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Augustus Post

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Augustus Post
1906 - Augustus Post Portrait.jpg
Born Augustus Thomas Post Jr.
December 8, 1873
Brooklyn, New York
Died October 4, 1952
New York, New York
Education Amherst College
Harvard Law School
Alma mater Amherst College
Occupation Aviator, balloonist, automotive pioneer, actor, author, musician, lecturer
Known for Founder of the American Automobile Association
Founder of Aero Club of America
Champion Balloonist
Augustus T. Post Signature.png

Augustus Thomas Post Jr. (8 December 1873 – 4 October 1952) was an American adventurer who distinguished himself as an automotive pioneer, balloonist, early aviator, writer, actor, musician and lecturer. Post pursued an interest in transportation of every form. In 1898, when Post was 25, following his time at Harvard Law School, he circumnavigated the globe[1] by rail and steamship. He then bought one of the first cars ever made[2] and helped found the Glidden Auto Tours,[3][4] an automotive distance drive and competition used to promote a national highway system. He was the original founder of what is now the American Automobile Association (AAA),[5][6] first known as the Auto Club of America.[5] He established the nation’s first parking garage[5] and also received the first driving tickets in New York.[7][8]

In 1907 he was one of the first civilians to descend in a submarine.[9] Two years later he became the thirteenth man to fly solo in an airplane,[5] and was an original founder of the Aero Club of America.[5][10] He was elected to be its first secretary, a position he held for more than 20 years.[11] In that capacity he served as official timer for Orville Wright’s historic 57 minute flight at Fort Myer, Virginia in 1908.[12] The following year Post worked with Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association[13] where he represented the Aero Club and helped test new equipment and gliders.[14] Post then worked with fellow AEA alumn Glenn Curtiss, developing innovations and flight testing his planes. He was present for the historic flight of the Curtiss June Bug and co-authored The Curtiss Aviation Book in 1912.[15]

Post's interest in aviation included balloons as well as aircraft. While working with Curtiss he also participated in the international Gordon Bennett Balloon Races from 1906-1910. In 1910 he set a distance and duration record in a free balloon flying as aide to Alan R. Hawley in the balloon "America II," an American record that stood for 95 years.[16] After training American aviators in World War I, he continued to promote U.S. investment in aviation, and predicted the possibility of transatlantic flight in 1914. Years later he approached hotel owner Raymond Orteig and presented an idea for encouraging a transatlantic flight between Paris and New York City. Post wrote the rules and secured the $25,000 prize money for the competition that was won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927.[5]

Post hiked and went hunting with friends, studied orienteering and woodcraft and was an original member of the Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone[17] which merged to form the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. At that time he became close friends with the Scouts’ founder, Daniel Carter Beard,[18] and served on the group’s National Council from its inception. The Sons of Daniel Boone later were reunited and became known as the Buckskin Men,[19] of which Post was a member. Post wrote and edited many articles for the Scouts’ Boys’ Life publication throughout his lifetime.[20]

In addition to his other pursuits Post maintained a concurrent interest in the arts. He wrote numerous nonfiction articles and books, acted in several plays, and wrote books of poetry, an opera, and original songs.[21] In his later life Post devoted himself to the arts. He worked as part of the National Association for Music in Hospitals, performed with the New York Symphony Chorus and served many other civic organizations. He continued to support the causes and groups he had helped establish and was a sought after professional lecturer until his death in 1952 at age 78.[5]

Early life[edit]

Augustus Post - Age 6

Post was born to Augustus T. Post Sr. (1832-1891), a banker, and Mary Elizabeth Austin (1844-1893) in Brooklyn, NY in 1873. He had one sister, Mary Augusta Post, who was a year and a half his senior and with whom he was close throughout his lifetime.[22] The two children grew up in comfort as their father amassed considerable wealth in banking, becoming the president of Produce Bank.[23]

A year before his death, Post Sr. was associated with the case of bank forger Albert H. Smith who was convicted of stealing more than $400,000 (approximately $10,000,000[24] in today's dollars) from a series of financial institutions, including Post Sr.'s own Produce Bank. Post Sr. never faced allegations of being complicit in the crimes, nor was his fortune considered to be connected to the case.[25]

Both of their parents died when Post and his sister Mary were still teenagers. They inherited their father's fortune and spent their time among the social elites of New York, Boston and Philadelphia.[26][27][28]

Post attended Brooklyn Polytechnic, then went on to Amherst College where he competed as a speed walker in track and field. He also sang second bass in the Glee Club[29] and was a member of the banjo club and the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. He received a Masters of Arts in 1895[30] and then went to Harvard Law School[31] from 1895-1896.[32]

Automotive achievements[edit]

Augustus Post driving his White Steamer in 1905 Glidden Auto Tour. Post was an original founder of the American Automobile Association.

