William Adger Moffett Collection, 1887-1989: 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 234
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: William Adger Moffett Collection
- Dates: 1887-1989
- Size: 2.9 linear feet (7 manuscript 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 Collection consists of correspondence, diaries, news clippings, periodical articles and orders. In addition to such topics as the evolution of naval aviation, lighter-than-air technology, and the London Naval Conference, the Moffett Collection also contains documents pertaining to Moffett's time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, his personal finances, and the crash of the Navy airship Akron, which resulted in his death.
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 Collection, comprising 2.9 linear feet of documentation, spans from 1887 to 1989. The collection consists chiefly of correspondence, periodical articles, news clippings, books, orders and personal diaries and ledgers created by or about William Adger Moffett, first head of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics.
The Moffett Papers are organized into three series by creator and document type. The first series, William A. Moffett Files, consists of documents produced or kept by William A. Moffett, such as his Naval Cadet diaries, his diary from the 1930 London Naval Conference, U.S. Navy orders, financial documents, and personal and official correspondence. The series also includes correspondence regarding convict Frederick A. McGuire. Series 2: William A. Moffett, Jr. Files, consists of materials kept by Admiral Moffett's son and family. Like Series 1, the material in Series 2 pertains overwhelmingly to the life and career of the elder Moffett. Specifically, the series includes materials pertaining to William A. Moffett's death aboard U.S.S. Akron, events at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, and the events surrounding the donation of Admiral Moffett's personal papers to the Naval Academy. The series also pertains to William A. Moffett Jr’s advocacy efforts in the area of Navy lighter-than-air operations. The final series, Publications, consists of newspaper clippings, periodical articles, and books, largely postdating the death of William A. Moffett, regarding his life and career, as well as the development and decline of U.S. Navy airships and lighter-than-air travel in the United States.
The William Adger Moffett Collection is organized into the following three series:
- Series 1: William A. Moffett Files, 1887-1939
- Subseries 1a: Diaries, 1887-1930
- Subseries 1b: U.S. Navy Orders, 1887-1906
- Subseries 1c: Personal and Official Correspondence, 1889-1933
- Subseries 1d: Financial and Real Estate Files, 1908-1933
- Subseries 1e: Biographical and Subject Files, 1914-1939
- Subseries 1f: Writings, 1926-1932
- Series 2: William A. Moffett, Jr. Files, 1933-1983
- Subseries 2a: Letters of Sympathy on Death of William Adger Moffett, 1933
- Subseries 2b: Messages of Sympathy on Crash of Akron (Airship), 1933
- Subseries 2c: Lighter-Than-Air Correspondence, 1942-1948, 1972
- Subseries 2d: General Correspondence, 1947-1983
- Subseries 2e: Moffett Field Materials, 1942-1983
- Subseries 2f: Eugene E. Wilson Foundation Materials, 1959-1976
- Series 3: Publications, 1914-1989
- Subseries 3a: News Clippings, 1914-1970
- Subseries 3b: Periodical Articles, 1916-1984
- Subseries 3c: C.E. Rosendahl Publications, 1944-1947
- Subseries 3d: Books, 1919-1989
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 Collection is 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.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Gift of William Adger Moffett, Jr.
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 Papers, MS 198 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 Collection, MS 234
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1989 and partially reprocessed 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
- Airships -- United States -- History
- Akron (Airship)
- Chile -- History -- Revolution, 1891
- London Naval Conference
- Moffett, William A. (William Adger), 1869-1933
- Moffett, William A. (William Adger), 1910-2001
- Rosendahl, Charles Emery, 1892-1977
- United States Naval Academy -- Midshipmen -- Cruises
- United States Naval Academy -- Students
- United States. Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, Calif
- United States. Navy -- Aviation -- History
- Wilson, Eugene Edward, 1887-1974
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Ledgers (account books)
- Orders (military records)
- Programs (documents)
Series 1: William A. Moffett Files, 1887-1939 Boxes 1-4Series Description
Documentation of William A. Moffett's U.S. Navy career, personal finances, and writings. Specifically, the materials pertain to Moffett's studies at the United States Naval Academy, advocacy for naval aviation and rigid airships, participation in the London Naval Conference of 1930, financial investments and expenditures, and real estate purchases. The documents in the series also touch upon the 1914 Battle of Veracruz, the Chilean Civil War of 1891, Moffett's working relationship with Representative Carl Vinson, and Moffett's family and personal life. Included in the series are incoming and outgoing letters, diaries, orders, financial ledgers, memoranda, speeches, press releases, and periodical articles.Series Arrangement
The series is organized into six subseries by document type and topic.
