Orville Wright

He Knew Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, and Douglas “Wrong-Way” Corrigan in the Early Years of Aviation; Massive Archive from San Diego Mechanic and Amateur Aviator with Signed Items of All 3 Aviators, and Fabric from The Spirit of St. Louis and the 1903 Wright Flyer

He Knew Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, and Douglas “Wrong-Way” Corrigan in the Early Years of Aviation; Massive Archive from San Diego Mechanic and Amateur Aviator with Signed Items of All 3 Aviators, and Fabric from The Spirit of St. Louis and the 1903 Wright Flyer

[AVIATION.] Archive of Lloyd M. Best materials, including 320 black-and-white and color photographs, more than 70 pages of manuscript and typescript documents, printed materials related to Best’s career as an aviation mechanic and metalsmith, and newspaper clippings and ephemera related to the history of aviation in San Diego, 1927-1996. Materials in very good condition.


This extensive and rich archive of photographs, reminiscences, letters, and memorabilia document the progress of aviation in San Diego through the records of aviation mechanic, metalsmith, and amateur aviator Lloyd M. Best. During his career in southern California, Best worked for several aircraft manufacturing companies and served in the U.S. Civil Service with the U.S. Navy throughout World War II and beyond. In 1927 and 1928, he built his own single-engine, single-seat aircraft, the Lincoln Sport plane, from a kit he purchased.  Subjects include the construction of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, and two replicas, one in 1927 and another in 1978; aviation during the “Golden Era” of the 1920s and 1930s; “Wrong Way” Douglas Corrigan’s historic 1938 flight; and efforts to recognize and commemorate the aviation history of San Diego.


Highlights and Excerpts

-          A segment of the fabric from The Spirit of St. Louis, from Best’s own archive


-          320 photographs from the 1920s to the 1980s, including

o   A photograph of the employees of Mahoney Aircraft with the first tri-motor Ford airplane that came to San Diego, July 1927;

o   A banquet given for Charles Lindbergh by the B. F. Mahoney Aircraft Corporation in September 1927, when he returned to San Diego after his transatlantic flight; Lindbergh is seated near the center of the photograph with Mahoney seated next to him; Best is seated on the other side of the table;

o   Best with his Lincoln Sport plane in various stages of construction, 1927-1928;

o   The “welcoming committee” when Douglas Corrigan returned to San Diego in 1938 after his flight to Ireland and fame, including Lloyd M. Best, and several other or Corrigan’s former coworkers at Mahoney Aircraft;

o   Signed photograph of Douglas Corrigan in his Curtiss Robin that he flew to Ireland, ca. 1938;

o   The Construction of the NYP-3 replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, 1978-1979; and

o   Other aircraft Best flew or admired.


-          A segment of the fabric of the 1903 Wright Flyer (added to the collection later, but with great provenance)


-          Annual Sporting License Issued by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) of the U.S.A. and signed by Orville Wright, including Best’s photograph and embossed with the seal of the NAA, License No. 19, 1928.

-          PHOTOCOPY of Best’s Aviator Pilot License Issued by the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) of the U.S.A. and signed by Orville Wright and Douglas Corrigan, Certificate No. 6829, February 6, 1928.  


-          Student Municipal Aviation License issued to Lloyd M. Best by the City of San Diego, for the term of 12 months, June 13, 1927.


-          A small diary Best kept from May to October 1928, listing wings completed at the B. F. Mahoney Aircraft Corporation in San Diego, where the Spirit of St. Louis had been constructed in 1927.


-          Flight Certificates, for a Ryan Monoplane from the B. F. Mahoney Aircraft Corporation:

o   May 6, 1928, Best’s 30-minute training flight, $10;

o   October 14, 1928, Best’s 20-minute solo flight, $5; and

o   October 21, 1928, Best’s 20-minute solo flight.


-          Lt. Leslie Thorpe, A Text Book on Aviation, vol. II of The Cadet System of Ground School Training (San Francisco: Aviation Press, 1930); Best’s copy.


-          Mechanic’s License No. 11231, issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce to Lloyd M. Best certifying that he was a licensed airplane mechanic for civil aircraft, expired February 15, 1934.


-          Consolidated Aircraft Corporation: Rules for Employees, November 15, 1935; Best’s copy.


-          Membership card in the Aero Club of San Diego for Lloyd M. Best, valid until June 1939.


