Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Puryear Family Photograph Albums released on TeVA...

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the U.S.’s involvement in World War I, TSLA’s newest online collection, the Puryear Family Photograph Albums, commemorates two brothers from Gallatin, Tennessee, who served in the Army Air Service during and after World War I. Comprised of three photograph albums and several loose items and pictures, this collection offers a visual record of the early history and aircraft of the Army Air Service.

Lt. George W. Puryear next to a SPAD S.XIII fighter plane, France, 1918.
Puryear Family Photo Album, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

On July 26, 1918, as a fighter pilot with the 95th Aero Squadron, George W. Puryear shot down his first and only German plane during World War I. Unfortunately for him, he was also taken prisoner the same day. After being transferred to a number of different prisoner of war camps and making one unsuccessful escape attempt, he would take part in a mass escape attempt from a camp in Villingen, Germany, on October 6, 1918. Five days later, he would swim across the Rhine River to reach Switzerland, thus becoming the first American officer to successfully escape from a German prisoner of war camp during World War I.

George's older brother, Alfred I. Puryear, was a supply officer and was stationed in Paris where he was responsible for all of the manifests of supplies that were shipped to all the various Air Service units throughout France.

Lt. Alfred I. Puryear, Paris, France, 1918.
Puryear Family Photo Album, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Both George and Alfred stayed in the Air Service after the war. George was assigned to the 9th Aero Squadron based at Rockwell Field, San Diego, California, but he was killed in an airplane crash on October 20, 1919. In 1921, Alfred completed his flight training and qualified as an airship (dirigible) pilot. He would retire from the Air Service/Air Corps in 1933.

Their stories give us insight into both the history of the Army Air Service and of the development of aviation itself. In the days before the aircraft industry would be dominated by the likes of Lockheed, McDonnell Douglas, and Boeing, and in the days before standardization and aerodynamics factored into aircraft design, the albums record the rich assortment of aircraft that were built and used during the early years of aviation.

For more detailed information about the Puryear Family Photograph Albums collection and about the lives of George and Alfred Puryear, read our press release, visit the TeVA site dedicated to the Puryear photo albums, and view the finding aid for this collection at:

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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