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Stephen H. Noyes papers


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Captain Stephen Henley Noyes (1881-1932) was a Rhode Island native, Harvard graduate, and grandson of Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce. From Harvard, he received a degree in civil engineering and, by 1910, had found a job with the Pennsylvania Steel Company in Steelton, Pennsylvania. A few years later, he moved to Philadelphia to work as a bridge designer for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1916, Noyes attended the Philadelphia School of Aviation in Essington, Pennsylvania, and applied to be an aviator in the Officer Reserve Corps, Aviation Section. He was transferred to Curtiss Aviation School in Newport News, Virginia, before being commissioned as a first lieutenant in 1917. Noyes went onto serve with both the 1st and 3rd Aero Squadrons and then joined the 12th Aero Squadron in July 1918. He was the commanding officer of his unit until October, when he was promoted to captain and reassigned to the 5th Corps Observation Group.

During World War I, as a member of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, Noyes served as a pilot and flew reconnaissance missions over enemy lines. On these missions he photographed landmarks, railroads, highways, and rivers in surrounding areas. Noyes received the Croix de Guerre for his mission on July 6, 1918, when he attacked enemy forces, which allowed his observer to take the necessary photographs. He then attacked a second time and was forced to land behind enemy lines. On October 16 of the same year Noyes completed a dangerous mission to stake out advanced lines. In spite of approaching darkness and bad weather that forced him to fly at a low altitude, he obtained the necessary information while exposed to heavy enemy fire. After landing on a shell-torn field, Noyes walked to headquarters. For this action he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He was discharged from the Army in 1919.

This collection of Noyes's papers spans from about 1916 to 1919, with a couple certificates that date from 1925. In two boxes are his photograph albums, notes on aerial observations, orders and instructions, regional maps of France and Switzerland, and other papers relating to his military career. Few papers in the collection document Noyes's personal life, though some bits of genealogical information can be culled from his correspondence and application to the Officer Reserve Corps (Box 2, Folder 2). The bulk of the collection is in English, but the regional maps (Box 2, Folder 1) are in French and German, and there are other scattered items in the albums in French, German, and Italian.

The bulk of the collection consists of unusually rich photograph albums compiled by Noyes that document his European service. Three albums are in Box 1, one is in Box 2. The photos, of both a personal and a military nature, depict aircraft, fellow airmen, and local townspeople that he encountered during his service. There are also many aerial photographs that offer particularly interesting and detailed views of mostly French battlefields, towns, and terrain. In addition to photographs, the "Diary of Stephen H. Noyes" contains his written recollections of war service, French towns and locals, and military companions. The album "Copies of Orders," as the title suggests, contains copies of official documents Noyes received during the course of his service.

Beyond the albums, there are several folders of loose papers that include correspondence, reports, orders, maps, and publications. Particularly notable items include a set of letters from Noyes concerning his application to the Officer Reserve Corps (Box 2, Folder 2), a folder of orders and related correspondence, some of which suggest that Noyes, as commanding officer, was very well regarded among his peers (Box 2, Folder 3), and several of Noyes's own reports on policies and procedures (Box 2, Folder 4). Among these very detailed reports are Noyes's instructions to supply officers, discussions on aerial shooting, and notes regarding the Observation Corps.

Several large certificates found in the collection were removed to a flat file. These include his Distinguished Service Cross certificate and citation, as well as his Croix de Guerre certificate.

Gift of Stephen B. Luce, 1947.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Majewicz
Finding Aid Date
, 2010
Processing made possible by a generous donation by Lori Cohen.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Album: Images of planes and Essington, Pa., (1916-1917).
Box 1
Album: "Diary of Stephen H. Noyes", (1917-1918).
Box 1
Album: "Copies of All Orders", (1917-1919).
Box 1
Album: "War Pictures", (1918-1919).
Box 2
Maps of regions in France, Germany, and Switzerland, (circa 1916).
Box 2 Folder 1
Scope and Contents note

Regions include Chalons, Melun, Metz, Mezieres, Vesoul, and Zurich.

Correspondence concerning Noyes's application for the Officer Reserve Corps, (1916-1917).
Box 2 Folder 2
Reports, orders, and related correspondence, (1916-1918).
Box 2 Folder 3
Noyes's reports and various policies and procedures, 1917-1918, undated.
Box 2 Folder 4
Scope and Contents note

Includes reports by Noyes: "Cooperation of Air Service and Infantry," "Instructions to Aero Squadron Supply Officers," "Notes upon Aerial Shooting and Deflection," "Equipment for Army Corps Observation Squadron," and untitled instructions on examining aerial photographs.

American Expeditionary Forces publications, 1918.
Box 2 Folder 5
Scope and Contents note

Two booklets: "Aerial Observation for Artillery" and "Liaison for All Arms."

"Notes on Observation", undated.
Box 2 Folder 6
Scope and Contents note

These notes are handwritten on scraps of paper.

"The Twelfth Aero Squadron, A Historical Sketch", (undated).
Box 2 Folder 7
Photograph of Stephen H. Noyes, (undated).
Box 2 Folder 8
Certificates, (1917, 1918, 1925).
Oversize 1
Scope and Contents note

Items include Aero Club of Pennsylvania expert aviators certificate, Distinguished Service Cross certificate and citation, and Croix de Guerre certificate.

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