William Adger Moffett Papers, 1904-1948 (bulk 1918-1933): Finding Aid
Published in 1989
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 198
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: William Adger Moffett Papers
- Dates: 1904-1948
- Bulk Dates: 1918-1933
- Size: 10.65 linear feet (32 manuscript boxes, 2 flat boxes)
- Creator: Moffett, William A. (William Adger), 1869-1933
- Language(s) of material: English
- Abstract: William Adger Moffett was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, having served as first Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. The Moffett Papers, consisting of correspondence, press releases, notes, and news clippings, pertain to such topics as the evolution of naval aviation, lighter-than-air technology, the London Naval Conference, coastal defense, budgetary matters, and relations between the military, political, and commercial spheres.
Biography of William Adger Moffett
Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett was born on October 31, 1863 in Charleston, South Carolina to George Hall and Elizabeth H. Moffett. Appointed to the United States Naval Academy as a Naval Cadet on September 6, 1886, Moffett graduated as a member of the Class of 1890.
During the Spanish American War, Moffett, then an Ensign, served aboard U.S.S. Charleston during the Battle of Manila Bay. Following the battle, Moffett was assigned by Admiral George Dewey to Cavite, where he was charged with the salvage of enemy vessels that had been sunk in Manila during the battle. Following the war, he served aboard U.S.S. Kentucky, U.S.S. Maine, and U.S.S. Maryland.
In 1914, Moffett was in command of the cruiser U.S.S. Chester during the occupation of Veracruz, Mexico by U.S. Naval Forces. On the night of April 21-22, he brought his ship into the inner harbor of Veracruz without the assistance of a pilot or navigational lights, and was in position on the morning of April 22 to bring his guns to bear. For his actions in Veracruz, Moffett was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In March 1917, Moffett was made Commandant of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Naval Districts, in addition to his command of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, of which he had been in command since late 1914. Under his command, the station expanded during the War from a small station to the largest recruiting depot in the United States, supplying trained personnel for all of the various Naval Activities during the War. Moffett, then a Captain, received the Navy Distinguished Service Medal for his service. From Great Lakes, Moffett went on to command U.S.S. Mississippi upon the conclusion of the War.
On July 25, 1921, President Harding appointed Moffett as first Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics with the rank of Rear Admiral. Moffett's appointment as Bureau Chief was renewed in 1925 and 1929. As Bureau Chief, Moffett oversaw an eight-fold expansion in Naval Aviation, including the development of the Navy's first aircraft carriers, the installation of airplane catapults on battleships and cruisers, and the development of the Navy's first rigid airships. Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett died on April 4, 1933, along with 72 other crew members and passengers when the airship U.S.S. Akron (ZRS-4) crashed off the coast of New Jersey.
Description of Contents
The William Adger Moffett Papers, comprising 10.65 linear feet of documentation, span from 1904 until 1948. While ultimately spanning most of Moffett's U.S. Navy career, his papers are overwhelmingly the product of his time as Chief of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics from 1921 until his death in the crash of the airship Akron in 1933.
The papers consist of incoming and outgoing letters, memoranda, press releases, news clippings, notes, reports, congressional documents, and speeches.
The Moffett Papers are arranged in three records series. The bulk of Moffett's personal and official correspondence appears in Series 1: Alphabetical Correspondence Files. Many of the collection's reports, news clippings, congressional documents, and speeches are found in Series 2: Chronological Files. The final series, Items A through R, is an assemblage of varying document types, including newspaper clippings on prohibition and the Lindbergh Kidnapping, press releases on Naval Aviation, and notes for testimony before the Standley Board. All three series cover a multitude of Naval and Naval Aviation topics, such as aeronautical education, U.S. air bases, commercial uses for rigid airships, aeronautical exhibits at the Century of Progress Exhibition, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber/Goodyear Zeppelin Company, coastal defense, naval aviator flight pay, the Great Lakes Naval Station, the London Naval Conference of 1930, seaplanes, feuds between Moffett and William "Billy" Mitchell, debates over a unified versus separate air services, various Navy boards and investigations, U.S. Navy airships (Akron, Los Angeles, Macon, and Shenandoah), and the internal structure and functioning of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics. A number of documents also pertain to biographies of Moffett, his death in the wreck of the Akron, and reminiscences of Moffett and his impact in the years following his death.
