Harold M. Bixby (1890-1965) loved flying. He loved St. Louis. He loved St. Louis so much he named a plane after it, The Spirit of St. Louis. From his early days in balloons to his last log-book entry, he devoted most of his life to aviation.
Explore the history of aviation here through the eyes of Harold Bixby, including ballooning, the 1923 International Air Races in St. Louis, early air mail, Bixby’s relationship with Charles Lindbergh and his famous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Bixby’s pioneering years in China in the ‘30s, establishing the first air mail and passenger routes with the China National Aviation Corp., a subsidiary of Pan American Airways, and the preparations for the first trans-Pacific flight in the China Clipper in 1935.
Bixby remained active in aviation as a technical advisor well after his retirement from PAA in 1955 as a vice-president. In his later years, conservation in Florida absorbed him, including working with J.N. “Ding” Darling in establishing the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island and in efforts to control erosion on Captiva Island, his winter home.
I am thoroughly captivated by Benjamin Barrett’s book about the life and work of his grandfather, Harold Bixby, one of the most important figures in the development of aviation around the world. [Bixby's] love of flying encompassed the world, yet he was a self-effacing, modest man who took little credit for his own contributions.
Bixby was at the heart of the group [...] who raised the funds to build the “Spirit of St. Louis” for my father’s flight from New York to Paris in 1927, and the two men became close friends for a lifetime. It has been a joy to me to see their letters here, at first between “Mr. Bixby” and “Mr. Lindbergh” at the outset of the great “Spirit of St. Louis” adventure, but continuing as thoughtful, deeply informative and frequently humorous exchanges between “Bix” and “Slim” over the decades.
The book has been meticulously researched and beautifully presented, with careful arrangements of photographs, maps, letters and records for the reader to pore over. This is, first of all, a labor of love and hard work on the part of Ben Barrett in honor of his grandfather, but it is also a real gift to the history of aviation, and to those of us who remember the aviation pioneers.
A spectacular and insightful collection about one of the most important, and perhaps least known, figures in the development of American aviation. Harold Bixby, main backer of Lindbergh’s world-changing trans-Atlantic mission, applied his diplomatic and managerial leadership, vision, and unshakable faith in air transport at senior positions with Pan American Airways during its pioneering decades. In China, Latin America, across the Atlantic and Africa, Bixby oversaw and overcame profound challenges to spread the wings of democracy around the world. Rich in images and correspondence with other major players of the day, Ben Barrett has given us a rare look behind the scenes at the creation of the global air age.
John H. Hill, Assistant Director, Curator-in-Charge of Aviation, SFO Museum
Benjamin C Barrett is one of 17 grandchildren of Harold and Elizabeth Bixby. He is a native of Great Barrington, Massachusetts where he grew up in a family sawmill business, and owns and operates Berkshire Veneer Company, a wholesale/retail wood veneer business established in 1997. He is married and spends countless hours outside working on firewood, gardening and bird watching. As the “self- appointed family historian,” he is constantly in search of historical items relating to the Bixby family.