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CM-04: The James L. G. Fitz Patrick Papers

Identifier: CM-04

Scope and Contents

The James L. G. Fitz Patrick Papers include news clippings, articles, research papers, correspondence, notebooks, awards, programs, photographs and video materials. The papers contain materials from the early 20th century through 1998, but the majority of the materials cover the time period from 1952-1987. The records are described at the subseries level, however, the finding aid does contain notes on folder contents and literary productions are listed by title at the item level. Harold J. Smith, Fitz Patrick’s stepson, donated the majority of the materials contained in the Fitz Patrick papers in 2000. James L. G. Fitz Patrick also provided copies of many of his research works and the 1973-1974 film on ornithopters to the college archives prior to his retirement in 1976. A small number of magazine articles on James L. G. Fitz Patrick were donated by Peter Spiridon and additional news clippings on Fitz Patrick have been added by Archives and Special Collections staff. For better physical control, books relevant to the collection that were donated by Harold J. Smith were removed from the James L. G. Fitz Patrick Papers and cataloged and shelved with the Archives and Special Collections book collection. These books are listed at the end of the finding aid.


  • 1926-1998

Biographical / Historical

James L. G. Fitz Patrick, the son of Joseph and Mary Fitz Patrick, was born in the Grand Central Station area of Manhattan on July 23, 1906. He was a noted engineer, scientist, aviator, artist, humanitarian, philosopher, academician and educator with strong faith and religious convictions. Fitz Patrick earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering from Manhattan College, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1929 and his master’s degree in 1931. He also pursued post-graduate studies at New York University and Fordham University.James L. G. Fitz Patrick’s career in education spanned forty-six years. He moved to Staten Island in 1930 and taught science at St. Peter’s Boys High School in New Brighton from 1930-1938.In 1938, He received his teaching license in Applied Physics for service in day secondary schools other than junior high schools. He later taught at Textile High School in Manhattan, eventually becoming Head of the Mechanical Arts Department and Curriculum Department and serving as a student counselor and General Assistant to the Principal. At the founding of Staten Island Community College in 1956, Fitz Patrick was part of the faculty and served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Technology.He was appointed the first Academic Dean of the college in 1959, serving as Dean of the Faculty and acting under the college president in administering the academic program. He also coordinated a large part of the planning for the college’s campus in Sunnyside, completed in 1967.Fitz Patrick became Dean of the College for Operations and Development in 1971 and held that position until his retirement in 1976. Fitz Patrick was a member of many educational and engineering associations. He had a particular interest in railroads, natural flight, aviation and aeronautics. A licensed pilot, he completed a solo flight in a Piper Cub in 1931. During World War II, he served as an executive officer of the Staten Island Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, a civil defense organization, and was a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. A long-time member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, he was a life-member and past chairman of the New York City Chapter of the American Society of Tool and Manufacturing Engineers. Fitz Patrick’s greatest research project focused on the ornithopter. The ornithopter is a type of aircraft that relies on the movement of flapping wings for lift, thrust and flight. Fitz Patrick sought to develop the ornithopter as a safer and more efficient means of transportation than automobiles and other types of aircraft. Ideally, the ornithopter would need little room for take off and landing and be more fuel efficient than other aircraft due to its folding wings and gliding capabilities. The difficulty of converting the technology of natural flight and beating wings into a functional ornithopter is an ongoing challenge in the field.12 Fitz Patrick’s work spanned several decades, ending only after he suffered a stroke in 1992. Fitz Patrick studied natural flight, especially in birds, and conducted experiments in his home and at Princeton University’s Forrestal Flight Research Center. Fitz Patrick experimented with flow studies, gliders, model wings, beating wing free flight devices, swinging arm studies, hand dynamometers and full-scale ornithopters, and he did complete a successful ornithopter flight late in his research career. The full-scale ornithopter was stored at Princeton University for many years, but unfortunately it has been lost. Fitz Patrick was considered a leading authority on natural flight and aeronautics in the United States during his lifetime and contributed to the field through papers, presentations and membership in professional organizations. Fitz Patrick was also active in the Staten Island community and in Roman Catholic religious organizations. He was a life member and president of the Knights of Columbus, and was created a Grand Knight Commander of Manresa in 1974.17 He was involved in his local parish, St. Peter’s in New Brighton, and the First Friday Club, a Catholic laymen’s club, where he had served as president. He was also active at the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto. Fitz Patrick served as president for the Mission’s Board of Trustees for seven years, retiring in 1988, and was honored with the Father Drumgoole Award and a shrine dedicated in the names of he and his late wife Helen Fitz Patrick in 1989.18 He was on the Board of Trustees at St. Vincent’s Medical Center, where he helped to plan the St. Elizabeth Seton Wing and to oversee construction of the Cardinal Cooke Pavilion. The medical center honored Fitz Patrick by presenting him with the St. Elizabeth Seton award and by naming a wing of the hospital after him in 1979.19 Fitz Patrick served as president of the Staten Island Rotary Club and was named a “Rotary Giant” in 1996.20 Fitz Patrick was a trustee at the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, and he was also a member of the Board of Directors of the Staten Island Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Board of Mangers of the Executive Committee of the Boy Scouts of America, Community Planning Board Number 3 and the Hospital Advisory Committee of USPHS Hospital. James L.G. Fitz Patrick married Helen M. Kenny on August 19, 1930.22 Helen Kenny Fitz Patrick died in 1985, and James L. G. Fitz Patrick married Mary Murray Smith in 1992. The Smith and Fitz Patrick families had known each other since the 1940’s. Mary Murray Smith Fitz Patrick predeceased James L.G. Fitz Patrick in 1998. Fitz Patrick had four stepchildren from his second marriage - Harold Smith, Robert Smith, Stephen Smith, and Mary Ellen Smith. James L.G. Fitz Patrick died on March 22, 1998, at the age of 91.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Prof. James L. G. Fitzpatrick was a faculty member and administrator at the Staten Island Community College from 1959 to 1976. He taught and served as Head of the Department of Mechanical Technology. He was appointed the first Academic Dean of the college in 1959, serving as Dean of the Faculty and acting under the college president to administer the academicprogram. He also coordinated a large part of the planning for the college’s campus in Sunnyside, completed in 1967. Fitz Patrick became Dean for Operations and Development in 1971 and held that position until his retirement in 1976. Fitz Patrick was widely recognized as an expert on natural flight and aeronautics. This fragmentary collection mostly documents some of Fitz Patrick’s research activities.


