Guide to the Earl L. Smith Collection, 1895-1973

 Finding aid prepared by Elisabeth Lambert.

Collection Overview

Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Collection.
Creator - Creator
Smith, Earl L., Mr., 1895-1973
Earl L. Smith Collection
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1929-1964
Date [inclusive]
0.2 Linear feet (One half-size manuscript box.)
Language of Materials
Collection is in English and Spanish.
Earl Smith was a pilot, mechanic, and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) investigator who flew the first transcontinental rail-air trip. The collection contains photographs of documents, pictures, and related materials. These photographs are from his scrapbook, where he collected content about his career in aviation and about his personal life.


Earl L. Smith Collection, Document name or type, Folder number, Box number, Series number, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Collection. 1 August 2016

800 West Campbell Road, MC33
Richardson, TX, 75080-3021
[email protected]

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection are open for research.

Literary Rights Statement

Permission to publish material from this collection in any form, current or future, must be obtained from the Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Provenance Statement

The Earl L. Smith Collection was donated to the History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas, by Earl L. Smith on March 5, 1971.

Note to the Researcher

The photographs were housed in archival safe sleeves.

According to the holding file, the collection was sent with additional newspaper clippings and a tape recording. These clippings and the recording are currently missing.

Material Removed List

No materials were removed.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Smith, Earl L., Mr., 1895-1973


  • History of Aviation Collection

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Biographical Sketch

Earl Leland "Smitty" Smith was born on April 12, 1895 in Greenfield, Illinois to Samuel G. Smith and Octavia Smith (née Lister). He was the oldest of eight children. He attended six small, one- and two-room schools as a child but received no education beyond that afforded by those six schools.

As a young man, Smith worked as a mechanic for pilot Tony Jannus; Jannus took Smith on his first flight in October of 1912. When World War I began, Smith attempted to join the Air Force to become a pilot; however, his application was rejected. Smith sought out Tommy Weber for lessons to become a pilot and Weber became his flying instructor. Smith's first solo flight was on June 11, 1921.

Smith served as a pilot, flight instructor, and mechanic for various companies during his lifetime. He had his own flying service in Springfield, Illinois from 1924–1925 and he offered passenger flights and student instruction during this time. From 1925–1927, he served as a mechanic and rebuilt motors in Springfield, Illinois. He resumed his flying service in 1927 before moving to Marshall, Missouri, where he was a flight and airplane rigging instructor and a pilot for the Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Co. In August of 1928, Smith lectured and offered flight instruction for the Newark Flying Service in Newark, New Jersey. He worked for J.M. Jones in Union City, New Jersey, where he rebuilt planes and offered instruction, from December of 1928 to April of 1929.

On June 14, 1929, Smith piloted the first rail-air combination flight from coast to coast. His flight took him over the Appalachian mountains, a feat which was largely seen as unsafe at the time.

In 1929, he flew the Cleveland to Washington run for Universal Airline in Cleveland, Ohio. Then he worked for Clifford Ball Inc. and flew mail and passenger flights for the Cleveland to Washington run. He was a pilot for Ludington Airline and flew the Washington to New York route beginning in August of 1930.

In June of 1931, Smith had over 4500 hours and ten years of flying without a single accident. This impressive record only lasted a few more months before he had his first plane crash on September 1, 1931. Smith's accident occurred in Baltimore, Maryland when his plane malfunctioned and he crashed into a house. The accident left him with a crushed vertebra, which meant he stayed in a hospital to recover for over two and a half months. He continued flying for Ludington Airline after his recovery and worked for the company until February 1933.

Smith worked for Eastern Air Transport and flew the Washington to New York route from February to June of 1933. Then he opened his own mechanic shop in Washington D.C., where he repaired motors and airplanes. The next year, he became a pilot and operations manager for Condor Peruana de Aviacion in Lima, Peru. He was a pilot for Beckman Flying Service (a sightseeing airline) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from July to December of 1934.