Subseries 1a: Diaries, 1887-1930 Box 1Subseries Description
Diaries kept by William Moffett while a Naval Cadet at the United States Naval Academy and during the London Naval Conference of 1930. The cadet diaries offer a daily accounting of life at the Academy, including coursework, studies, recreational activities, and notable incidents among the student body. The London Naval Conference diary, while brief, offers entries on naval aviation and aircraft carriers.Subseries Arrangement
Naval Cadet Diary: Volume II, 1887 October 1-December 31
Memoir of Moffett's return home for leave and daily life at the Naval Academy, including course work, drills, method of study, treatment of plebes by upperclassmen, election of class officials, discipline, and remarks on Moffett's instructors, classmates, and roommate Bailey. Specific entries include the censure of cadet officers (October 27), Commandant's threat to abolish the Athletic Association (November 19), the Princeton vs. USNA basketball game (November 26).
Naval Cadet Diary: Volume III, 1888 January 1-June 14
Memoir of daily life at the Naval Academy. Specific entries include the New Year's Hop (January 1), introduction of patrol duty as form of punishment (January 5), C.V. Butler's dismissal for drunkenness (February 12), cadets' approval of Superintendent's definition of duties (April 25), and hazing prevention (May 25).
Subseries 1b: U.S. Navy Orders, 1887-1906 Box 1Subseries Description
Orders received by William Moffett as an officer in the United States Navy. Some of the orders bear the signatures of W.T. Sampson, George Dewey, Theodore Roosevelt, and other prominent naval officers and officials.
For conservation purposes, orders dating from August 30, 1887 to April 4, 1896 were removed from an acidic "Letters" binder.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 1c: Personal and Official Correspondence, 1889-1933 Boxes 1-2Subseries Description
Letters sent and received by William A. Moffett. The letters pertain to various topics such as Moffett's daily routine and family news, as well as events such as the Chilean Civil War of 1891. Also included are a sequence of letters between and about author-convict Frederick McGuire and his efforts to obtain his release from prison.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged by nature of correspondence, thereunder chronologically.
From William A. Moffett, U.S.S. Pensacola, Valparaiso, Chile, to his mother, 1891 March 3
Moffett's explanation of the causes and events of the Chilean revolution, with emphasis on the Chilean Navy's part in the revolution. Remarks on possibility of US-English armed conflict over the Bering Sea. ALS.
From William A. Moffett, U.S.S. Pensacola, Caldera, Chile, to his mother, 1891 March 24
Account of visits to Chilean ports affected by the revolution, accounts of Chilean military/naval activity, mention of Moffett's naval duties, Moffett's readings. Letter cuts off following page 6.. AL.
Correspondence regarding Frederick A. McGuire, 1922 December 17-1933 March 30
Moffett's correspondence with and about Frederick A. McGuire (aka Carl T. Mack, James R. Parker). Pertains to efforts of McGuire, an author-convict, to obtain his release from prison with the aid of Moffett and other prominent supporters. Includes his successful efforts to obtain pardon and his later experiences as a laborer at U.S. naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington. Includes an account of Ensign E.E. Dildine's flight from Wenatchee to Yakima and Moffett's opinion of Japan's navy and air strength.
Subseries 1d: Financial and Real Estate Files, 1908-1933 Boxes 2-4Subseries Description
Documentation of Moffett's personal finances, investments, and real estate matters. The materials focus on Moffett's expenditures, investments in oil and mineral companies, and property purchases. Included in the subseries are ledgers and correspondence. In addition to financial matters, the financial ledgers also include diary type entries pertaining to Moffett's naval career.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged by document type and topic, thereunder chronologically.
Personal Financial Ledger: Volume 4, 1926-1932
Includes entries on Moffett's Navy career, travel, aviation activities, and family matters. Specific entries include the death of Moffett's daughter, Betty (page 142) and Moffett's appointment as Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics (page 188).
