Oliver G. Simmons
Chairman, Reunion Committee
When this picture was taken, Oscar G. Simmons, (yes, that's who it is), never dreamed that two decades later he would be staying up nights planning a program for the reunion of the Early Birds at Cleveland during the National Air Races. But here he is--or was.
courtesy of Steve Remington - CollectAir

     If you search for "Oliver G. Simmons", using the Google search engine, (3-15-05), you will find about 21 links. Perhaps the most helpful is the following.

Signal Corps No. 1
Purchasing and Supporting the Army's First Airplane
     "This story was written by Roger G. Miller who is an historian for the Air Force History, Bolling AFB, Washington, D.C. It was published in Air Power History/Fall 1994. It is based on research for "Keep 'Em Flying: Air Force Logistics from the Mexican Border to the Persian Gulf." It offers a detailed revue of the experiences of the Army with its first aeroplane. It contains the following reference to Oliver.
     "The practice of hiring technicians and specialists with aviation expertise also originated with the first Army airplane, although the military had long used civilian experts in technical areas. Oliver G. Simmons was the Army's first civilian airplane mechanic. Hired shortly after the Army bought the Wright machine, he accompanied Foulois to San Antonio. Described as an "expert machinist" by a San Antonio newspaper, Simmons was apparently responsible for the engine, and, assisted by Private Madole, did much of the work designing and constructing the wheeled landing gear that replaced the standard Wright skid system on Signal Corps No. 1. Simmons remained with the aviation detachment until mid-1911; he then went to work for Robert G. Collier, a wealthy sportsman and aviation advocate. Subsequently, Simmons designed an engine for Collier and reportedly became a private pilot."
     You can read the entire fascinating article by clicking on the title above.

Fort Sam Houston
Early 1910*
     This page on the USAF Museum Centennial of Flight website is primarily devoted to the story of "Signal Corps No. 1." the Wright Flyer which was the first aeroplane purchased by the Army. It offers only a brief mention of Simmons, but offers a history of the first plane, which includes a reference to the Lahm and Humphreys crash on 5 November 1909 and to the experiences of Lieutenant Foulois and his crew during those early days. It also provides a number of very helpful links to related subjects. You can access the page by clicking on the title above.

By George Chevalier
     Oliver is mentioned in this story. You will also find some other familiar names. Early Birds Clarence DeGiers and Robert Fowler and several other early fliers. Click on:
Oliver Simmons

