edition

    Revision Statements

    • 2018: This finding aid has been revised to reflect updated DACS and Museum of Flight standards.
    • 2018 November : Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.
    • 2021 August: Notebook on exhibit was returned to the collection

    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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