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James M. Johnson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSA 13

Scope and Contents

The James M. Johnson papers document the career of pilot James Johnson (Jimmy Johnson) and his colleagues in early flight and aviation training. Most of the collection is made up of photographs. There are also newspaper clippings and three pilot's log books. The photographs show Johnson individually, Johnson standing with colleagues, Johnson in or near airplanes, and airplanes individually. Many of the photographs were taken at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio.


  • 1905 - 1953
  • Majority of material found within 1905 - 1915


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

James M. Johnson was born July 19, 1885 in Helena, Arkansas. He graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering in 1907. During his time at Purdue he was a member of the Mechanical Engineering Society, the Athletic Association, and the Ohio Club. His thesis was titled "An Efficient Test of an Allis-Chalmers Corliss Engine." In the 1907 Debris Yearbook, the caption under his name reads, "Jimmie came to us on a slow train from Arkansas. He is a good fellow, gentle disposition, seldom flustered, well bred, very neat and really a gentleman. The successor for the position he has held in a Purdue cozy corner for four years has already appeared."

Johnson learned to fly at the Curtiss Aviation School, Newport News, Virginia, 1914-1915. Johnson served as an instructor at the Curtiss Aviation School from 1915 to 1917. In 1917 he became one of the nation's first government test pilots for World War I airplanes at Langley Field, and he later became chief civil test pilot at McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio from 1917 to 1920. He was president of the Johnson Flying Service and vice-president of the Johnson Airplane and Supply Company, 1922 to 1925. From 1927 to 1928 he was an inspector for the Department of Commerce. After that Johnson was chief test pilot and sales manager for Buhl Aircraft Company in Detroit, Michigan until 1932. Johnson held other aviator positions throughout his career, including a pilot for United Airlines in the late 1940s.

In his retirement, Johnson lived in Weslaco, Texas. In 1968 he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1968, where he passed away on August 21, 1968 at St. George Hospital.


1.012 Cubic Feet (One legal-size full-width manuscript box and one small flat box)


The materials are arranged chronologically by type of material.

Acquisition Information

Source and date of acquisition are unknown.

Processing Information

Materials have been housed in acid-free folders, acid-free boxes, and polyester sleeves, where deemed necessary. All newsprint has been photocopied. A photograph album has been housed in a separate acid-free box.
James M. Johnson papers
Shauna Borger and Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. Collection description first completed 2009-07-28.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States