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Jimmie Mattern Collection

Identifier: H001-89

Scope and Content

The collection contains documents, correspondence, notes, photographs, negatices, slides, audiotapes, VHS cassettes, moving film reels, articles, clippings, personal papers, business papers, ephemera, reports, speeches, and telegrams.

The collection arrived in good condition. The archivist identified three series, with the first series being the Documents Series. Material includes documents related to Mattern’s personal life, his record breaking flights, his work with Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, and his involvement in aviation clubs and organizations. A copy of his autobiography is included with the material.

The second series is the Publications Series. Materials cover Mattern's aviation activities, record breaking flights, personal experiences, space travel, and other general topics including World War II, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The third series is the Images Series. Materials cover Mattern’s personal life, aircraft, flying career, awards and organizations, and official Lockheed photographs of the P-38 modifications Jimmie was responsible for.


  • 1906 - 1991
  • Majority of material found within 1932 - 1949

Language of Materials

Collection is in English.

Access Restrictions

Materials in this collection are open for research.

Literary Rights Statement

Permission to publish material from this collection in any form, current or future, must be obtained from the Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

Biographical Sketch

Jimmie Mattern was born on March 8, 1905 in Freeport, Illinois. Jimmie experienced his first flight, in a JN-4 Jenny, while he was stationed with the army in Hawaii, which was not yet part of the United States. He returned to the US and spent several years playing in a band on ocean liners traveling the Pacific. In 1926, Jimmie learned to fly airplanes at Ryan Field in San Diego, purchased a Waco 10, and did some barnstorming. Deciding to settle in California, Mattern became a Hollywood stunt pilot flying aircraft in the films Hell’s Angels (1930), Lilac Time (1928), and Wings (1927), among others. In 1929, Mattern began flying cargo for Tex Mex Industries. This led to him getting a job as a pilot with a Texas oil wildcatter named Carl Cromwell. In 1929/1930 Cromwell decided to start a local Texas airline that would operate between Oklahoma, Fort Worth, San Angelo, and Brownsville, Texas. Mattern became chief pilot for Cromwell Airlines, as it was called at the time, until the airline folded in 1932.

After leaving Cromwell, Mattern decided to attempt to beat the around the world flight record recently set by Wiley Post and Harold Gatty. Mattern teamed up with a friend named Bennett Griffin, who would serve as navigator and co-pilot. With the backing of the Standard Oil Company, Clarence Page, and others, the two men would attempt to fly a modified Lockheed Vega named The Century of Progress around the world. In 1932, they took off on their adventure. Mattern and Griffin first set the speed record to Berlin, Germany. After leaving the city, they were approaching Moscow when a hatch on their plane broke loose. It struck the tail section of the plane and forced Mattern to set the aircraft down. Although they had arranged for permission to fly over Russian soil, local officials arrested the aviators and held them for propaganda purposes.

Eventually they were taken to Moscow and the Kremlin, where they were interrogated as spies. The US government and local contacts eventually secured Mattern’s and Griffin’s release, and the two aviators made their way back to the United States by commercial airliner and steamship, stopping in many of Europe’s capital cities. Eventually the Russians crated up the wreckage of The Century of Progress and shipped it back to Mattern.

Not content with failing to set the around the world flight record, Mattern decided on an even more ambitious project. In 1933, he formed Jimmie Mattern Incorporated to help raise funds to rebuild The Century of Progress and plan for a new trip: a solo flight around the world. Armed with a rebuilt and modified plane and permissions for flights over Europe and Russia, Mattern took off on June 3, 1933. Forty-eight hours later, he reached Norway, well off course from where he was supposed to land. From Oslo he flew to Moscow, and then on to Khabarousk. On his way to Khabarousk, Mattern lost his way and set down on the Andmir River. There, some local peasants filled his airplane with tractor fuel, before he took off and made it to Khabrousk. On June 14, he took off for Nome, Alaska, however, four hours from Nome, and over the vast wastes of arctic Siberia, the crude gasoline he had taken on at the Andmir River caused his engine to seize up. Mattern had no choice but to crash-land his plane. He flew in low and knocked the landing gear off, then he belly landed in the tundra. Mattern spent the next couple of weeks surviving alone in the arctic. Finally, he was found by Inuits heading downriver to a settlement located at the mouth of the Anadyr River. He was brought to this settlement on July 5, where they nursed Mattern back to health. He spent several more weeks in the settlement trying to get permission to bring in a plane, so he could continue his solo flight. Finally, on July 19, the Russian pilot Levanesky arrived. He and Mattern took off, and eventually reached Nome, Alaska. From there Mattern traveled back to Floyd Bennett Field, where his whole odyssey began.

Jimmie next turned up in Chicago, IL, working on a contract for the Sherman Hotel, describing his adventures as a pilot in a nightly show. While there, he met a Chicago showgirl named Dorothy Harvey. In 1934, Mattern became the Aeronautical Director for the Pure Oil Company. Hehelped script a radio show in 1935 that dramatized his life up to that point. He continued to court Dorothy, and in 1937, he became the Aeronautical Director for Benedum and Tree’s Family of Oil Companies. On May 18, Jimmie and Dorothy were married, and Mattern then immediately departed to enter into a New York to Paris Air Race, which was later canceled. Mattern went to California to be close to Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, so he could get his hands on a new Lockheed 12. He was going to convert it so that he could fly around the world non-stop. He would refuel in mid-air. The Government denied him a permit, but Mattern was later contacted by the Russian Ambassador. Levanesky and his crew had gone missing somewhere between Point Barrow, Alaska and the North Pole, and Mattern was asked to come to Alaska and join the search. Mattern flew search missions out of Point Barrow, but he and the rest of the searchers were unsuccessful in locating the lost Russian flyers.

