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New Acquisition Adds Dimension to WRHS Air Race and Great Lakes Expo Collections

A mid-December phone call from Seattle attorney Richard Prentke to WRHS Chief Curator Dean Zimmerman resulted in one of the best gifts of 2011 for the Historical Society. Mr. Prentke was offering the papers of his father, Herbert Prentke, and he wanted to make the donation quickly, before the end of the calendar year.

WRHS Research Center staff did not hesitate to accept the materials. They were from the advertising firm of Humphrey, Prentke and Associates which promoted two of the most important public events in Cleveland in the mid-20th century: the National Air Races and the Great Lakes Exposition. The curators knew the materials would be significant and highly valuable for WRHS collections. When they began combing through the nine boxes that arrived in Cleveland on December 22, they realized just how priceless this new acquisition is to telling the story of aviation and entrepreneurial history in Cleveland.

“We already had some materials from the Great Lakes Exposition, but not a tremendous amount,” said Dr. Edward Pershey, Vice President for Museum Special Projects and Exhibits. “Since the exposition ran for only two years, original items from the event are rare. Likewise, items from the 1930s and ‘40s National Air Race are becoming very difficult to find and quite collectible.” The items complement the extensive WRHS National Air Race archives and artifacts, including aircraft flown in the races and now part of the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection.

Dr. Pershey offered the above statements after containing his excitement. When he first gazed upon the items in those boxes sent from Seattle, he felt Christmas had been particularly good to WRHS and Richard Prentke was Santa Claus in disguise. 

Photo Gallery of pieces from the donation.