Augustus Post was an original founder of the American Automobile Association[5] and a lifelong advocate for creation and maintenance of an extensive U.S. highway system.[33]

Early adopter[edit]

Post purchased his first car at a motorcycle rally in 1898. It was made by a Pennsylvanian name Duryea.[2] Two years later, Post commissioned his signature "White Steamer" from Thomas White who founded the White Motor Company in 1900. In his new steamer Post set out to test the byways of America and determine their suitability for auto travel.[34]

In 1903 Post made a drive from Pittsburgh to New York City with friend R. H. Johnston.[33] Though he noted the roads they travelled in Pennsylvania had loose stones and demanded cautious driving, they were not prone to washouts like roads in New York State. Post told the Pittsburgh Daily Post: “At a very small expense the pike might be resurfaced. It would regain its original prestige and would have the distinction of being the first link in the transcontinental boulevard.”[35] Post’s vision of a coast to coast highway was made real ten years later with the development of the Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco, which did indeed run through Pittsburgh.[35]

Establishing the AAA and the Glidden Auto Tours[edit]


In February 1904 Post conceived of an auto cup race like ones that were already popular in Europe, where he had travelled extensively. He and several associates planned to test routes and seek sponsors for the endeavor.[3] In March 1904 Post led fifteen other auto enthusiasts on a drive from New York to St. Louis. The event caught the attention of millionaire automotive enthusiast Charles Glidden, who furnished a cup and put up prize money for whoever finished first.[36] The event was a success and became an annual race known as the Glidden Auto Tours. At that same time Post oversaw the merger of auto clubs across the country to form the American Automobile Association. He was named its first chairman.[37]

Post drove his White Steamer in all three of the first Glidden tours from 1904-1906. Because the car was custom made, the cost of the Steamer exceeded the modern day cost of a Rolls Royce.[38]

Post’s was the first automobile in New York,[5] and he established the city's first parking garage beneath the St. Nicholas skating rink at 66th Street and Columbus Avenue. He also received the first tickets for traffic violations. The first was for driving in Central Park at 5 miles per hour.[8] He was pulled over by a policeman on a bicycle and informed that the Parks Commissioner had banned cars in the park because their noise and the scent of naphtha irritated the horses.[7] Post received a second ticket for running up on a sidewalk while attempting to park in front of the house of Daniel Sickles at 23 Fifth Avenue. Post was taken to the headquarters of the Traffic Squad at East 27th street where he telephoned Sickles’s son, Stanton Sickles, whom he had originally gone to visit, and Sickles came and bailed him out.[7]

Ballooning records[edit]

Augustus Post and Alan Hawley returning to New York following their record setting balloon flight in 1910.

Post participated in balloon races including the Gordon Bennett races of 1906, 1908, 1909, 1910 and 1911. He survived a number of aeronautic disasters including the rupture of the balloon “Conqueror” that he was flying in with A. Holland Forbes in the Gordon Bennett Race in Berlin in 1908. The balloon fell 3,000 feet and crashed through the roof of a house, but the men were unharmed.[39]

Auto and air pioneer Augustus Post moose Hunting with Fitch of Ambercrombie & Fitch in New Brunswick Canada 1905

Post's best known ballooning achievement came when he served as aide to Alan Hawley in the 1910 Gordon Bennett race flying the balloon “America II.”[16] The race’s ten balloons set off from St. Louis, Missouri and two days later Post and Hawley landed in a remote, uninhabited area of Quebec near Lake St. John. They trekked through the Canadian wilderness slowed by Hawley who had injured a knee just after landing.[40] Post, who had been moose hunting in Canada with Ezra Fitch (of Abercrombie & Fitch Co.) in 1905, had some knowledge of the terrain. Also, though he had grown up in Brooklyn, Post had spent summers with his family at the Mohonk Mountain House near the Catskill Mountains of New York, where he had hiked and developed skills as a woodsman. While the balloonists were lost in Canada, Post created lean-tos to keep them dry when snow and rain fell, and he caught fish, using improvised lures, to supplement their food stores.[40]

