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This information comes from the biographical file for pilot Paris, CP-031000-01, -20, et seq., reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum (NASM), Washington, DC.

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The Congress of Ghosts is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of www.dmairfield.org and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link, or use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author.  ISBN 978-0-9843074-4-9.

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NEVA PARIS

Neva Paris was born in Kansas City, MO, but left there as a child for New York, where she attended school in the town of Briarcliff, just north of New York City. I do not have her exact date of birth (see below). Does anyone KNOW?

According to one site visitor, Neva Estelle Finlay was married to Rex Lee Paris on October 25, 1911 in All Saints Church, Long Island, Great Neck, New York. Rex came down with tuberculosis and eventually they were divorced. Neva moved to California and owned an orange grove in Anaheim, CA for eight years until she moved back to Great Neck in 1928-29 to learn to fly with the Curtiss Flying Service school when it was located at the old Curtiss Field (Roosevelt Field No. 2) at Garden City, LI, NY.

Neva Paris, Ca. 1929 (Source: NASM)
Neva Paris, Date Unknown (Source: NASM)

In 1929, the Curtiss Flying Service announced that their entrant in the National Air Races (NAR), held at Cleveland, OH August 24-September 2 that year, would be Neva Paris. Interestingly, her NASM biographical file describes why she was chosen. It states, "Attention was first attracted to Mrs. Paris' potential skill as a pilot last January when, while still a student, the propeller came off a plane in which she was making a solo flight. To the surprise and admiration of verteran pilots who witnessed the mishap, the feminine solo student kept her head and glided down to a safe 'dead-stick' landing in an open field near the Curtiss Base." That she is identified as "Mrs. Paris" tells us she was probably still married, but I know nothing of the fate of her husband.

It was the NAR cross-country race from Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland that brought Paris through Tucson August 15, 1929. She was westbound from Douglas, AZ to Los Angeles, CA. Based at New York, NY, she was solo in Curtiss Robin NC909K. Her airplane was brand new. Photo, right, from her NASM file, identifies the location as, "... somewhere along Santa Monica to Cleveland route of First National Women's Air Derby, 1929." The airplane is her Curtiss Robin.

Her NASM file further states, "Mrs. Paris has done considerable cross-country flying, going on all her flights alone, and has visited many of the Curtiss bases in the East, including points as far distant as Portland, ME. She took over her Robin plane at the factory of the Curtiss-Robertson Airplane Manufacturing Company in St. Louis, and flew it from St. Louis to Santa Monica, Cal., where the women's derby is scheduled to start, in order to familiarize herself with the western portion of the course. The women will fly from Santa Monica to Cleveland over a course approximately 2,200 miles in length. The race will start on August 18."

Surprisingly, the Aircraft Yearbook does not cite that she placed in any race event. Jessen's book, however, as well as several Web resources, places her 6th in the cross-country race.

Paris was an organizer and charter member of the Ninety-Nines, the international women pilot's association. She, along with other female pilots participating in the '29 Derby, formed the nucleus of the organization at Cleveland in 1929. As stated by Jessen, page 177, at some point during the Derby, "Neva Paris ran from airplane to airplane to tell the competitors of a meeting planned under the grandstands in Cleveland. She was the beacon lighting the way for a formal organization for women pilots."

According to the Ninety-Nines Web site, in 1929 there were only 117 licensed female pilots and eventually 99 of them responded to Paris's letter to join the organization to promote women in aviation. In all, sixteen of the 42 female signers of the Davis-Monthan Register were charter members. Jessen (op. cit.) cites Paris's date of passing as sometime during January, 1930 (it's actually January 9, 1930). She was flying to Miami, FL when her airplane (the Curtiss Robin Challenger) spun in near Woodbine, GA. At the time, she was an employee of Curtiss and doing promotional appearances to attract women to flying while en route to Miami. She intended to enter another competition at Miami. 

The information in the text box below is from the Motorsport Memorial Web site, which you can view at the link. While I usually prefer to link to such information, I'm not sure of its ongoing availability, and the bibliographic information is very useful.

Neva Paris
 
Complete name: Neva Estelle Paris (née Finlay)
Birth date: ??.Jan.1883
Birth Place: Kansas City, MO, United States
Death date: 09.Jan.1930
Death Place: near Woodbine, GA, United States
Nationality: United States
Gender: male
 

Notes:


Neva Estelle Finlay was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in January of 1883. Her parents were Charles Edward and Annie E. Finlay. Siblings Julia E. Finlay was two years older, and Redfield Finlay was born fifteen years after Neva.

