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Anne West Strawbridge

Anne West Strawbridge

Anne West Strawbridge (1883 - 1941), Welsh Strawbridge's sister, never married, but was quite accomplished in several fields. She published several books, made numerous paintings, climbed mountains, and, perhaps most dramatically flew her own autogyro,

Ms. Strawbridge was an adventurer and, at the age of 18, became one of the 1st women to climb the Matterhorn (66 p 224) and later in life purchased and flew her own autogyro. She showed talent as an artist and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, her nieces remember numerous paintings of ponies that she bred at The Wilderness. She was also remembered as a great storyteller and later would publish 7 novels. (66 p 229)

Anne co-hostess the debut of her sister Mary's daughters, Priscilla Sparks Sailer and Elizabeth Twells Sailer, held at Graeme Park.

The Strawbridges, and Anne either through visits to Graeme Park or during some period where she may have been living there, probably became very familiar with early aircraft since their neighbor, Harold Pitcairn, was a pioneer in the field. Pitcairn designed and manufactured the Mail Wing which was used to deliver mail and down the East Coast (a series of routes that later became Eastern Airlines), and his pet project the Autogyro which Pitcairn expected to become the main form of personal aviation. Both Welsh and Anne were adventurers (see Welsh's balloon and steeplechase exploits) so Anne purchased and flew her own autogyro from Pitcairn.

Anne's autogyro, "Isobella", was a model PA-18, one of only 19 produced starting in 1932. (60 p201). We have no records of how often Ms Strawbridge flew the aircraft but she apparently enjoyed it greatly, flying a autogyro was a central part of her 1938 novel Above the Rainbow.

"...When WWII started Great Britain bought most of the autogyros in America except for my aunt's. She refused to sell hers. Great Britain wanted them as part of their war effort. Unfortunately, the ship carrying these strange planes from the US to England was sunk by a U-Boat. Isobella was one of the two or three autgyros left. It was sold after our Great-Aunt's death in the late 40s and after going through a number of owners, was discovered rusting in a New Mexico desert several years ago and restored to flying condition by antique aircraft enthusiasts and is now at an airfield in Urbano, OH" - J. Freedly Hunsinger for the Yale Alumni Magazine (66 p234)

Isobella was restored in 2008 - video of its first flight is shown below. It was later sold to a collector, Kermit Weeks, who has it on display at his Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL. More on Isobella.

Video of Anne West Strawbridge' Pitcairn PA-18 in flight again on July 10, 2008 after being restored , see more here.

Above the Rainbow , published in 1938 is about a woman named Hannah and her love of flying an autogyro, and was one of seven novels that we know were published by Anne West Strawbridge. The others were Shadows of the Matterhorn (1931), Dawn After Danger (1934), Black Swan (1935), Jane's (1940), and Samantha published posthumously in 1951. (66 p251)

Ms. Strawrbidge never married but was quite accomplished as a painter, mountain climber, author, and pilot,

In "Above the Rainbow", the narrator finds peace through dangerous physical undertakings such as mountain climbing and finally flying. Little is known about her other books, although "Samantha" was the name of the little girl in the stories that Anne used to tell her nieces.

Anne West Strawbridge was a beautiful woman "with large gray eyes and dark brown hair" (66 p229). She had a number of suitors including a Mr. Dwight whom she had met in Switzerland and, the love of her life, Thomas Mittens, head of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company. Although she remained friendly with Mr Dwight all through her life, he married another. Mittens drowned on his lake in the Poconos in 1931. Ms Strawbridge attended the funeral and rode with Mittens' son and his wife. The papers called her the mysterious woman in black.(66 p230).

In August 1941, Anne was looking for a place to store "Isobella" for the winter. She felt ill and checked herself in to Abington Hospital and died there 3 weeks later on September 9,1941 at the age of 53 of undiagnosed breast cancer. (66 p224).

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Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
900 Governor Road
Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
A Community Benefit Organization

Horsham Preservation and Historical Association (HPHA)
900 Governor Road
Horsham, PA 19044 USA
© 2000- Horsham Preservation and Historical Association
We are A Community Benefit Organization
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215-343-0659 | Email