Cole Palen
Cole Palen was the founder of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is a museum of World War I aircraft and antique automobiles that is located in Red Hook, New York, USA.-History:The aerodrome was the creation of Cole Palen, who was partially inspired by the Shuttleworth Collection in England. He regularly flew many of the aircraft...

, a "living" museum of vintage aircraft from 1900-1937 located in Rhinebeck, New York. Cole's aerodrome
An aerodrome, airdrome or airfield is a term for any location from which aircraft flight operations take place, regardless of whether they involve cargo, passengers or neither...

 boasts one of the finest collections of antique aircraft in the world, including an original Bleriot XI
Blériot XI
The Blériot XI is the aircraft in which, on 25 July 1909, Louis Blériot made the first flight across the English Channel made in a heavier-than-air aircraft . This achievement is one of the most famous accomplishments of the early years of aviation, and not only won Blériot a lasting place in...

 (civil registration N60094), which is the oldest flying aircraft in the United States, and the second oldest in the world.


Palen had a strict philosophy regarding his aircraft; he believed that a plane was not truly a plane unless it could fly. By putting this philosophy into action, Palen made the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome is a museum of World War I aircraft and antique automobiles that is located in Red Hook, New York, USA.-History:The aerodrome was the creation of Cole Palen, who was partially inspired by the Shuttleworth Collection in England. He regularly flew many of the aircraft...

 one of the few places in the world where the public could see aircraft from the dawn of aviation actually fly. Taking this a step further, Palen made both his original and replica aircraft as authentic as possible. Original drawings would be used for restoration and replica construction, as well as the installation of original parts and engines into the machines so they would look, sound, and fly the same way they did for the daredevils of early aviation. Because of this, Palen and his aerodrome became the focus of countless newspaper and magazine articles, documentaries, websites, and books.

Cole Palen (James Henry Cole Palen Jr.) grew up in upstate New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 outside the town of Poughkeepsie
Poughkeepsie (town), New York
Poughkeepsie is a town in Dutchess County, New York, United States. The population was 42,777 at the 2000 census. The name is derived from the native term, "Uppu-qui-ipis-in," which means "reed-covered hut by the water."...

. As a child he developed an early fascination with aviation and delighted in building model airplanes. In later life he was recognized for his work in the preservation of early aviation history.

After graduating from high school in 1944, Palen joined the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 just in time for the Battle of the Bulge
Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge was a major German offensive , launched toward the end of World War II through the densely forested Ardennes mountain region of Wallonia in Belgium, hence its French name , and France and...

. On returning to the U.S. he entered the Roosevelt Aviation School at Roosevelt Field, Long Island, to train as a mechanic. Here he was thrilled to find that one of the hangars contained a small museum of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 aircraft. He dreamed of one day owning his own unique airfield and flying the early aircraft as he felt they should be flown.

In 1951 Roosevelt Field closed and plans were laid for a vast shopping center to be built on the site. Accordingly the World War I aircraft were put up for sale. The Smithsonian had already acquired three of the aircraft so Cole quickly bid his life savings for the remainder. Soon thereafter he found himself the proud owner of a SPAD XIII, Avro 504K, Curtiss Jenny, Standard J-l, Aeromarine 39B
Aeromarine 39B

 and Sopwith Snipe
Sopwith Snipe
The Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe was a British single-seat biplane fighter of the Royal Air Force . It was designed and built by the Sopwith Aviation Company during the First World War, and came into squadron service a few weeks before the end of that conflict, in late 1918.The Snipe was not a fast aircraft...

. He was given just thirty days to remove the aircraft from Roosevelt Field, which required nine 200-mile round trips to the family home where they were stored in abandoned chicken coops.

In 1959 Palen found a farm for sale near Rhinebeck, New York. This property included a small farmhouse in which an unsolved murder had taken place. Around this time Palen earned money through the rental of some of his aircraft to a film company in California that was filming the World War I movie, Lafayette Escadrille
Lafayette Escadrille (film)
Lafayette Escadrille American war film released in March of 1958 by Warner Brothers Pictures, starring Tab Hunter, David Janssen, and Will Hutchins, and featuring Clint Eastwood in an early supporting role. It was the final film in the career of director William A...

starring Tab Hunter
Tab Hunter
Tab Hunter is an American actor, singer, former teen idol and author who has starred in over forty major films.-Background:...

