Biography; Major William Bryan Robertson, Missouri, sponsor of Charles Lindbergh !

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Major William Bryan Robertson, Missouri!   


 


When you go back in time and review history, you'll find that one of America's most colorful and earliest prospectors in aviation was William Robertson. He became an aviation engineer trained by the government during the first World War. His early visions of aviation, after the war made him one of the leading promoters of using air craft as a practicable means of transportation. For this he has done more than anyone else to make St. Louis one of the greatest centers of the aviation industry. He also was one of the principal backers of Charles Lindbergh in his world famous Trans-Atlantic flight. He inaugurated a new era in transportation in china, by his contract with China National Aviators Corporation to setup three air mail services.William Robertson is probably one of the biggest unknown pioneers in aviation history.

William was born in Nashville, Tennessee, 1893, his father, John J Robertson was a native of Nashville. He later moved his family to St Louis in 1903, where he died at the age of seventy-five on November 4th, 1928. John Robertson represented a very historic Tennessee and Virginia family. For most of his life he was very active in the grain business, but was retired at the time of his death. He was also very active in his family life, at the time of his death his surviving children were: William B, Frank H., president of the Robertson Aircraft Corporation; John M., president of the Planters Realty Company of St. Louis; Dan R., a professional aviator; Mrs. C. R. Powell, Mrs. E. W. Lane, Mrs. G. W. Bonnell, Mrs. J. F. Kelly, Mrs. J. F. Martin, Mrs. E. R. Adams and Mrs. Harry Perkins.

William was a graduate from a business college in St. Louis and had little more than started his business career, when he volunteered in April, 1917, and joined the Aviation Corps. His military training started at Fort Sam Houston, in Texas, and then to Kelly Field, San Antonio, and later to Dayton, Ohio. He finished his schooling in airplane engineering and military aviation at Cornell University of New York. Upon graduation he was made an instructor, first at Camp Dick in Dallas, and then Caruthers field, Fort Worth. In Fort Worth he was given a commission as second lieutenant in the Army Aviation Corps. He then was assigned to overseas duty, but before he could ship out the armistice was declared in November, 1918.

Beside William his brother Frank was also trained to fly in the military. After the war they both decided that aviation would be their way of life. They established a base out of Forest Park, St. Louis, and used every available opportunity at flying they could get with air navigation still in a crude stage. They would haul passengers, entertained at county fairs, any work possible to support their cause. They also worked enthusiastically with a Major Albert B. Lambert to educate the public about the possibilities of air transportation. Major Lambert bought a good portion of the Lambert-Saint Louis field in St. Louis in 1922, and soon after the Robertson boys moved their headquarters there.

One of the most significant events to take place was when the Robertson boys was awarded the Saint Louis-Chicago air mail contract. Under the name of Robertson Aircraft Corporation they made their first mail run, the pilot they hired was an up and coming youthful man by the name of Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh would soon be aspired to fly across the Atlantic to Paris and win the prize for the first successful effort in that direction. Major Robertson and his associates furnished the necessary financial backing for the trip, with Robertson receiving the credit for being the original sponsor.

The first air mail service in China was provided by a contract between Major Robertson and Minister Sun Fo, minister of railways and president of the China National Aviators Corporation, signed April 19, 1929. Major Robertson's party left January 26, 1929, and consisted of two pilots, two machinist's, and an interpreter. Four airplanes were also take along. Three routes were surveyed, one from Nanking to Peking by way of Tientsin, one from Shanghai to Hankow and the third from Hankow to Canton. By meeting their six month deadline, they inaugurated a new era in transportation in the Orient.This one item alone will indicate the tremendous improvement in transportation and communication effected by Major Robertson's pioneer work in China. The result was what took fourteen days to deliver mail between Canton and Hankow, would now only took six hours.

By 1930 Major Robertson was the president of the Curtiss-Robertson Airplane plant at the St. Louis Airport in St Louis county. Due to the services that Major Robertson and his brother had rendered on behalf of aviation the town site of Anglum was changed to Robertson on November 1, 1929. His brother Frank H. Robertson was the president of the Robertson Aircraft Corporation, a separate plant at the same airport. This plant handled the earlier commercial aviation and mail contracts of the Robertson's. In the fall of 1928, Major Robertson negotiated and signed contracts for sixteen Million dollars between the Curtiss-Robertson Airplane Manufacturing Company and the Curtiss Flying Service Incorporated. These contracts called for the complete output of the Airplane Manufacturing Company, involving the manufacture and disposal of some 4000 Robin planes for carrying passengers.

Some of the other positions of Major Robertson were; President, Aviation Exploration Incorporated, President, St Louis Air Terminals, St Louis, Vice President, Curtiss-Wright Sales Corporation, Director, Curtiss Flying Service Incorporated, President, Aviation Credit Corporation, Director, Robertson Airplane Service, Robertson, Missouri, Director, St Louis Aircraft Corporation and Director, Evans Glider Club, Detroit, Michigan.

Major Robertson organized and was commander, with the rank of Major, of a aviation unit of the Missouri National Guard. He also had the rank of captain in the Reserve Officers Corps of the United States Army, Aviation Service.

On May 3, 1924, he married Miss Marjorie Livingston, of Saint Louis. They had one son, James D. L. Robertson.


Sources: Missouri Mother of the West, Volume 5
The American Historical Society, Inc.
Published 1930

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