-          Set of nine World War II ration books for Lloyd Best, his wife Muriel Best, and their infant son Frank P. Best (b. 1941) from 1942 and 1943, along with seven red and two blue ration tokens issued by the Office of Price Administration.


-          Lloyd M. Best, Patent Application and Drawings for Machine Gun Control Turret, including related correspondence and rejection of application, 1943-1944:

o   Lloyd M. Best, Patent Application for Gun Controlled Turret, December 1943

“My invention relates to a turret for supporting and shiftably controlling guns, such as machine guns, twenty millimeter cannons, or the like....”

“Having thus described my invention, what I claim as new and desire to secure by letters patent is: [followed by seven claims].

o   United States Patent Office to Lloyd M. Best, July 25, 1944

“On examination applicant’s specification and drawings are found to be so sketchy and the whole disclosure so extremely meager as to structural detail as to fail to provide a clear understanding of the alleged invention. Moreover, the description is found to be replete with inapt terminology, errors in grammar, syntax and other informalities. It is lacking in definiteness in that it does not clearly disclose the relative location of component parts to each other.... The claims are all rejected.”

o   Lloyd M. Best to Armament Engineering Section, Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department, April 1, 1944

“I have discussed turrets and their operation with a number of men who were gunners and who were in combat. I have described my design to them and all hands agree that a turret, as described below, would be a decided improvement on models now in use.... The basic theory of the proposed improvement is to have a certain amount of free movement of the guns without moving the turret so that a gunner can make minor corrections in his aim. The guns will be operated directly by the gunner.”

o   Bureau of Aeronautics, Navy Department to Lloyd M. Best, April 22, 1944

“Your letter of 1 April, 1944 describing a new type of control for aircraft gun turrets has been examined with interest.... In order for the gunner to control the butt end of the gun directly by hand it would be required that the gunner be behind the gun. This would increase the required turret diameter prohibitively. Consequently some type of control linkage would be required.... Such control has been developed and is in the test stage at present. This bureau is actively engaged in a program for its evaluation, and is prepared to incorporate this feature if it proves as desirable as preliminary tests indicate. Due to this fact, no action is contemplated on your proposal. However, this bureau wishes to express its appreciation for the patriotic spirit of cooperation and interest in the war effort demonstrated by the submission of this suggestion.”


-          Wess Curtis, Caricature Drawing of Lloyd M. Best, 1955


-          Paperwork related to Best’s retirement, 1963, including Certificate of Honorable Retirement after 25 years of service, presented by the U.S. Naval Air Station North Island, September 11, 1963.


-           “Maui,” a two-page typescript signed by Charles Lindbergh, September 29, 1968.

Excerpt: “What balance between good and evil our civilized ways will bring, we cannot now foretell; but experience shows that they destroy unprotected wilderness and wildlife with appalling ruthlessness; and that, unlike man’s civilization, destroyed nature cannot be rebuilt. Once violated it is gone forever, as is the ancient beauty of Waikiki beach. Most of Maui’s natural beauty still exists; but with tourists and citizens increasing yearly by the thousands, it can be kept only through such acts of preservation as extending Haleakala National Park to include the valley of the Seven Pools and a thousand waterfalls, and stretches of their ruin-monumented, spray-lashed, life-abounding coast.”

In 1969, Laurance S. Rockefeller and the Nature Conservancy donated an additional 4,300 acres to Haleakala National Park, including the Valley of the Seven Pools. Lindbergh (1902-1974) bought a vacation home on Maui in 1971, lived his last days there, and is buried there.


-          Invitation to and Program from the San Diego Chamber of Commerce to the rollout ceremony on December 4, 1978, for the reproduction Spirit of St. Louis, the Ryan NYP-3.

Best was one of 37 craftsmen volunteers who donated a total of 3,500 man-hours to build the NYP-3 in 1978 for the San Diego Air & Space Museum. The group included H. Ed Morrow, T. Claude Ryan, and John Van Der Linde, who had each worked on the original Spirit of St. Louis in 1927. NYP-3 first flew on April 28, 1979, and made seven flights before being placed on display in the museum.


-          Commemorative photo album “issued in appreciation for volunteer service in the building of the Ryan NYP-3 ‘Spirit of St. Louis,’” December 21, 1979.


