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Arthur C. Pillsbury was always looking for new ways to intrigue, educate, and delight his audiences. The idea of taking to air was not new. Pillsbury had done this the first time with him balloon, the Fairy, in San Francisco, this resulting in the Run-Away Balloon Saga. The next year he had again tested the winds of aerial possibility, again in the Fairy, as he photographed the Dominguez Air Show from 300 feet.
Arthur C. Pillsbury had wanted to photograph the waterfalls and dizzying heights of Yosemite from above.
So after much prodding of the Superintendent he obtained a permit to allow a plane to land in Yosemite Valley. As you can see, this permit cost $5.00, which seems cheap today.
Pillsbury spent some glorious minutes in the second seat of the airplane piloted by First Lt. James S. Krull as they soared over the Valley and the surrounding cliffs; Pillsbury, camera poised recorded these events for the audiences who came in the evenings to enjoy his varied selection of nature films at the Studio of the Three Arrows in what is now Old Village.
The crowd would begin to gather, at dark picking its seats on the porch and gazebo under a canopy of stars. During the day that same structure boasted a clever series of canvas awnings that could be pulled back at a moments notice. During the daylight hours tourists rested in the shade, writing out the post cards they had purchased just inside the Studio from the enormous number of views offered.
First Aerial Movies and Photos in Yosemite - 1919
The Wild Blue (with Permit), the War to End all Wars,
and the Toilet Paper Landing
The announcement that a motion picture film of Yosemite taken from the air would be aired at the Studio had raised the number of attendees to standing room only. As the images began flickering on the screen the audience gave a collective gasp. Again, it was simply amazing.
The War to End All Wars
Arthur C. Pillsbury was determined not to be left out of the War to End All Wars entirely. He was far too old to participate on the ground. He was 47 when the war started and had no training in the arts of warfare, but he lit on something he could do to help the effort and bent his energies to that endeavor.
The letter chronicling Pillsbury's desire to join the war effort in his own way appears in the archives of the Park Service of Yosemite.
December 10, 1917 - On stationary of Pacific Aero Club, San Francisco with an impressive line up of military men on the stationary includes Admiral Perry.
FROM; Rear Admiral Chas. D. Pond, U.S.N.
TO: Major Kendall Banning, Signal Service, U.S.N. Washington D.C.
SUBJECT: Recommending Mr. Arthur
Pillsbury, President Pillsbury Pictures, Inc.,
219 Powell Street San Francisco, Cal., for
Understanding that Mr. Arthur Pillsbury desires duty with the Aviation Section, Signal Service, U.S. Army, for special work in photography (aerial) it gives me great pleasure to recommend him in the highest terms for that duty.
Mr. Pillsbury is not only the most prominent photographer on the Pacific Coast, but is a mechanical genius as well and had specialized for years in photographic optics.
He has had considerable experience extending over several years in flying both in aeroplanes and balloons while conducting his practical experiments and I consider him without doubt by far the best qualified man in the United States in that line of work.
The Army cannot afford to miss the services of such a man.
Signature Rear Admiral, U.S. N. Chas. Pond
The record shows that his attempt to join were for naught; the next year Arthur C. Pillsbury was in Yosemite but his love of flying had been reawakened and so visitors to Yosemite, and theater audiences throughout the United States, got a taste of that Wild Blue Yonder wish in the amazing photos of Yosemite from the air.
The Toilet Paper
Pillsbury's youngest son, Arthur F. Pillsbury was given the assignment of marking out the meadow where the craft would land. Th sixteen year old lad finally raided the privy facilities and confiscated the entire supply of toilet paper thus enabling him to lay down a landing field that was clearly visible from the air on which Lt. Krull brought down the craft. Yankee ingenuity does it every time.
From the memorial page for James Stephen Krull
James Stephen Krull
BIRTH 14 Feb 1889
Palmyra, Marion County, Missouri, USA
DEATH 21 Jan 1978 (aged 88)
Sacramento, Sacramento County, California, USA
MEMORIAL ID157297062 ·
Having enlisted in the US Army in January 1908 and serving in the Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps, James S. Krull was already one of the few highly experienced pilots by the time the USA became involved in World War I. During that war, he served as an aviation training instructor to pilots destined to do battle in the skies over Europe. As early as 1919 Lieutenant Krull was lauded by several newspapers as "one of the best stunt flyers in the service” in connection to his flying in public demonstrations around the country given by what was at that time known as the Air Service of the United States Army.
He was the first person to fly an airplane into Yosemite Park on May 27, 1919, reaching an altitude of 11,000 feet in his open cockpit Curtiss "Jenny" JN6HG1.
This was the flight during which his passenger, photographer Arthur C. Pillsbury, captured his famous aerial images of the park.