|William B. Stout, 1924.||William B. Stout, 1951.|
by kind permission of his son, Maury Holland
The Youth's companion ran a series of articles with pictures and descriptions of how to make airplane models from cardboard and rubber bands. Bill followed them carefully and built his first airplane. Then came the moment of anxiety and suspense. Would it fly? With bated breath, young Stout took his model outdoors, wound his rubber-band motor, started it --- it flew.
Bill graduated from Mechanic Arts High School, Class of 1898. St. Paul, MN
Bill Stout went to Hamline University, leaving in his second year to go to the University of Minnesota where there were greater opportunities for technical education. His goal, a degree in mechanical engineering, was almost achieved when, in the spring of 1903, tragedy struck him. His too avid search for knowledge and his too eager pursuit of it defeated their own ends, his eyesight failed him. After many consultations with doctors, he received an ultimatum: for two years at least he would be unable to use his eyes for any reading. Indeed, it was extremely doubtful whether he would ever again be able to read more than a newspaper headline.
After about a year abroad, he returned home, still unable to read, but able to write short features and articles to various magazines and newspapers by using his typewriter.
He married Alma Raymond and built their first home, and all of their furniture.
He delivered an address on aviation before the Engineer's Society of Minneapolis and displayed models loaned by Chanute. He presented lantern slides showing other models by Chanute and the Wrights, as well as planes in actual flight. From then on, a series of events that were to eventually move Stout into his niche in aviation followed with increasing rapidity.
He made a six-thousand-mile motorcycle tour of Europe and built a radically new type of motorcycle on his return. This, in turn, resulted eventually in his being made Chief Engineer for the Schurmeir Motor Truck Company. In 1912, he became automobile and aviation editor fo the Chicago Tribune ---his first real aviation job---and was a regular contributor to Motor Age. Shortly afterward, he founded Aviation Age, first aviation magazine ever published in America.
February 3, 1908
The Twin City Library Club held its regular meeting on February 3rd, 1908, the St. Paul Dispatch acting as host. A delicious dinner was served in the lunch room at seven o'clock, after which the club assembled in the library room, where Miss Marie Hohler, the librarian, read a very interesting paper explaining the work and purpose of the Reference Library and Information Bureau.
Mr. William B. Stout, better known as "Jack-Knife", gave a delightful talk on "The newspaper as a factor in industrial education," showing models that had been made by boys throughout the state from suggestions given in the Dispatch.
The remainder of the evening was spent in visiting "Jack-Knife's" sanctum and workshop and in inspecting the excellent system of filing used in the Reference Library.
Clara F. Baldwin,
He accepted a job as Chief Engineer with the Scripps-Booth Automobile Company, whose new car he designed. He had become General Sales Manager of the Packard Motor Car Company when in 1916, they started an aviation division and asked Stout to become its first Chief Engineer. The war broke out a year later and the Packard engineers, headed by Stout, went to Washington to help the governmant design and build the Liberty engine. Stout did not take a commission, realizing that his experience and knowledge made him more valuable as a civilian at home, and he was appointed Technical Adviser to the Aircraft Board.
Shortly after the war, in the spring of 1919, the Bureau of Military Aeronautics, of which Colonel Thurman Bane was Chief in Washington, and the Bureau of Aircraft Production were consolidated at McCook Field as a unified technical and developement center, under the command of Colonel Bane. Only a sprinkling of officers was carried over from wartime days. Jimmy Johnson, Al Johnson, Frank Hambly, and J. D. Hill were a few of the pioneer civilian instructors and test pilots who were still carried.
Stout designed a high-wing monoplane from which all struts, wires, and other wind obstructions had been eliminated. It was completely revolutionary in design and appearance, looking so much like the trench pests of the war it was immediately dubbed "Stout's Cootie." Jimmy Johnson was assigned to fly the weird-looking plane, and made several fairly successful flights in it. But in the opinion of the officers at McCook the ship did not hold much promise as a military craft and nothing further was done with it.
Stout left government service and organized his first aviation company. He wanted to build a remodeled bat-wing plane. It was during this period that Stout made his first, indirect contact with Henry Ford. Ford's chief engineer, William Mayo, had just spent the previous summer traveling in Europe to secure the latest information about aviation progress abroad, where already Imperial Airways was operating successfuly between London and Paris, and other airlines were linking the capitals of Europe. In the fall, Mayo dropped in on Stout, looked over what he was doing, and offered some of the information he had gathered in Europe. From that time on, Mayo would frequently stop in to see Stout, intimating not only that he was personally interested, but that Henry Ford also was interested in the way in which new developements were being carried forward.
The Stout Engineering Company, with a substantial increase in funding due to Stout's recruitment of some twenty five Detroit businessmen, began to build a revolutionary, all-metal Air Sedan. In February, newspapers in Detroit and across the country carried stories of the successful test flights of the Stout Air Sedan with Walter Lees at the controls.
Following the adviced of William Mayo, Stout wrote a letter to Edsel Ford suggesting the two things Ford could do for Aviation in Detroit. Four months later, Mayo met Stout one day and said, in effect, "How would you like to have a landing field and factory for about a dollar a year?"
Sixty days later the building was up and Stout had moved in and begun building half a dozen Liberty-engined passenger planes. One day, Ford walked in and inspected the plant from end to end, showing great interest in the rapid progress that had been made.
"Well, Mr. Stout " he said, "I must tell you I'm very much surprised. I had no idea you had this factory equipped in any such thorough manner and were going ahead as you are." Less than a year later, Ford made another visit to the plant and saw the ships almost completed. Shortly afterward, the six planes were purchased by the Ford Company and the Ford freight service to Chicago was started---the first American airline!
After Ford's purchase of Stout's factory, the designer set to work to produce the Ford all-metal transport ship, which Admiral Byrd was subsequently to use on his flight to the North Pole.
The rest is aviation history. Although the Ford Company is no longer active in aviation and the metal monoplane has become commonplace, Stout's achievement will never be forgotten 1943
Bill went on ConVair's payroll as director of research , and his son-in-law, Johnny Fisher, was named the group's general manager. At that time, Bill had four projects underway: a low-cost aircraft engine, a helicopter engine, a stainless steel airplane, and a helicopter. All of these greatly intrigued me. It didn't take much talking for Bill to convince me to join him as their chirf engineer
Personal communication from Greg Herrick, 3-3-04
If you have any information on this pioneer aviator
please contact me.
E-mail to Ralph Cooper