-          A fabulous letter by Douglas “Wrong Way” Corrigan in the margins of a photocopied newspaper article from July 17, 1963, dated June 1, 1985, with an additional signature to L. M. Best, dated September 9, 1985.

In July 1938, Douglas Corrigan (1907-1995) climbed into a Curtiss Robin monoplane in New York that he had purchased for $310 and told the ground attendants that he was heading back to California. He had talked of a flight to Ireland, but the Bureau of Air Commerce denied him permission to make the trip. Instead of flying west, he flew northeast, landing in Dublin, Ireland, 28 hours and 13 minutes later. His alibi for the illegal flight was that “my compass must have been wrong. I must have flown in the wrong direction.” He instantly became a hero on both sides of the Atlantic, meeting with U.S. Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy in London, and coming home to a movie offer and the chance to write an autobiography (published as That’s My Story by E. P. Dutton in 1938). According to the article, the believers in his story could be counted on the fingers of Venus de Milo’s hands, and the Bureau of Air Commerce revoked his pilot license.

Corrigan wrote in the margins: “The statue of the Venus de Milo was found in Italy but both arms had been broken off at the elbows, hence no hands, and therefore no fingers. The punishment that Mr. Mulligan [Director of Bureau of Air Commerce] gave me was in a cablegram delivered to me as I got on the steamship S.S. Manhattan to come back to the U.S. It said your pilots license is hereby revoked for 5 days. It took the boat 5 days to get back to N.Y.”


-          Lloyd M. Best to Douglas Corrigan, July 30, 1991, copy of letter regarding Ron Bociung’s plan to make Dutch Flats in San Diego a National Monument to aviation. Best lamented, “You and Ed Morrow and I...are the only 3 left that worked at the factory. You and Ed helped build the Spirit of St. Louis. Ed is 91 in 1991.”


-          Proclamation by San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor designation May 3-10, 1992, as “National Heritage Preservation Week.”


“WHEREAS, THE May 10, 1992 celebration commemorates the sixty-fifth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s epic journey from San Diego, California to Paris, France”

“WHEREAS, Lloyd ‘Pappy’ Best dedicated his efforts in helping develop a thriving aviation industry in San Diego”


-          Manuscript and typescript copies of a reminiscence by Lloyd M. Best, July 24, 1992


“Dan Burnett was one of the builders of the Spirit of St. Louis. I inherited the steam boiler and steam chest, the job of bending rib spruce boards. The boards were heated up with seam and hot water to soften them to be bent on the rib curve jig.... The rib jig was a master piece...made by Dan Burnett and others.... The jig was a credit to Dan Burnett’s quality of workman ship.”

“Dapper Dan” B. Burnett Jr. (1905-1976) began work for Ryan Aviation in 1925. He helped construct the wing for the Spirit of St. Louis and continued to work for Ryan Aircraft until 1946. The San Diego Air & Space Museum acquired Burnett’s wing-rib jig and sold replica wing ribs in the 1980s.

“About the middle of September Charles Lindbergh came back to San Diego. We gave him a banquet in the wing shop, we leaned all the wings up against the wall, lined all of the saw horses up, all of the spruce boards and all of the 4x8 sheets of plywood in the shop to make a table to seat 200 people. The caterers spread there table cloth and served us a grand banquet. Charles Lindbergh is in the middle of the table, Douglas Corrigan is standing behind Lindbergh, to his right is Mr. Mahoney, to his right is AJ Edwards, to Lindberghs left is Red Harrigan pilot, next is Donald Hall engineer.... Across the table and a little further down, I am leaning on the spar jig....”

“At the foot of Juniper street on the old bay front is an old converted fish cannery, the building was the B. F. Mahoney Aircraft Factory builder of Ryan planes. The building should be a National Monument of Historical Places, here is where Lindberghs Spirit of St Louis was built, and also Dutch Flats across the street north of the main post office. Many things happened here to advance aviation, the Spirit of St. Louis was tested and flown from here many times. Many well known pilots learned to fly there, Douglas Corrigan learned to fly there, and I learned to fly there in an old Jn-4D Jenny a first world war training plane.”

