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SHSND Home > Archives > Archives Holdings > Archives & Manuscripts > Transportation > 11042
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Manuscripts by Subject - Transportation - #11042

Title: Vern L. Roberts Papers

Dates: 1917-1953

Collection Number: 11042

Quantity: .25 foot

Abstract: Papers consist of a CD of a paper written by Roberts and scans of a scrapbook documenting the feats of the early aviator. The paper and scrapbook were printed and are located in folders 1 and 2, respectively. The scrapbook consists of newspaper clippings and ephemera tracing Roberts' aviation career and family history.

Provenance: Kenneth L. Roberts donated the Vern L. Roberts papers to The State Historical Society of North Dakota in 2009. Emily J. Ergen prepared the inventory to the collection in October 2009.

Property Rights: The State Historical Society of North Dakota owns the property rights to this collection.

Copyrights: Copyrights to this collection remain with the donor, publisher, author, or author's heirs. Researchers should consult the 1976 Copyright Act, Public Law 94-553, Title 17, U.S. Code or an archivist at this repository if clarification of copyright requirements is needed.

Access: This collection is open under the rules and regulations of the State Historical Society of North Dakota.

Citation: Researchers are requested to cite the collection title, collection number, and the State Historical Society of North Dakota in all footnote and bibliographic references.



On January 29, 1896, Vernon (Vern) L. Roberts was born to Lee A. and Grace Roberts on the family farm near Fargo, ND. Lee’s parents, Charles A. and Matilda Roberts, were two of Fargo’s first settlers. Roberts graduated from Fargo High School, and shortly after, in 1917, enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He took flight training in Texas, at Kelly and Brooks fields. Roberts was a pilot instructor during World War I, serving until April 1919. Following this, he returned to Fargo and worked for his grandfather Charles A. Roberts, but wished to return to flying. Shortly after, he joined with Earl Reineke (who, in 1953, founded WDAY-TV, which was originally a NBC affiliate in Fargo) to purchase an airplane and do barnstorming with a Curtis JN-4D ‘Jenny’ airplane. Verne, known as “Tailspin” Roberts, and Reineke later formed Reineke Aircraft Company, which went out of business in 1922 when their plane crashed at Carrington, ND. Roberts escaped with only minor injuries.

On October 17, 1922 Vern L. Roberts married Henrietta Wilke at her parents’ home in Wimbledon, ND. The couple moved to Bemidji, MN, and purchased a mercantile business. Just a year after this, Roberts was back barnstorming and subsequently crashed two more airplanes. The couple returned to Fargo where Vern resumed flying from his parents’ farm in what is now southwest Fargo, called Roberts Field. In Fargo, Roberts became involved with others in the early aviation industry, and flew the first air mail from St. Paul, Minnesota to Fargo, then to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Roberts is credited with starting the Hector Airport in 1924. He flew for the Fargo Aero Club in 1927 and was involved in many air races between 1928 and 1933. In 1930, Roberts raced Monocoupes at the 1930 National Air Races at Chicago and won most of the events along with a $500.00 cash prize.

The Roberts family, including son Kenneth L., moved to Moline, IL where Vern was a test pilot for Mono Aircraft Corporation. He became manager of the Moline Airport, and general manager for Moline Air Service for eleven years. At the time of his death he and his son Kenneth L. operated Moline Engine Service. Vern L. Roberts died on April 20, 1953; his wife, Henrietta Roberts, died July 23, 1993 at Moline. Roberts was a member of the Masonic Blue Lodge and Moline Consistory, Elks Club, Association of Commerce, American Legion, and Quiet Birdmen, a group of airmen.


Box 1:

1 “Early Events of Open Cockpit Flying” written by Vern L. Roberts, 1953 (printed from CD)

2 Scanned scrapbook - newspaper clippings, programs, correspondence, advertisements, photograph, posters, flight certification, business cards, tickets from events, ribbons, national air derby entry form, receipts, abstract of game laws, 1917-1950 (print-outs of scans from a variety of resolutions, from 75 to 200 dpi)

3 CD with scans - material in folders 1 and 2 were printed from scans on this CD

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