The family moved to Englewood, New Jersey, in the late 1890s, where Charles Finlay was a real estate developer. A few years after arriving in the east the family moved to Great Neck, Long Island, where Charles Finlay and partners developed the villages of Douglas Manor and Kensington. He later became a founder and president of Aetna National Bank, until its merger with the Irving Trust Company.

On 25 October 1911 Neva Finlay became the bride of Rex Lee Paris in All Saints' Church, Great Neck. Rex was a graduate of Princeton in 1906 (or 1908?), and was the son of John W. Paris, a Realtor. Rex was a descendant of General Wade Hampton of South Carolina and the Starbuck and Coffin families of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

The marriage was shattered when Rex was diagnosed with tuberculosis less than two years after their wedding. No expense was spared in treatment for the illness. Neva's father had even posted a $1,000,000 reward to any physician who could find a cure for tuberculosis that would be effective in 95 out of 100 cases, including Rex, his son-in-law, of course. Rex's condition improved while he was at Saranac Lake, New York, and his treatments continued in Indianapolis. By 1920 the couple was divorced (according to the 1920 U. S. Census Report) and Neva Paris had moved to California. She owned and managed an orange grove near Anaheim, California, for eight years.

Ms. Paris moved back to Great Neck in the late 1920s. She became fascinated with the exciting new developments in aviation and took flying lessons at the Curtiss Flying Service School.

 

Career Summary:
1929: Neva Paris finished sixth in the heavier aircraft class (DW) in The First Women's Cross-Country Air Race, starting at Santa Monica, California, on Sunday, 18 August 1929, and finishing at Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday, 26 August 1929. She was piloting race #23, a Curtiss Robin with a Challenger engine.

Neva Paris was a charter member of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots. Of the 99 founding members, 15 were starters in the "Powder Puff Derby". The international headquarters of The Ninety-Nines is near Will Rogers International Airport in Oklahoma City. The national headquarters of the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) is on the other side of the airport from The Ninety-Nines' museum and offices.

