Tribute to Charles A. Levine, owner of the Columbia, who flew with Charles D. Chamberlin on his trans-Atlantic non-stop flight to Germany was paid by the London “Daily News,” in an editorial.
“Of course the real credit for the flight belongs to Chamberlin,” writes the “Daily News,” “but the here of popular imagination is Levine, who is a most striking example of the spirit of American enterprise. In his own way Levine is the most representative American of the day, just as in his very different field is President Coolidge. There are three Levines, the business man, the showman and born advertiser and the hero and very brave man. All three of them flew across the Atlantic.”
Charles A. Levine, owner of the Columbia, in which he and Clarence D. Chamberlin flew from Curtis Field to Eisleben, German, 3,905 miles, in 42 hours, completing the second trans-Atlantic flight and exceeding the distance covered by Charles A. Lindbergh by 300 miles, is of Russian Jewish parentage.
Levine’s flight occurred under most dramatic circumstances, causing admiration of the public at large and surprise to his immediate family.
The Columbia was scheduled, according to plans in May, to be the first aeroplane to attempt the trans-Atlantic non-stop flight to Paris. Due to differences which developed between Levine, who financed the flight, and Lloyd Bertaud, the pilot who was supposed to have accompanied Chamberlin, the plan was postponed, giving Lindbergh the opportunity to be the first to make the flight. When the difficulties were removed and the Columbia was ready to hop off, the wealthy owner decided secretly to accompany Chamberlin. This he did in accordance with his intention expressed at the beginning of May in an interview with the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“The first cross-Atlantic non-stop flight of the Bellance plane will be made by the two fliers, Clarence Chamberlin and Lloyd Bertaud. The second flight, however, will have me as a passenger,” Mr. Levine stated at that time to the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
His decision to accompany Chamberlin was viewed in certain quarters as his reply to criticism directed against him in connection with the postponed original flight and it was to prove to the world that he was a sportsman and willing to risk his life in an adventure which his pilot was willing to undertake.
When interviewed by the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the beginning of May, Mr. Levine stated : “I do not have to tell you that I am a Jew. You can see that from my appearance and from my name. I am an American-born Jew. My parents came to the United States thirty-six years ago from Vilna. My father, who was a merchant in Vilna, settled in North Adams, Massachusetts. After a few years he established a fine reputation for himself. There I attended public school and when I grew older my father planned a commercial career for me. It was not long, however, before he was disappointed. As early as ten years of age, I had a greater inclination toward handicrafts than for commerce. I loved to carve, build and experiment with all kinds of tools. My father was dissatisfied. I read passionately ail travel books and adventure stories. Later I decided to become an aviator. When I was thirteen I ran away from home and went to Garden City where the well known Moissant school for fliers was located. I did not remain in this school long before my father discovered me and took me home.
“At my father’s urging, I became a clerk in the metal business, working for one dollar a week.” Mr. Levine was employed in this business for six years, working his way up to a position where he earned $25 a week. During all this time he kept up his interest in aviation.
When he planned to marry, Charles Levine founded his present business.
“It took me only a few years to make a success of my business. I later directed my interests to bank operations, which also met with success. During this time, my interest in aviation grew. I bought an aeroplane and used to fly from time to time from New York to Pittsburgh where my father resided. Although I am not an engineer by profession, I have specialized in various types of planes, so that every detail of the mechanism of a plane is familiar to me.”
When asked how he became interested in the Bellanca plane, he stated that he met the Italian designer, Joseph Bellanca, who told him of his plan to construct an airship which could cross the Atlantic on a non-stop flight. “This plan interested me.” Mr. Levine stated. “and fired my imagination. It had always been my dream to live to see the day when I would be able to jump into an aeroplane in New York and arrive two days later in London or Paris. When the opportunity to realize my dream presented itself, I decided to take it,” he stated.
Charles A. Levine is interested in a number of Jewish philauthropic institutions in Brooklyn, athough he took no active interest in Jewish communal affairs.
Isaac Levin, father of Charles A. Levine, when interviewed by the representative of the Jewish Thelegraphic Agency yesterday, stated that he came to the United States from Vilna when he was sixteen. He had no relatives in this country and when he landed he had only a few cents in his pocket. He started out peddling dry goods. After a great deal of suftering and hardship he settled down in North Adams. His father, Noah Levin, he recalled, was interested in handicrafts, having constructed, some forty years ago, a wooden model of Solomon’s Temple. At that time he travelled in various towns in Russia showing the model.
“My grandfather, Moses Levin,” he continued, “was a well known Talmudic scholar, who in his old age went to Jerusalem, where he died. When I was thirteen years old I was a student at a Vilna synagogue. My father wanted me to study for the rabbinate, but I had no desire for this and decided to emigrate to America,” Isaac Levin stated.
“I am the proudest father in the world.” he declared. “My son Charlic was always an independent, adventurous boy. He has a true Jewish heart and is ready to help people who are in need. He always carries out his decisions. He always had a great ambition to fly an aeroplane and he had made up his mind as soon as he became independent financially be would take up aviation.”
Mr. Levin also stated that notwith standing the fact that he and his son have a wide acquaintance among non-Jews, they have never endeavoted to conceal their Jewish origin. “We do not even want to change our true Jewish name, Levin. Moreover, I spell my name, Levin, without an of and pronounce it just as my father used to pronounce it, Levin, and not Levine, as many of my Christian friends are in the habit of calling me.” he declated.
Mrs. Charles A. Levine and Mrs, Clarence Chamberlin sailed yesterday morning on the steamer Berlin for Bremen to join their husbands in Germany. They are making the trip as guests of the German government and the North German Lloyd. Samuel Hartman. Mr. Levine’s attorney, is accompanying Mrs. Levine.
Befor their departure Mrs. Levine and Mrs. Chamberlin were honored by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commeree. Ralph Jonas, president of the Chamber, presented Mrs. Chamberlin with a check for $15.000, the prize to her husband for his flight. Mrs. Levine received a wrist watch.
The building of the Daniel Guggenhein. School of Aeronautics at New York University, Heights, was opened Saturday afternoon when Daniel Guggenheim presented it to Chancellor Elmer Ellsworth Brown.
Chancellor Brown, in his address, praised the founder.
“When Daniel Guggenheim handed to our Executive Committee his simple little check for $500,000 for the founding of this School of Aeronantics he said the experience gave him a thrill.” said Chancellor Brown. “What kind of a thrill do you think the experience gave the rest of us who were present at that meeting in June two years ago?
“I am having a repetition of it today I hope Mr. Guggenheim is. too Have not these two years been full of thrills for those who have any part or interest in acronanutics?”
Assistant Secretary MacGracken, speaking of the “beuntiful generosity and inspired vision of Daniel Guggenheim” asserted that “within the walls of this building scientists will unravel still further the age-old mystery of flight. Each and all of us will benefit by these discoveries, made possible by Mr. Guggenheim’s endowment.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.