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Frederick E. Humphreys

Frederick Erastus Humphreys (September 16, 1883 – January 20, 1941) was one of the original three military pilots trained by the Wright brothers and the first to fly solo.[1][2]

Frederick Erastus Humphreys
Born(1883-09-16)September 16, 1883
DiedJanuary 20, 1941(1941-01-20) (aged 57)
Parent(s)Alvah Jay Sperry Humphreys
Fannie Brush


Frederick was born on September 16, 1883 in Summit, New Jersey, the only son of Jay Humphreys and Fannie Brush.[1] He attended the Pennsylvania Military College, and won an appointment from New York to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He was made Cadet Captain, he lettered in fencing, and was the top eighth student of seventy-eight in the West Point Class of 1906. After graduation and commissioning, he was assigned to the Army Corps of Engineers and sent to Fort Riley, Kansas where he worked in bridge construction. 2nd Lt. Humphreys deployed to Cuba during the Pacification Expedition, and a year later, returned to attend the Engineer Officer Basic Course.

Humphreys volunteered for assignment to the Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps and was chosen to replace Benjamin Foulois in pilot training by the Wright brothers. On October 26, 1909, after three hours of instruction by Wilbur Wright, he became the first Army aviator to solo in a heavier-than-air craft, and thus the first pilot of the first progenitor of the United States Air Force. The Army's sole military airplane crashed on November 5, 1909, after which Humphreys returned to the Corps of Engineers.

In 1910, Humphreys resigned his commission to attend to his father's business, the Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Company, founded by his grandfather in 1853. Thereafter he served as an officer of the company, the last twelve years of his life as its president.[3]

National GuardEdit

In June 1915, Humphreys joined the New York National Guard's 22d Engineers Regiment as a First Lieutenant. He was called up with his regiment for Mexican Border service after Pancho Villa's raids in 1916, he served as an aide to Major General John F. O'Ryan, Commanding General of the New York (later 27th) Division. Shortly after his return to New York, the regiment was inducted into federal service for World War I.

After initial service with his regiment at the divisional training post at Spartanburg, South Carolina, he was recalled and was transferred to the Air Service in January 1918. After flight training at Rockwell Field in San Diego, California he was assigned to the first class of the School of Military Aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for advanced technical training. He remained at MIT as head of the school's Department of Practical Aircraft Design, and then was made school commander. At about the time of the Armistice, he was assigned to the newly founded Technical Section, Engineering Division, at McCook Field, in Dayton, Ohio, remaining there until he was demobilized in February 1919.

He returned to New York, and was appointed Colonel of the 102nd Army Engineers, a position he had until his retirement due to ill health on July 11, 1939. At the time he was the senior Colonel of New York. He was advanced to Brigadier General on the State Retired List.[3]


Recuperating from pneumonia in Miami Beach, Florida he had a heart attack and died in 1941. He was 57 years old, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.[2]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Frederick E. Humphreys: First Military Pilot, New York State Military Museum. Accessed February 19, 2011. "Frederick Erastus Humphreys was born September 16, 1883, at Summit, New Jersey, the only child of Jay and Fannie Brush Humphreys."
  2. ^ a b "F.E. Humphreys, 57, First Army Flier". New York Times. January 21, 1941. Retrieved 2007-06-21. Flew Initial Military Plane in 1909. Ex-Brig. General in National Guard Dies. Graduate of West Point. Retired Head of Humphreys Homeopathic Medicine Co. Founded by Grandfather
  3. ^ a b "Colonel F.E. Humphreys To Quit Military Post". Associated Press in the New York Times. May 26, 1939. Retrieved 2007-06-21. Albany, New York; May 25, 1939 (Associated Press) The resignation application of Colonel Frederic E. Humphreys, 102d Engineers, New York National Guard, senior officer of his rank in the State, awaited action of Governor Lehman today. He was appointed colonel October 28, 1920.

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