From 1938 to 1939, Mattern found work at the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation test flying the P-38 at first, then many other aircraft. The P-38 had been killing a lot of trainee pilots, so Mattern developed a piggy back training system. This modified the P-38 in a way that an experienced pilot could sit in front of the trainee, and take over if anything went wrong. This procedure substantially cut down the number of training accidents. Mattern also developed a modified fuel system for the P-38. His work with the Lockheed Corporation ended in 1946. Mattern was tasked with being the President of Lockheed’s personal pilot, but he felt that something was wrong. He had been having unusual spasms and shakes. He went to his doctor, who was concerned he had a brain tumor. This led to a trip to the Mayo Clinic where Mattern was diagnosed with a ruptured blood vessel in his brain. Apparently the vessel had ruptured because of all the blackout stalls he had done while demonstrating the P-38. Mattern was told that he could never fly again, for fear of aggravating the rupture.

Although Mattern was forced to retire from flying, he never lost touch with aviation. He was instrumental in organizing the OX-5 Club of California, and helped plan and host the 1958 OX-5 Club National Convention in Los Angeles, California. Mattern was also active in the Quiet Birdmen and the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He and his wife became real estate brokers, and then operated the Mattern Travel Agency. Mattern was also involved in promoting aviation through the media, including writing books and articles, and working as a producer for the cartoon show Space Angel 1962-1964. Mattern became an avid supporter of the space program and attended the launchings of Apollo IX, XI, and XV. He also had his pilot license carried to the moon on Apollo XI.

In 1981, Jimmie Mattern was inducted into The Oklahoma Air and Space Hall of Fame for his contributions to aviation. In 1988, Mattern was to be honored by a Texas Aviation Pioneer Day in Dallas, however, he passed away just days before this event honoring his life on December 17, 1988,


"Jimmie Mattern Collection", Folder 2, Box 2, Series I, History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.
Carlson, Erik. “Carl G. Cromwell and Cromwell Airlines: The Dawn of Commercial Aviation in West Texas, 1928 – 1931.” The West Texas Historical Association Yearbook, Vol. LXXIX October, 2003. pp 89 -105.
Mattern, James and Mattern, Dorothy. “The Diary of Jimmie Mattern – Pioneer Airman Autobiography.“ Dallas, TX 1991.


9.9 Linear Feet ((Fourteen manuscript boxes, two slide storage boxes (11.5x15.6x2.75), one non-standard box (22.5 x 15.5 x 2.0).)


Jimmie Mattern experienced his first flight in a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny, during his deployment in Hawaii. In the 1920s, he participated as pilot in various Hollywood motion pictures and flew for commercial airlines. In 1932, Mattern unsuccessfully challenged Wiley Post's and Harold Gatty's around the world flight record. Forming his own company in 1933, Mattern tried again to break the around the world flight record to no avail.

By the late 1930s, Matters became a test pilot for Lockheed Martin Company. An illness, discovered by the mid-1940s, forced him to stop flying. After his active flying career, Mattern founded the OX-5 Club of California.

He was inducted into The Oklahoma Air and Space Hall of Fame in 1981. Shortly before he was supposed to be honored during a Texas Aviation Pioneer Day in Dallas, Texas, in 1988, Mattern passed away.

Series Description

The Jimmie Mattern Collection is arranged in three series:

Series I. Documents 2.4 linear ft. (six manuscript boxes), 1905-1991.

Arranged by topic.

Series II. Publications 3.2 linear ft. (eight manuscript boxes), 1906-1989.

Arranged by topic.

Series III. Images 4.5 linear ft. (two manuscript boxes, two slide storage boxes, and one non-standard box), 1931-1989.

Arranged by topic.

Provenance Statement

The Jimmie Mattern Collection was donated to the History of Aviation Archives, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas, by Dorothy Mattern, in 1989.

Additional Sources

Additional information can be found in the History of Aviation Archives in the following collections: History of Aviation Archives. The material processed in this collection only represents part of the donated material. Certain photographs and other items are in the custody of The Frontiers of Flight Museum located in Dallas, Texas. Contact the museum to access this part of the collection.

Image ID

It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission from copyright holders of materials to which this institution does not own copyright.

Images in this collection are identified by a unique number that provides information about the format, record group, collection, series, box, folder, and image numbers. Please use this number when ordering reproductions of images from this collection.

Record Group Code

1 = CAT/Air American Archives

2 = Doolittle Archives

3 = Lighter than Air Archives

4 = George H. Williams, Jr., World War I Aviation Library

5 = History of Aviation Archives

6 = University Archives

7 = HAC Stacks

8 = WPRL Stacks

9 = Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Collection

10 = Belsterling Collection

11 = Closed Stacks

12 = Unidentified

13 = Chance Vought Archives

14 = Twirly Birds Archives

Image Format Code

P = Photograph/Postcard

S = Slide

N = Negative

T = Positive Transparency

B = Black and White

C = Color

Example : 5JJM-1-1-PB1

5 = History of Aviation Archives (HAC)

JJM = Jimmie Mattern Collection

= Series Number

1 = Box Number

1 = Folder Number

P = Photograph/Postcard

B = Black and White

1 = Image Number

Images archived in plastic image holders may also have a location code in the format: 1/TL. In this example, the number is the sheet number and the letters indicate the top left position on the sheet. Position indicators are T = top, L = left, R = right, M = middle, and B = bottom. Position indicators may be combined to describe the position on the sheet, as shown in this example.
Guide to the Jimmie Mattern Collection, 1905-1988
Thomas J. Allen, PhD
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
English (eng)
Edition statement
First revision by Patrizia Nava, CA. 2018-05-23.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Division, History of Aviation Archives. Repository

3020 Waterview Pkwy
Suite 11.206
Richardson Texas 75080 US
972-883-4590 (Fax)