The Fitz Patrick papers are divided into eight series and several subseries: Biographical Materials Awards Correspondence Notebooks Literary Productions Productions on Natural Flight and Aeronautics Other Productions Research Materials Photographs Ornithopter and Related Photographs Family and Personal Photographs Videos The main focus of the papers is Fitz Patrick’s research on ornithopters, naturalflight and aeronautics. The two articles in Box 1 Folder 2 deal with Fitz Patrick’s 6 research activities and provide a good overview of his work in the field. There is one research notebook (1926-1982) with a subject index. There are research-related writings covering the time period of 1934-1974 with the majority covering 1952-1974. There are also more than 500 photographs documenting Fitz Patrick’s ornithopter research projects. Most photographs document Fitz Patrick’s full-scale ornithopter models but there are alsoseveral photographs of glider models. The majority of the photographs were taken 1970-1987 and many have labels and notations by Fitz Patrick. There is also video material related to Fitz Patrick’s research activities (1973-1974, 1990s). The correspondence in the collection, with the exception of the 1991 letter from Mr. Freedburg, generally served as cover pages for mailed items and does not go into detail regarding Fitz Patrick’s research activities. The collection also includes copies of articles, research reports and patents collected by Fitz Patrick for research purposes. There is a limited amount of biographical material and Fitz Patrick’s activities in the civic and church communities are not well documented within the papers. There are also several photographs of James L. G. Fitz Patrick and his family in the collection but many are unidentified and undated. The materials in Series 1: Biographical Materials include various news clippings and articles, of these, the 1995 Profile from the Staten Island Advance in Box 1 Folder 4 is the best single source of biographical information on Fitz Patrick within the papers. There is some information regarding Fitz Patrick’s activities on the Advisory Committee of the U.S. Public Health Service Hospital (1964-1966 only) contained in Box 1 Folder 11. Otherwise, most information regarding his civic and church community involvement is contained within the news clippings,retirement program and awards in Series 1: Biographical Materials

Series 2: Awards. There are no personal files documenting civic or church community activities in the papers. There are limited materials related to Fitz Patrick’s career as a teacher and administrator contained within the papers. There is a 1937 course paper written on curriculum adjustment in secondary schools titled “Can this be the Future of Saint Peter's High School?” outlining the situation at the high school where Fitz Patrick was teaching at the time. The papers also contain a copy of an undated lesson plan book (ca. 1956). There is a videocassette containing a 1975 interview with Fitz Patrick made around the time of his retirement from Staten Island Community College. Additional information regarding Fitz Patrick’s career at Staten Island Community College is contained with the college archives in the Archives Special Collections Department at the College of Staten Island.

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Repository Details

Part of the CSI Archives & Special Collections Repository