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We have come a long way since the idea of taking to the air in flight was merely a dream by people. The majority of the early inventions were doomed to failure. Gradually, and with much experimentation, dreams of aviation became a reality. Documentation of some of those pioneer efforts comes in many forms, such as the written word, film, drawings, and paintings.
I recently discovered twelve prints by the artist Charles H. Hubbell. His depictions of airplanes in my possession range from 1909 to 1957. They have pinholes on each corner, and were in my brothers' shared bedroom when we were children. Model airplanes were also on display, suspended from the ceiling.
These rolled-up prints had been kept and were among my mother's possessions. It made me curious to know more about them and the artist who created them.
Charles H. Hubbell
Like my brothers, young Charles also built model airplanes. His interest went far beyond my brothers. I read that he traded some of his paintings in place of paying for flight lessons.
In 1923 he graduated from the Cleveland School of Art, and in 1927, he got his pilot's license. He was in the U.S. Naval Air Service during the first world war.
Charles became a successful commercial artist specializing in detailed illustrations of aircraft. These prints in my possession are merely a tiny fraction of what he produced over time. His art ranges from hundreds of oil paintings, to watercolor paintings, and drawings.
The Air Force Academy, the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, museums, and even more places have his art on display. Aviation buffs have undoubtedly collected his art and have his pieces on display in their homes and offices.
Charles H. Hubbell's name is widely known to many people due to his aviation works of art on calendars. Air races between many of those early airplanes drew crowds of interested people. Air shows today still draw interested parties.
Charles Hubbell did many aircraft paintings for air race posters publicizing the National Air Races. Hubbell's excellent and detailed art drew the attention of Fred Crawford, the chairman of Thompson Products Inc., who was a big promoter of the National Air Races.
The Thompson Products company manufactured automobile and aircraft components. That company merged with Ramo-Wooldridge to form TRW in 1958. Our aerospace industry today, among others, still benefits from expertise stemming from that original company.
The result of that introduction with Fred Crawford was that Charles painted the winners of the Thompson aircraft races, along with other historic aircraft, for a calendar each year. The first calendar was in 1939, and the last one produced was when Charles retired in 1969, except for four more calendars touting the "Best of Hubbell."
Aviation Artist and Historian
The particulars of every airplane that Charles Hubbell portrayed also had exacting details ranging from who flew them, the dimensions, engine specifics, and more. As one example, at the top of this page is the image of the first U.S. military plane in 1909. The copyright on all of these images is 1957 Thompson Products, Inc., Cleveland 17, O.
Here are the facts regarding this plane. On the left is the following: "USAF—50 Years" (No.1)
Fanning out in the middle under the image are the following details:
- Pilots—Lt. Frank P. Lahm and Orville Wright
- Plane—Wright Model "A" ("Wright Flyer")
- Span—36 Ft., 4 In.
- Length—28 Ft.
- Height—8 Ft., 3 In.
- Gross Weight—1,200 Lbs.
- Useful Load—46 Lbs.
- Top Speed—44 M.P.H.
- Cruising Speed—42.5 M.P.H.
- Range—125 Miles
- Service Ceiling—140 Ft. (Approx.)
- Bomb Load—None
- Engine—4-Cyl. 30 H.P. Wright
At the bottom of each print are seven insignias dated 1917, 1918, 1921, 1942, two for 1943, and the final one from 1947. You can see just how exact the information about each aircraft is by this one illustration. Every other print in my possession has equally informative summations.
Perhaps now you know why Charles H. Hubbell is reputed to be one of the most respected artists and historians when it comes to the history of early flight.
Author and Consultant
In addition to his artistic renderings, Charles H. Hubbell is also the author of several books with the following titles: Famous Planes and Pilots, Record Breakers of the Air, and Panorama of Flight: Aviation History in Paintings.
He also lent his expertise when it came to consulting for what is now known as the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum. You can read more about that institution under sources and see some of it in the video below.
I hope you have enjoyed learning about this most talented artist who has shared his love of aircraft with many people worldwide.
- Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: Charles Herman Hubbell
- Wikipedia: Frederick C. Crawford
- Harvard Business Review: A Voice of Experience: An Interview with TRW's Frederick C. Crawford
- Massachusetts Air and Space Museum: Thompson Trophy Air Races 1930-1939
- Western Reserve Historical Society: History of the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Peggy Woods