Don Burnham’s 1930 A-frame pusher

At the age of 14, Donald C. Burnham won the 1929 Junior Division, Outdoor competition, at the 1929 Nats in Detroit.   He won a trophy, $200 cash, and a trip to Canada and Europe.  Besides these perks, he also published his A-frame pusher design in Carl H. Claudy’s 1931 book Prize Winners’ Book of Model Airplanes.  As a contributor, his copy of the book was signed by Carl.        

Prize Winners' Book of Model Airplanes by Carl H. Claudy, cover.
The cover of Carl H. Claudy’s Prize Winners’ Book of Model Airplanes. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1931
Signature of Carl H. Claudy in Prize Winners' Book of Model Airplanes.
As a contributor to Carl Claudy’s book on prize winning model aircraft, Don Burnham received a signed copy of the book

This wasn’t the first time, though, that Don and Carl corresponded.  In 1930, Carl published the Beginner’s Book of Model Airplanes (They Fly!).  Don owned a copy, his name proudly noted inside the front cover.  He must have enjoyed the book, because also glued into the front cover is a letter from Carl to Don dated October 22, 1930.  The letter thanks Don for his kind words regarding the book and notes, “I wish I might have the pleasure of inscribing your copy; failing that, perhaps you will slip this letter under the cover and let me thus vicariously sign it!”

Beginner's Book of Model Airplanes (They Fly!) cover showing a well-dressed young men flying a FF model.
The cover of Beginner’s Book of Model Airplanes (They Fly!).
Letter from Carl Claudy to Don Burnham regarding the book Beginner's Book of Model Airplanes (They Fly!).  The letter is glued inside the front cover.
The letter from Carl Claudy to Don Burnham is glued inside the front cover, as Carl asked Don to do. The letter closes with, “May your next model fly farther and longer than all the rest!”

The letter closes with, “May your next model fly farther and longer than all the rest!”

Don’s success with his next model led to it being published in Carl’s next book, which led to Carl signing his next book directly.  Funny how life works out, isn’t it?

D.C. Burnham on the donation nameplate inside of the front cover of Beginner's Book of Model Airplanes.
Don Burnham’s name listed twice inside the cover of Prize Winners’ Book of Model Airplanes. The first in the upper corner showing his ownership. The second on the library donation label.
A Rise off Water A-frame twin pusher.
Reproduction of Don Burnham’s 1930 twin pusher built by Vic Cunnyngham, Sr. in the mid-1990s.

Vic Cunnyngham, Sr. met Don Burnham at a contest in the early 1990s.  Vic researched and built a reproduction of Don’s 1929 A-frame pusher and had it authorized by Don in the mid-1990s.  Vic. donated the model to the museum in 1996.  Two years later, Don donated his boyhood books to the library.

Good luck with my 1920 Hydroplane floats! Bert Pond
Bert Pond signed the floats, indicating the reproduction was accurate.
Good luck with my 1929-1930 twin pusher design Don Burnham.
Don Burnham signed the A-frame pusher, indicating the design was accurate.

Thanks to Vic Cunnyngham, Jr. for sharing memories of his father with me.

For more on Don’s winning design, please read the History Preserved column of March 2014’s Model Aviation.

2 comments

  1. When I was a little kid I checked out an old book from the library on model planes. It featured some A-Frame Pusher designs – which I had, of course, never seen. There were gliders and other designs too.

    I have always wondered what that book was and if it is possible to find a copy. That book by Carl H. Claudy looks close, but I don’t think it is the right one.

    Thanks for putting this info up.

    1. Hi, Bill, There are many books out there about A-frame pushers. More of the books in the museum’s library that discuss them can be found here: https://modelaviation.com/twin-pushers and this includes links to several that are available on Google Books. Thank you for sharing your childhood memory and good luck!

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