Bessica Raiche Aviator Archive, ca. 1910

Value (2016) | $5,000 Retail
Watch  

GUEST:
I knew I had a great-grandmother, her name was Bessica Raiche, but I didn't know the details behind it until probably ten years ago when my mom brought her to my attention. She said that we had all these artifacts of hers.

APPRAISER:
Who was Bessica, what did she do?

GUEST:
She was the first woman aviator.

APPRAISER:
In the United States.

GUEST:
In the United States, yes. She built, designed her own planes, and flew them. Her and her husband did. When their first plane was built they actually built it in her house. And they come to find out that they couldn't get it out, so they had to tear the front of the house off to get it out.

APPRAISER:
That's just amazing. When did she take her first flight?

GUEST:
1910.

APPRAISER:
In a plane that she built and designed herself.

GUEST:
Actually, her first flight I think was in 1908, and that was with... in a biplane, and I think she got the flying bug and built her own plane. Her first solo flight was in 1910.

APPRAISER:
I understand she was also a medical doctor.

GUEST:
Yeah, she was a doctor before she became an aviator, and then due to health reasons, she had to quit the aviation business, and she went back into her medical practice.

APPRAISER:
Until today, I'd never heard of your illustrious great-grandmother either.

GUEST:
And many people haven't. (chuckles)

APPRAISER:
How can this be that America's first female aviator is virtually unknown, outside of a tiny circle of aviation aficionados?

GUEST:
I have no idea.

APPRAISER:
Well, here you brought with us today this early medal that designates that she is America's first woman aviator. On the back of the medal it's dated 1910.

GUEST:
Correct.

APPRAISER:
You brought a picture of Bessica Raiche.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
There she is in her plane.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And over here, in the air.

GUEST:
Exactly. And the most amazing thing about it is nobody knows who she is.

APPRAISER:
Well, I'm hoping that through our conversation maybe we can change that just a little bit.

GUEST:
It would be nice.

APPRAISER:
One of the items you brought is this letter from another rather famous gentleman, Harry Houdini.

GUEST:
Yes, yes, and he was also an accomplished pilot. And if you notice on the bottom of the letter here, it says the "first successful aviator in Australia."

APPRAISER:
(laughing) I had no idea Harry Houdini was a pilot. He's better known for other things.

GUEST:
Yeah.

APPRAISER:
But you have a treasure trove of all kinds of artifacts, and images and other related material to her early aviation pioneer career.

GUEST:
Yes, we do. We have quite a bit of it. Unfortunately, her husband, when they divorced, he ended up burning a lot of the stuff-- plane drawings, the designs. He sat in front of the fireplace and said that, "We don't need this anymore," and threw them... you know, threw them in the fire and burned them.

APPRAISER:
Oh, my goodness, that... that's... maybe that helps explain why she's not as famous as she deserves to be.

GUEST:
Could very well be.

APPRAISER:
Interestingly, the letter is not addressed to your great-grandmother. The value of a Harry Houdini letter is in the $2,000 to $3,000 range at retail. For the collection we have before us, I think a valuation at retail would be $5,000.

GUEST:
Okay. Very good.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Ken Sanders Rare Books
Salt Lake City, UT
Appraised value (2016)
$5,000 Retail
Event
Palm Springs, CA (August 06, 2016)
Period
1910s
Material
Gold

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