Phil Parmelee
Parmelee AT BELMONT, 1910
Photo and text from Collection of J. N. Parmelee

Phil Parmelee
Parmelee and his Model B
Library of Congress Collection,


Unidentified Newsclipping from Collection of J. N. Parmelee

     Columbus, O., Nov., 7.---Phil O. Parmelee, of Michigan, one of the Wright aeroplane operators today made the fastest, cross-country flight ever made in a bi-plane. Parmelee flew from Dayton direct to Columbus, passing over South Charleston and London. The airline distance as given out by the Wrights is 65 miles, and the flight was made in 66 minutes.
     Parmelee carried $1,000 worth of silk for a drygoods firm, and it is stated that this is the first time that the bi-plane has been put to such commercial use. Thousands of people here watched the bi-plane sail over the south end of the city and land at the driving park. Parmelee flew at a height of 3,000 feet.

Benjamin D. Foulois
Benjamin D. Foulois & Philip Parmalee - 1911
     The plane is most likely the Model B that belonged to magazine publisher Robert J Collier and it was this plane that Parmalee & Foulois borrowed from Collier to fly along the Mexican border and crashed into the Rio Grande.
Comments from Pete Jones, 2-19-08
Library of Congress Collection, 9-17-07

Phil Parmelee
R. Joseph Collier and Friends
C.J. Edwards, J.C. Eberhardt (Dayton Aeroplane Club),
aviation enthusiast William J. Hammer, and R. Joseph Collier (1876-1918),
publisher and president of the Aero Club of America.
Parmele flew RJ Collier's plane (Collier pictured on right).
William J Hammer was Aeronautic Society of New York, Second VP
(Source: Flickr Commons project, 2009)
Library of Congress Collection,

But Aviator Parmelee First Made World's Record
Romance Will Have Its Culmination.
Balky Auto Was Responsible fo the Meeting Which Will Result in a Mariage.
Unidentified Newsclipping from Collection of J. N. Parmelee
     Aviator Philip Parmelee of Marion, Mich., who established a world's record for cross-country flight from Dayton to Colombus, O., Nov. 7, is at Mancelona arranging with Miss Edith Deitz of that place for their marriage which is to take place in a few days. The marriage is the culmination of a pretty romance started in a strange manner.
     Aviator Parmelee has been with the Wright Bros. since last June, Orville engaging him after meeting him in Montgomery. Ala., while Parmelee was in the employ of the Buick Automobile company.
     Philip Parmelee was born in Hubbartston, Ionia county, in 1886, residing there until he was fourteen years of age when his parents moved to Marion where Philip remained three years and where his mother accidentially was killed in a runaway. During this time young Parmelee attracted the attention of everyone in Marion by the invention of an engine which for some reason was never patented. The piece of work however, secured for him a position with the Richmond & Holmes Machine company St. Johns, Mich., where he rmained for eighteen months after which he went to Mancelona to work for the Eclipse Motor company, remaining there two years. The Buick company employed him until he became identified with the Wright Bros.
     While with the Eclipse Motor company young Parmelee took an auto out on a Sunday, the machine stopping on a crosswalk of the main street in Mancenola. Parmelee was forced to crawl under the machine to adjust it and while in that position the girl who is to be his wife passed. On his back and blinking with the sun shining in his eyes Parmelee politely said to the young woman, who stopped a moment in passing;
     "Wait a minute miss and I'll get this machine out of your way."
Had to Have Record

     The next Sunday Parmelee took the girl for a ride. When the young aviator entered the employ of the Wright Bros. he made his sweetheart a visit at Mancelona. When he had established a world's record he could claim her, she said. That's how it is at Mancelona.
     Parmelee's official time for his record flight is fifty-seven minutes for the sixty-five miles he flew, carrying $1,000 worth of silk for the Morehouse Startens Company. The company has presented the aviator with a bunch of neckties made from the silk he carried through the air, the first silk ever delivered in such a mammer.
     Parmelee is a member of the Aero Club of America, composed of but twenty-five members. All the members with the exception oif hiimself and Walter Brookins, are married men. Miss Deitz's father, a pioneer of Antrim county, died recently. Her mother conducts the business left by the father with the assistance of Miss Dietz. -- Evening Press.

Phil Parmelee Pilots Honeymoon Trip in the Air
Unidentified Newsclipping from Collection of J. N. Parmelee
     Phil Parmelee, a former Marion boy, now in Los Angeles, Califronia, has the distinction of being the first person to pilot a newly married couple on their honeymoon.
     Neil Cochran and Miss Leona Cowan were married, seated in Parmelee's biplane and immediately after the ceremony soared into the air from Los Angeles toward Catalina Island, thirty miles over the sea and returned to Los Angeles.


