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Tigers: Tracking a Legend
Elwood J. "Sam" JunkinElwood J. "Sam" Junkin was raised in Battle Creek, Michigan where he met Clayton J. Brukner, who shared his love of aviation. After graduating from high school in 1915, the pair became involved with the O.E. Williams Aeroplane Co. and Flying School in Fenton, Michigan, where Junkin learned aviator and mechanical aspects of airplanes.
In 1917, Junkin and Brukner headed to Buffalo, New York to work at the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Corp., followed by work at the Aeromarine Plane and Motor Co. in New Jersey. It was there that they met Harold C. Deuther, George E. "Buck" Weaver and Charlie Meyers. Between 1919 and 1920, the DBJ Aeroplane Co. was formed by Deuther, Bruckner and Junkin in Lorain, Ohio.
In 1920, Deuther returned to his home in New York and Weaver again joined the group. They established a formal company named Weaver Aircraft Co., "WACO." The first airplane built was a high-wing parasol named the "Cootie." In 1921 Weaver Aircraft Co. built its first practical airplane, the WACO Model 4.
In 1922, Weaver left the Weaver Aircraft Co. when Brukner and Junkin moved operations to Medina, Ohio. In 1923 the Weaver Aircraft Co. moved to Troy, Ohio, and reorganized as the Advanced Aircraft Co. Weaver passed away in 1924.
On June 21, 1925, Junkin married Hattie (Meyers) Weaver, Buck's widow, and they had a daughter, Janet, in 1926. Not long after, Junkin became seriously ill, dying on November 1, 1926. It was believed his death was caused by effects from childhood rheumatic fever. He was survived by his seven-week-old daughter Janet, his wife Hattie, and seven-year-old stepson, George Weaver, Jr.
Mr. Junkin, in connection with his partners, was credited with solving some of the most difficult engineering challenges facing aircraft construction of the day. This success was illustrated by the fact that Henry Ford, after testing airplanes from all manufacturers, discarded the rest and kept the WACO, purchasing an additional five machines. It was expected by aviation experts of the time that Mr. Junkin and his associates would achieve the aircraft manufacturing equivalent of what Henry Ford had accomplished in the production of automobiles.