The William Adger Moffett Papers are organized into the following three series:
- Series 1: Alphabetical Correspondence Files, 1911-1933
- Series 2: Chronological Files, 1904-1936
- Series 3: Items A through R, 1911-1948
- Subseries 3a: Item A - Bureau of Aeronautics Reappointment Scrapbook, 1929
- Subseries 3b: Items B through C - Aviation News Releases, 1921
- Subseries 3c: Item D - Requests for William A. Moffett's Autograph, 1923-1934
- Subseries 3d: Items E through L - William A. Moffett News Clippings, 1918-1933
- Subseries 3e: Item M - William A. Moffett Miscellany, 1922-1933
- Subseries 3f: Item N - Drafts and Notes, circa 1928
- Subseries 3g: Item O - William A. Moffett Flight Logs, 1922-1933
- Subseries 3h: William A. Moffett Miscellany (Photoduplications), 1911-1948
- Subseries 3i: Item Q - Akron (Airship) - Crash, 1933
- Subseries 3j: Item R - William A. Moffett Opinion of Lindbergh Kidnapping, 1932
Access and Use
Access is unrestricted. In 1993, any papers in this collection which may have originally borne security restrictions were examined by S. Brewer, USNA Assistant Security Manager, and declared unrestricted and declassified.
Copyright and Permission
The William Adger Moffett Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.
Other Finding Aid(s)
The majority of the documents in the William Adger Moffett Papers have been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog, available in the Annapolis Room, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library. For Special Collections staff to locate and retrieve papers requested through the card catalog, the researcher must provide identifying information from the relevant catalog cards. Patrons should first locate their topic of interest in the card catalog, and then note the following information for each type of card:
1. Correspondence Section card: User notes primary correspondent [name in capitals] and first date appearing on card.
2. Chronological Section card: User notes first date appearing on card and first line of information following date.
3. Chronological Section card with no date ["n.d."]: User notes number which appears in upper right-hand corner of card.
4. Item card: User notes Item card letter [A through R] which appears in either the upper right-hand corner or to the left of the first line of the card.
A shelf list for Items A through R is found in the front of the first drawer of the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.
For examples of cards, see: Moffett Papers Card Catalog: Examples of Catalog Cards
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of William A. Moffett, Jr. via the Eugene Wilson Foundation in 1976.
Related Archival Material
Additional materials in Special Collections & Archives pertaining to William A. Moffett's life and career may be found in the William Adger Moffett Collection, MS 234 and in Moffett's Alumni Jacket and Conduct Record. Photographs of William A. Moffett and his family may be found in the Special Collections Picture File and the Transitional Picture File.
Materials Cataloged Separately
No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processing and Other Information
William Adger Moffett Papers, MS 198
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
This collection was partially indexed prior to accessioning. Additional processing by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1989. Container list prepared by David D'Onofrio in March 2014. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1989 and revised by David D'Onofrio in March 2014.
These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Name and Subject Terms
- Aircraft carriers -- United States
- Airships -- United States -- History
- American Legion
- Coast Defenses
- Interservice rivalry (Armed Forces) -- United States
- London Naval Conference
- Mitchell, William, 1879-1936
- Moffett, William A. (William Adger), 1869-1933
- United States -- Armed Forces -- Pay, allowances, etc
- United States. Navy -- Aviation -- History
- United States. Navy Department. Bureau of Aeronautics
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Logs (records)
- Press releases
- Speeches (documents)
Series 1: Alphabetical Correspondence Files, 1911-1933 Boxes 1-15Series Description
Letters received and copies of letters sent by William A. Moffett to numerous correspondents. The correspondence pertains to a wide range of topics related to the U.S. Navy, Naval aviation, and the life and career of William A. Moffett.
All of the documents in this series have been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Series Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by surname of correspondent.