Word of Hawley and Post’s disappearance ran on the front pages of newspapers across the nation. As the days stretched into a week and the men still had not been heard from, search parties were formed. After ten days in the wilderness, Hawley and Post found a trapper’s tent and then ran into two locals, Joseph Pedneaude and Joseph Simard, out on a hunting trip. The men took the balloonists back to the closest town, Chicoutimi, from which they were able to send telegrams to family and friends and then make their way to a train terminus and then home.[40]

At Grand Central Station in New York Hawley and Post were met with a hero’s welcome and informed they had set a distance and duration record of 1,173 miles in 44 hours and 25 minutes for travel in a free balloon,[16] a North American Gordon Bennett record that stood for 95 years.[41] Post’s role in the adventure, particularly his survival skills, caught the attention of Daniel Carter Beard, who was then forming the Boy Scouts of America. Post became a member of the Society of the Sons of Daniel Boone, a group that emphasized outdoorsmanship, self-sufficiency and pioneering spirit. The two groups merged into Boy Scouts of America that same year.[42]

Early aviator[edit]

Thirteenth man to fly[edit]

Augustus Post flying one of the first Curtis biplanes in 1910.

While Post continued ballooning, he was also drawn to the emerging innovation of heavier-than-air flight. He wrecked several planes before finally taking to the air,[43] and press outlets suggested his signature Van Dyke beard—which was somewhat uncommon at the time—[44] might be to blame for his difficulties. However, in 1908,[45] Post became thirteenth man to fly.[46] He was an original founder of the Aero Club of America and served as its first secretary.[47] As such he served as official timer for Orville Wright’s record setting 57 minute flight at Ft. Myer, Virginia on September 9, 1908.[48]

Aerial Experiment Association[edit]

Also in 1908, Post joined Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association (AEA), a group of Canadian and American engineers who worked together for two years and developed the tricycle landing gear and wing tip ailerons among other innovations.[49] After the AEA disbanded, Post went on to work with fellow AEA alum Glenn Curtiss on the design and testing of his aircraft. Post wrote a biographical essay about Curtiss entitled “The Evolution of a Flying Man” which ran in The Century in 1910.[50] The two collaborated on the Curtiss Aviation Book published the following year. This marked the start of Post’s writing career.[51]

Promoter of aviation expansion[edit]

Post saw potential for aviation as a public good. In particular he advocated for the creation of an air mail service,[52] the establishment of specific air routes, and the creation of airports, a term he coined.[53] He designed the first air mail route, which went from Washington DC to New York with a stop in Philadelphia, and was first flown on May 15, 1918.[54] He encouraged participation in the field of aviation for all, including women and minorities, and as secretary of the Aero Club of America he signed the first woman's pilot license issued after World War I, that of Laura Bromwell. It is on permanent display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.[55]

Augustus Post flying Curtiss pusher plane circa 1910. Post worked closely with Curtiss and flight tested many aircraft.

Over a 42-year period, from 1910, when he first became an author, to his death in 1952, Post wrote numerous newspaper articles and essays in which he described not only his own experiences as an aviator[56] but also the potential of aviation to change society. His work appeared in broad range of magazines including The American, Science and Invention, Aerial Age, and Outing. For the scouting magazine Boys’ Life, Post wrote articles encouraging boys to take up aviation, which he presented as a field that would soon provide jobs beyond just performing at aerial expositions.[57]

In 1912, nine years after the Wright brothers’ first historic flight, Post wrote a piece in which he described the immediate problems in aviation saying, “The first year of the aeroplane’s appearance before the public was marked by one death. In 1909 there were three. In the following year, 1910, there were 29; and in 1911, eighty-three.”[58] Post, who had survived several plane wrecks, focussed not only on how to make planes go farther and faster, but how to do so more safely. He wrote: “In the first place, we must establish more and better equipped laboratories…for the study of wind and weather…Along with this must go the making of better air maps and charts…The aviator needs these guides no less than the mariner needs his charts.”[58]

Augustus Post was an original member of the Boy Scouts of America's national council and the Sons of Daniel Boone Society before it. Pictured here second from right in front row.