Financial Correspondence - Investments - Mineral Area Syndicate of South Porcupine, Ontario, 1928 April 3-1932 January 22
Correspondents include W.L. Stevenson. W.L. Stevenson defrauded Moffett through investments in fraudulent Canadian mining claims. Later items deal with attempts to trace and bring Stevenson to justice.
Subseries 1e: Biographical and Subject Files, 1914-1939 Box 4Subseries Description
Documents kept by Moffett pertaining to various naval and naval aviation related topics. Specifically, the materials pertain to naval aviators and their flight pay, the London Naval Conference of 1930, the strength of the U.S. Navy, the 1914 Battle of Veracruz, the christening of U.S.S. Macon, the loss of U.S.S. Akron, and death benefits received by Moffett's widow. Included in the subseries are Senate and House of Representatives documents, press releases, speeches, battle reports, newsletters, memoranda, invitations, and ephemera.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged alphabetically by document topics and type.
Series 2: William A. Moffett, Jr. Files, 1933-1983 Boxes 4-5Series Description
Documentation kept by William A. Moffett's son, William A. Moffett, Jr. The documents pertain to William A. Moffett's life and career, Naval Air Station Moffett Field, the donation of Moffett's personal papers to the United States Naval Academy, and William A. Moffett, Jr’s advocacy for continued military support of lighter-than-air programs. The first two subseries pertain directly to the crash of U.S.S. Akron and the resulting death of William A. Moffett. Included in the subseries are incoming and outgoing letters, brochures, event programs, and periodical articles.Series Arrangement
Organized into six subseries by document type and topic.
Subseries 2a: Letters of Sympathy on Death of William Adger Moffett, 1933 Box 4Subseries Description
Letters of sympathy received by the family of William Adger Moffett. Correspondents include W.V. Pratt, James J. Raby, Hugh Rodman, Franklin Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt, William Schiff, James M. Shoemaker, L.Y. Spear, W.V. Tomb, Richmond K. Turner, Carl Vinson, J.C. Westervelt, Newton H. White, Jr., Curtis D. Wilbur, and Philip K. Wrigley. For conservation purposes, the letters have been removed from an acidic scrapbook.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 2b: Messages of Sympathy on Crash of Akron (Airship), 1933 Boxes 4-5Subseries Description
Copies of sympathy messages received by U.S. government officials and agencies, with copies of responses. Many messages from foreign heads of state and foreign and U.S. dignitaries. Included in the first folder of materials is a cover letter dated May 23, 1933.
Specific messages include an April 6 message from Arthur Bliss Lane to Secretary of State explaining the political reasons for acknowledging a sympathy message of Doctor Pedro Jose Zepeda (Nicaraguan Sandino); an April 12 message from Franklin D. Roosevelt to Captain Carl Dalldorf, S.S. Phoebus expressing gratitude for Dalldorf's rescue of survivors of the Akron; and an April 4 message from William "Billy" Mitchell to Secretary of the Navy Claude Swanson expressing Mitchell's desire to see rigid airship development continue.Subseries Arrangement
Materials have been removed from their original binder but left in original order. Exact system of original order unknown.
Subseries 2c: Lighter-Than-Air Correspondence, 1942-1948, 1972 Box 5Subseries Description
Correspondence of William A. Moffett, Jr. regarding U.S. Navy lighter-than-air programs. The correspondence, much of it official, covers topics such as the role of airships in anti-submarine warfare, advocacy for lighter-than-air development, reductions in Navy lighter-than-air programs, and the Goodyear tire and Rubber Company. Notable correspondents include C.E. Rosendahl, T.G.W. Settle, and Goodyear officials.Subseries Arrangement
Lighter-Than-Air Correspondence, 1942 August 16-November 27
U.S. Navy correspondence. Letter from C.E. Rosendahl to Secretary of the Navy, with endorsements by high-ranking naval officers, regarding unsatisfactory lighter-than-air (LTA) situation in the Navy and possible solutions. Includes cover note from F.L. Worden dated April 18, 1947.
Lighter-Than-Air Correspondence, 1946 November 15-1947 June 16
Primarily U.S. Navy correspondence, issued by T.G.W. Settle, Airship Advisor to DCNO (Air) and the Chief of Naval Airship Training and Experimentation. Pertains to airships for anti-submarine warfare, replacement program for airships, anti-submarine warfare exercises with Commander Carrier Division Fifteen in March-April 1947, airship officer billet on Naval War College staff, aircraft main engines, ZP target drones, critique of Pacific Fleet exercise 2-47, elimination of West Coast LTA operations, airships in air defense, and award recommendation for Blimp Squadron 14.
