Edward J. Finan was born in Chicago about 1898 and was one of the early aviators who flew at Cicero Field in Chicago. Finan was a flight instructor at the Chicago Air Show of 1912. He was also present at events held over the three day Labor Day holiday weekend in September 1914 at the Hawthorne Race Track in Hawthorne, Illinois. Demonstrations of the possible uses of airplanes were given over the weekend. During this time, Finan and Lincoln Beachey provided the first demonstration of dive bombing, in which Finan sat on the wing of a plane piloted by Beachey and dropped soot bombs at muslin targets.

Finan joined the Illinois Naval Militia at the age of 19, and enlisted in the U.S. Navy on April 3, 1917. Ten days later, Finan boarded the USS Utah and served on that ship until August 7, 1918. He was honorably discharged from the USS Konignin der Nederlanden on November 7, 1919, when that ship was decommissioned. In December 1919, Finan entered the U.S. Merchant Marines, and served until 1928, making four round-the-world trips.

From October 1928 to March 1929, Finan worked for the Sanitary District of Chicago Drainage Board as Inspector of District Stations and Equipment. He worked for the Munson Line as Assistant Port Captain from March 1929 to October 1931. From September 1934 to April 1935, Finan served as 3rd and 2nd mate aboard the SS Exchange. He served as Chairman Employment Committee for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Veterans Relief Commission of Cook County, from April 1935 to June 1937.

On December 31, 1935, Finan married Gladys Catherine Petersen, whom he met while both worked at the Sanitary District of Chicago. Finan spent the summer months of 1937 and 1938 sailing the schooner Buccaneer, including an adventure cruise into British Guiana in South America from Chicago. When he wasn’t serving as Captain of the Buccaneer, Finan taught classes in navigation for the Army and Navy Club. On December 17, 1941, Finan returned to active duty in the U.S. Merchant Marines.

In 1950, Edward Finan ran for United States Senator for Wisconsin in the Republican Primary. He was President of the On Guard America Foundation. The purpose of this foundation was to protect American jobs by deporting illegal aliens, collect European War debts, and save America from Communism. Finan, along with Jesse C. Brabazon and Irving “Shake” Paradise formed the Pioneers of the Skyways, which was dedicated to telling and preserving the stories of early aviators, especially those who were flying from 1908 to 1915.

The goal of the Pioneers was to create an encyclopedia of early aviation. It does not seem that the manuscript was ever completed, though correspondence suggests the group attempted to locate a publisher during the 1950’s. Finan acted as secretary for the Pioneers of the Skyways, and spent many years collecting photographs, biographies and newspaper articles related to early aviation. Finan also provided information and photographs to newspapers for stories on early aviation.

Recent Submissions

  • Guide to the Edward J. Finan Papers, circa 1898-1987 

    Powell, Erin (2008-09-10)
    Edward J. Finan was born in Chicago about 1898 and was one of the early aviators who flew at Cicero Field in Chicago. Finan was a flight instructor at the Chicago Air Show of 1912. In 1950, Edward Finan ran for United ...