Although Post presaged many aeronautic innovations, not all of his expectations for the future panned out. One example was his idea for dirigible roof gardens. He told The New York Times in 1919 that one day there would be 1,000 foot long dirigibles that could be fitted for pleasure cruises and have roof gardens and balconies.[59] Dirigible roof gardens did not catch on. The crash of the Hindenburg in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937, and, to a lesser extent, the Roma before it in 1922, effectively ended the market for public travel in dirigibles.[60]

In his later years, Post made more accurate predictions. He described the development of special fuels that would increase airplane speed, what we now know as jet fuel. Three years before his death—twenty years before the moon landing—Post foresaw the ability of rockets to propel humans beyond Earth's atmosphere. He also envisioned an "Interplanetary Society," his description of which mirrors our modern day National Air and Space Administration (N.A.S.A.).[61]

Special military service in aviation[edit]

The president and several members of the Aero Club of America wrote to Secretary of State Lansing to recommend sending Augustus Post to Britain and France to help train military aviators in World War I.

Anticipating U.S. entry into World War I, in 1915 Post wrote an essay entitled “The Aeroplane in War and its Future in Peace” in which he tracked the progress, in less than one hundred years, from the use of balloons for reconnaissance in the U.S. Civil War to the emergence of heavier-than-air craft in the war then spreading across Europe. He began, “Battle lines, once horizontal, are now vertical."[62] Months after the essay was published Theodore Roosevelt wrote to the Aero Club of America endorsing their work,[63] and the leaders of the ACA wrote to Secretary of State Robert Lansing advising that Post be sent to Britain and France to help train military airmen.[64] Post was an expert on Curtiss planes which were the workhorses of the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Work War I. Lansing approved the assignment.[65]

Post's fluency in French[66] and German[39] made it possible for him to gather information and send home detailed reports and observations on the relative strengths and weaknesses of allied and enemy aircraft. He noted that the French were struggling to catch up to the Germans with their "flying tank" and he commended American aviators for honing their “group flying” using a V formation to encircle enemy craft and gain a strategic advantage. He also noted the usefulness of blimps employed by the French along their coast to spot submarines to a depth of 65 feet.[66]

Later in life Post was often referred to as “Major Post” or “Colonel Post.”[67] These titles were not associated with his special military service. They were honorary designations conferred by the New York Police Department for his work in helping establish an NYPD aerial unit.[67]

Certificate of Honor to Augustus Post for his service in WWI to the Four Minute Men of the Committee for Public Information. Signed by the national director and endorsed by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of War. Conferred on December 24, 1918.

In addition to his service in Britain and France, Post was also a member of the Four Minute Men, a group of volunteers who worked for The Committee on Public Information, an independent government agency dedicated to promoting national awareness of and support for military actions. The volunteers gave four minute lectures at public venues from town hall meetings to movie theaters to restaurants. Post’s contributions as a Four Minute Man, specifically educating the public on the capabilities of aircraft for war and peace, earned him a certificate of honor for his service. It was conferred by the CPI’s national director, William H. Ingersoll, with the endorsement of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy.[65]

During World War II Post returned to his wartime efforts to encourage youth to join the military air service. In specific, he spoke to and encouraged Jewish aviators training at the Jabotinsky Aviation School in Rockaway, New York in 1941.[68][69]

Lindbergh flight[edit]

Post repeatedly and accurately predicted the future of modern aeronautics. In 1914 he predicted the possibility of intercontinental air travel in an essay entitled “Columbus of the Air.”[70] In it he wrote: “A man is now living who will be the first human being to cross the Atlantic Ocean through the air. He will cross while he is still a young man. All at once, Europe will move two days nearer; instead of five days away.”[70] Post's effort to engineer a transatlantic flight were interrupted by World War I.[71]

Following the war, Post continued to promote the field of aviation. He organized events and exhibitions,[72] worked at aviation schools and persistently advocated for the creation of air mail service which occurred in 1918. That same year he worked with the Aero Club of America to plan a flight over the North Pole, enlisting the help of Captain Robert Bartlett who had accompanied Admiral Robert Peary on the dash to the pole in 1909.[73] Though Bartlett was interested and detailed plans were drawn up, the flight was ultimately abandoned.