Lighter-Than-Air Correspondence, 1947 January 21-October 20
Correspondence between C.E. Rosendahl and William A. Moffett, Jr., as well as J.W. Reeves and A.W. Radford. Pertains to Rosendahl's and Moffett's advocacy in support of lighter-than-air programs, remarks on various LTA publications, remarks on various Navy officers (including J.H. Towers), proposed awards for personnel establishing record flight in XM-1, possible use of airships for U.S. Navy transport purposes, and the Moffett Airship Foundation.
From James W. Condit, U.S.S. Yorktown CV-10 Association, Inc. to William A. Moffett, Jr., 1981 July 30
Invitation for William A. Moffett, Jr. to attend ceremonies enshrining the late William A. Moffett in the Carrier Aviation Hall of Fame. Enclosures: Schedule of events and description of Association. Photocopy.
Subseries 2f: Eugene E. Wilson Foundation Materials, 1959-1976 Box 5Subseries Description
Correspondence among William A. Moffett, Jr., Eugene e. Wilson, Draper L. Kauffman, Vernon D. Tate (U.S. Naval Academy Library), William F. Fitzgerald, Francis P. Antel, Grover C. Walker (U.S. Naval Academy Museum), Richard Evans (U.S. Naval Academy Library), and others, including a memorandum for the Deputy Judge Advocate General. The materials pertain to the William Adger Moffett Papers (and Eugene E. Wilson Papers), its planned donation to the United States Naval Academy, and litigation over the collection involving Francis P. Antel and the Literary Investment Guild, Inc. Included in the subseries are a prospectus of the Eugene E. Wilson Foundation and Antel's Profile of an American Aircraftsman.Subseries Arrangement
Series 3: Publications, 1914-1989 Boxes 5-7Series Description
Newspaper clippings, periodical articles, and books pertaining to U.S. Navy airships and the life and career of William A. Moffett. Specifically, the materials relate to the wreck of U.S.S. Akron, aircraft carrier development, and the donation of the William A. Moffett Papers, as well as other topics related to U.S. Navy aviation. Included in the series are articles written by U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl, as well as a compilation of documents, namely clippings and memoranda, pertaining to the life of William A. Moffett.Series Arrangement
Organized into four subseries by document type and author.
Subseries 3a: News Clippings, 1914-1970 Box 5-6Subseries Description
News clippings pertaining to William A. Moffett's life and career, Navy airships, William "Billy" Mitchell, U.S.S. Macon and U.S.S. Akron.
Use of the materials in this subseries is restricted to photocopies, where possible.Subseries Arrangement
Arranged chronologically. A separate sequence of clippings on the crash of U.S.S. Akron appears at the end of the subseries.
News Clippings (Originals), 1914-1933 (approximate)
Activities and career of William A. Moffett and other naval aviation topics, including U.S.S. Chester (Scout cruiser), Moffett's Medal of Honor, Mrs. Moffett, Great Lakes Naval Training Station, Moffett vs. Mitchell, and the airships U.S.S. Akron and U.S.S. Macon.
Subseries 3b: Periodical Articles, 1916-1984 Box 6Subseries Description
Periodical articles pertaining to such topics as radial engine development, U.S.S. Akron, aircraft carrier development, the donation of the Moffett Papers, and William A. Moffett's U.S. Navy career. Included with the articles are speeches, brochures and event programs.Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 3c: C.E. Rosendahl Publications, 1944-1947 Box 6Subseries Description
Writings by Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl advocating for U.S. Navy lighter-than-air programs. Rosendahl served aboard U.S.S. Shenandoah (ZR-1) and as commanding officer of U.S.S. Los Angeles (ZR-3).Subseries Arrangement
Subseries 3d: Books, 1919-1989 Box 7Subseries Description
Books pertaining to the history of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and airships in the United States, specifically U.S.S. Akron, Macon, and Shenandoah. Included in the subseries is a bound compilation of papers pertaining to William A. Moffett, including newspaper clippings, periodical articles, letters, and memoranda.Subseries Arrangement