Chamberlin, Clarence Duncan
Aviation PioneerEnshrined 1976 1893 – 1976
Clarence Duncan Chamberlin was born on November 11, 1893 in Denison, Iowa and graduated from Denison High School in 1912. He attended Denison Normal and Business College for a year before attending Iowa State University for two years.
A versatile and dedicated pioneer of aviation Chamberlin joined the aviation section of the Signal Corps in 1917 and earned his wings. However, World War I ended before he could be sent into action after serving as a flight instructor. He resigned from his commission in 1919 and went into business.
Purchasing the first Bellanca airplane sold in 1920, Chamberlin barnstormed throughout the east. Then he dealt in war-surplus airplanes and engaged in commercial aerial photography and advertising. In 1924, his Chamberlin-Rowe Aircraft Company converted war planes into commercial aircraft. After participating in the 1925 National Air Races, he joined the Wright Aeronautical
Corporation, that built the Wright-Bellanca WB-2 monoplane. He and Bertram Acosta used the WB-2 to set a world’s endurance record of over 51 hours in 1927. After christening the plane “Miss Columbia”, Chamberlin and Charles A. Levine took off from Roosevelt Field, Long Island, New York on June 4, 1927. Their goal was to surpass Lindbergh’s flight to Paris. They headed across the Atlantic, and landed safely, out of fuel, at Mansfeldt, Germany, completing a record 3,911 mile flight in 43 hours. He returns to a hero’s New York ticker-tape parade welcome. Later, Chamberlin took off from the S. S. Leviathan to demonstrate flying mail from ships to shore. After flying his “Crescent” monoplane in the 1929 Air Races, he opened a New York City to Washington, D. C. flight service and set a world’s diesel-powered air craft altitude record of 19,311 feet in 1932.
After serving on the famous Baker Board investigating military aviation in 1934, Chamberlin opened an airline between New York and Boston. When it failed, he uses its four Curtis Condors to barnstorm the country. During the next five years he carried a half-million passengers aloft for their first flight. Later, as war clouds threaten in Europe, he opens several aviation trade schools, vital to the war effort. After the war, he serves briefly as general sales manager of the Bellanca Aircraft Corporation.
Clarence Duncan indeed made outstanding contributions to aviation by his record endurance and altitude flights, and his nonstop flight to Germany. But perhaps, more important, he introduced almost half-million person to flying, a unique record none have surpassed.
Chamberlin died October 31, 1976 in Shelton, Connecticut and rests at Lawn Cemetery, Huntington, Connecticut.