Your copy of the Davis-Monthan Airfield Register 1925-1936 with all the pilots' signatures and helpful cross-references to pilots and their aircraft is available at the link. 375 pages with black & white photographs and extensive tables


The Congress of Ghosts (available as eBook) is an anniversary celebration for 2010.  It is an historical biography, that celebrates the 5th year online of and the 10th year of effort on the project dedicated to analyze and exhibit the history embodied in the Register of the Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, AZ. This book includes over thirty people, aircraft and events that swirled through Tucson between 1925 and 1936. It includes across 277 pages previously unpublished photographs and texts, and facsimiles of personal letters, diaries and military orders. Order your copy at the link.


Military Aircraft of the Davis Monthan Register 1925-1936 is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Art Goebel's Own Story by Art Goebel (edited by G.W. Hyatt) is written in language that expands for us his life as a Golden Age aviation entrepreneur, who used his aviation exploits to build a business around his passion.  Available as a free download at the link.


Winners' Viewpoints: The Great 1927 Trans-Pacific Dole Race (available as eBook) is available at the link. This book describes and illustrates with black & white photographs the majority of military aircraft that landed at the Davis-Monthan Airfield between 1925 and 1936. The book includes biographies of some of the pilots who flew the aircraft to Tucson as well as extensive listings of all the pilots and airplanes. Use this FORM to order a copy signed by the author, while supplies last.


Clover Field: The first Century of Aviation in the Golden State (available in paperback) With the 100th anniversary in 2017 of the use of Clover Field as a place to land aircraft in Santa Monica, this book celebrates that use by exploring some of the people and aircraft that made the airport great. 281 pages, black & white photographs.


Oakes, Claudia M. 1985. United States Women in Aviation 1930-1939. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, DC. 70 pp.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


the register


I'm looking for information and photographs of pilot Davis and her airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.






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Manila Davis, Ca. 1931 (Source: NASM)


Manila Davis landed once at Parks Airport, on Thursday, May 24, 1934. She was solo in the Great Lakes T21A she identified as NC845K. "(Mrs. Talley) " was written after her name in the Register. She was a relative newlywed (see below). She gave no indication of her home base or destination.

Photograph, right, is from the National Air & Space Museum, item ID NASM-9A06414. The description states, "N. A. A. Briefs. Convention Notes. Miss Lorraine Defren (L) and Miss Manila Davis, dyed-in-the-wool members of the 99 Club, wore the badge of delegate for the Boston Chapter." While the NASM description suggested Davis was on the right, her position was clearly defined by a site visitor who stated, "The lady on the LEFT in the Manila Davis picture is indeed Lorraine Defren, my aunt and sister to my father George Defren. They both were pilots from Massachusetts. Lorraine was the president of the Womens Wing & Prop Club out of East Boston Airport in the late 1920's. She was definitely a member of the 99's back then."

Davis was born June 29, 1898. The 1910 U.S. Census has Manila Davis, at age 11, living on Main St. in Flatwoods, WV with her father, mother, two younger sisters, an infant brother and her maternal grandfather. Her father dealt in lumber; her grandfather was a farmer.

The 1920 U.S. Census cites Manila, now age 21, living with her father and mother, three younger sisters (Maude, Hallie & Doris, born in 1923) and her mother's father. The infant brother, who would have been about ten years old in 1920, was not cited (deceased?). Manila was in her second year of college. The Charleston Daily Mail (WV) of September 18, 1921 reported that she left her home in Flatwoods for Bostone where, "...she will attend a conservatory of music."

Davis was married ca. 1927 to Randolph Riedell (1890-1930). Her name was cited as Manila Riedell in the Lowell Sun (MA) of August 26, 1927, where she appeared on a broadcast radio schedule ("On The Air" column) as a pianist accompanying the baritone singer Hal Casperson. They were on the air from 9:30-10:00PM on WBET, Boston, 288 kilocycles. Some of the news articles below allude to her piano competency. According to his death certificate, Riedell passed away in Boston, MA on October 27, 1930 at age 39. His cause of death was heart disease. He was buried in New Hampshire.

Betsy Ross Corps, The New York Times, May 10, 1931 (Source: NYT)


The 1930 U.S. Census placed her living with Riedell in an apartment building at 36 Addington Road, Brookline, MA. That building still stands today. They paid rent of $110 per month. His occupation was coded as a "Bond Salesman" for an "Investment Firm." Her occupation was coded as "None."

