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The President of the Red Bank Aero Club Crashes His Plane into the Governor’s Residence

By Joseph G. Bilby ©2022

Oops.  In the early evening of June 11, 1929, William Taft of Red Bank, New Jersey, “president of the Red Bank Aero Club,” decided to take a couple of friends, Mrs. William Jeanine and Roger James Ryan, on a flight in his Waco 10 biplane (with OX-5 motor) down to Sea Girt, where he landed on the New Jersey National Guard Camp’s parade ground.  

An original WACO 10 with OX-5 motor at Old Rheinbeck Aerodrome

When he took off to return to Red Bank, Taft hit a flag pole, and his aircraft spun into a loop and pitched into the roof of Governor Morgan Larson’s summer home, New Jersey’s “Little White House” driving through the attic and into the interior. The house was the former New Jersey exhibit hall at the Saint Louis World’s Fair that had been disassembled and brought train to Sea Girt where it had been reassembled for the governor’s seasonal use in 1906.  A newspaper account stated that the plane “invaded the sanctity of Governor Larson’s bedroom, accompanied by showers of falling plaster and splintered timber.” The nose of the plane reportedly ended up hanging six feet above his bed.

Image courtesy Joseph G. Bilby

Fortunately, the governor was not present at the time, although his aged mother was reportedly walking down the hall at the time of the crash. She fainted and had to have “stimulants” administered to her by two local ladies. Taft and his passengers escaped unhurt, extricated by first responders, including the governor’s nephew, New Jersey National Guard captain Harold Larson, who had been racing the plane down the parade ground in his car just before the crash.  The governor’s bedroom, according to the Asbury Park Press, “would have to be entirely refurnished.  Oil and gas from the plane and debris have ruined the furnishings.” The photo shows workers extricating the remains of Taft’s aircraft from the building.

Image courtesy Joseph G. Bilby

Returning from a trip to Washington later in the day and surveying the scene, Governor Larson joked to a reporter, saying: “I know one thing. I won’t be sleeping there tonight.”

About the Author:

Joseph G. Bilby received his BA and MA degrees in history from Seton Hall University and served as lieutenant in the First Infantry Division in Vietnam in 1966-67.  He is assistant curator of the New Jersey National Guard Militia Museum in Sea Girt, a columnist for the Civil War News and New Jersey Sportsmen News, and a freelance writer, historian and historical consultant.  He is the author, editor or co-author of more than four hundred articles and twenty-two books on New Jersey, the Civil War, and firearms history.  Mr. Bilby has received the Jane Clayton Award for contributions to Monmouth County, New Jersey history; an award of merit from the New Jersey Historical Commission for his contributions to the state’s military history; and the New Jersey Meritorious Service Medal from the state’s Division of Military and Veterans Affairs.  In 2018, he was awarded the Richard J. Hughes Prize by the New Jersey Historical Commission for his lifelong contributions to New Jersey history.

Sources: 

Special to The New York Times. (1929). Plane Crashes on Gov. Larson’s Sea Girt Home, Pierces Ceiling of Bedroom; 3 Aboard Unhurt. The New York Times, New York, N.Y., June 12, 1929, P. 1.

Cassidy, Tom. (1929). Plane Hits Larson Home. New York Daily News, New York, N.Y., June 12, 1929, P. 2.

Waco 10 Image courtesy Old Rheinbeck Aerodrome. Available: https://oldrhinebeck.org/waco-10/

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