Oliver G. Simmons
     Last April 12 shots rang out over Arlington Cemetery, the mournful bugle sounded and the flag of our country was folded above the grave of Oliver G. Simmons, just over the wall from Fort Myer reservation where Selfridge lost his life and Orville Wright delivered Army airplane No. 1. After a long illness he had died at the Bethesday naval Hospital, April 9.
     Fo him might well be claimed the title of "First Air Force Mechanic." He reported to the Signal Corps Oct. 14, 1909, as a machinist and was the civilian member of the detachment which serviced the first Army Wright airplane at College Park when Wilbur Wright soloed Lieutenants Lahm and Humphreys and where Lieutenant Foulois had similar instruction from Wright and Humphreys.
     Mr. Simmons went along with Army airplane No. 1 when it was shown at the Chicago Electrical Trades Exposition and from there to Fort Sam Houston where Lieut. Foulois continued flying No. 1. Over the spring months of 1910 he built a wheeled landing gear for the machine to replace the skid and rail system of the Wrights.
     Simmons continued with the one-man, one-plane air service into the spring o9f 1911 when the Signal Corps accepted the loan of a new model Wright from Robert J. Collier, which Lieut Foulois used in a series of outstanding flights and long-distance reconnaissances. Collier's war photographer, the late Jimmie Hare, was on the border, too, and with the acquirement by the Army of a new plane and the return of Collier's Laredo Hare wrote Simmons to offer a job at the Collier estate "Rest Hill," Wickatunk, N. J.
     Lieut. Foulois sought to hold Simmons in the service and appealed to the Chief Signal Officer for a raise to $2,000 a year but despite his project for a maintenance organization under Simmons the CSO said "No" for this "best aeronautical machinist in the United States." Simmons left July 14, 1911, accepting the Collier offer, provided he flew. At Dayton Simmons was given time by Orville and Wilbur Wright and Al Welsh. He returned to Wickatunk, soloed and passed his FAI No. 145 tests, May 18, 1912. He flew the Collier plane, with and without Collier and his guest as passengers, for some time and designed and built an aircraft engine.
     The spring of 1912 pontoons were substituted for the land gear when Walter Brookins gave Collier flying instructions, and a shed was built at Seidler's beach.
     On July 4, 1912, Simmons and acting Mayor Garretson of Perth Amboy flew a sack of mail from South Amboy to Perth Amboy, the first air mail in New Jersey State history. In 1935 a bronze tablet was unveiled at the South Amboy post office.
     In the course of time he patented various machines and machine tool parts, the steel wheel, sold to a Detroit manufacturer, being one of them. For ten years, 1926,1936, he was president and general manager of the National Tool Co. of Cleveland, later retiring.
     He is survived by his widow Mrs. Dual L. Simmons, daughter; Olive Simmons and Mrs. Tom Lovell, and a sister, Miss Mary E. Simmons.
     He was born in Philadelphia, July 14, 1878, to George O. and Eller D. Simmons. Enlisting in the Signal Corps he served in the Philippines 1899-1902. He married Dual Leaman of Rockville, Md., July 12, 1904, competed his education at Catholic University, Washington and then returned to the Signal Corps to launch his career in aeronautics.
courtesy of Steve Remington - CollectAir


Ralph, I was trying to ascertain if your OG Simmons is a gent I am attempting to get more data on.
Thus far I have learned my O.G.Simmons grew up in Junction City, Ohio near Lancaster, Ohio. Eventually moved to Guernsey County Ohio Wheeling Township in the 1930s and was farming for a living.
Simmons was an avid radio ham operator, he enjoyed morse code & short wave and had a battery powered setup at his home location. He was licensed as W8JGC and after the 1930's he disappears. No longer licensed. OG had a gas well on the farm and could crack some cheap fuel for the car, you could smell the exhaust for hours after he visited.
It is a long shot but I wonder if your man is my man? I have no date of birth, I checked Guernsey Co courthouse for property in Mr. Simmons name and found none. He did not turn up in the Guernsey Co Health dept. death records. Those that knew O G stated he was an older man (1930's) Probably born in the late 1800's. They did not recall ever of hearing anything about flying or aircraft in general in their conversations.
Can you tell me anything about Oliver G. that may tie him into my area the State of Ohio?
Thanks in advance for any assistance you may have in this matter.
Regards, Bob Ballantine Warren, Ohio
FOLLOWUP (7-13-01)
Dear Dr. Cooper;
That was outstanding that you could return my request so soon. No, I do not have a picture of O.G.Simmons but if by chance I would, you would be the first to receive it.
O.G.Simmons is a part of our local amateur radio history of Guernsey County Ohio. I am sure more information will turn up eventually. Yes, by all means please include my request in any webpage, email or assistance that you might give. I am very pleased that we found you on a search engine on the internet. I have a feeling that we are conversing about the same individual because Junction City Ohio is near Columbus and Highway 40 which was the big east west highway in those days. Dayton and Wright Patterson are not far from the west side of Columbus. I believe Simmons got his start in mechanics at W.P. Airfield. Amateur radio operators usually have a fond regard for the aircraft industry and many are pilots and mechanics.
Thanks for listening and congratulations on your fine data available on the internet.
Sincerely, Bob Ballantine, POB 149 Warren, Ohio 44482
Email: palm3@nlcomm.com

Oliver G. Simmons died in 1948
From The Early Birds of Aviation
Roster of Members
January 1, 1993

Editor's Note:
If you have any information on this Early Bird,
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper

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