October 29, 2022

William Frank Hamilton, 1900-1969 [RG4193.AM]


RG4193.AM:  William Frank Hamilton, 1900-1969

Scrapbook:  1928-1967, n.d.

Pawnee City, Pawnee County and Omaha, Douglas County, Neb.:  Parachute jumper, daredevil

Size:  0.5 cu.ft.; 1 box


William F. Hamilton was born in Pawnee City, Nebraska on April 10, 1900. As a parachute jumper and daredevil, Billy Hamilton became known as “The Wonder Kid” or “The Iowa Wonder Kid” because many of his first exhibitions took place in Iowa. According to material in this collection, Hamilton made his first parachute jump from a balloon in 1911 – at the age of eleven. Thus began a long career as a stunt flyer and parachute jumper. Hamilton’s specialties were standing on his head on the top of the airplane and hanging from the wing wires with his toes.

During World War I, Hamilton served in France with the balloon observation corps. He resumed his stunt work career in the 1920s when he toured Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana as a member of the Christenson Aerial Circus and, then, Hodge’s Flying Circus. In 1924 Hamilton set a record that stood for fifteen years when he dropped out of an airplane for 20,950 feet before pulling his parachute rip cord. Between parachute jump appearances, Hamilton appeared with a group of Hollywood “death drivers,” performing motorcycle stunts.

Hamilton retired in 1941, after recording 3672 jumps. During the early part of World War II, he worked as a parachute rigger at the Martin Bomber Plant in Omaha. He then served in the 8th Infantry where he earned a silver star. After the war Hamilton returned to the Omaha area and in the 1950s he was employed there as a concrete finisher foreman with Massman Construction Company.

Billy Hamilton died in Oklahoma in 1969.


This collection consists of one box of manuscript material arranged in one series: 1) Scrapbook, 1928-1967 and undated. The material relates primarily to the stunt flying and daredevil career of Billy Hamilton, “The Wonder Kid.” Some material pertaining to his military service during World War II and his civilian career as a parachute rigger is also included.

The Scrapbook contains photographs of stunts, advertisement posters for Hamilton’s appearances, newspaper clippings, and letters of recommendation. Some of this material relates to the daredevil career of Billy’s brother, John (or Bud), who was known professionally as “Daredevil Bud” and “Cannonball Bud.” Because of the fragile condition of the scrapbook, the individual pages were removed from the volume and placed in file folders. Sixty-one folders now comprise what were the pages of the scrapbook. In addition, photocopies of the items in the poorest condition have been made and can be found in folder 62. Most of the photographs have been copied and can be found in the photo component [RG4193.PH].


Box 1

Scrapbook, 1928-1967, n.d.



Aeronautical sports — United States

Hamilton, William Frank, 1900-1969

Parachuting — United States

Stunt performers


AIP/law   08-1989

Encoded TMM   04-19-2010

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