Charles Dollfus
Charles Dollfus
Original Drawing by J. Noetinger
By Courtesy of J. Noetinger & Pierre Dennez

  L'Aviation Française
des Hommes et des Ailes

     Charles Dollfus, aeronaut, historian, longtime conservator of the Museum of the Air, is deceased on 3 July 1981 ending a life entirely devoted to aeronautics. It is an irrevocable loss for France and particularly for the Museum of the Air which owes him so much.
     Born on March 31, 1893 in Paris, Charles Dollfus was interested even in childhood in the things of the air, and went for his first ride in a balloon in 1911. In 1913 he acquired a balloon pilot's licence. Although reformed in 1914, he managed in 1917 to be taken as a " voluntary special volunteer " in the Navy as a balloon specialist. He had the opportunity to serve aboard an airship and thus was able to obtain his military licence as airship pilot in 1918. The following year, Captain Hirschauer was charged to create the Museum of the Air and requested Charles Dollfus to care take charge of the collections and the historical activities of the " Academy of the Aeronautical Hardware ", the first name of the Museum of the Air. In 1927 Cne Hirschauer was assigned to other functions leaving Charles Dollfus the responsibility for the Museum of aeronautics, located in Meudon.
     From 1936 to 1944, part of the collection was located in a large room of the new Ministry for the Air on Victor boulevard. In spite of the bombardments and the German presence, the collections escaped destruction, thanks to vigilance of Charles Dollfus who remained on the spot.
     The good taste of Charles Dollfus for all the artifacts that were associated with ballooning in general, insures that the Museum of the Air will come to house a great assortment of earthenware, prints, curios and furniture. With the passing of years, this will constitute a unique collection in all the world.
     Charles Dollfus was also keenly interested in the beginnings of the mechanical sports. As a contemporary of the pioneers, he took advantage of his situation to collect the invaluable reminiscences of the pioneers of aviation.
The number of the planes in the collection increases the lack of sufficient space is cruelly felt. Charles Dollfus fought in order to find a site worthy accomodating the exceptional collections which he knew to pile up. In 1958, having reached the age limit, he was obliged to retire. He will have the consolation to finally see, under development, the installation in Le Bourget of a large Museum of the Air, of which he had always dreamed .
     In spite of the many hours devoted to the Museum, Charles Dollfus was at the same time an impassioned and creative aeronautical historian. Many of his works still appear in first place of the history of aviation. The History of Aeronautics, written in collaboration with Stopped and published in 1932., has always been the unequalled " Bible " for the researchers. Other works are authoratative, such as The Aeronautical Years of 1919 to 1939.
     His passion for ballooning, which had involved him since 1911, never weakened and he continued making flights until 1978.
He participated in all of the air sports as a pilot or passenger and was the first French passenger to carry out the double crossing of the South Atlantic on board the Graf Zeppelin.
     The life of Charles Dollfus was the testimony of an enthusiastic passion and creative setting with the service of aviation and its history.
His last gesture was to present to the Museum del' Air, under very favorable conditions, his personal collection of aeronautical objects, one of most significant existing in the world in 1978. The Pégase review and the Friends of the Museum of the Air present to his family their sincere condolences and send to them all their sympathy.
Editor's Note: I translated this article from the French, (with the help of the Alta Vista translation machine,) which I found on the website of L'Aviation Française. If you read French and prefer the article in its orginal form just click on:
L'Aviation Française

via email from Charles Dollfus III, 8-9-03
     I can't help you with any further information other than Charles Dollfus was my cousin. I'm Charles E. Dollfus, III and I found the article interesting.
      I have a note from Charles Dollfus of Paris to my grandfather. It seems Charles of Paris was over here ballooning and was involved in an automobile wreck in Chicago, IL. He spent some time in the hospital and my grandfather contacted him. He wrote back that we were, indeed kin. I have that note.
Charles E. Dollfus
Greenville, SC

Charles Dollfus
Charles Dollfus Lands Near New Radnor, July, 1914
Courtesy of LaurenceSmith, 2-6-04
Via email from LaurenceSmith
     The great French ballonist and aviator Charles Dollfus landed in a field belonging to the Vron Farm, near New Radnor, in July, 1914. William McKaig who took the photo above called it a French Aeroculb Race, but that's all the details I have. Who won? How far had he come? How many in the race?
     William McKaig, (son of the School Master), (1885-1932), had a cycle repair shop and produced postcards for the many cycle tourists who visited Mid Wales. I have collected about 250 images of people, places, events, markets, houses, babies, horses, taken in the first ten years of the 20's. After World War I he was employed by Alfred Watkins as works manager for producing his exposure meter called a Bec Meter. Watkins was also the inventor of the idea of Leylines and he and McKaig spent many days together plotting these trackways. McKaig did all the drawings for the Book "The Old Straight Track" (still in print.)
     I have made a selection of his best photos and they will be published in April this year. If someone can discover more about this balloon race, the I can include it.
Yours Sincerely,
LaurenceSmith, 2-6-04
Email address is:
Editor's Note: If anyone can help Laurence with more information, please contact him directly or contact me and I will forward your response to him. We will both be very appreciative for your help.

Charles Dollfus died in 1981
From The Early Birds of Aviation
Roster of Members
January 1, 1993

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

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