258th Aero Squadron Insignia, ca. 1918
This was brought back to the United States by my grandfather after he had been discharged from World War I. This is a picture of him and the ace that had crashed the airplane. And the ace gave my grandfather, who was the mechanic on the airplane, the insignia off of the airplane. I don't know what has happened to the rest of it. We think that Grandfather had to cut off some of it in order to get it in his duffel bag. And this is a picture of my grandfather.
You know, looking at the image, I think we are most likely seeing that there were two of these, one on either side of their aircraft. And the one in the photograph is the one from the other side. So certainly once an airplane like this cracks up, they generally... if they can fix it, and they may not be able to, they certainly are going to re-skin it. And when I say re-skin, that's an important thing to remember about First World War aircraft, is that they were made out of wood.
It's a wooden airplane, generally a spruce frame that's covered with what they call a doped fabric, meaning that it's painted with something that makes it very taut and resistant to dings and scratches and...
Resistant to the elements to a degree. They weren't so bullet resistant.
No, they wasn't, and that's how this came to be crashed.
The point of it, though, of having aircraft designed that way, is because it made them extremely lightweight, so it doesn't require a whole lot of horsepower to get them off the ground. And they really didn't have a whole lot of horsepower at their disposal. Looking at the material, we can tell that the aircraft was being flown by somebody in the 258th Aerosquadron, and they got involved pretty late in the war. Like so many American squadrons, they went over and then spent a lot of time waiting for aircraft to arrive. What they were flying were Samson IIs, which was an observation aircraft. Not a lot of aces in observation aircraft. They weren't involved, really, in air-to-air combat. In fact, this particular squadron saw a lot of antiaircraft fire, but as far as the records that I was able to find, didn't get involved in any aircraft-to-aircraft conflicts. So it may be that the gentleman was from another squadron, but that really doesn't affect the value of the piece.
We have wonderful documentation, great provenance from your grandfather. We can see the aircraft that's crashed, we can see where they have cut the piece off the side. It's a premium piece. Collectors are very, very interested in aircraft art from the First World War. If you were to insure this today, you would need to put an insurance value on this item for $10,000 to $12,000.
Okay. Wow. We'll never sell it. It'll never be for sale, ever.
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