Louis William Greve
Louis William Greve
Official Portrait Taken for National Air Races, 1932
Photo Courtesy of Betsy Kidd
Researched and written by Betsy Kidd
Great Grandaughter of Lou Greve, 10-21-02

     Louis William Greve was a prolific inventor, an aviation pioneer, an industrialist, and a civic leader. Louis Greve was also known as Lou, L.W., and in the aviation arena many called him "Papa Greve" for his generosity and support.      He was born on November 2, 1882 in Cleveland, Ohio to Claus and Clara Greve. In 1900, he graduated from Cleveland's Central High School. Two years later, he went to work in his father's company, Cleveland Pneumatic Tool. He started as an office boy and continued to learn the pneumatic device field from bottom to top. In 1931, Lou succeeded his father as president of CPT.
     In 1903, Lou began submitting the first of his 46 patents. His first patent was awarded in 1904 for his impact tool design, now widely known as a "jack hammer". Some of his other personal patents include; early automotive shock absorbers (air springs), shock absorbers for aircraft (3), aircraft struts, aircraft shock absorbing pedestals, amphibian shock absorbers, aircraft shock absorbing struts (2), and landing wheel mountings for aircraft. One of Lou's shock absorbers for aircraft was manufactured as the "Aerol Strut". This was the first oleo-pneumatic shock absorbing struts for aircraft. In 1927, Lou sat on a board attached to the bracing struts of a taxiing plane to take motion pictures of the first experimental set of Aerols. This particular landing gear apparatus made take-offs and landings smoother and safer. Aerols would make landings for bombers and military aircraft viable on the limited, unsteady deck space of carriers. The first take-off of a bomber at sea was Aerol equipped. Aerols would become widely accepted and standardized for all sectors of aviation. Admiral Byrd's aircraft was outfitted with Aerols for his flight to the South Pole. In 1935, the first successful, retractable landing gear units were Aerols. Cleveland Pneumatic Tool built a separate company division, Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol, dedicated solely to landing gear development and production.
  Will Rogers  
  Left to Right: Will Rogers, Walter Lees, Bernarr McFadden and Louis Greve
August 24 to September 2, 1929
Photo From Lees Collection
Editor's Note:
The figure of Louis Greve was identified by Betsy Kidd,
his great grandaughter, 10-27-02

       In 1929, Lou was named president of The National Air Races, Inc. and vice president of the Cleveland National Air Race & Show Corporation, the two non-profit organizations set up to conduct the business details of the field events and exposition. He had played a major role in securing the two consecutive 5 year contracts for "the races" through the National Aeronautics Association and he would hold the title of president of both Cleveland National Air Race organizations from 1930 through 1939. Other aviation titles he would hold include: president of the Cleveland Chapter of the National Aeronautics Association and chairman and president of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce Committee on Aviation.  
1929 Women's Air Derby/Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol Trophy Race Via email from Betsy Kidd, 12-20-02
     Over the past few years, I have been researching my great grandfather, Louis W. Greve, who was deeply involved in the Cleveland National Air Races and early aviation innovation and progress. Primarily, I focused on the source of accurate data, The Cleveland National Air Races Archives, located at the Crawford Museum/Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland. During this time, I stumbled upon some 1929 Women's Air Derby material that seems to have been overlooked. The archival material that I have reviewed names Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie as the overall winner of the Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol Trophy Race/1929 Women's Air Derby from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio. She was awarded the Aerol Trophy (donated by Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company and Louis W. Greve). Ms Omlie had a total of 289.3 points of merit. The derby was divided into two groups (DW- heavy and CW- light) for prize money allocation. Upon conclusion in Cleveland, a merit point formula was utilized to determine the overall winner. The formula was as follows;
(Average speed in miles per hour) x 2.5
Cubic inch piston displacement = Figure of Merit

     Unfortunately, Ms. Omlie has not been historically recognised as the overall winner. Occassionally she is listed as the CW -light division winner. I feel this oversite needs correction and review. Ms. Louise Thaden has been historically credited as the victor. Ms. Thaden was first into Cleveland and was first in the DW - heavy class but upon final calculation received 273.2 points of merit which placed her second overall. I have not seen this particular view reflected in various books and articles that have been written in the past. The media reports probably played a large role in clouding the facts and final race results since the point formula calculations were necessary to determine the winner and it ended up not being a "first into the white winners circle" situation. The point formula gave all of the entrants a chance to win the race and the class divisions gave all a chance to win a cash prize. Ingenuity, navigation, overall mechanical fortitude, weather, and physical endurance were additional constituents. Another area of confusion is the name of the derby. I found these five names; The 1929 Women's Air Derby, The Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol Trophy Race, The Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Race for Women, Aerol Trophy Race, and The Powder Puff Derby. The latter is a nickname coined by Will Rogers that became popular in the media and successfully overshadowed the initial race name (The Cleveland Pneumatic Aerol Trophy Race which was a Women's Air Derby). The name "Aerol" in Aerol Trophy stands for air and oil and relates to the first oleo-pneumatic shock absorber. Louis W. Greve personally patented this particular landing gear apparatus and Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company manfactured the product. In closing, the key search words that revealed the majority of significant data in the archives were Aerol Trophy Race and Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Race. Please note that I have reviewed this material without bias in my search of material that involved Louis W. Greve.
Further questions can be directed to my e-mail - FlyRight65@aol.com
Thank you,
Betsy Kidd
       Lou firmly believed that women's increased participation in the field of aeronautics was imperative to aviation's progress and acceptance. In 1929, Lou donated the Aerol Trophy for the Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Race/Aerol Trophy Race for women pilots. This race was a derby that began in Santa Monica, California and concluded in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1930, the derby began in Long Beach, California and finished in Chicago, Illinois. Today, it is also known as the Women's Air Derby/National Women's Derby. At the 1931 races, it was established as a perpetual classic, free-for-all closed course women's race. Winners of the Aerol Trophy include: Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie (1929), Gladys O'Donnell (1930 & 1932), Maude Irving Tait (1931), and Mary "Mae" Haizlip (1933).
     In 1934, he also sponsored the $25,000 Louis W. Greve Trophy Race. The Greve Race was a high- speed closed course event. All airplanes "ships" were required to have a 550 cubic-inch (or less) engine displacement. The engine size restriction was implemented to encourage greater speed and efficiency in the lower-power airplane groups. This would also encourage aviation innovations other than sheer engine size and power. A victory would be dependant on pilot skill, airplane design, and luck. Winners of the Greve Trophy include: Lee Miles (1934), Harold Neumann (1935), Michael Detroyat (1936), R.A. Kling (1937), Tony LeVier (1938), and Art Chester (1939).
     The aviation arena was a tight knit group of aviation pioneers with a passion and vision of flight. During the "Nationals" Lou would open his summer home to aviators such as; Jimmy Doolittle, Roscoe Turner, Amelia Earhart, Charles and Anne Lindbergh and many other U.S. and foreign dignitaries.
     Louis William Greve passed away suddenly on February 2nd, 1942 with his wife, Elsie, at his side. The Cleveland News Obituary, on February 3rd, 1942, quoted Fredrick Crawford as saying "Mr. Greve was very thorough in detail and far-seeing in his planning. His was the inspiration, which brought the air races here and kept them going. Despite his accomplishments, he was completely unassuming." Major John Berry, who also worked closely with Lou in conducting the races said, " Mr. Greve was one of the most vital factors in the development of aviation."

Louis William Greve passed away suddenly on February 2nd, 1942

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

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