Frank A. Tichenor 1880-1950:
Early Aviation Publicist and Motion Picture Production Pioneer
Editor of Aero Digest, The World`s Greatest Aeronautical Magazine
Frank Aloysius Tichenor was born 22 May 1880 to George W. and Elizabeth Tichenor in Gethsemanie Kentucky. He was a graduate of Villanova College.
The 1905 Burlington New Jersey census listed Frank Tichenor as 25 years old, a photographer living with his parents.
Around this time he came to New York and joined the Motion Picture Industry. He was the president of General Film in its hey day and fought through the bitter patents war which resulted in independants breaking General`s monopoly.
Tichenor formed Eastern Film Corporation from what was left of General Film. From 1919 to 1929 Eastern produced educational and industrial films. Tichenor is credited with producing the first cancer awareness educational film, “The Reward of Courage” in 1921, for the American Society for the Control of Cancer.
He married Lillian Stott 27 Jan 1913. Her Father Alex Stott was born in Scotland and her Mother was Frida Stott born in Sweden. There was one child born, Frank A. Tichenor Jr. July 8, 1913.
12 July 1913 there was a Motion-Pictures Exhibitors League of America Convention and International Motion-Pictures Exhibition in the Grand Central Palace. There was some trouble there lead by Samuel S. Trigger President of the New York State branch and there was a split in the league. With Frank A. Tichenor, Samuel Trigger left the convention. Thomas A. Edison and his wife attended the International Motion-Pictures Exhibition. Edison told a reporter in reference to the future of the moving picture: “Perfect opera, all delusions will be perfect and probably the actual color will be produced.” When asked will this be your work? “Unless someone gets ahead of me” When asked will the talking pictures displace the silent drama? “No, both the speaking and silent moving pictures will continue to exist. Both will be improved. Both as they stand are just samples. Now we will go on to perfection. Both have been shown just to exhibit the possibilities.”
The 1915 New York census lists Frank Tichenor Sr. as a manufacturer of motion pictures.
Tichenor was credited with arranging for Will H. Hays, Postmaster General on President Harding`s cabinet to leave and become “Czar of an industry plagued by morals scandals” with a $100,000 a year salary offered by Samuel Goldwyn.
1922 finds Tichenor interested in aviation. He organized the Aeronautical Digest Publishing Company which published Aero Digest, the most respected technical magazine in its field. Other aviation publications include the Revista Aerea, Spanish edition of the Digest circulated in Latin America, The Sportsman Pilot and the Weekly Letter to Airmen. He also published Plumbing and Heating Journal and The Spur.
He was friends with the early fliers Billy Mitchell, Gen. Henry “Hap”Arnold, Gen. Ben Foulois, Admiral John Henry Towers, Charles Lindberg and referred to them as “my boys”. He was friends with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Harding & Coolidge. He was a supporter and friend of Fiorello La Guardia.
There were two 1926 Richard E. Byrd medals presented by Rodman Wanamaker at a Luncheon in the Wanamaker store in New York on July 9, 1926 in the Frank A. Tichenor scrapbook. Here is a photo of the last one I have for sale. Rodman Wanamaker was a a supporter of early aviation and had the plane America in the store. He also helped fund one of Byrd`s later flights.
There were some amazing items in the Frank A. Tichenor scrapbook that have sold over the last few years. Below is a good example. It is a postmarked Aero Corp. of California envelope addressed to Frank Tichenor`s future wife, Miss J. E. Horsfall signed by pilot Jack Frye and was carried on the first Air Express delivery from Los Angeles to Tucson Nov. 28, 1927.
Jack Frye, founder of Aero Corp., which became Standard Airlines in 1927 and Standard consolidated with Western Air Express to form Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). Jack Frye was the first President of TWA.
Frank A. Tichenor and Jessie Horsfall drove Charles Lindberg to Curtiss Field a bit before 3 am May 20, 1927 and came upon a crowd of more than five hundred onlookers. The Spirit of St. Louis would be hauled to Roosevelt Field where Lindberg would take off at about 8 am with five sandwiches for the flight to Paris.
In 1927 Tichenor`s wife Lillian hired a private investigator to trail Tichenor and get evidence of his cheating so she could file for divorce.
In 1929, Tichenor married Jessie E. Horsfall in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Jessie Evelyn Horsfall was a 1915 graduate of Randolph Macon Women`s College in Lynchburg Virginia. By 1927, she was an editor at Aero Digest.
There was a newspaper article in 1937 which stated that Lillian Tichenor was having an affair with the private investigator she had hired 10 years before and had moved several times to be close to Gerard Luisi. Luisis` wife sued for seperation. Lillian married Gerard Luisi.
1920s Norfolk Regatta Carnival Headquarters Daily Bulletin #17 announces that Aero Digest Editor Frank Tichenor accepted invitation to judge the model airplane races at the Norfolk VA Regatta Sports Carnival. Tichenor flew his own plane to Norfolk. Bulletin states Tichenor is foremost publisher in aeronautical field and about how much publicity it will bring to Norfolk. John Hughes Curtis was the Chairman Executive Committee for the Norfolk Regatta Carnival. You might recognize his name in connection with the Charles Lindberg baby kidnapping. John Hughes Curtis claimed he was in contact with the kidnappers and got recognition from Lindberg and the police and media, later he admitted he had no valid information and it was a cruel hoax for publicity. I believe he was tried for giving false information, but pleaded insanity due to his financial hardships.
July 1939, Birds Eastern Division, aviators who flew before 1916, presented Frank Tichenor a scroll in recognition of his services to aviation and commemorated Peter Carne`s first balloon ascent 150 years ago in Baltimore. Tichenor said he would soon present a collection of 300 items on aviation to the Early Birds Museum at Dearborn Michigan.
The 1941 Associated Press name card index to AP stories lists him as Chairman of Advisory Committee to Federal Civil Aeronautics Authority, criticizes defense factory workers who demand higher wages.
June 1947 Tichenor received the W. J. McGough memorial Award from Air Services Post 501, American Legion for his contributions nto the development of aviation.
May 4, 1950 Frank A. Tichenor dies unexpectedly in his home in Greenwich Connecticut.
Sept. 1950 Aero Digest was sold to Lincoln Press Inc. of Washington.
After Frank Tichenor died at their home in Connecticut, Jessie Horsfall Tichenor moved to Exmore Virginia on the Eastern Shore of VA. She traveled abroad and lived to be 93. She died in 1988 and is buried in St. Georges Episcopal Church Cemetery in Pungoteague Virginia. The Frank A. Tichenor scrapbook was found in her home and sold in an estate sale along with a wealth of historical items from the Tichenor collection.
This man lived in an exciting time and seized every opportunity to do what he loved. He contributed so much to film and aviation and he should be remembered.
I hope that this blog will raise awareness for forgotten history, for those people who were pioneers in the technology that made this country great. Don`t give up on your dreams. Read more, learn more, aspire to be great.
Here is a link to some of the Frank A. Tichenor scrapbook items I have for sale in my ebay store. It is my hope that an aviation museum or a donor would be interested in purchasing the remaining items from the Tichenor scrapbook and putting them on display in a museum.
Reference sources for this blog are from my own research, the New York Times and Ancestry.com