Manuscript Collections - John H. Geisse Papers


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(6 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize box)
Herbert Hoover Presidential Library


John Harlin Geisse was born July 17, 1892 in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, the son of Charles F. and Jennie H. Geisse.  He received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1917. Prior to graduation, Geisse enlisted in the Army Signal Corps for flight training. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Reserve Military Aviator, in 1918.  In the same year he was selected to attend a post graduate course in aeronautical engineering at M.I.T. In 1919-1920 he was assistant chief of the Power Plant Section, Engineering Division, McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio.

In 1921-1922 he was experimental engineer for the Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Patterson, N.J. and in 1922-1929 he was chief engineer of the Navy Aeronautical Engine Laboratory, Philadelphia Navy Yard.

In 1929 Geisse initiated the formation of the Comet Engine Corporation, Madison, Wisconsin by the Gisholt Machine Tool Company, Madison, and Air Investors, New York, to carry out a Navy contract for the construction of an engine incorporating a novel type of cooling system on which he held the patents.  The prototype was built and it passed the Navy acceptance tests but the company failed during the Depression.

In 1933 he joined the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce where he initiated and organized a small airport construction program with the Civil Aeronautics Administration. Many small airports for general aviation use were constructed throughout the United States.  He also wrote amendments to the Air Commerce Act of 1926 and secured their passage by Congress. These authorized the Branch to promote general aviation by aiding in the development of the equipment used by it.

While chief of its new development section he wrote performance specifications for an airplane which would be easier to fly than those then available and called for bids on the construction of a prototype.  Against both internal and external opposition, including charges that he was trying to force the industry back twenty five years, he awarded the contract for an airplane with a tricycle type undercarriage, type which had been abandoned many years earlier in favor of the tail wheel type. Tests made in the Civil Pilot Training (CPT) Program with airplanes meeting this specification revealed that the time required to learn to fly them was substantially less than that required for the other CPT plane and the time required for a pilot certificate limited to flying this type was reduced from 35 to 25 hours.

The winning plane was based at the Army's Bolling Field and its performance there so impressed the Chief of the Army Air Force, General Arnold, that he had a tricycle gear put on an airplane then on order. Thereafter practically all Air Force procurement was shifted to the tricycle gear.  It was then adopted by the Navy and airlines and later by general aviation.

While acting as a CAA consultant to a National Research Council on the selection and training of pilots, Geisse became convinced that the military abandonment of flight simulators for use in basic flight training was due to the inability of these simulators to simulate the kinesthetic cues.  At the time the consensus was that pilots should be taught to ignore rather than use these cues in instrument flying.  Authorities in this field now recognize that this was a mistake.

Geisse then invented a patented way of building simulators capable of providing the proper kinesthetic cues and had a prototype built.  Designated representatives of both military air services inspected the unit and recommended it to their services. However, it was considered to be too late for World War II training.

Later, when Assistant to the Administrator for General Aviation Development, and the Federal Airport Program was about to be started, Geisse initiated and directed an investigation of crosswind landing gears to determine whether or not their use could eliminate the need of building "windrows" type airports having multiple runways for wind coverage.  Gears were developed for five airplanes ranging from a small trainer to an airline transport.  All were successful and it was clearly demonstrated that multiple runways were unnecessary.  A cost analysis was made that showed that all of the airplanes then in service could be modified for crosswind operations at a fraction of the cost of providing crosswind runways. The Administrator
then adopted policy that no more federal funds would be made available for the construction of runways needed for wind coverage only.  This saved many millions of dollars in the Federal Airport Program.

In 1950 Geisse was awarded the Department of Commerce Gold Medal for "outstanding contribution to the public service and the nation".

After leaving government service he continued to work on crosswind landing gears and invented and patented an entirely new type which was much simpler, less costly and lighter than any then available.  Competitive tests by the Navy also showed that it provided a superior performance. The new type was manufactured under license by the Beech and Cessna airplane companies for both civil and military use.

Geisse contributed extensively to the aviation  press. He wrote the aviation engine section of the Enclyclopedia Brittanica, was consulting editor for Esquire's "Plane Talk" and co-author of Technology, of the Department of Commerce "Post War Outlook for Private Flying".

He was a member of the Army-Navy Club, the Aero Club of Washington, the Wings Club of New York, the National Aeronautics Association, the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, and the Society of Automotive Engineers.  He served one term each as chairman of the Washington sections of the latter two.


The Papers of John H. Geisse contain correspondence, reports, drawings, descriptions, blueprints, articles, speeches, patent data, and clippings and other printed materials documenting his aviation activities.

With a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin, Geisse enlisted in the Signal Corps of the Army for flight training in 1917.  He continued his active life-time participation in aeronautical engineering at MIT; McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio; Wright Aeronautical Corporation, Patterson, N.J.; Navy Aeronautical Engine Laboratory, Philadelphia Navy Yard; and the Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce.

Some of the donor's aviation interests documented in these files are the Comet engine with a novel type of cooling system, the small airport construction program, a way of building flight simulators, and the crosswind landing gears to eliminate the necessity for multiple runways for wind coverage. This device saved the Federal Airport program millions of dollars in construction costs.  Geisse contributed extensively to the aviation press and promoted general aviation through the development of the equipment used by it.