Newsclipping from Collection of J. N. Parmelee
     Not a great number of Marionites recognized that a former Marion boy was pictured in Monday's Detroit Free Press at the sticks of one of the early Wright planes. The plane, claimed to be the first bomber was pictured in 1911 and the few persons who knew Philip Parmelee in his boyhood, in this vicinity, had no trouble in instantly recognizing the one who brought quite a bit of publicity to this locality.
     Phil, as the natives called him, was the son of C. W. Parmelee who came to Winterfield township about 1900 and bought land and established a saw mill. Phil, then in his teens, was first, last and all the time a born wizard. He first built a tiny electric motor, using as a starter for his first armature, a copper shell from a BB cartridge. This was a success, and at one time he had in his workshop on the mill property, over 20 small motors. Then he felt he could enlarge on his accomplishments and build a dynamo of sufficient output to light the home and mill. This caused quite a bit of comment and his eagerness to do bigger things resulted in his building of a steam auto, using a buggy body and bicycle wheels, building his steam boiler and planning the entire gasoline heating system.
     A few of the old timers will remember the commotion his trips into town caused along Main street.
     Soon he became interested in the "silent" picture machines of that day. He finally procured a job in Maucelons, operating a picture machine nights and working in a machine shop during his days. After some months in the latter capacity, the owner of the ship became enthused with Phil's mechanical ability, and being fair mninded, and wishing to see such a lad get out into bigger fields, he urged a brother, then in an official capacity with the Buick auto plant in Flint, to make a place for this newly found genius. In time Phil was taken into the Flint organization and continued his brilliant knowledge of things mechanical., During the summer Louis Chevrolet's powerful racing car came to the plan for overhauling and tuning up for the winter racing season the coming winter. Becoming aware that such a car was on the property, Phil itched to get behind the wheel of the world's greatest speed demons on wheels. A way was planned to come back to the plant an evening and run the racer out and about. Phil had a chum who thought himself quite a knowing person as concerned autos , and the two planned to drive the car over to Flushing, some 19 miles in the moonlight. Before they took off it was agreed that Phil would drive to Flushing, his pal to drive on the return trip. When they arrived in Flushing they consulted their timepiece and found that Phil had covered the nineteen miles in 20 minutes. His buddy then refused to even ride back to Flint, but finally agreed to do so, but not to drive.
     At the conclusion of several months with the Buick plant, Phil was chosen as a mechanic for an entry in the then famous Glidden tour driven each year from the south to New York City. The winning car was the one supervised by Parmelee. Upon arrival in the big town he received a telegram advising him that he had been chosen from a large field of applicants as one of three to join Wirh\ght Brothers in the pioneering of the flying game. For months he was stationed at Dayton, Ohio and the man fitted the game as the game became the man. One of his early flights established the first carrying of merchandise when he landed a shipment of silk on opening of a sale in a large Cleveland store which received much ballyhoo.
     Phil was now in the company of Lincoln Beechy, Hoxie and those who were the first to accomplish worthwhile doings as well as stunts for Wright Brothers. As time went on, Parmelee, like his flying mates, leased planes at $300 a day to do exhibition and stunts all over the states. As well as paying this rental each flyer was compelled to furnish his own parts and to return the plane at Dayton in first class condition. At that time it ws no trouble to make almost daily exhibition flights and the nights so long as light enough to see without artificial lighting were used to fly from one city to the next for appearances. Phil, a bashful blond of fine physical proportions became a hero from one coast to the other; and brought out and perfected several very valuable safety and important devices which were instantly recognized in the industry. It was while experimenting with a stabilizer in Walla Walla, Washington that treacherous air currents caused his untimely death in a fall of over 2,000 feet while he was scarcely twenty years of age.
     Philip Parmelee is buried at St. Johns, Michigan. At his funeral the several outstanding flyers of his time were lavish in their praises for his wizzardry in mechanics and free to admit he had made the profession much safer for all through his uncanny ability to instantly realize shortcomings in the frail and simple machines of those days.
     Those who recognized his likeness in the Free Press picture undoubtedly remember his fine personality and happy disposition. Scarcely ever does a country boy go from the unknown to the heights Phil attained in the few short years and accomplish the recognized merit that was all Phil's so early in life.

You will find a brief biography of Parmelee on the
The Michigan Historical Markers Web Site.
You can access it by clicking on: Parmelee.

