ivanpwheaton

ivanpwheaton

I own a collection of about five scrapbooks chock full of nearly 100-year-old photographs, taken by my grandfather, Ivan Pangburn Wheaton. He led a fascinating life, and very few outside of our family and those who knew him well have ever had the chance to view these photos.

Ivan was the son of a wealthy portrait photographer, Van Benschotten Wheaton, in Amsterdam, New York. Ivan's photos reflect decent composition, which I think sets the collection apart from most people's photo scrapbooks. The scrapbooks follow his career in automobile racing from around 1914 - 1915, and his flying career from 1916 through World War One, and ending in 1920, following the deaths of two of his flying friends.

He rubbed shoulders with some of the worlds earliest and most famous aviators and was a member of a very exclusive club of aviators known as the Early Birds. These (mostly) men flew solo in an aircraft on or before December 17th, 1916. He worked for Glen Curtiss, and wined and dined with these fellow aviators well into his seventies.

As a boy, I played aviator in his flight suit, goggles, gloves and helmet (when he was away from home) which were later donated to and were prominently displayed at the Marine Corps Museum, in Quantico, Virginia. I recall thinking that he was a bragadocious old guy regaling me with his feats of daring-do, until I was glassy eyed. Now that I've been studying my way through all his photos, I realize that he wasn't just an old windbag; He lived a fascinating, dangerous, and adventure-filled life!

His life story is truly amazing, and yet so typical of many men of his age, it is nearly completely forgotten. Without the photographic evidence of his early career, extraordinarily few people would ever hear the name Ivan Pangburn Wheaton. Not that his name is particularly important, but his life and these photographs reflect the lives of many of his compatriots.

I hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I have. I don't include every photo in the albums, because some of them have very little public interest outside the family, and some of them just aren't particularly interesting photographs. I'll be adding photos that I find most interesting either historically, or photographically until I've finished all five albums.

kpw