Box Contents

Aero Club, 1948
Aircraft Design as Related to Airport Standards by Milton W. Arnold, 1950
Airport Development, articles, 1944‑1954
Atlas Corporation, 1940‑1947
Aviation Bill, 1934‑1938
Aviation Publishing Corporation, 1928‑1939
B, General, 1945‑1948
Beech Aircraft Corporation, 1956‑1957
Blueprints, undated
Briggs Manufacturing Company, 1938‑1940
Buffalo Gasolene Motor Company, 1927‑1928
CAA/Federal Aviation Agency, 1944‑1962
Cessna, 140‑170‑190, 1953‑1970
Champion Aircraft Corporation, 1958‑1960
Comet Engine Corporation

Articles, 1929
Correspondence, 1929‑1937
Formation, 1928‑1929
Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics Report, 1932

Commerce Department

Correspondence, 1937‑1945
Endorsements, Assistant Secretary, 1932‑1933 (2 folders)
Gold Medal Award, 1950 (See Also:  Oversize Box)

Consolidated‑‑Convair, 1950‑1959
Corporation Trust Company, 1951‑1978
Cross Wind Landing Gears

Army Negotiations, 1957
Articles, 1950‑1959


Boeing 707's Undercarriage, undated
Companies Interested (AOPA), 1951‑1954
Marine Corp Evaluation, 1956
Navy SNJ Adapter, 1953
Reports, 1948‑1981

D, General, 1940‑1955
Delta Engine

Correspondence, 1937‑1945 (2 folders)
Calculations, undated
Drawings and Descriptions, 1939 and undated
Report, undated

Desloge‑Robertson Agreements, 1952‑1956
Development of Low‑Cost Planes, 1935‑1964
Doolittle, James H., 1952‑1956
Douglas Aircraft Company, 1947‑1960
E, General, 1950‑1978

Articles, undated

Correspondence, 1976‑1983
Ercoupe, 1952



Correspondence, 1944‑1946
Plane Talk, 1946

F, General, 1928‑1982
Flight Simulators

Correspondence, 1953‑1973
Reports, 1968‑1969

"Flivver" Planes, 1934‑1945
Flying, 1952‑1982
G, General, 1944‑1954
Geisse Gears, Inc.

Advertisements, undated
Assignment & Sale, 1952
Corporate Records, 1952‑1977
Photos, n/d

Geisse, John F. and Nancy, 1954‑1970 and undated
Geisse, John H.

Articles & Speeches, 1929-1944 (6 folders)


Articles & Speeches, 1945-1964, and undated (3 folders)
Autobiography, undated
Biographical File, 1928‑1988
Personal, 1934‑1977

Geisse, Harold L., 1939‑1951
Ground Training Machines

Commerce Department, 1942‑1951
Justice Department, 1930‑1943
Lane Company, 1942‑1943

H, General, 1932‑1982
Hammond, Dean, 1947‑1968
Institute of Aeronautical Sciences, 1949‑1950
Invitations, 1936 and undated
J, General, 1980
K, General, 1938‑1983
Klemin, A., 1928‑1946
Kollsman Instrument Division, 1944‑1948
L, General, 1933‑1943
Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, 1939‑1960
Mc, General, 1937‑1981
McCarran, Pat, 1946‑1950
M, General, 1947‑1975
Martin, Glenn L. Co., 1944‑1950
Morey Airplane Co., 1951‑1954
N, General, 1947‑1977
National Airplane Rental Service, "Fly Yourself"

Clippings, 1945‑1946
Correspondence, 1946‑1947
Proposal, 1946‑1947


Reports, undated (2 files)
Traffic Estimate, 1947‑1948

Navy Department

Bureau of Aeronautics, 1923-1932, 1951-1957 (2 folders)
Judge Advocate General, 1929‑1931
Personnel Papers, 1951‑1952

New Years Cards, undated
Nilakantan, P., 1950
P, General, 1948‑1982

Canada, 1950‑1952
France, 1950‑1958
Great Britain, 1948‑1952
United States, 1931-1960 (2 folders)

Patents Data, 1948‑1957


Patents Specifications, 1931‑1960
Photos, undated
Post War Plans, 1942‑1945
Private Flying, 1934‑1945 and undated
Proxmire, William, 1976‑1981
R, General, 1940‑1982
Regulations, 1940‑1946
Roadable Airplane and Flying Automobile

Correspondence, 1944‑1948
Photos, undated

Roosevelt, Franklin D., 1933
Roosevelt, G. Hall, 1934‑1940
S, General, 1946‑1960
Saturday Evening Post, 1938‑1950
Schildhauer, C.H., 1950‑1951
Scott Aviation Corporation, 1948
Senate Hearing, 1954
Skyways, 1954‑1959
Society of Automotive Engineers, certificate, 1944 (See: Oversize Box)
Solomon, S.J., 1950‑1957
Spartan School of Aeronautics, 1943‑1945
Stanford University, 1940‑1944
Stearman‑Hammond Aircraft

Correspondence, 1936‑1940
Photos, n/d (See Also: Oversize Box)

T, General, 1943‑1955
Taylorcraft Corporation, 1941‑1950
Traffic Control, 1942
Van Dusen Aircraft Supplies, 1950‑1961
Vidal, Eugene L., 1933‑1969
W, General, 1944‑1982
Walker, Robert H., 1946
Walsh, Tom J., 1932‑1933 and undated
Williams, Samuel C., 1943‑1956
Wilson, Gill Rob, 1935‑1944
Wings, Inc., 1958‑1960

7 (Oversize)

Airplane Over Washington, D.C., aerial photo, undated
Beechcraft 25th Anniversary, booklet, 1957
Society of Automotive Engineers, certificate, 1944
Stearman‑Hammond Aircraft, photo, undated
U.S. Department of Commerce Award, 1950

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