In 1937, Smith was a pilot for the airmail service and connected flew mail in West Virginia to Pittsburgh. He became a tester for the National Bureau of Standards in 1939. From 1941 to 1952, Smith was an investigator for the Civil Aeronautics Board in Detroit (five years) and Minneapolis (six years). He retired to North Fort Myers, Florida in 1952.

Smith's long career in aviation brought him into contact with many famous individuals. These celebrities include famous pilots—namely Charles Lindbergh (whom Smith called "Slim") and Amelia Earhart. Smith also wrote letters to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and President Richard Nixon.

Smith's first wife was named Sarah Smith (née Lammy). The couple divorced in 1928. His second wife was Helen Smith (née Koch), who was Smith's flight student in 1928. Smith had two children: a son (Paul Smith) and a daughter (Imogene Hornback). Earl Smith died on November 3, 1973 in Fort Myers, Florida. He was buried in Virden Cemetary in Virden, Illinois.

 Earl L. Smith Collection, Photographs 64–65, Folder 2, Box 1, Series I. Subseries 2., History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
 Find a Grave, "Earl Leland Smith." Last modified February 15, 2012.
 The Smith Official DNA & One Name Study Project, "Earl Leland Smith." Last modified November 11, 2014.

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Scope and Content

This collection contains black and white photographs of pages from Earl L. Smith's scrapbook. These pages contain pictures, letters, articles, certificates, and other materials that focus on Smith's life and particularly on his time working in the field of aviation.

The collection arrived in a single accession but was not organized in any particular way. The order of the photographs was maintained and the folders were compiled into a single half-size manuscript box that measures 0.2 linear feet.

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Series Description

The Earl L. Smith Collection is arranged in one series:

Series I. Scrapbook 0.2 linear ft. (one half-size manuscript box), 1912-1969.

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Image ID

It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission from copyright holders of materials to which this institution does not own copyright.

Images in this collection are identified by a unique number that provides information about the format, record group, collection, box, folder, and image numbers. Please use this number when ordering reproductions of images from this collection.

Record Group Code

1 = CAT/Air America Archives

2 = Doolittle Archives

3 = Lighter than Air Archives

4 = George H. Williams, Jr., World War I Aviation Library

5 = History of Aviation Archives

6 = University Archives

7 = HAC Stacks

8 = WPRL Stacks

9 = Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Collection

10 = Belsterling Collection

11 = Closed Stacks

12 = Unidentified

13 = Chance Vought Archives

14 = Twirly Birds Archives

Image Format Code

P = Photograph/Postcard

S = Slide

N = Negative

T = Positive Transparency

B = Black and White

C = Color

Example : 5ELS-1-1-PB1

5 = History of Aviation Archives (HAC)

ELS = Earl L. Smith Collection

1 = Box Number

1 = Folder Number

P = Photograph/Postcard

B = Black and White

1 = Image Number

Images archived in plastic image holders may also have a location code in the format: 1/TL. In this example, the number is the sheet number and the letters indicate the top left position on the sheet. Position indicators are T = top, L = left, R = right, M = middle, and B = bottom. Position indicators may be combined to describe the position on the sheet, as shown in this example.

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Scrapbook 

Envelope, Part 1. 1912-1969   Image number 5ELS-1-1-PB1 through 5ELS-1-1-PB115.

    Box Folder
Graphic materials   1 1

Envelope, Part 2. 1912-1969   Image number 5ELS-1-2-PB1 through 5ELS-1-2-PB92.

    Box Folder
Graphic materials   1 2

Envelope, Part 3. 1912-1969   Image number 5ELS-1-3-PB1 through 5ELS-1-3-PB79.

    Box Folder
Graphic materials   1 3

Envelope, Part 4. 1912-1969   Image number 5ELS-1-4-PB1 through 5ELS-1-4-PB86.

    Box Folder
Graphic materials   1 4

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