At least one source states that she acquired her pilot's license in 1930. Davis was the first woman in West Virginia to receive a pilot's license. She moved quickly into aviation as a vocation and hobby. She joined the Curtiss-Wright Corporation on Long Island as a saleswoman.

Articles in The New York Times of December 16 & 18, 1930 reported on a fundraising effort involving selling airplane rides to people in support of the Salvation Army during the holiday season. Davis was one of the pilot group, which included a cadre of other female pilots: Ruth Nichols, Ruth Elder, Margery Doig and Opal Kunz.

As well, an appearance of the Fokker NC1661 "Voice in the Sky" was planned, wherein the flight itinerary was described as a circle of the Woolworth Building at noon, followed by a formation flight over the city between Central Park and the Battery while an appeal for the Salvation Army was broadcast from the airplane.

She promoted the concept of women in aviation and knew many early female aviators through her memberships in the Ninety-Nines and in the Betsy Ross Corps, a private female auxiliary/reserve for the Army Air Corps. The formation of the Betsy Ross Corps was captured in The New York Times of May 10, 1931, left. Note mention of fellow Register pilots Opal Kunz and Mildred Morgan.

An article in the rotogravure section of the Boston Globe of January 18, 1931, below, cited her membership in the Women's Wing & Prop Club in Boston. Davis is seventh from the left.

Boston Globe, January 18,1931, Women's Wing & Prop Club (Source: Site Visitor)
Boston Globe, January 18,1931, Women's Wing & Prop Club (Source: Site Visitor)

Note mention of Register pilot Joan Shankle, and of Ms. DeFren (8th from left), pictured at the top of this page, who was the president of the group. Shankle is at far left.

Manila Davis, Ca. September, 1931 (Source: Oakes)


At left is a photograph of Davis packing her airplane with a suitcase, probably departing for the "First U.S. Amateur Air Pilots Derby." The photograph is signed, "To our devoted friend and flight surgeon, Dr. Ray." It is autographed by Davis. Note her race number, "5." This photograph is from page 2 of the Oakes reference in the left sidebar. It is a Smithsonian photo numbered 79-9382.

Her borrowed airplane (see the NYT article below) appears to be a Great Lakes, but the number on top of the starboard wing does not match the registration of the airplane she brought to Parks Airport on May 24, 1934.

The amateur derby was run for the first time in 1931 in alignment with the dates for the National Air Races (NAR). According to this REFERENCE for 1932, p. 158, the route from Hicksville, LI to Cleveland was via Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, NY, and Akron, OH. The Lawrance Trophy was awarded to Allan Eustis for his win. Davis placed 9th.

The New York Times, September 8, 1931 (Source: NYT)


The NAR were held from August 29th to September 7th in Cleveland, OH that year. It seems she borrowed an airplane in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ to participate in the amateur air derby from New York to Cleveland.

Davis didn't fare well in her return from Cleveland, as reported in The New York TImes of September 8th, right. Regardless that she was three days overdue, the Aircraft Yearbook for 1932 (which reported on the 1931 NAR) did not cite an amateur air derby of any kind. It was implied in several newspapers that it was a part of the NAR, or it could be that the derby was an informal event not sanctioned by the NAR.

The following year, The Times reported on August 20, 1933, that Davis took part in a mass good will flight from Roosevelt Field, NY to Montreal, Canada. Murky weather stalled their departure. She flew a Curtiss Robin.

She married Benjamin Branche Talley in New York during 1933 immediately after he divorced his first wife. She immediately took responsibility for her stepson, Robert (1929-2015).

Charleston Gazette (WV), April 3, 1967 (Source: Woodling)
Charleston Gazette (WV), April 3, 1967 (Source: Woodling)




As far as I can determine, Davis' life paralleled Talley's for the rest of the 1930s up to the time of her death (see the citation of her papers, below). Talley was based at Wright Field, Dayton, OH, 1935-36. His specialty was aerial topographic surveying. In 1939, Talley was assigned to the District Corps of Engineers in Portland, OR. The 1940 Census places Manila D. Talley in Portland, OR with her husband, Benjamin Talley. His occupation was listed in the Census as "Army engineer." Hers was not cited. Robert was not living with them. Rather, he was probably away at a private school. His obituary suggests a youth spent in elite schools.

In 1940, they moved to Alaska. With the outbreak of WWII, Tally oversaw construction of facilities throughout Alaska Territory. Talley was assigned to England in 1943 and I am uncertain if Davis accompanied him there. In November, 1944, he was transferred to the Pacific Theater and I doubt if Davis accompanied him there. After WWII, if Talley and Davis were allowed to be together, they spent time in Huntington, WV, Louisville, KY, Washington, DC, Asia, and Africa.

