GENESEO —It has been nearly 22 years since work began on the “Harold Neumann – Aviation Pioneer” exhibit at the Geneseo Historical Museum.
The project, which showcases Neumann’s historic flying career of 70 years, is coming to fruition with a grand opening and ribbon cutting celebrating his life as a world renowned pilot.
The grand opening and ribbon cutting for the exhibit will be held on May 15, but because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event is by invitation only. The celebration will be live-streamed on Geneseo’s Channel 50. The exhibit will be open to the public beginning Tuesday, May 18, by appointment only.
Angie Snook, retired curator of the Geneseo Historical Museum, shared the beginning of plans for the current exhibit…”In October of 1999, Harold Neumann’s daughter Ann (Neumann) James and family members Doris Richards and Sandra Pobanz, donated the first artifacts of Harold Neumann’s historic flying career to the Geneseo Historical Museum,” she said.
Nearly 22 years later, the exhibit’s completion will be celebrated with a grand opening and ribbon cutting, and for that reason, Snook, now retired, stayed involved as the project curator.
“Over the years and learning about Harold’s history, I feel like part of the family,” she said. “What started with his TWA uniform and some of his awards, trophies and license signed by Orville Wright, has grown to be one of the museum’s largest exhibits.”
The public is invited to the fly-in at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 15, at the Gen-Air Airport in Geneseo. “Mr. Mulligan,” a pioneer racing plane, is scheduled to fly over the airport.
Jamie (Blackburn) Rhee, a graduate of Geneseo’s Class of 1985, who is now Commissioner, Chicago Department of Aviation, will speak at the ribbon cutting. She will share how Neumann’s TWA flight from Paris to Chicago made O’Hare Airport an International Airport in 1958.
Karl Engelskirger, Valley City, Ohio, a pilot and owner of both Howard Planes, “Mike and Ike,” will speak about owning and restoring the award-winning ships.
In addition, Elliot Block, San Diego, Calif., Howard Plane historian and test pilot, will speak on the history of Benny Howard planes and Benny’s relationship to Harold Neumann.
Sandra Pobanz, of Scottsdale, Ariz., a relative of Neumann’s, will also talk at the private event on May 15.
Information shared by Paula (Neumann) Chapa, also a relative, who chairs the Harold Neumann project, said during Neumann’s flying career of 70 years, he accomplished much more than that farm boy from Geneseo ever imagined was possible. In 1935, he won the Greve Trophy, the Thompson Trophy, (both for air races), along with earning the award of America’s #1 Pilot by International Aeronautical Association.
“He is acknowledged in the Smithsonian, he was a barnstormer, skywriter, and a Captain for TWA for 30 years. From Jenny’s to Jets, this man was not just a pilot, he was a genius,” Chapa said.
“Collecting memorabilia of Harold’s from museums and family members across the country has been nothing less than thrilling for us,” Chapa said. “We have his Greve Trophy and his Thompson Trophy, and they were just the tip of the iceberg. On loan from Special Collections & University Archives, University of Illinois, Chicago, we will have the original Eiffel Tower that Harold presented to Mayor Daley after his celebrated flight from Paris to Chicago in 1958.”
“Hours and hours have been spent reading letters, logbooks, and notes of Harold’s, trying to put together the stories of his life with the memorabilia we collected,” she said. “We want this museum exhibit to be educational as well as informative.”
Information also is available on face book at Harold Neumann Aviation Pioneer, at the museums’ face book page, and at geneseoaviationpioneer.com.