Following the failure of the arctic flight plan, Post resumed focus on promoting the transatlantic flight he had envisioned in 1914. He proposed his idea for a Paris to New York City flight to New York hotel owner Raymond Orteig. Post encouraged Ortieg to put up $25,000 in prize money for whomever could accomplish the feat, then drafted the rules for the competition. Post and Ortieg were criticized in the press for sending men to their deaths, but in 1927 Charles Lindbergh made the crossing.[5]

Falls, crashes and injuries[edit]

At the dawn of the twentieth century balloons, cars, and planes, lacking safety features, were extraordinarily dangerous, and Post embraced all three. Many men died but Post survived a number of equipment failures and other exigencies.[74]

Near miss in 1905 Glidden Tour[edit]

In the Glidden Auto Tour of 1905, Post narrowly avoided being hit by a train while navigating his White Steamer through Stony Brook, Massachusetts. A railroad crossing gate had not been lowered. Seeing the gate up, Post drove toward the tracks as the New York to New Haven train approached. Applying both brakes, Post was able to stop the car as the train went past directly in front of him.[75]

Fall of “Le Centaur”[edit]

In 1906, Post set off from Pittsfield, Massachusetts in a balloon called “Le Centaur,” with Alan Hawley and French aeronaut Count Henry de la Vaulx. Twenty-five minutes into the trip the balloon, having risen to more than 5,000 feet, hit turbulence. The balloon dropped 3,000 feet in fewer than three minutes, then rose up and dropped again. The men cut ballast in an effort to slow the balloon’s descent and attempted to land in a farmer’s field in North Colebrook, Connecticut but the basket was dragged a considerable distance by the wind before holding fast. The three men emerged unscathed.[76]

Fall of “Conqueror”[edit]

The balloon Conqueror, flown by A. Holland Forbes and Augustus Post in the 1908 Gordon Bennett balloon race in Berlin, tearing open at 3,000 feet.

Thousands attended the start of the 1908 Gordon Bennett Balloon Race in Germany in which Post flew in a balloon called "Conqueror" as aide to A. Holland Forbes, president of the Forbes Publishing Company. The “Conqueror” was the largest size balloon then used in competition. It had a gas capacity of 80,000 cubic feet, and stood 80 feet high with a fifty-foot diameter. Prior to the race Forbes had lengthened the balloon’s appendix in an effort to allow less gas to escape from the balloon’s envelope and thereby improve the chances for prolonged flight.[39][77]

The Conqueror, balloon flown by A. Holland Forbes and Augustus post in the 1908 Gordon Bennett balloon race, draped over rooftop in Berlin after falling from 3,000 feet.

At the start of the race a gust of wind caught “Conqueror” and propelled it toward a wooden fence where spectators were packed. The crowd parted but the balloon struck the fence and the impact knocked off two ballast bags and split two more, causing the balloon to ascend rapidly and the basket to swing uncontrollably.[39]

The fabric of the balloon then tore and the basket plummeted. Forbes cut ballast bags to slow their descent,[78] and the balloon's fabric folded in on itself against the balloon’s netting, slowing it slightly. The men took hold of the support ring above them and lifted their feet as the basket smashed halfway through the tiled roof of a house in the Berlin suburb of Friedenau. Forbes and Post sustained only bruises. News of their survival spread and the German Emperor Wilhelm II invited them to be his personal guests that night at the Royal Opera.[39]

Troubled flight at Sheepshead Bay[edit]

In the early days of aviation formal instruction did not exist and so trial and error were the basis of flight training. Augustus Post began flying in 1909 and was flying in exhibitions, including the Jamestown Exposition[79] and the Harvard-Boston Aero Meet, by 1910.[80] On August 10, 1910, at an exposition at Sheepshead Bay racetrack Post lost control of the Curtiss plane he was flying.[81]

