Guide to the Records of Rodgers Field, 1923-1925

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Records of Rodgers Field
Creator
Rodgers Field
Collection Number
MFF#131
Date [inclusive]
1923-1925
Extent
.15 cubic feet (3 folders)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
Rodgers Field, one of the first airfields in the Pittsburgh region, was located in O'Hara Township, near Aspinwall. These records include correspondence, news clippings, and legislative materials documenting the planning, fund raising, and lobbying activities relating to Rodgers Field.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Records of Rodgers Field, 1923-1925, MFF #131, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania

Return to Table of Contents »


Historical Sketch of Rodgers Field

Rodgers Field, one of the first airfields in the Pittsburgh region, was located in O'Hara Township, near Aspinwall. Although it did not begin to operate until mid-1925, the planning for this airport began as early as 1922. In 1919, the Army Air Service (forerunner of the United States Air Force) announced its commitment to assisting interested communities in establishing airports. During the 1921-1922 fiscal year, the Air Service received a federal appropriation for the purpose of constructing hangars and fuel stations at airfields across the country. As a major industrial center, Pittsburgh was quickly identified as a likely location for an airfield. The proposed airfield had several purposes, including the training of air service reserve officers, airmail, and use by commercial aviation under government control. The Aero Club of Pittsburgh, founded in 1909 to promote aviation, was eager to establish flying fields and facilities in the region and soon became involved in the planning. The interest of the active local Aero Club and the Chamber of Commerce of Pittsburgh seemed to guarantee the success of such an endeavor. After conducting a study of available real estate, Acting Air Officer Earl S. Hoag recommended the Aspinwall site, previously known as the Hoboken Tract.

Although the Air Service was able to finance the construction of support buildings, funds for purchasing the land were not available, so the government requested the Chamber of Commerce's assistance in purchasing or leasing the site. After lengthy negotiations, the Aero Club leased the property and in turn, leased it to the Air Service. However, the Aero Club's inability to fulfill the financial requirements of the lease nearly forced a nullification of the agreement. A dispute over the neighboring property, owned by Allegheny County and operated as a workhouse, coupled with local property owners' refusal to sell their land and unwillingness to continue the lease with the financially delinquent Aero Club resulted in the introduction of legislation on the state and city level to empower the city and county to use eminent domain to acquire the property for the airfield. Eventually, the Aero Club raised funds from local businessmen, paid the back rent, and continued the lease to the Air Service.

In April 1925, work began on leveling the field, erecting the service building, and providing drainage and sewage, and on June 5, 1925, the first Army plane landed on the field. The airfield was named for Calbraith Perry Rodgers, a Pittsburgh native who in 1911 became the first aviator to fly across the continent. Rodgers Field served as the Pittsburgh region's municipal airport through the remainder of the 1920s, but by the next decade, was considered to be too small and poorly located. In September 1931, a new Allegheny County airport opened in West Mifflin. The former site of Rodgers Field is now occupied by the Fox Chapel High School.

Return to Table of Contents »


Scope and Content Notes

These records include correspondence, news clippings, and legislative materials documenting the planning, fund raising, and lobbying activities relating to Rodgers Field. The majority of the material is correspondence, primarily that of Lt. Earl S. Hoag, who served as commanding officer of the airfield. The incoming and outgoing correspondence provides nearly comprehensive documentation of the exploration and discussion of various options for fund raising and administration of the airfield, including the involvement of the Aero Club, Chamber of Commerce, and state and local politicians. Hoag's correspondents included Major Bernard J. Mulvihill, a Pittsburgh business executive who also served as a major with the Air Service Reserves and vice president of the Aero Club of Pittsburgh; Howard B. Pearce, president of the Aero Club of Pittsburgh; and J. Dalzell McKee. There are virtually no materials from August 1923 to February 1924 when Lt. Hoag was on leave of absence and was subsequently transferred from Pittsburgh. Also included are legislative materials, reports, excerpts from Hoag's diary, and other sundry items that have not been separated from the correspondence, because in most cases, these items were sent along with the correspondence. The news clippings are from local newspapers and provide some sense of the media attention and public opinion associated with the airfield. The news clippings and correspondence document the spirit of civic improvement and boosterism that was found in the advocates of the airport. Because these records predate the completion of the airfield, they provide no insight into the day-to-day operation of the field.

Return to Table of Contents »


Arrangement

The Rodgers Field Records are housed in three archival folders and are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Return to Table of Contents »


Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System  Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Summer, 2001

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

These materials were received in one accession in 1964.

Acc# 1964x Gift of Harmar D. Denny, Jr., (Records. Mr. Denny was a member of the Aero Club of Pittsburgh).

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Susan J. Illis on July 14, 1994.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Doug MacGregor on July 5, 2001.

Return to Table of Contents »


Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Aero Club of Pittsburgh (Pa.)
  • Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce
  • Pittsburgh Airdrome (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Geographic Name(s)

  • Rodgers Field (O'Hara Twp., Pa.)
  • Hoboken Tract (O'Hara Township, Pa.)
  • United States. Army Air Forces

Personal Name(s)

  • Brooks, Major John B. (1891-1975)
  • Denny, Harmar D., Jr. (1886-1966)
  • Hoag, Lt. Earl S.
  • Jewett, Major F. F.
  • McKee, J. Dalzell (c1885-1927)
  • Mulvihill, Bernard H. (1890-?)
  • Pearce, Howard B.

Subject(s)

  • Aeronautics -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Air mail service -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Airports -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Airports -- Pennsylvania -- Aspinwall
  • Civic Improvement -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County
  • Eminent Domain -- Pennsylvania -- Allegheny County

Return to Table of Contents »


Collection Inventory

Correspondence 
  folder
 1922-April 1923 1
  folder
 May 1923-1924 2

Return to Table of Contents »


  folder
News clippings  1923-1925 3

Return to Table of Contents »