. Between savings from his employment at Texaco
Texaco is the name of an American oil retail brand. Its flagship product is its fuel "Texaco with Techron". It also owns the Havoline motor oil brand....

 as a mechanic and earnings from the film deal he was able to purchase the property by paying the back taxes that were owed on it. He cleared a runway and built makeshift hangars from scrapped materials with his bare hands and the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome was born.

Palen collected aircraft spanning the period of the birth of aviation up to the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. He restored them and flew them regularly, and where early original aircraft did not exist, accurate replicas powered by authentic engines were built. A sizable collection of veteran and vintage vehicles was also collected, nearly all in working order.

In 1960 Palen opened the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to the public, the first known American example of a living museum
Living museum
A living museum is a type of museum, in which historical events showing the life in ancient times are performed, especially in ethnographic or historical views, or processes for producing a commercial product in terms of technical and technological developments are shown, especially the craft...

 dedicated to preserving pre-World War II aviation history and technology. The first air show took place in 1960 to an audience of approximately 25 people. Gradually word spread and shows were held regularly on the last Sunday of the summer months. As demand grew this was changed to the present format of a show every Saturday and Sunday from mid-June through mid-October.

In April 1965, Cole Palen flew his 1912 Thomas Pusher 100 miles from Rhinebeck to New York City and after a three day trip, he appeared on the television game show I've Got A Secret
I've Got a Secret
I've Got a Secret is a panel game show produced by Mark Goodson and Bill Todman for CBS television. Created by comedy writers Allan Sherman and Howard Merrill, it was a derivative of Goodson-Todman's own panel show What's My Line?...


On March 17, 1967 Palen married Rita Weidner. Rita took over management of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome and brought some order to the administrative side of things.

Palen was associated with several movies, most notably in 1983, when he had a brief fling with stardom, working as a stunt double for Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Woody Allen is an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, jazz musician, author, and playwright. Allen's films draw heavily on literature, sexuality, philosophy, psychology, Jewish identity, and the history of cinema...

 in the film Zelig
Zelig is a 1983 American mockumentary film written and directed by Woody Allen, and starring Allen and Mia Farrow. Allen plays Zelig, a curiously nondescript enigma who is discovered for his remarkable ability to transform himself to resemble anyone he's near.The film was shot almost entirely in...


Early in 1993 Palen suffered a stroke. Looking to the future he decided to form the Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum Foundation. The Foundation came into being during the course of the year under a Board of Directors and a special new foundation building was erected opposite the Pioneer, W.W.I and Lindbergh era buildings.

Following the end of the 1993 season Cole and Rita made their annual pilgrimage to their winter home in Florida, where Palen also maintained a workshop. Early that December Rita also suffered a slight stroke and was admitted to the hospital. It was at this time that Cole died in his sleep. Rita made an excellent recovery from her stroke and continued with her husband's legacy until her death on August 12, 2002.

In 1995 the Experimental Aircraft Association
Experimental Aircraft Association
The Experimental Aircraft Association is an international organization of aviation enthusiasts based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Since its inception it has grown internationally with over 160,000 members and about 1,000 chapters worldwide....

 recognized Palen for his work by posthumously naming him to the EAA's Vintage Aircraft Association Hall of Fame.

Several of the original World War I aircraft that Cole acquired and restored to airworthy condition are now on display in museums such as the U.S. Air Force Museum, Canada Aviation Museum
Canada Aviation Museum
The Canada Aviation and Space Museum is Canada's national aviation history museum. The museum is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, at the Ottawa/Rockcliffe Airport...

, and the National Air & Space Museum.

An excellent biography of Cole and the aerodrome was written by E. Gordon Bainbridge and published in 1977, The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome: The story of Cole Palen and his 'living' aviation museum (ISBN 0-682-48883-6).

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.