Forced to steer with one hand, Post hit the fence at the end of the field during take off, then on his first loop of the track he hit a small hill, before ascending once more. A reporter for the Detroit Free Press described the ride as “buck jumping,” adding “Apparently the machine had got clean away from him, and was just ramming around on a spree.” The same reporter described what happened next: “Around flew Post, whisking over the stable roofs and heading for the racetrack infield. His plane pitched up and down, rocking in the heavy air. Side gusts hit it, and whirligigs that had bothered the veterans all afternoon spun it like a top, but Post plunged safely through all these dangers, dove down like a fish hawk and lit with a spinning propeller in the center of the field.” On exiting the craft safely, Post responded to reporters' questions saying: “I’m sorry about this. I assure you, gentlemen, that I did not mean to make that kind of a flight."[81]

Crash in New Orleans[edit]

On December 3, 1910, four months after the Sheepshead Bay incident and two months after being lost in the woods of Canada for ten days with Alan Hawley in the Gordon Bennett Balloon Race, Post crashed a plane at an exhibition in New Orleans.[82] While banking to make a low turn the tail of his Curtiss biplane hit a tree, causing the plane to fall 60 feet and smash into the ground. Post knocked a tooth loose, and was badly bruised.[83] This was one of the only occasions that Post was taken to the hospital.

Balloon sucked into cyclone in Kansas City[edit]

Augustus Post and Clifford Harmon were flying a self built balloon called “New York” in the National Balloon Races starting Kansas City in 1911 when they were sucked into a cyclone. The men had brought on board equipment, including a sphygmomanometer and cardiograph, to study the effect of high altitude and atmospheric pressure on the human body, having previously attained the altitude of 26,000 feet.[84] Their findings were intended to be sent to the Rockefeller Institute but they were unable to gather data as the weather system came up suddenly at approximately 3 o’clock in the morning when they were traveling at a height of 8,000 feet.[85] The sky was dark with the exception of lightning and they were unable to see the oncoming cyclone. Their altimeter, which survived the event and continued to make readings, later indicated they had made rapid ascents and descents of more than 5,000 feet at a time.[85] Forced to hold on to leather straps at the bottom of the balloon’s basket they were unable to release ballast or attempt a landing. As wind speeds slowed, Post was able to pull a rip cord that opened the gas bag and extricated the balloon from the twister. The ballast bags had all been emptied or torn off the exterior of the car. The balloon dragged at low altitude for over a mile, taking out a telegraph pole before lodging in mud in a farmer’s field in Fremont, Kansas. Both the men and the balloon survived unharmed.[86]

Post's last flight in a balloon was in 1949, at age 76. He had no reported mishaps in the 31 years between the Kansas City cyclone and his final aerial ascent.[87]

Music, arts and theater career[edit]

Augustus Post from original Broadway Production of Omar the Tentmaker

Post was an actor as well as aviator. In 1914—the same year he was writing about the possibility of transatlantic flight—he also appeared on Broadway in 103 performances of the original production of Omar the Tentmaker[88] by Richard Walton Tully.

A year later he co-authored the book Poems of California with Francis Borton,[89] and an opera, Nitana, with Umberto Nesci.[90] While writing articles like “Up in the Air” for American Magazine[91] and “Kite Balloons: The Eyes of the Artillery”[66] which he translated from French to English, he was also building his reputation as a baritone with the New York Symphony Chorus and the Municipal Opera Association.[92]

Among his other music and arts endeavors, in 1919 Post published a song called “The Day of Glory Comes” to celebrate the end of World War I[93] and in 1928 Post starred in an American Opera Association production of The Man from Paris.[94] He also published a book, Skycraft[95] in 1930.[96]

Lectures and civic interests[edit]

In his midlife, Post shifted his primary focus to the arts and civic pursuits. In 1935 he moved into a studio apartment in an enclave of artists and intellectuals in New York. For the last seventeen years of his life he shared the space with well known sculptor Frederic Allen Williams.[97] During that time Post worked as a professional lecturer[98] and continued to write and sing. He performed at society functions and gave lectures to a variety of groups including: The Explorers’ Club, the Harlem Prison, The Research Institute for Extra Sensory Perception, and The National Women’s Press Association.[92]

As he aged, Post regularly turned out to support the varied organizations he had helped form. He wore his Daniel Boone costume and joined Daniel Carter Beard and other Boy Scouts of America founders on annual trips to pay respects at the grave of Teddy Roosevelt on Long Island.[17] He served as a referee at Gordon Bennett balloon races.[99] He participated in Glidden Tour revivals,[100] dedicated airports,[67] and sang to sick people in hospitals until two weeks before his death.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Augustus Post at home 1920