“we were building the NYP-2 for a Chinese Province Governor, and the aircraft would be shipped to China in a large crate in August 1927. Several books have been published on early aviation, they all state the NYP-2 the first and only exact copy of the Spirit of St. Louis was ordered and bought by a Japanese Pilot, and shipped to Japan.... What really happened, the Chinese assembled and flew the NYP-2, on one of the flights, coming in for a landing the aircraft landed heavily on the right landing gear, it gave way, dropping the right wing on the field, ground looping the plane. Damaging the landing gear, fuselage, spars and wing tip. We heard this at the factory, in September 1927. A Japanese pilot bought the wrecked aircraft from the Chinese, repaired and flew it. Dan Burnett and I made cradles for the wing to rest in, I saw the plane secured in a large crate that cost $675.00 addressed and shipped to China.”


-          Marriage License and Marriage Certificate from Medina County, Ohio, for George A. Paull and Eliza Spencer, Best’s wife’s great grandparents, October 1839.

Muriel E. Paull Best (1906-2002) was the daughter of Charles Franklin Paull (1884-1964), who was the son of Charles Milton Paull (1844-1908), who was the son of George Alphonos Paull (1815-1908) and Eliza Spencer Paull (1819-1878).



Historical Background

Aviation captured the public imagination after World War I, as aviators attempted and accomplished numerous challenging flights. From the first flight around the world by two planes in 1924 to Charles A. Lindbergh’s non-stop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 to Amelia Earhart’s first solo flight across the Atlantic by a woman in 1932, the period was filled with aviation firsts.


T. Claude Franklin and Benjamin Franklin Mahoney founded the Ryan Airline Company in 1925 to provide regular air service between San Diego and Los Angeles, California. When business slowed in 1926, Mahoney bought out Ryan’s share but kept using the name for several months. Donald A. Hall of the Ryan Airline Company designed the “Ryan NYP” (“NYP” for New York to Paris) single-engine monoplane with which Charles Lindbergh won the $25,000 Orteig Prize. New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig first offered the prize in 1919 to the first Allied aviator who could fly a solo nonstop flight between New York City and Paris, and several aviators died in pursuit of it. A team of more than thirty mechanics at Ryan Airline in San Diego, California, built the Spirit of St. Louis for Charles Lindbergh in just sixty days in February, March, and April 1927. In May 1927, Lindbergh successfully completed the flight from New York to Paris in 33 hours and 30 minutes, preempting three other American teams and one French team to claim the Orteig Prize and become a national hero and international celebrity.


Lloyd M. Best joined the newly renamed B. F. Mahoney Aircraft company as a mechanic on June 6, 1927, a few months after the factory had constructed the Spirit of St. Louis. With the crew that had built Lindbergh’s plane, Best helped construct NYP-2, an exact duplicate of the Spirit of St. Louis, and continued to work at the factory until Mahoney sold the company to new owners, who moved its operations to St. Louis late in 1928. Fifty years later, Best was one of the volunteers who constructed NYP-3 in 1978 for the San Diego Air & Space Museum to replace Spirit 2, a reproduction built in 1967 but destroyed by fire in 1978.



Lloyd M. Best (1905-1993) was born in Idaho and grew up there and in Montana. From 1922 to 1926, he worked with seasonal field survey parties for the General Land Office. He moved to California and worked for the Western Harvester Company in Stockton in 1926 and 1927. Best wanted to learn to fly, so he went to San Diego and got a job at the B. F. Mahoney Aircraft factory that built Ryan aircraft. Best began work at Mahoney Aircraft in June 1927, two months after the factory had built Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and just weeks after his famed transatlantic flight. Later that year, Best helped construct NYP-2, an exact replica for an Asian customer. After the Mahoney Aircraft factory closed and moved to St. Louis late in 1928, Best got a job with Bach Aircraft and then Commercial Aircraft in Los Angeles. He also worked with Boeing and Lockheed. In 1939, he married Muriel Paull (1906-2002) in Arizona, and in 1940, they were living in National City, outside of San Diego, where he worked as an aircraft mechanic with the U.S. Civil Service. During World War II, Best worked at the Naval Air Station in San Diego as a civilian employee of the Navy. In 1943, he attempted to obtain a patent for an improved gun control turret, but the Patent Office rejected his application, and the Bureau of Aeronautics of the Navy Department informed him in 1944 that they were testing an alternative control system. In 1958, Best was promoted to Head Metalsmith (Aviation) in the Navy Department. For the last eighteen months before retiring in July 1963 with twenty-five years of service, Best worked on the F4B Phantom Navy fighter-bomber at the Naval Air Station at North Island on San Diego Bay.



Item: 66171

Price: $22,000.00
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