Series 2: Chronological Files, 1904-1936 Boxes 16-24Series Description
The series consists of documents such as letters, memoranda, publications, congressional documents, Navy Department reports, and speeches pertaining to the U.S. Navy, Naval aviation, and William A. Moffett's life and career.
All of the documents in this series have been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Series Arrangement
Series 3: Items A through R, 1911-1948 Boxes 25-34[OS]Series Description
Documents of interest to and pertaining to William A. Moffett. The materials pertain to such topics as U.S. Navy rigid airships, Moffett's position as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the crash of U.S.S. Akron, the Lindbergh Kidnapping, and Prohibition. Included in the series are originals and copies of correspondence, clippings, log books, notes, drafts, press releases, and a scrapbook.Series Arrangement
Organized into ten subseries by document type and topic.
Subseries 3a: Item A - Bureau of Aeronautics Reappointment Scrapbook, 1929 Box 34[OS]Subseries Description
Scrapbook consisting of letters of support and congratulations, as well as news clippings and notices pertaining to William A. Moffett's reappointment as Chief of the U.S. Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics.
All letters in the scrapbook are indexed by correspondent and pertinent topics in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog. Notices and new clippings have not been indexed.Subseries Arrangement
The scrapbook comprises a single volume.
Subseries 3b: Items B through C - Aviation News Releases, 1921 Box 33[OS]Subseries Description
Two binders consisting of 96 U.S. Navy press releases on aviation. The press releases, numbered 001 to 090, span from March 10 through August 26, 1921. At the front of each binder is a listing of all releases in that binder.
The materials in Items B and C have not been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 3d: Items E through L - William A. Moffett News Clippings, 1918-1933 Boxes 26-27Subseries Description
Newspaper clippings pertaining to William A. Moffett and Naval aviation topics such as the airships Akron and Los Angeles, and naval parity. Other specific topics include the Standley Board, which investigated aviation facilities (1928); a West Coast airship base, Moffett's 1929 reappointment as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics, the airship Graf Zeppelin, and Al Williams (1929); the London Naval Conference and Treaty, Moffett's statements on prohibition, and the need for a strong Merchant Marine (1930); the Herbert Hoover-Navy League controversy over Navy budget cuts, impacts of the London Naval Treaty on naval construction, and the Charleston Navy Yard (1931); and the Vinson naval construction bill and Moffett's support thereof, Moffett's American Legion speeches, and Japan (1932).
Items E through L have not been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 3e: Item M - William A. Moffett Miscellany, 1922-1933 Box 28Subseries Description
Speeches, articles, and pamphlets kept by William A. Moffett, originally kept as a compilation entitled "Admiral William A. Moffett's Speeches and Articles, Also, Articles and Pamphlets of Interest to Him."
All materials in Item M have been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged by item number as imposed by George H. Moffett.
Subseries 3f: Item N - Drafts and Notes, circa 1928 Boxes 29-30Subseries Description
Rough drafts, copies, notes, corrections, and attachments largely pertaining to William A. Moffett's testimony before the Board investigating the charges against Moffett and Navy aviation made by R.H. Leigh, Chief of the Bureau of Navigation, in his letter of April 19, 1928.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 3h: Item P - William A. Moffett Miscellany (Photoduplications), 1911-1948 Box 31Subseries Description
Photocopies of miscellaneous letters, memoranda, speeches, and articles, including reminiscences about William A. Moffett.
The materials in Item P have been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged by item number.
Subseries 3i: Item Q - Akron (Airship) - Crash, 1933 Box 32Subseries Description
News clippings concerning the April 4, 1933 crash of the airship U.S.S. Akron and the resulting death of William A. Moffett.
The materials in Item Q have not been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 3j: Item R - William A. Moffett Opinion of Lindbergh Kidnapping, 1932 Box 32Subseries Description
Photocopies of letters and news clippings pertaining to Moffett's public statements asserting that Prohibition was responsible for the Lindbergh Kidnapping, due to the financing of kidnappings through criminal profits from bootlegging.
The materials in Item R have not been indexed in the Moffett Papers Card Catalog.Subseries Arrangement