On December 8, 1898, Post’s twenty-fifth birthday, he married Emma Holliday (née Thacker), a woman originally from New Orleans, who was 20 years his senior.[101] Holliday had been married twice before. Her first husband, John Keaghy, a prominent judge in Texas, with whom she had three children, sued her for divorce citing abandonment after she left him for over a year. The divorce was granted when she did not appear in court to respond to the charges. Her second marriage was to Daniel Holliday, the nephew of the then Governor of Virginia.[102] Holliday sought a split after two years of marriage. He argued to the court that his wife had not received the summons to the divorce proceedings with her first husband and had therefore entered into marriage with him while still under the impression she was married to Keaghy. It was on these grounds that Holliday's annulment was granted. The annulment was finalized on December 1, 1898, one week before she married Post.[103][102]

Post had met his wife while traveling in London. She was returning from Spain and he from Russia. The two lived at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. In her testimony before the court, Emma Post indicated their first few years together were peaceful. However, in 1907 she had her husband arrested.[101] Soon thereafter she sued for divorce on grounds of cruelty and told the press she intended to file a suit against Post’s sister, Mary, as well. She alleged Mary had alienated her husband’s affections by demanding his attention following her own high-profile divorce from millionaire Philadelphian Herbert Mason Clapp, grandson of James S. Mason, the founder of Mason & Co. boot blacking.[101] Augustus Post countersued his wife seeking an annulment on the same grounds as her second husband, arguing Emma’s divorce from her first husband had not been legitimate and thus she had never been in a position to remarry. The court denied his petition and granted Emma Post alimony of $250 per month, the modern day equivalent of roughly $6,800.[104] She did not file suit against his sister.

Frederic Allen Williams

The case of Post v. Post[103] returned to the headlines periodically over a four-year period between 1907 and 1911. Augustus Post petitioned the court to have his alimony reduced, indicating that he was ill and had lost his fortune in the stock market panic of 1907. His primary employer E. D. Shepherd Banking went into bankruptcy that year, however, Post continued his work in Alexander Graham Bell’s Aerial Experiment Association and then worked with Glenn Curtiss building and testing aircraft. By 1912 Emma and Augustus Post had formally separated and Emma Post had moved to Virginia.[105]

In 1935 Post moved in with the well known sculptor and photographer Frederic Allen Williams. Post and Williams hosted parties at their apartment, travelled together, and participated in one another’s creative endeavors. It is not clear that the partnership was a sexual one, but it was Post’s closest and longest lasting relationship. The pair remained together until Post’s death.[97]


Post died of a heart attack on October 5, 1952 and was survived by his partner Frederic Allen Williams, three nieces, two nephews, four great nieces and two great nephews.[5]

Awards & honors[edit]

  • Certificate of honor conferred by the Secretary of War, Secretary of Navy and Secretary of Army for his service to the Four Minute Men during WWI[65]
  • Honored by Amherst Alumni Association in 1930[106]
  • Celebrated at AAA’s 50th Anniversary Celebration two weeks before his death in 1952[107]

Post founded The A. Leo Stevens Parachute Medal in 1948. Stevens was a balloonist and balloon and parachute maker. He likely made the America II, the balloon in which Alan Hawley and Augustus Post made their record-setting flight in 1910. The award was given annually from 1948 to 1959. Twelve men received A. Leo Stevens medals in that time.[108]

The Col. Augustus Post Memorial Award was given only once, to Dr. Jay Rice Moody, in 1954, by the AAA in recognition for his role in reestablishing the Glidden Auto Tours, and maintaining the spirit of the original tours as founded by Post.[109]

Societies and memberships[edit]

Early Birds

Notable associates[edit]


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  4. ^ "St. Louis Tour". The Boston Post. April 17, 1904. p. 11. Retrieved June 14, 2017 – via Free to read
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Colonel Post Dies, Auto, Air Pioneer". The New York Times. October 5, 1952. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  6. ^ "Augustus Post Named Chairman of American Automobile Association". The New York Times. March 2, 1905. p. 5. Retrieved June 14, 2017 – via Free to read
  7. ^ a b c "Banker Arrested in Auto". The New York Times. March 5, 1905. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
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