Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington | Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum

Collections: Objects of the Month

May 2012: Photograph of Arthur Welsh, c. 1910

Arthur WelshObject No.: C1-21     
Description: Photograph of Arthur Welsh, at the controls of a Wright brothers airplane, and smoking cigar, 1909-1912.

Background: Born in Russia in 1881, Laibel Willcher immigrated with his family to Philadelphia and moved to Washington as a teen. His family lived above the grocery store his mother ran at 900 G Street, SW. When he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1901, Willcher changed his name to Arthur Welsh. His marriage to Anna Harmel in 1907 was the first wedding in Adas Israel's new synagogue at 6th and I Streets, NW.

Hap Arnold with Arthur Welsh and airplaine, 1912After watching Orville Wright's flight demonstrations at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1909, Welsh joined the Wright brothers' first training class. A skilled pilot, Welsh trained many of America's first aviators.  One of his students was Hap Arnold (seen here at far left, with Welsh), who went on to become the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces during World War II.  Arnold later remembered, "Welsh taught me all he knew. Or rather, he taught me all he could teach. He knew much more."

In 1912, Welsh was tragically killed in a crash at the College Park Airfield during a test flight of a new military plane designed by the Wright brothers. He was buried in the Adas Israel cemetery in southeast Washington.  The Yiddish newspaper Forward reported, "All present were in tears including Mr. Orville Wright and his sister who were doing all they could to console the mother and wife of the deceased."


Arthur Welsh commemorate medalCommemorate Welsh's centennial and legacy with a special medal commissioned by the Jewish Historical Society. This limited edition, 2 ¼" medal is available in several finishes including Bronze ($50), Silver-plated ($75), and Gold-plated ($100). For more information, contact (202) 789-0900 or rsvp@jhsgw.org.

To learn more about Arthur Welsh, join us on Tuesday, June 12th at 7:00 p.m. at the College Park Aviation Museum when we'll celebrate his centennial with a special program, exhibition, and dedication of commemorative plaque. A reception follows the program. 

Transportation: Free parking at the Aviation Museum or reserve seats on a private motorcoach from Adas Israel Congregation for $20 per person. Bus departs at 6:00 p.m., returns at 9:30 p.m. Advance registration and payment required online or (202) 789-0900.