(Note: Although Amelia Earhart is not a direct descendant of the Muirheads, she is a close cousin, and therefore merits inclusion in this chapter.)
Amelia Mary Earhart was born on 24 July 1897 at Atchison, Kansas.(7.45) She was the daughter of Edwin Stanton Earhart and Amy Otis. The common ancestor between Amelia and the Muirheads was Anthony Earhart, born in 1763 and died in 1787. Anthony Earhart married Elizabeth Urie, and they had eight children. Of those children, David married Catherine Altman, and John Michael married Elizabeth Altman. David and Catherine had a son, David, who, in turn married Mary Wells Patton and gave birth to Edwin Stanton Earhart. John Michael and Elizabeth had a son, Phillip, who, in turn married Elizabeth Jane Longwill and gave birth to Permilla Jane Earhart. Permilla married William Walker Moorhead, and thus connected the Earhart line to the Muirheads. Permilla and Edwin Stanton, Amelia’s father, would have been second cousins, and Amelia would have been Permilla’s second cousin, once removed.
Amelia is perhaps most noted as having disappeared on one of her flights over the Pacific Ocean, but more important were the accomplishments she made during her brief flying career.
Amelia’s first airplane ride was on 28 December 1920, when Frank Hawks took her up in the air. “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground,” she said, “I knew I had to fly.” It should be remembered that the Wright brothers had made their first flight in December 1903, only seventeen years earlier.
Amelia was what one would call a ‘tomboy’. She liked to climb trees and hunt rats with a .22 rifle. She was enamored with women who were moving into, and proving themselves capable of handling, so-called ‘male’ jobs. She kept a scrapbook of news stories about such women.
From the website, U.S. Centennial Of Flight Commission
Amelia graduated from Hyde Park High School in the year 1915. Wanting to do more than simply marry and raise a family, Amelia started working outside the home soon after her graduation. The First World War started around that same time, and as it progressed, she found work as a nurse’s aid in a military hospital in Canada. Later, Amelia attended college and became a social worker. But her love was flying.
On 03 January 1921, Amelia took her first flying lesson, with Neta Snook. It was only six months later, in July, that she managed to purchase her own plane – a bright yellow two-seater bi-plane, a Kinner Airster. Amelia nicknamed it ‘Canary’.
Amelia broke the altitude record for a woman by flying to 14,000 feet on 22 October 1922. She would also break distance and speed records. And others started to take notice to her abilities. In April 1928, Amelia was asked to participate in a flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The promoters, of course, wanted the publicity that Amelia’s participation would bring them. Amelia agreed to join in the venture, and so, on 17 June 1928 she and pilots Wilmer Stultz and Louis E. Gordon (aka ‘Bill’ and ‘Slim’) took off from Trepassey Harbor in Newfoundland. They were flying a Fokker F7 named ‘Friendship’. The plane touched down at Burry Port, Wales approximately twenty-one hours after takeoff. Being the first woman to fly the Atlantic, Amelia was greeted by a ticker-tape parade in New York City when the party returned. She also was received and congratulated by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
Amelia purchased an Avro Avian airplane in the summer of 1928. It was made in England, and the same type that Lady Mary Heath had flown from Capetown, South Africa to London.
During the fall of 1928, Amelia Earhart had a book 20 Hours 40 Minutes published. The title referred to the time it took for the flight across the Atlantic in June. The publication of the book brought with it a lecture tour. Another thing it fostered was a job with Cosmopolitan magazine as the aviation editor.
In August 1929 Amelia placed third in the First Women’s Air Derby, after which she traded in her Avro Avian for a Lockheed Vega.
Amelia was elected as an official of the National Aeronatic Association, a position she used to encourage the Federation Aeronautique Internationale to establish separate world altitude, speed and endurance records for women. On 25 June 1930, Amelia set the women’s speed record for 100 kilometers with no load. She also set the women’s speed record for 100 kilometers with a load of 500 kilograms. Then, on 05 July 1930, Amelia set a speed record of 181.18 mph over a three kilometer course. On 08 April 1931 Amelia would set a new women’s record for autogiro altitude at 18,415 feet.
The fall of 1930 found Amelia helping to organize an airline, the New York, Philadelphia and Washington Airways. She was made the Vice President of Public Relations for the new airline.
One of the organizers of the 1928 Trans-Atlantic flight was George Pullman Putnam, the book publisher and publicist. While making preparations for that flight, Amelia and George fell in love. They married on 07 February 1931.
