Rare air show archives to go under hammer

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Amazing collection of memorabilia from pioneering event

RARE archive material from a pioneering air show staged in Doncaster more than a century ago will go under the auctioneer’s hammer today.

The auction lot features a collection of documents and photos relating to famous aviator Sam Cody, who was so keen to compete at the Doncaster Air Show of 1909 - the first ever staged in Britain - that he changed his nationality.

The American wanted to win the prize for the first one-mile flight completed by a Briton so in a blaze of publicity he signed British naturalisation papers on the course in front of the crowd and a phalanx of press photographers.

A lawyer’s bill for the process is among the artefacts being sold at Bonham’s auction house in Oxford later today.

Unfortunately for Cody his bid for aviation glory was ruined when he crashed his plane while flying too low before completing a circuit of the course.

The collection also includes the bill for repairs to his plane and numerous photographs from the air display at Doncaster Racecourse.

Other aspects of the archive include the 16-page souvenir of the air show which includes portraits of the aviators, five of which are signed by the men themselves, including Cody.

There are four gelatin silver prints of Cody at the racecourse including a humorous one of Cody pushing another pilot in a wheelbarrow, and 12 press photographs of Cody preparing for his flights and the aftermath of the crash.

Other ephemera include the menu from the Doncaster Mansion House banquet held in honour of the aviators, the invoice from ‘Harold Arnold & Son, Contractors’ of Doncaster for repairs made to Cody’s biplane, and washing his shed during the night dated October 29, 1909, four typed letters relation to Cody’s appearance at the following year’s Doncaster air show, and a typed eight-page invoice from solicitors Messrs Amery-Parkes, Macklin & Co to Cody for “professional charges and extras in connection with your application for naturalisation”, dated November 1909.

Cody was killed - not surprisingly considering the fragile nature of aircraft in those early days - in 1913 when his plane crashed again at Farnborough in Hampshire.

The auction house estimates the collection will fetch between £800 and £1,200.