Laura Ingalls (*-*)

ingalls_79-3163_200.jpg Laura Ingalls
Smithsonian Institution Neg. #79-3163 used with permission
Copyright © 2000 National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Laura Ingalls was a highly successful female pilot of the 1930's with several unusual records to her credit.

Daughter of a wealthy New York City family, Ingalls learned to fly in 1928.

In 1930, she performed 344 consecutive loops, setting a women's record, and she shortly broke her own record with 930.

She also did 714 barrel rolls breaking both women's and men's records.

Ingalls held more U.S. transcontinental air records during the 1930's than any other woman, including a transcontinental record of 30 hours east to west and 25 hours west to east (round trip New York and Los Angeles), both in 1930.

In 1935, she became the first women to fly nonstop from the east coast to the west coast and then immediately broke Amelia Earhart's nonstop transcontinental west-to-east record with a flight from Los Angeles to New York in 13 hours, 34 minutes.

Her most well-known flights were made in 1934 and earned her a Harmon Trophy as the most outstanding female aviator of the year. Ingalls flew in a Lockheed Orion from Mexico to Chile, over the Andes Mountains to Rio, to Cuba and then to New York, marking...

  • the first flight over the Andes by an American woman,
  • the first solo flight around South America in a landplane,
  • the first flight by a woman from North America to South America, and
  • setting a woman's distance record of 17,000 miles.

In 1936, she placed second behind Louise Thaden in the prestigious Bendix Trophy Race howver Ingalls' flying career ended with questions about spying for the Germans in World War II, charges she denied.


Billy Parker, Laura Ingalls and Wiley Post at the 1935 National Air Races.

The aircraft is Ingalls' Lockheed Orion NR14222 "Auto-da-Fe"

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Laura Ingalls and Lockheed 'Air Express' NR-974-Y

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Laura Ingalls and Lockheed 'Air Express' NR-974-Y

Aviatrix missed stop but captured record

Laura Ingalls was out there somewhere, 65 years ago, the woman who would fly the rim of South America but could not find Jacksonville. She was about to girdle an entire gigantic forbidding continent, after getting lost trying to find the Jacksonville Municipal Airport. She would become the toast of aviation, this comely pistol-packing lass last seen in these parts having a sandwich in rural Lake Butler, about 35 miles from where she was aiming.

Jacksonville and the world waited with varying degree of bated breath until Ingalls finally came down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at 3:50 p.m., April 19, 1934, a couple hours late, without a whole lot of explanation. Her tastes hadn't changed much since she left Lake Butler, where all she wanted was a sandwich and a pot of coffee. All she asked for after her remarkable flight was a cup of hot black coffee.

"No sugar, no milk, just black coffee," said the newest most famous woman in the world as she stepped from her trim, fast plane.

Laura Ingalls' epic flight captured headlines in a heady season. John Dillinger had just broken out of the "escape-proof" Lake County, Ind., jail using a dummy pistol. Adolf Hitler turned 45. Gloria Swanson split from her fourth husband. Ingalls' flight around South America was the first solo flight ever made over such a course by anybody, man or woman.

"Many experts offer the opinion that Miss Ingalls' South American flight actually eclipsed the 1930 achievement of Amy Johnson, Britain's woman ace, who flew from London to Australia alone - a distance of 10,000 miles," The Associated Press said...."Miss Ingalls covered more than 15,000 miles, most of it over terrrain as hazardous, if not more so, than any covered by Miss Johnson..."

"The aviatrix hopped off from Miami March 8 ... On March 19, the intrepid American girl set her plane down in Santiago, Chile, and two days later lifted her plane across the Andes, negotiating the hazard in great style, the third woman pilot to accomplish that feat alone. Her next stop was to Buenos Aires, from which she flew by easy stages to Rio de Janeiro."

Ingalls left the San Juan airport with Clara Livingstone, the first woman to fly the Caribbean. They drove to San Juan, for sandwiches. Ingalls, a New York private school product, left Charleston at noon March 3, headed for Jacksonville. She was flying a Lockheed Vega and told reporters she "just had a yen to fly the Andes." She never arrived at the Jacksonville airport. Nothing was heard from her until she landed in Miami almost 24 hours later. She declined to say where she had spent the night.

"Now I can have one little secret, if I want to," she said. "Put it down to anything you like, but not to romance. That's out. "You see, a friend gave me a six-shooter when I left New York, so I had to just dip off some place and use it. I knew I would never have a chance to use it on the South American trip, so I went off, looking for adventure."
It fell to The Florida Times-Union to solve the mystery.

"While aviators scoured the coast between Charleston, S.C., and Jacksonville for some sign of Laura Ingalls, the 'missing' aviatrix was calmly eating roast beef in this tiny Florida town. "Armed with her hefty six-shooter and a pot of coffee, she spent the night alone in the cabin of her trim plane at the airport near here.

"Late Friday an airplane circled the airport and made off, only to return some time later and land. Out stepped a young woman who was willing to talk about anything other than her identity. "She had her plane refueled and then rode to the restaurant on the gas truck, asking Deputy Sheriff R.B. McKinley to keep an eye on the airplane ... She told him she was en route from New York to Miami and became lost."

McKinley said he had no idea who the mysterious flier was until he saw her picture in the Times-Union.

Why Laura Ingalls spent the night before her great adventure with a pot of coffee in her plane at a lonely airfield no one knows. Her 65-year-old record is believed to still exist, however: First woman to fly the Andes from Lake Butler.

Sadly, evidence presented on several websites does indicate an involvement with the National Socialist movement.

Laura Ingalls

"Starting in February 1942 the pro-Nazis had their hopes dashed. There was no panic in America just anger directed at the Axis nations and their conspirators and fifth column agents inside the country. Beginning in February several unregistered agents for Germany were arrested and sent to prison, the most notable being Laura Ingalls."

"The American First Committee was not founded originally to help the Nazis but under the direction of General Wood the America First Committee soon allowed admission of any pro-Nazi including William Dudley Pelley's Silver Shirts and Klan members and became the mouth piece of pro-Nazi propaganda. Even Laura Ingalls the Nazi agent was a member."

Laura Ingalls

In September 1939 Laura Ingalls, famous aviatrix, socialite, dancer, actress and popular and powerful speaker for the America First Committee "bombed" the White House with anti-war leaflets.

Ingalls received funding from Baron Ulrich von Gienanth, head of the Gestapo in the U.S. (his title was Second Secretary of the German Embassy in Washington). She also worked with Hans Thomson, German Charge' d'Affaires and Fritz Weidemann, the German Consul in San Francisco.

In 1942 Ingalls was arrested by the FBI for failing to register as an agent of the Third Reich and was sentenced to 8 months to 2 years imprisonment

In Our Own Backyard : Resisting Nazi Propaganda in Southern California, 1933-1945
Part 4. Beginnings of Resistance

"...Laura Ingalls was a paid agent of the German Government who worked as a prominent speaker for America First. She was convicted in 1942 for failure to register as a foreign agent. The JCC kept on file all correspondence and reports gathered by the agents."

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