Encouraged by the success of its previous ventures particularly those of 1910, the Aero Club of St. Louis decided to stage two air meets in 1911. Although the city's aviation fame came from free ballooning, both tournaments would concentrate on heavier-than-air craft, in keeping with the latest developments in aviation. St. Louis had put in its bid for the annual Gordon Bennett Race, but it lost out to kansas City. Pilots from the Aero Club of St. Louis, however, swept the first three places in the National Elimination Race, also held in Kansas City, on July 10: Frank P. Lahm in the St. Louis IV, John Beery in the Million Population Club, and William Assmann in the Miss Sophia. All three thereby earned places on the American team for the international race, in which they figured second, fourth and fifth, respectively.
     On September 5, 1911, Albert Bond Lambert signed an agreement with A. Roy Knabenshue, manager of the Wright Company, whereby the Wrights would supply three pilots and biplanes in return for 25 percent of the gross receipts of the meet. The three aviators - Howard Gill, J. Clifford Turpin, and P.O. Parmelee - were to fly every day but October 15, because of the rule of the Wright Company against Sunday flights. Also entered were Dr. Henry Walden of Mineola, Long Island, with his picturesque Antoinette monoplane; Horace Kearney and John D. Cooper of St. Louis with Curtiss biplanes; Alfred Elton and Andrew Drew of St. Louis with Wright biplanes; George Beatty; and Walter Brookins.

Appalachian Exposition, 1910
Collection of Charles A. Reeves, Jr.
Reproductions of Antique Postcards
and Related Posters
from Bob Davis, via email 4-23-02

Philip O. Parmelee was the pilot of the Wright Flyer at the Appalachian Exposition in Knoxville in 1910. This is documented by newspaper articles of each day the Flyer flew.
Bob Davis
  Editor's Note: The image of the post card above is provided by the Collection of Charles A. Reeves, Jr., for which I am very grateful. I invite you to visit his display of many related postcards and posters, by clicking on the link above. Afterward, I suggest that you visit his homepage and browse the many other sections which include Books, Maps, Postcards, Posters, Printer Information, Website Development, and Other Activities & Services.  

Phil Parmelee
Lieutenant M. S. Crissy, left, and Philip O. Parmalee, right, are seated in a
early Wright machine with the first explosive to be dropped from an airplane
at San Francisco, California, January, 1911
Photo and text from collection of Richard W. Bowler, 9-17-07
from Pete Jones, 2-19-08
      I haven't seen the picture of Parmalee & Lt. Myron Crissyand in over 25 years, I couldn't find it anywhere. I was glad to see it again. The Crissy/Parmalee picture is significant because it shows them in an early B with a double outrigger skid instead of the single outrigger(ie the Collier Model B) which became standard. A telltale sign of a double outrigger Model B is the bracing strut immediately by Parmalee's left hand. This bracing strut is also visible on the Model B in the photo of Parmalee with the bolt of silk. Most likely it's the same aircraft Parmelee was using. Also the aircraft Arch Hoxsey used to fly Theodore Roosevelt was a double outrigger Wright Model B. The double outrigger B, so I've read, were first produced in the spring of 1910 and superseded the Model A-B transitional aircraft which had the big canard in front and also a horizontal stabilizer in the back. The first pilots the Wrights trained were taught on the Wright A-B transitional, so those first pilots were acclimated with the big canard in front. In order to wean them off of the canard, the Wrights designed the double outrigger B so that the exhibition pilots would have 'something' out front to be familiar with. That double outrigger B, in pictures, still looks as if it wants its 'canard' installed. These double outrigger Bs were phased out in 1911 in place of the single outrigger(less structure in front) but a number of the double outrigger B aircraft survived until the first world war mostly at the Wrights training grounds at Huffman Prairie.

Third Cousin of Philip O. Parmelee,
Hello Ralph:
I read with interest your web page about early flight. My grandfather was a first cousin to Phil which makes me a third cousin. I actually met Phil's half sister, Hazel McKeachie, at the dedication ceremony of the historical marker in Lansing, MI., on May 19, 1979. It was a grand day and the guest speaker was Don Chaffee, father of the astronaut. I have tried to research as much as I can about Phil, who was a spectacular airman. There is a significant display about him at the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton. I have been to his grave in Matherton. What is your interest in him and how much do you know about his connection with the Wright Bros, and his aerial records and accomplishments? I would like to hear from you.
Gary McDowell, 8-14-02
Adrian, MI
Ralph: Thanks for the reply. You have my permission to use my email. Phil Parmelee was a very brave and adventureous young man. His accomplishments were many and he must have had a very strong drive to further the significance of air travel. Piloting the plane when the first bomb was dropped, piloting for the first aerial reconnaisance in a military effort, piloting the first aerial photography, setting many speed records, and perhaps most important, carrying the first cargo (silk) to show the world the role aviation could play in transportation and commerce. Thank you for all you have done to promote these heroes of the sky who changed the course of the world forever, and for the better.
Gary McDowell, 8-15-02

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