Commemorating Mexico’s Lone Eagle in the Pine Barrens

posing-w-pedestal-2-detI was looking through the negatives shot by John B. Capewell of Westville, New Jersey trying to figure out what to post next. The two plates I went with this week look like they went along with the shots in my earlier posts Sawdust Pile and Shed on the Edge of the Woods. At first glance I assumed it was a cornerstone of some building that was going up, but as I was working on them in Photoshop, I realized that it was probably a pedestal for some monument. Maybe a statue was going to go on top. I zoomed in and tried to make out the lettering on the stone but to no avail.

It was time to get Jerseyman involved.

posing-w-pedestal-2Although I couldn’t make out the lettering or symbols on the stone, I figured the pedestal’s shape was definitive enough that somebody could identify it. If it was in New Jersey, that somebody would be the incomparable Jerseyman who has helped out this site many times before with his encyclopedic knowledge of The Garden State. I sent him the JPEG files of this week’s images.

posing-w-pedestal-detJerseyman replied:

These images show the Carranza Memorial, erected to commemorate the crash site of Mexico’s Lone Eagle, Emilio Carranza, who died in the crash during the night of 12-13 July 1928. The children of Mexico saved up their pennies for creating the monument and American Legion Post 11 of Mount Holly oversaw the monument’s erection in 1931 and promised the children of Mexico that they would always hold a memorial service every July to remember Carranza. The monument still stands in Tabernacle Township, Burlington County within Wharton State Forest.

These images appear to date soon after the workmen completed the monument in 1931. Since it appears Capewell exposed these negatives at the same time as the sawdust and sawmill images, there is a very good chance that the sawmill is the one nearby at Sandy Ridge belonging to Mead and Crane. See this thread on the forums:

Emilio Carranza

Captain Emilio Carranza Rodríguez (1905 – 1928) was a famous Mexican aviator and national hero who in 1928 undertook a goodwill flight from Mexico City to New York City. The flight was in response to the previous year’s flight from New York to Mexico by Charles Lindbergh. Carranza piloting The Excelsior succeeded in his flight landing in Washington, DC on June 12, 1928, where he was congratulated by President Calvin Coolidge. He then flew on to New York, landing at Roosevelt Field on Long Island and was honored in New York City by Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and New York City mayor Jimmy Walker.

It was during the return flight when Carranza ran into tragedy. There was bad weather and despite the urging of Charles Lindbergh and others not to go, The Lone Eagle flew. Bolstered by a telegram from the U.S. Weather Bureau, Carranza took off after dark during a break in the storm in the New York region. While flying over the Pinelands of South Jersey amidst thunderstorms, his plane became disabled, and he crashed into the woods.

posing-w-pedestalI am sad to say that like a lot of people I have never heard of Emilio Carranza, but back when Capewell snapped the pictures of the 12′ monument being built at Carranza’s crash site in the Wharton State Forest in Tabernacle Township, New Jersey, it was pretty big news. I’m not sure whether Capewell worked on the site or whether he was just documenting it for posterity.

Here’s a modern shot of the monument courtesy of Wikipedia.

Carranza is still memorialized every July on the Saturday nearest the anniversary of his crash (second Saturday in July) at 1:00 p.m. He is honored at the monument site by members of the American Legion Mount Holly Post 11 accompanied by an entourage from the Mexican consulates in New York City and Philadelphia.

1931 is also much later than a lot of the other glass negatives I’ve been publishing to this site. A lot of them date from the first decade or so of the twentieth century. I assumed they all were, but these shots prove they were not. I guess Capewell liked the 5″ x 7″ format and stuck with it.


About The Capewell Glass Negative Collection

The Capewell Glass Negative Collection is a series of about 200 5-inch by 7-inch glass negatives shot early in the 20th Century by John Batt Capewell (1878-1951) of Westville, New Jersey. John passed the negatives down to his son Henry who left them in his wife’s possession upon his passing. Henry’s widow didn’t know what to do with them and didn’t particularly want them so she offered them to my Dad who couldn’t turn down anything. Ultimately I wound up with them and thought I would one day have photographic prints struck from them. That didn’t happen, but I came up with the digital workaround of placing the negatives on a lightbox and rephotographing them with a digital camera. The “processing” was then done on a computer with image editing software. They came out better than I thought they would so I thought I would show them off to the world on this site. Many of these pictures have not been seen in a century, and I’m proud to be presenting them today.

At first, I did not know who the people were in the photographs. I have a box of ephemera that accompanied the negatives and snagged a few clues from that as far as the Capewell name. I did some research on the internet and had a few false starts and wrong turns, but the readers of these posts have provided a remarkable amount of research and detail. I’m amazed at what people have turned up sifting through public records and such!

This story continues to evolve. Every Thursday, I will post a Capewell picture or two. If you recognize a person or place in one of the shots or just want to drop a line, feel free to comment!

Last: Shed on the Edge of the Woods

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7 Responses to Commemorating Mexico’s Lone Eagle in the Pine Barrens

  1. Joe_Williams says:

    The Capewell Glass Negative Collection has a Facebook page! If you are so inclined, head over there, like us or comment. Find it here:

  2. Joe_Williams says:

    More terrific pictures of this memorial can be found HERE:

  3. Yummygal says:

    This is a fantastic find!!! I can’t believe all of the treasures you’ve unearthed in these photos!! Washington Park.. the Carranza Site…I look forward to seeing what is next. Is so happy to find someone passionate about our local history as a fellow South Jerseyman and through a professional photographer’s eyes. It’s neato! I even enjoy the family photos or construction guys you post of back in the day. Thank you for showing these to the world!

  4. Yummygal says:

    Oh and posting a link on the FB page. I actually had this as a How South Jersey are you? ……to where folks had to name the site. I was surprised at how many folks know about it!!

  5. Joe_Williams says:

    Sadly, I never knew about it despite growing up in New Jersey. If I get over there, I’ll definitely check it out along with some of the other places detailed in your site. You got me all fired up about Cowtown Rodeo, for instance.

  6. Jim Bessing says:

    Hey Joe I was tracing my ancestors on census records for 1850 in south Camden and came accross two Capewells a John and a James both Glass manufacturers and both have 7 Children. Living next to each other. What a large family

  7. Joe says:

    Thanks, Jim. That probably explains some of the shots I have yet to show. There’s a few of John among these huge groups of people on a porch or a back yard. Thanks again for the info!

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