 
Sources:
  • 1900 United States Federal Census.
  • World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.
  • 1920 United States Federal Census.
  • 1930 United States Federal Census.
  • Georgia Deaths, 1919-98.
  • Book "The Powder Puff Derby Of 1929 - The First All-Women's Transcontinental Air Race", by Gene Nora Jessen, © 2002 Gene Nora Jessen, and © 2002 by Sourcebooks, Inc., Box 4410, Naperville, Illinois 60567-4410, United States, phone (630) 961-3900, www.sourcebooks.com , ISBN 1-57071-769-9, pages 84, 177, 180, 211 and 240-241.
  • Book "The Roaring 20 - The First Cross-Country Air Race for Women", by Margaret Whitman Blair, © 2006 Margaret Whitman Blair, published by The National Geographic Society, ISBN 0-7922-5389-2, page 117.
  • Book "High, Wide, and Frightened", by Louise McPhetridge Thaden, © 2004 by The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville, Arkansas, ISBN 1-55728-766-X, pages 49, 60 and 62.
  • Book "The Ninety-Nines: Yesterday - Today - Tomorrow", edited by Julie Agnew Thomas, designed by Herbert C. Banks II, © 1996 Turner Publishing Company, 412 Broadway, P.O. Box 3101, Paducah, KY 42002-3101, United States, ISBN 1-56311-203-5, pages 7, 10, 11, 12 and 236.
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Thursday, 26 October 1911, page 11, article "Miss Neva Finlay A Bride. - Married to Rex Lee Paris in All Saints' Church, Great Neck.".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Sunday, 16 March 1913, page 12, Special to The New York Times, article "Finley's (sic) Son-In-Law Better. - Rex Lee Paris May Yet Try Dr. Friedmann's Treatment."
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Saturday, 12 January 1929, page 20, Special to The New York Times, article "Lands Safely As Plane Loses Its Propeller - Woman Flier Comes Down in Rough Field Near Garden City, Unhurt and Craft Intact.".
  • Newspaper The Morning Call (Laurel, MS, United States), issue of Saturday, 12 January 1929, page ?, article "Woman Was Calm, Emergency Case".
  • Newspaper The Daily News (Frederick, MD, United States), issue of Friday, 18 January 1929, page ?, Pacific and Atlantic wire service, photo page, captioned "Snappy Snapshots Gleaned By Photographers All Over The World", photo captioned "Student Flier Lands Safely as Propellor Drops in Air".
  • Newspaper Frederick Post (Frederick, MD, United States), issue of Saturday, 19 January 1928, page ?, Pacific and Atlantic wire service, photo page, captioned "Snappy Snapshots Gleaned By Photographers All Over The World", photo captioned "Student Flier Lands Safely as Propellor Drops in Air".
  • Newspaper The Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA, United States), issue of Saturday evening, 17 August 1939, page ?, Associated Press wire service, article "20 Women In Derby".
  • Newspaper New Castle News (New Castle, PA, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1929, pages 1 and 2, article "Feminine Fliers Ready For Race To Cleveland, O.", bt Lyle Abbott, International News Service Staff Correspondent.
  • Newspaper The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1929, pages 1 and 7, United Press wire service, article "Noted Women Pilots Enter Cross Country Plane Derby".
  • Newspaper Waterloo Evening Courier (Waterloo, IA, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1929, page 2, Associated Press wire service, article "20 Women Enter 'Air Derby' from Coast - Cleveland".
  • Newspaper The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, KS, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1929, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Women Pilots In Air Derby Across U. S.".
  • Newspaper The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1929, page 6, United Press wire service, article "Girl Flyers Await Derby", by Duane Hennessey.
  • Newspaper The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1929, pages 1 and 3, United Press wire service, article "Twenty Women Fliers Make Ready For Start of Cross Country Derby", by Duane Hennessy.
  • Newspaper Modesto News-Herald (Modesto, CA, United States), issue of Saturday, 17 August 1928, page 2, Associated Press wire service, article "20 Girl Fliers Poised For Race Across Country".
  • Newspaper Abilene Morning Reporter-News (Abilene, TX, United States), issue of Sunday, 18 August 1929, pages 1 and 2, article "Women Air Derbyists To Spend 4 Hours In City".
  • Newspaper The Billings Gazette (Billings, MT, United States), issue of Sunday, 18 August 1929, page 6, United Press wire service, article "Women Aviators Make Ready For First Ait Derby".
  • Newspaper The Montana Standard (Butte, MT, United States), issue of Sunday, 18 August 1929, pages 1 and 15, article "20 Women Enter U. S. Air Derby".
  • Newspaper The Havre Daily News (Havre, MT, United States), issue of Sunday, 18 August 1929, page 8, article "20 Women Set For National Air Derby Hop".
  • Newspaper The Helena Daily Independent (Helena, MT, United States), issue of Sunday, 18 August 1928, page 6, Associated Press wire service, article "Women Will Race".
  • Modesto News-Herald (Modesto, CA, United States), issue of Sunday, 18 August 1929, page 2, Associated Press wire service, article "20 Girl Fliers Poised For Race Across Country".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Sunday, 25 August 1929, pages 1 and 2, Associated Press wire service, article "Mrs. Thaden Holds Lead In Air Derby".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Monday, 26 August 1929, page 2, Associated Press wire service, article "Women Fliers Land At Port Columbus".
  • Newspaper The Bee (Danville, VA, United States), issue of Tuesday, 27 August 1929, page 9, Associated Press wire service, article "Louise Thaden Is Winner of Derby".
  • Newspaper The Kingston Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY, United States), issue of Monday evening, 02 September 1929, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Winner In Women's Air Derby Receives $4,100".
  • Newspaper Altoona Mirror (Altoona, PA, United States), issue of Monday, 02 September 1929, pages 1 and 2, United Press wire service, article "National Races Full Of Thrills".
