Early, Rare & Unusual Propellers
Holy Grail - S.A.Reed 1921 prototype
We have some very rare and amazing items at Aeroart, but my most treasured item is this early propeller by Sylvanus Albert Reed.
As mentioned in the “Reed Propellers” photo album - Sylvanus Albert Reed was the legendary aerospace designer and aviation pioneer responsible for the modern metal propeller - his designs were purchased by Curtiss in America and Fairey in the UK who produced his propellers from the late 1920s through to the 1960s.
The story of this propeller for me begins back in 2009 when I acquired it from a gentleman in London, he didn’t have much information about it but It was obvious it was quite special and after reading the clear inscription on the front “FLOWN BY DICK DEPEW DECEMBER 13 1921” I realised it probably had some historical significance to.
I knew the propeller was too old and historic to give it the polishing treatment as well as the obvious fact there was little more than 50% of it left. Also, on close inspection, the propeller appeared to be finished with crude handtools and this would make polishing such an item a daunting challenge so I probably wouldn’t have considered it on that basis alone. At the time I was trying to get my Aeroart business off the ground so most of my time was consumed with other projects, In the end the propeller went into storage in my lock-up where it gathered dust for some time.
Fast forward 8 years to 2017 where I found myself cataloguing propellers for my Facebook page, I pulled this old metal propeller from storage and gave it a closer inspection. Obviously I had already seen the inscription “FLOWN BY DICK DEPEW ”and also the other inscription which said “PAT APPLIED FOR” but I appeared to have missed some other information. The first thing I noticed was there was a serial number 02276 and the blades were also numbered 1 and 2, I hadn’t noticed this before so I took an even closer look..... The next inscription hit me like a tidal wave, it was stamped
S A REED ! That inscription along with the date 1921 makes it the earliest Sylvanus Albert Reed Propeller Ive ever known of! The next thing that struck me was the similarities in design between this early Prototype and his later distinctive and iconic design which went on to be world renowned for many decades.I never realised the connection before but after learning that it was a “Reed Prototype” the similarities seem obvious to me.
All these years this old Propeller had been laid up in my lock-up just gathering dust!
I admit, it’s broken in half and at some stage of its life someone decided to cut a couple of pieces of metal out of it for whatever reason, but that being said, the simple fact that it still exists is incredible and as far as metal propellers go - I consider it the Holy Grail.
Since then i’ve also done some more research and it would appear that this could be one of the earliest aluminium propeller known in existence, as well as being one of the only known prototypes of the great man himself - Sylvanus Albert Reed.
- Tom Ligertwood