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Clarence Frank Cornish papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 323

Scope and Contents

The Clarence Frank Cornish papers consist of letters, correspondence, photographs, awards and certificates, flight logs, aviator textiles and goggles, newspaper clippings, and artifacts documenting Clarence "Cap" Frank Cornish's air training and service during World War One, his service at Army Air Forces Headquarters during World War Two, his work for the Aeronautics Commission of Indiana, his participation in several aeronautical organizations, and his role in the development aeronautics and aviation in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, in Indiana. Also included are a variety of materials Cornish's daughter, Ruth Ann Ingraham, compiled such as biographical files, photographs, clippings, and materials Ingraham used for research for her publication on her father. Of particular interest are letters Cornish wrote home during WWI discussing the beginnings of his interest in flight and the Spanish influenza pandemic and photographs and clippings depicting the beginnings of Fort Wayne International Airport, formerly known as Paul Baer Municipal Airport.

Digital files include interviews Ingraham and Mark Copple conducted with individuals who knew Cornish, in addition to a digitized copy of a microfilm reel from the Air Force Historical Research Agency with documents related to the Interdepartmental Air Traffic Control Board (IPWAF) from World War Two. Cornish was a member of the board when he served in the Army Air Forces.


  • 1908 - 2018
  • Majority of material found within 1917 - 1995


Language of Materials

Collection material is primarily in English. Two Spanish textbooks are present in the collection.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by Purdue University. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Clarence Frank Cornish was born in Canada in 1898 and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Cornish trained to fly during World War One, and following his service in the war, continued in the Army Reserve. He flew in air shows and races, and among other aviation related work, Cornish was the head of the aviation division of Aereco Flying Service (1928-1934) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, managed the Fort Wayne Municipal Airport (1934-1941), and served at the Army Air Forces Headquarters in Washington D.C. during World War Two (1941-1945). Cornish became Indiana's first director of the Aeronautics Commission of Indiana from 1945 to 1953, thereafter working in the insurance business. Starting in 1968, Cornish began an annual tradition of piloting a plane to commemorate his first flight in 1918 and did so until his death in 1995. Cornish was a member of several aeronautical organizations, and in 1995, he was cited by Guinness World Records as the world's oldest actively flying pilot at the age of 97. He died less than three weeks after his final flight in December 1995.


8.276 Cubic Feet (Six cubic foot boxes, five flat boxes, one legal-size full-length manuscript box, three flat folders, and one oversize flat folder.)

1.00 Gigabytes


The Clarence Frank Cornish papers are arranged chronologically into five series.
  1. Personal Files
  2. Military Career
  3. Aviation Career
  4. Aviation History of Indiana
  5. Ruth Ann Ingraham Materials on Clarence Frank Cornish

Physical Access Information

Some photographs in all five series and two pairs of pilot goggles in series 3, subseries 1 are fragile and should be handled with care.

Technical Access Information

Digital files will need the appropriate software in order to access. Contact Purdue University Archives and Special Collections if interested in using this material.

Acquisition Information

Materials donated by Ruth Ann Ingraham, Cornish's daughter, on January 31, 2020.

Processing Information

The original order of the materials has been retained whenever possible. All materials have been rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes. Some oversize materials have been removed from frames and placed in flat folders and boxes. Oversized materials have been kept in their original series; however, items requiring storage in a larger container have been moved to a box labeled oversize. Rusted staples and paper clips have been removed from the materials and plastic paper clips or file folder inserts have been used in their place. Photographs have been placed in protective sleeves. Some documents that were formerly restricted remain in the collection. Photographs and documents that were rolled have been flattened and placed in flat folders. Items housed in binders have been removed and rehoused in acid-free folders, and the binders have been discarded. Banking deposit slips found within the collection have been destroyed for privacy reasons. Floppy disks and CD-Rs have been imaged and files have been extracted.
Clarence Frank Cornish papers
Under Review
Sara Pettinger
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States