After his retirement in 1956, he, and probably she, continued to travel, spending time in Brazil, Oklahoma and Alaska again. They bought a home in Alaska where they lived until 1965. Davis eventually became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Civil Air Patrol. She was also a pianist, having studied at the New England Conservatory. In 1966, she was the third woman to complete the Air Force War College.

The Charlston Gazette (WV) reported her graduation from the College on April 3, 1967, left. I do not know whether her husband had anything to do with her matriculation, or if her rank in the Civil Air Patrol qualified her for admission.





Davis passed away December 17, 1973. At the time of her death, Benjamin and Manila Davis Talley had been married forty years. Below, left, from Find-a-Grave, is her grave marker. This stone is in the Flatwoods Cemetery in West Virginia. Note that her husband's date of passing is not inscribed on this stone. He died November 27,1998 in Alaska.

Charleston Gazette, December 19, 1973 (Source: Woodling)
Charleston Gazette, December 19, 1973 (Source: Woodling)


Manila Davis (Talley) Headstone (Source: Find-a-Grave)
Manila Davis (Talley) Headstone (Source: Find-a-Grave)

Interestingly, another headstone is cited online at the Airlington National Cemetery Web site that documents his interment at Arlington in 1998 with his "beloved wife Virginia M. Wheeler Talley," a lawyer whom he had married in 1975.

Talley married his third wife, Virginia, two years after Manila's passing (he survived Manila by 25 years), and was buried with military honors with his third wife at Arlington. Manila's obituary from the Charleston Gazette (WV), December 19, 1973 is at left.

A few archival sources preserve Davis' work. A scrapbook belonging to Davis is maintained at the National Air & Space Museum at the link.

She also has files preserved with Benjamin Talley's papers at the University of Alaska Anchorage Archives & Special Collections Department. They are described in that collection as follows. Note, in Series 2, her 1939-1990 correspondence with Register pilot Laura Ingalls. If you direct your browser to Ingalls' biography page, you'll see that she got into trouble with the federal government about 1939. I have not researched their correspondence, but I can guess at the "personal matters" that were discussed.


Series 1. Biographical Materials; n.d., 1925, 1934, 1940-1973. .2 cu. ft.
This series consists of a variety of materials from or about the life of Manila Davis Talley (1898-1973) and the Davis family of Morgantown, West Virginia. Notable files include those on the Civil Air Patrol, in which Manila Talley served as a lieutenant colonel, various pilots organizations, and memorial records from her funeral in 1973. Types of materials found in this series include correspondence, medical records, newspaper clippings, newsletters, programs, membership cards, business cards, invitations, and small artifacts

Series 2. Correspondence; 1939-1990. .1 cu. ft.
This series consists of correspondence between aviator Laura Ingalls and Manila Talley. The correspondence concerns the flying activities of Laura Ingalls and Manila Talley, their friendship, and personal matters. Miscellaneous correspondence (1939-1957) between Manila Talley, Benjamin B. Talley, family, and others is also included.

Series 3. Diaries; 1938-1940, 1956, 1958. .1 cu. ft.
This series consists of Manila Talley's travel diaries. Subjects of the diaries include: the Talleys' trip from the Southwest U.S. to Yakutat (1940), life in Yakutat (1940), and travel to Morocco, Cairo, Karachi, and Bangkok (1956 and 1958).

Series 4. Education; n.d., 1946, 1954-1967. .15 cu. ft.
This series consists of records of Manila Talley's education as a pilot from the Army Air Forces Training program (1946), the USAF Extension Course Institute (1954-1962), and the Air War College (1963-1967).

Series 5. Writings; n.d., 1947, 1968-1970, 1973. .2 cu. ft. 
This series consists of magazine and newspaper articles and a short story written by Manila Talley.

Series 6. Publications; 1805, 1898, 1912, 1914, 1938, 1951. .35 cu. ft.
This series consists of miscellaneous old publications kept by Manila Talley.

Series 7. Historical Research Index Card File; n.d. .2 cu. ft.
This series consists of a card file concerning various subjects in Alaskan and Russian history, including animals, the aurora borealis, Behring, bells, cities, cloth, cossacks, exile, food, furs, grass, the Klondike, liquor, merchants, minerals, prisons, revolution, ships and ship building, timber, water, and other subjects. 

Please direct your browser to this link for the full contents of B.B. Talley's collection. (Note: as of 09/17/16 this link is inoperable).



THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 06/16/15 REVISED: 08/19/16, 09/19/16, 09/24/16