First Across the Sea: H. C. Richardson and the Historic Transatlantic Flight of 1919

In Search of Old Shamokin, June 2020 edition

Just over 100 years ago, a Shamokin native played a vital role in a remarkable yet often overlooked achievement in the history of aviation—the first successful transatlantic flight. In an arduous three-week journey in May 1919, Holden Chester Richardson was one of a crew of naval aviators who pioneered the way across the Atlantic Ocean aboard three U.S. Navy seaplanes from New York to Great Britain.

Holden Chester Richardson, c. 1915-1920
Library of Congress

There is perhaps no chapter of aviation history more misunderstood than that of the first transatlantic flight. Traditionally, the distinction is attributed to Lindbergh, who completed the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. It could just as easily be accorded to the two British aviators Alcock and Brown for having made a similar nonstop journey from June 14-15, 1919. But both were preceded in crossing the Atlantic by the trio of seaplanes known as the NC, or Navy-Curtiss, flying boats. Because the flight was neither continuous nor solo, it was quickly overshadowed by the later record breakers, leaving the story of the NCs to an undeserved obscurity.

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Times of Plague: Shamokin and the 1918 Spanish Flu

In Search of Old Shamokin, May 2020 edition

Emergency hospital at the Edgewood Park pavilion, 1918 (Larry Deklinski’s Thomas Photography collection)

In the midst of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in a period of challenges unprecedented in our lifetimes. Even in areas comparatively spared from the spread of the virus, the effects of the pandemic are keenly felt in the prolonged closures, restrictions, and quarantines which extend to every corner of the nation, including Shamokin. But history reminds us that this is not the first time our community has experienced—and survived—the ravages of plague.

In particular, the effects on our area of the current virus are mild in comparison to the Spanish influenza of 1918. The virus, which reached its peak in the United States in the fall of 1918, brought about a pandemic with a death toll of at least 500,000 nationally and millions more worldwide.

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In Search of Old Shamokin: Before Coal Was King

The following is the inaugural installment of my new column in the News-Item, In Search of Old Shamokin. Find it monthly in the Lifestyle section.

I started researching this fascinating topic while writing my short feature film, “Jesse’s Diamonds,” inspired by the story of Jesse Major, John C. Boyd, and the founding of Shamokin. The film is currently in the casting phase. Find out more here.

Before Coal Was King
Jesse Major, John Boyd, and the Origins of Shamokin

In 1824, a notorious outlaw pays down the paltry sum of twelve dollars for a tract of land which will one day become the center of a prosperous city. The outlaw is Jesse Major, who ultimately sells his land for two hundred thirty dollars and a horse to a land speculator named John C. Boyd. The city? Shamokin, Pennsylvania.

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New exhibit coming to the Heritage Museum

Recently we featured the Kulp Memorial Church on this blog as one of the Shamokin area’s Great Buildings. Next weekend, Saturday, September 21, visitors to the Greater Shamokin Heritage Museum can view the contents of the Kulp church’s original cornerstone in a new exhibit.

Myself and Dave Shinskie of Kulpmont100 visit the Kulp church in August 2019.

The cornerstone was laid in 1912 and contained coins, a Bible and prayer book, and a number of rare issues of Shamokin newspapers including the Dispatch, Herald, and Daily News. Most of these will be on display during the September 21 event, which runs from 1:00 P.M. to 3:30 P.M.

The museum would like to extend special thanks to Kulpmont100 for lending the cornerstone contents to this exhibit.

In addition to the opening of the exhibit, there are several community activities and events also scheduled for September 21, including an AOAA ride, Shamokin Cemetery community cleanup, and the Edison Illuminating Walking Tour at 6:30 P.M.