Although there is no documentation that Amelia Earhart ever visited Cranbrook, records of one of her visits to Michigan are housed in the Cranbrook Archives. The photographs and telegram illustrated here are from the Gliders, Inc. Records and help tell not only the story of Amelia Earhart, but also that of glider aviation in Oakland County, Michigan.
The first glider plane was designed in 1852, but it was not until September 1928 that Gliders, Inc. became the first company in the United States that exclusively manufactured motorless aircraft. Gliders, Inc. was founded by William E. Scripps, the younger brother of Cranbrook’s Ellen Scripps Booth. The factory, located in Lake Orion, Michigan, produced first and second class gliders, and the “Detroit Gull” became the glider of choice for many gliding clubs across the country. Gliders, Inc. was also called upon to do much of the early glider pilot training – over 800 men and women in 1929.
In December 1928, Scripps invited Amelia Earhart to his estate, then known as Wildwoods. Earhart accepted and in February 1929, took her first glider ride at the “Scripps Field” in a Gliders, Inc. Primary Training Glider.
Additional female aviation facts:
In November of 1929, Earhart and 25 other women gathered at Curtiss Airport in New York to establish The Ninety-Nines, Inc. – an aviation organization for any woman who held a pilot’s license. Earhart was the first president.
Maxine Dunlap of San Francisco was the first woman to earn a glider license in 1929. Hers was a third-class glider license. Anne Lindbergh followed in 1930 with a flight that earned her third-class, second-class, and first-class licenses. She was the first woman in the US to earn a first-class glider license. Check back next week for a post about Lindbergh’s connection to Cranbrook, and yes, she DID visit here!
– Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist