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John Armstrong Drexel

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John Armstrong Drexel
Drexel in 1910
Born(1891-10-24)October 24, 1891
DiedMarch 4, 1958(1958-03-04) (aged 66)
Ashford, Kent, England
Parent(s)Anthony Joseph Drexel, Jr.
Margarita Armstrong
RelativesAnthony Joseph Drexel (grandfather)
Margaretta Finch-Hatton, Countess of Winchilsea (sister)
Anthony Joseph Drexel III (brother)

John Armstrong Drexel (October 24, 1891 – March 4, 1958) was an American aviation pioneer who was a member of the prominent Drexel family of Philadelphia.[1]

Early life


Drexel was a son of Anthony Joseph Drexel Jr. (1864–1934)[2] and Margarita Armstrong (1867-1948).[3] His elder brother was banker, and aviator, Anthony Joseph Drexel III, and his only sister Margaretta was married to Guy Finch-Hatton, 14th Earl of Winchilsea.[4]

He was a grandson of Anthony Joseph Drexel, millionaire banker and founder of Drexel University. His father began working for his grandfather at Drexel & Co., Drexel, Morgan & Co. of New York, and Drexel, Harjes & Co., and was made a partner on January 1, 1890, shortly before his birth.[5] His father resigned on October 21, 1893, just four months after his grandfather's death, and then lived a life of leisure.[6] Aside from his inheritance from the estate of his father, which he shared with his three siblings,[7] he inherited $1,000,000.[8]



With William McArdle, he founded the New Forest Flying School at East Boldre, the second school for pilots in Great Britain and the fifth in the world.[9]

On June 21, 1910,[10] Drexel was the 10th aviator to receive his British Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate, recognized under the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.[11][12] He also became only the 8th Aviator to receive an Aero Club of America pilot's licence, taking the test in his Gnôme engined Blériot monoplane.[13]

On August 12, 1910, he set the world altitude record of 6,595 feet in a Blériot monoplane In competition in Lanark, Scotland.[14][9][15] In November 1910, in an attempt to fly cross-country, he lost his way and had to land near the Delaware River.[16]

Military service


During World War I, he served as chauffeur to Field Marshal Sir John French,[17] and later, flew with the French Lafayette Escadrille until 1917.[18] He was subsequently commissioned Major in the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps, serving until the end of the war in the United States Army Air Service.[1]

Later career


In 1926, Drexel drove the Flying Scotsman train from London to Edinburgh.[8]

In 1934, Drexel served as a partner in the securities firm of William P. Bonbright & Co.,[19] along with August Belmont IV. He also served on Bonbright's board and on the board of the Anglo-South American Bank.[19]


  1. ^ a b "DREXEL FLYING FOR FRANCE.; Young Philadelphian in Lafayette Escadrille on West Front". The New York Times. 15 May 1917. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  2. ^ "ANTHONY J. DREXEL, BANKER, DIES AT 70; Head of Famous Philadelphia Family Succumbs Here After Illness of Eight Months, RESIDED LONG IN ENGLAND Keen Yachtsman and Owner of Celebrated Craft -Had Been Host to Edward VII. i". The New York Times. 15 December 1934. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  3. ^ "MRS. BRINSLEY FITZGERALD". The New York Times. February 13, 1948. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  4. ^ "U.S. Born Countess, Former Miss Drexel" (PDF). The New York Times. 25 December 1952. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  5. ^ Rottenberg, Dan (2001). The Man who Made Wall Street: Anthony J. Drexel and the Rise of Modern Finance. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812236262. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  6. ^ "WANTS TO ENJOY HIMSELF.; Anthony J. Drexel, Jr., to withdraw from Hoeses His Father Founded". The New York Times. 21 October 1893. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  7. ^ Times, Special To The New York (5 January 1935). "COL. DREXEL'S WILL NAMES MME. BARTH; Resident of Paris Receives $25,000 and Life Income From $500,000". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  8. ^ a b "J.A. Drexel Drives Crack Train to Edinburgh; American Broker Is Cheered by London Crowd". The New York Times. 8 May 1926. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Events of the Month in Aeronautics". Popular Mechanics. 14: 505. October 1910.
  10. ^ "Official Notices to Members". The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. June 25, 1910. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  11. ^ Pictures of many pioneer aviators listed here can be seen in Flight "Progress: A Pictorial Review in "Flight" Photographs" (PDF). Flight Magazine. XXII (1). London: Reed Business Information: 34–37. 1930-01-03. Retrieved 2010-05-31.
  12. ^ "Medals Sold with Flying Colors". 13 May 2017. Retrieved 16 June 2017 – via PressReader.
  13. ^ "The Lothians: J. Armstrong Drexel - Aviator". the-lothians.blogspot.com. The Lothians. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  14. ^ "DREXEL-CATTANEO CONTEST; A Duration Test -- Cattaneo Makes a New British Record". The New York Times. 11 August 1910. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Morane Gets the Height Record". The New York Times. 1 September 1910. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  16. ^ "DREXEL GOES ASTRAY IN HIS MONOPLANE; Aviator Trying to Return to Point Breeze Track Flew in the Opposite Direction". The New York Times. 25 November 1910. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  17. ^ Times, Special Cable To The New York (12 December 1914). "DREXEL INVALIDED HOME.; American Who Served as French's Chauffeur Returns to London". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  18. ^ Times, Special To The New York (8 September 1915). "DREXEL PREDICTS ADVANCE.; Philadelphian, Back from the Front, Says Allies Are Getting Ready". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  19. ^ a b "J.A. Drexel on 2 Bank Boards". The New York Times. 1 June 1934. Retrieved 16 June 2017.