Marvel Crosson

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Marvel Crosson
Marvel Crosson.jpg
Crosson in the cockpit of a Ryan Brougham, ca. 1929
Born(1904-04-27)April 27, 1904
DiedAugust 19, 1929(1929-08-19) (aged 25)
Known forAviator

Marvel Crosson (April 27, 1904 – August 19, 1929) was a pioneer aviator, and the first female pilot to earn a commercial license in the Territory of Alaska. She worked in both California and Alaska, dying in a crash during the very first Women's Air Derby. She was inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Early life[edit]

She was born to Esler Crosson and his wife Elizabeth Wynant Crosson in Warsaw, Indiana, the hometown of Elizabeth Crosson.[1] Brother Joe[2] was born in Minneapolis, Kansas, where the family lived on a ranch. Another sister Zelma was born later. The family relocated to Sterling, Colorado.[3]

Aviation career[edit]

In 1922, the Crosson family moved to San Diego, California. Marvel and Joseph became fascinated with aviation and together bought their first airplane, a Curtiss N-9. Joe Crosson moved to the Territory of Alaska to take a job as a pilot. Marvel followed soon afterwards, and earned her commercial pilot's license there, the first woman in the territory to do so.[4] She joined her brother in his business, piloting and keeping the equipment in working order.[5] She helped her brother transport a monoplane from San Diego to New York for Hubert Wilkins. After working as a commercial pilot in Alaska, Marvel returned to California. She set an altitude record of 23,996 feet (7,314 m) on May 28, 1929, while piloting a Travel Air Jet J-5.[6][7]


Marvel Crosson died on August 19, 1929, when her airplane crashed in the Arizona desert on the second day of the Women's Air Derby that had begun in California. Her body was found several hundred feet from her plane. Crosson's parachute had been released, but was unopened, possibly indicating that she was too near the ground for it to work properly after being released.[8] She was entombed at Greenwood Memorial Park in San Diego, California.[9]

Race sponsor National Exchange Club held a nationwide moment of silence in all its clubs to commemorate Crosson's death. A vacant chair represented Crosson at a banquet for the Women's Air Derby in Cleveland, Ohio.[10] She was inducted into the Alaska Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.[4]


  1. ^ "Relatives of Joe Crosson Live Here". Warsaw Union. August 16, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  2. ^ "Marvel Crosson's Kid Brother Flies On". The Evening Standard. December 6, 1929. p. 10. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  3. ^ Hershberger, Forrest; Grubbs, Jenni (2011). Sterling. Arcadia Pub. ISBN 978-0-7385-8152-1. OCLC 679919930.
  4. ^ a b "Marvel Crosson inductee". Alaska Women's Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  5. ^ "Intrepid Flyer of North Goes into Frozen Arctic to Save Sick Man's Life". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. April 23, 1927. pp. 1, 2. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  6. ^ Sumner, Sandi (2008). Women Pilots Of Alaska: 37 Interviews And Profiles. McFarland. pp. 11–14. ISBN 978-0-7864-1937-1. OCLC 57208761.
  7. ^ "Girl Pilot Crashes to Death". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. August 20, 1929. pp. 1, 2, . Retrieved July 24, 2012.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  8. ^ "Marvel Crosson Found Dead Beside Her Wrecked Plane". Lewiston Evening Journal. August 20, 1929. p. 1. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  9. ^ Marvel Crosson at Find a Grave
  10. ^ "National Tribute for Marvel Crosson". Evening Tribune. August 21, 1929. p. 1. Retrieved June 24, 2012.