George and Amelia began planning on a flight that would Amelia’s grandest venture to that point – a solo Trans-Atlantic flight! Amelia took off from Harbor Grace in Newfoundland on 20 May 1932 (which was the fifth anniversary of Lindbergh’s Atlantic flight). Her destination was Paris, France. The flight was going okay at first, and she even poured herself a cup of hot chocolate, noting later: "Indeed, that was the most interesting cup of chocolate I have ever had, sitting up eight thousand feet over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, quite alone." But strong winds and icy conditions began to hamper her progress. And then she began to experience mechanical problems. And so, after fourteen hours and fifty-six minutes, she cut the flight short, landing in a farmer’s cow pasture near Londonderry, Ireland. The world was thrilled with her accomplishment. President Herbert Hoover presented Amelia with a gold medal from the National Geographic Society, and the United States Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross. Amelia wrote a book, For The Fun Of It to commemorate the event.
The success of the solo Atlantic flight fueled her desire for greaterchallenges. She made the first solo nonstop coast to coast flight on 24-25 August 1932. Duringthat flight she also set a new women’s record for nonstop transcontinental speed, flying 2,447.8 miles in just nineteen hours and five minutes. On 07-08 July 1933 Amelia would break her own record by making the same flight in only seventeen hours and seven minutes.
In the fall of 1932 Amelia co-founded the Ninety Nines, a women’s aviation club, and was elected as its President.
Having conquered the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia took on the Pacific in 1935. On 11 January of that year, she took off from Oakland, California, and flew to Honolulu 2,408 miles away. Not only was the flight the first solo flight for a woman over the Pacific, but it was also the first in which a civilian aircraft carried a two-way radio on board.
On 19-20 April 1935 She was the first person to fly solo between Los Angeles to Mexico City, making the flight in thirteen hours and twenty-three minutes. Then, on 08 May,1935 she became the first person to fly solo nonstop from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey, making that trip in fourteen hours and nineteen minutes. She set a record as being the first person to fly between the Red Sea and India.
There was one more trip that held a challenge for Amelia – a round the world flight. And that is what she set out to do on the 1st of June 1937. She had previously, in March, tried to make the journey, but ran into trouble and damaged her Lockheed Electra badly in the attempt. Nearing the age of forty, Amelia said at the time: "I have a feeling that there is just about one more good flight left in my system, and I hope this trip is it." Along with Fred Noonan, her navigator, adept at navigating by celestial bodies, Amelia started out from Miami, Florida on the 29,000 mile flight. Twenty-eight days later, on 29 June, they landed at Lae, New Guinea, only 7,000 miles from the end of their trip. The next point to reach was 2,556 miles away, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That point was Howland Island, a small island, only a mile and a half long and half a mile wide. All the proper preparations were made for this leg of the journey. All non-essential items were removed from the plane, and the United States Coast Guard had positioned a cutter, the Itasca, offshore to help guide the plane to its detination. Three other U.S. ships were positioned enroute to the island, with the intention of burning all their lights as the aircraft arrived so as to provide markers for Earhart and Noonan.
The duo took off at 12:30pm on the morning of 02 July 1937. It was an uneventful take-off, but they soon flew into overcast skies punctuated by intermittent rain showers. Noonan’s favored method of navigation, by the stars, was now rendered impossible. Around dawn, Earhart radioed to Leo G. Bellarts on the Itasca, to ask for his location. He was able to exchange information with her, but after that her radio calls were filled with static and faint. At 7:42 am Amelia radioed to the Itasca that "We must be on you but cannot see you but gas is running low been unable to reach you by radio we are flying at 1000 feet." and also "one-half hour fuel and no landfall." The Itasca’s radiomen kept trying to reach Amelia, but were having trouble achieving the necessary two-way communication. At 8:44 am Amelia sent her last message over the radio. She said: "We are on the line of position 157-337 will repeat this message…. We are running north and south."
Amelia Mary Earhart is presumed to have died on 02 July 1937 while enroute to Howland Island from Lae, New Guinea. After her trasnmission at quarter till nine, she simply disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. The United States government immediately launched an air and sea search. The most extensive rescue mission up to that time, it cost over $4 million and covered an area of 250,000 miles. On 19 July, after failing to recover the Lockheed Electra or her passengers, the rescue mission was called to a halt.
In 1938 a lighthouse was erected on Howland Island in memory of Amelia. Although theories have been devised over the years as to the fate of Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, none have adequately solved the mystery of their disappearance. A few years earlier, Amelia had written a letter to her husband expressing her feeling about why felt the need to do what she did. In that letter Amelia said: ”Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”