  • Newspaper The Burlington Daily Times (Burlington, NC, United States), issue of Monday, 02 September 1929, page ?, article "Cleveland Stages Air Circus For Visitors".
  • Newspaper The Kingsport Times (Kingsport, TN, United States), issue of Monday, 02 September 1929, page 4, Associated Press wire service, article "Prizes Awarded".
  • Newspaper The Lowell Sun (Lowell, MA, United States), issue of Monday, 23 September 1929, page 16, article "Special Department Of Aviation For Women".
  • Newspaper The Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA, United States), issue of Wednesday, 02 October 1929, page 2, Associated Press wire service, article "Women, Attracted By Aviation, Served By Special Department".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Sunday, 15 December 1929, page 22, article "Women Fliers Organize. - Form Club to Promote Interest in Aviation Among Their Sex.".
  • Newspaper The Fresno Bee (Fresno, CA, United States), issue of Sunday, 29 December 1929, page 4A, article "Two Bakersfield Girls In Women's Flying Group".
  • Newspaper The Burlington Daily Times (Burlington, NC, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Girl Aviator Killed When Her Plane Falls" [given name misspelled as Meda].
  • Newspaper The Capital Times (Madison, WI, United States), issue of Thursday afternoon, 09 January 1930, page 11, Associated Press wire service, article "Woman Flier Dies In Georgia Crash".
  • Newspaper Stevens Point Daily Journal (Stevens Point, WI, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 8, Associated Press wire service, article "Fall Kills Aviatrix".
  • Newspaper Blytheville Courier-News (Blytheville, AR, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 4, Associated Press wire service, article "Woman Flyer Falls to Death in Georgia Today".
  • Newspaper The Muscatine Journal (Muscatine, IA, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Woman Flier Dies As Plane Crashes".
  • Newspaper The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, ND, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 3, Associated Press wire service, article "Aviatrix Killed As Airship Nose Dives".
  • Newspaper The Fresno Bee (Fresno, CA, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 8-A, Associated Press wire service, article "California Girl Orange Grower Dies In Air Crash".
  • Newspaper Modesto News-Herald (Modesto, CA, United States), issue of Thursday, 09 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Aviatrix Meets Death In Fall Of Racing Plane".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, pages 1 and 8, Special to The New York Times, article "Neva Paris Killed In Crash Of Plane".
  • Newspaper Syracuse Herald (Syracuse, NY, United States), issue of Friday evening, 10 January 1930, page 11, United Press wire service, article "Neva Paris Is Killed Flying To Air Races".
  • Newspaper The Oil City Derrick (Oil City, PA, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Noted Woman Flier Killed In Air Crash".
  • Newspaper The Morning Herald (Hagerstown, MD, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Aviatrix Dies As The Result Of Plane Fall".
  • Newspaper The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 2, United Press wire service, article "Aviatrix Killed When Plane Falls".
  • Newspaper The Morning Call (Laurel, MS, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 1, article "Woman Killed in Air Crash".
  • Newspaper The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Nationally Known Aviatix Dies As Plane Hits Marsh".
  • Newspaper The Port Arthur News (Port Arthur, TX, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 15, United Press wire service, article "Aviatrix Dies In Airplane Crash".
  • Newspaper San Antonio Express (San Antonio, TX, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 7, Associated Press wire service, article "Aviatrix Killed As Plane Crashes".
  • Newspaper The Helena Independent (Helena, MT, United States), issue of Friday, 10 January 1930, page 1, Associated Press wire service, article "Noted Aviatrix Dies In Crash In Georgia".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Saturday, 11 January 1930, page 17, article "Mrs. Paris Funeral Today. - Body of Aviatrix Killed in Crash to Be Buried at Great Neck.".
  • Newspaper The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV, United States), issue of Monday, 13 January 1930, page 12, Associated Press wire service, article "Say Woman Pilot Crashed in Faint".
  • Newspaper Woodland Daily Democrat (Woodland, CA, United States), issue of Monday, 13 January 1930, page 4, article "Fainting Caused Death".
  • Newspaper The Oelwein Daily Register (Oelwein, IA, United States), issue of 15 January 1930, page 1, International Illustrated News photo, captioned "Dies In Air Crash".
  • Newspaper The Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, WV, United States), issue of Thursday evening, 23 January 1930, page 6, brief article in column "As The World Wags".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of 02 January 1931, pages , article "Chronological Record Of The United States For 1930".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Thursday, 11 July 1940, page 19, Special to The New York Times, obituary "Charles E. Finlay, A Realty Operator - Founder and President of the Former Aetna National Bank".
  • Newspaper The New York Times (New York City, NY, United States), issue of Thursday, 14 February 1952, page 27, obituary "Rex Lee Paris".

Thanks to site visitor Dyane McIndoe, Neva Paris is represented on Find A Grave, including a photograph of her headstone with engraved pilot wings. She is buried at the All Saints Cemetery, Great Neck, NY. Note her year of birth is documented on her stone as 1893, not 1883 as cited in the quoted text above. She would have been 36 years old when she visited us at Tucson.

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Dossier 2.4.26

THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/01/10 REVISED: 04/19/10, 08/29/11

 
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