Marvel Crosson (1904-1929)

crosson_1_200.jpg Warsaw Aviatrix is Killed
Marvel Crosson is Victim

Body Found 200 Feet from her Wrecked Ship in Desert - In Air Derby

Welton Ariz., Aug. 20, 1929. (UP)

The body of Marvel Crosson, 28 entrant in the Woman's Air Derby, was found in desert brush near here today where her plane was reported to have hurtled to earth in a tailspin late yesterday.

Miss Crosson was born in Warsaw, Ind., April 27, 1904. Her father is Esler Crosson and her mother was christened Elizabeth Wynant. Marvel has an older brother Joseph and a younger sister Velma. The three children were reared on a ranch and attended a grade school near Minneapolis, Kan. Marvel was graduated from the Logan county high school in Sterling, Colo.

While still a child she was fascinated with the accomplishments of a barnstorming aviator named McMullen, who flew in an old style "pusher" airplane at the fair in Sterling. In 1922 the family moved to San Diego, Calif., and the many planes operated there prompted Marvel and her brother to buy one of the surplus planes then being sold by the U.S. army.

It was in this plane that Marvel and her brother learned to fly. In the spring of 1923 the brother made his first solo flight after which he helped Marvel. Both developed rapidly and soon after entered the aviation business.

In 1925 the commercial possibilities of aviation in Alaska where aerial transportation is often used when all other forms are useless, lead Marvel and her brother into the north. Joe worked as a transport pilot. Marvel kept busy in commercial work, exhibition and as an aviation executive.

excerpts from...Warsaw Daily Times, Tuesday August 20, 1920 - front page

[full article]


Marvel Crosson

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Women Pilots Make Charge
Investigate Claim Miss Crosson's Plane was Weakened

Phoenix, Ariz., Aug. 29, 1929. (UP)

Death and dissention rode with the women's Santa Monica-to-Cleveland airplane derby today.

Shortly before the 14 contestants remaining in the race began leaving the airport here for today's jaunt to Douglas, Ariz., reports of finding the body of Miss Marvel Crosson, in a clump of bushes were received from Welton.

She had been killed on yesterday's stage of the race when her plane went into a tail spin. Reports from Welton indicated that she had attempted to jump to safety as her body, the parachute unopened, lay 200 feet from the wreckage of her plane.

In addition to the gloom caused by the death of one of America's best known feminine pilots the women were disturbed by Thea Rusche and Claire Fahy claiming that someone had tampered with their planes. Although these reports were not proved they were enough to send tremors of uneasiness and dissent through the highly strung group.

Miss Crosson's accident merely added weight to suspicion that some of the planes had been weakened in an attempt to force them out of the race.

Bobbi Trout, former holder of the women's endurance flight record, and Opal Kunz, New York, also said they believed their instruments had been misadjusted while still in California.

Investigation of the death of Marvel Crosson and of charges of sabotage made by participants in the air derby for women was launched today by Floyd J. Logan, chairman of the national air meet here.

excerpts from...Warsaw Daily Times, Tuesday August 20, 1929 - front page.

[full article]


Marvel Crosson

Marvel Crosson

Today flying is an important mode of travel in Alaska. In our earlier history flying was a vital means of travel. It has always been a predominantly male occupation/sport but there were womenwho took on the challenge of flying in Alaska. Marvel Crosson was a part of Alaska's early flying history. She was the first woman in Alaska to receive her pilot's license [after learning] to fly in San Diego, California.

It was at this time that her brother decide that he wanted to go to Alaska. There was only enough money for one of them to go so she stayed in San Diego. To prove she was as good as a man she logged in over 200 hours of solo flying while he was gone! She was friends with many of the pilots at the airfield where she worked but she wrote,

"There was something about this fellowship that used to get under my skin and make me bite my lips. These good fellows never forgot that I was a girl! There was a shade of condescension in their palship - they acted as though it was a pleasant thing for a girl to be interested in flying, but 'just among us men' it was of no importance. I could feel the sex line drawn against me, in spite of the fact that they were splendid fellows and pals of Joe."

Marvel went with her brother Joe on his second trip to Alaska to try bush flying. They arrived in Alaska in 1927. In that same year, Marvel passed her flight examination and received the first pilot's license ever earned by a woman in the Alaska territory.

