Collection, 1908-1989 (bulk 1914-1945) reflecting the life and activities of Chicago businessman, attorney, aviator and pioneer aeronautics leader William P. MacCracken. The collection consists of correspondence, legal files, administrative files, clippings, ephemera, brochures, pamphlets and oversized materials.
William P. MacCracken is notable for his championing efforts to establish uniform national legislation to govern commercial aviation. MacCracken was born September 17, 1888, in Chicago, IL. His father was a physician. MacCracken attended the University of Chicago, graduating with a B. A. in philosophy in 1909 and a law degree in 1911. During World War I, MacCracken enlisted in the Army and received flight training. He then served as a flight instructor for the U. S. Army Air Service until the war ended. This experience sparked a life-long interest in aviation and aeronautics. As chairman of the American Bar Association's Committee on the Law of Aeronautics, MacCracken pioneered the development of aviation law. He also served as secretary of the American Bar Association from 1925 to 1936. MacCracken also served on the Chicago Aero Commission and was a member of the Board of Governors of the National Aeronautical Association from 1922 through1926. He helped write and obtain passage of the Air Commerce Act of 1926, the first federal legislation regulating civil aviation and which also established the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce.
In August 1926, President Coolidge appointed MacCracken as the first Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, where he played an important role in the development of laws, policies, and regulations governing civil aviation. In this position, MacCracken was responsible for the issuance of the first federal air safety rules and the development of the first civil aviation routes. He also promoted, drafted, and helped enact the earliest rules governing civil and commercial aviation in the United States, including air mail, airplane manufacturing and maintenance, airline routes and international relations. MacCracken also helped make possible Charles Lindberg's trans-Atlantic flight in 1927. When the federal government issued the first pilot's license, Lindberg was offered License No.1, but he deferred to MacCracken, insisting he had more experience.
In the early 1930s, as the Republican Party's long hold on Congress began to erode, MacCracken became one of the main targets in Senator Hugo Black's Air Mail investigation. Although no evidence was found against MacCracken, he was harshly criticized for improprieties in awarding air mail contracts. His personal papers were seized and held for more than thirty years. In 1935 MacCracken was briefly jailed by Congress for refusing to divulge his client's legal files to staff investigating his role in the issuance of Air Mail Contracts. He was never charged with any illegal activity in the case.
Following his return to private life, MacCracken resumed his legal career and became active in lobbying for a number of trade groups. His legal firm, MacCracken and Lee, also included his partner, Frederic P. Lee, who had also served as counsel to the Senate during the 1920s. As a private lawyer, MacCracken also served as a Washington lobbyist for the American Optometric Association from 1942 to 1968. He died in 1969.
The papers consist of 9 boxes and 9 oversized folders of records relating to William P. MacCracken. Much of the collection consists of correspondence between MacCracken and various clients that his law firm represented, among them the Remmington Rand Company. Also included is MacCracken's correspondence with lawyers, legislators, and government officials concerning the drafting and passage of various aviation laws and regulations, including legislation creating the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce in 1926. The collection contains a significant amount of material relating to MacCracken's activities as a member of many organizations, including the American Bar Association, and a number of aeronautical organizations.
The collection also includes clippings and printed materials related to aviation and to MacCracken's decision to allow Charles Lindberg to fly the Atlantic in 1927. Additionally, documents are present concerning early regulations in commercial aviation in the United States. These include drafts of proposed laws, final revised aviation laws and annual reports on aviation.
Also documented in the collection are much of MacCracken's personal financial holdings. This information consists of records related to real estate, stocks, banking information and insurance policies, mostly based in Chicago. Among these are several letters between MacCracken and Otto M. Schnering, President of Curtiss Candy Company, makers of Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars.
Gift of Ms. Sara S. Stolzenborg
Gift of Ms. Patricia Cunnington
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Processed by Nicholas Beam March 2007 Dale Sauter 2008
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.