At the time that Marvel first arrived in Alaska pilots were not very popular. Dog mushers and local business owners were not happy. They were losing business. People were travelling by plane, sending their freight by plane, and the mail would go by plane. That meant that the dog sleds that used to carry those items would be out of work and therefore the mushers would not pass through the towns and local businesses and stop there and spend money. Some business owners put up signs that said "No dogs nor pilots allowed."

Even with all of this opposition Marvel continued flying and her flying skills improved. In spring of 1929 she set a new altitude record for women. That fall she entered the National Women's Air Derby. This was the last event of her career. On August 19, 1929, her plane developed engine problems and crashed. Her body was found entangled in a parachute that had opened too late.

© Copyright 1997 Elizabeth Beckett and Sarah Teel

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Marvel Crosson and her parrot 'Dick'

Native Warsaw Aviatrix is Here After Transcontinental Hop
Brother with Wilkins

Warsaw Daily Times Tuesday October 9, 1928

Warsaw can claim some reflected renown in the field of Antarctic exploration and Alaskan aviation pioneering.

Pretty Marvel Crosson, who just completed a transcontinental flight in two days from Los Angeles to New York City, after six years of flying in Alaska, is visiting in Warsaw at the home of her aunt, Mrs. Simon Osborn, 604 E. Market street. Miss Crosson and her brother, Joe Crosson, now with Captain Wilkins' expedition to the Antarctic, were born in Warsaw, the son and daughter of Mrs. Lizzie Wynant Crosson, who, when the children were four or five years of age removed to California.

Of the petite aviatrix the Muncie Evening Press recently said:

The world is a small place is the belief of pretty Marvel Crosson, of San Diego, Cal.

She piloted an airplane across the continent from Los Angeles to New York City in two days-and thinks no more about it than the average person would think of a short automobile trip.

Miss Crosson, who is in Muncie visiting her cousins, W. C. Clark and Donald Clark and her aunt, Mrs. Catherine Clark, 306 Wysor street, has been a pilot for six years-in fact she was awarded the first woman pilot's license issued in California and Alaska.

Now Miss Crosson is awaiting information of the whereabouts of her brother, Joe Crosson, like herself a rover of the aerial highways. Mr. Crosson, himself but 26 years of age, sailed from New York, September 22 with Captain Sir George Hubert Wilkins' expedition to the Antarctic.

First Continental Hop

"The expedition gave us our opportunity," Miss Crosson said Thursday evening while discussing aeronautics with a crowd of friends. "We'd made a number of cross country flights, but this was our first transcontinental one and we'd been looking forward to it.

"We left Los Angeles on the morning of September 12, stopping at San Diego, spent the night at El Paso, landed the next day at Jefferson City, Mo.; spent the next night at St. Louis, stopped at Cincinnati to obtain plane service and landed at Curtis Field at 7:30 p.m. September 14.

"We used one of Captain's Lockheed-Vegas." Miss Crosson confided. "It has a 200 horse power motor and was the one my brother took with him on the Antarctic expedition. Oh no, they're not trying to discover the South Pole-they're just laying meteorological stations."

"You know," continued the pretty aviatrix, "this isn't my brother's first expedition with Captain Wilkins. They were in the Arctic in 1927 making the first commercial flight recorded to Point Barrow."

It's Their Real Vocation

"Flying is not only our recreation but our employment." Miss Crosson said. "We've been connected with the Western Canada Airways for a long time in the regular passenger and freight service-flying out of Winnipeg. Most of my work has been in the vicinity of Fairbanks, Alaska-that's 400 miles in the interior of the country-north of Nome and at the end of the railroad."

Miss Crosson admitted that her journey to Muncie from New York was decidely more monotonous than her eastward flight. "Anway, it was a great deal slower," she laughted. "I stopped over in Cleveland to visit my uncle, Jeff Hale. I came westward by train. I want to get back to San Diego to see my mother. I only had a short visit with her before I left for New York."

"I don't think I'll ever give up flying," the young aviatrix declared. "It means everything to me. Oh, yes, I used to play tennis and go to dances, but they're not in it with flying for pleasure and besides I'm combining fun and work."

"It isn't all thrills, however," the girl aviatrix declared-and she displayed a number of pictures to prove it. The "parka" or hood of the Northland, the heavy furs and the snowshoes are part of her regular attire. But one seeing the girl, with her dark bobbed hair, silk stockings and small close-fitting hat, wouldn't be able to distinguish her from any one of the Ball [State] College girls who trip along the city streets.

Warsaw Daily Times Tuesday October 9, 1928

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