Donald A. Hall, Sr. Biography Highlights

  • Born December 7th, 1898 – Brooklyn, New York
  • Graduated from Pratt Institute – Industrial Mechanical Engineering, 1917-19
  • US Army (S.A.T.C.) – Rank: Private, 1918
  • Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Corp. – Junior draftsman, checker, designer, 1919-21
  • Elias & Bros – Aerodynamic design and acting chief engineer, 1921-22
  • Designed night bombardment airplane, which won prize in competition at Dayton, OH, 1922
  • The Douglas Company – Aerodynamics engineer, 1924-25
  • Ford Motor Company (Airplane Division) – Airplane designer, 1926
  • US Army (Brooks Field Army Air Corps) – Rank: Flying Cadet, 1926
  • Ryan Airlines, Inc. – Chief engineer & Parts inspector, 1927-28
  • Designed the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles A. Lindbergh, winner of the Orteig prize, 1927
  • Author – National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Technical Note #257, “Technical Preparation of the Spirit of St. Louis,” 1927
  • Hall Aeronautical Development Co. – President and chief engineer, 1929-1936
  • Consolidated Vultee Aircraft/Convair – Aerodynamics and pre-design engineer, Patent director, 1936-49
  • Associate Fellow – American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA), 1937-1968
  • Prepared Technical Appendix in Charles A. Lindbergh’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953
  • Naval Air Station (North Island) – Head supervisor: Helicopter Engineering branch, 1949-1963
  • Died, May 2nd, 1968 – San Diego, California

The biography above describes Nova Hall’s grandfather, who was the designer of the Spirit of St. Louis with Charles Lindbergh, the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris in 1927. (Source: Nova Hall book, “Spirit and Creator”)

Hall, who was born in 1976, eight years after his grandfather died, grew up with the knowledge he wanted to be an artist or an aviation engineer. He remained unsure of his talent until he met Leondro Soto, his mentor and a professor at Arizona State University.

Born in Idlewild, N.Y., raised in Sedona and San Diego, Calif., Hall went to Verde Valley School, where, he said, “I learned about art and composition.”

It was while under Soto’s tutelage Hall gained confidence in his work.

“Leondro pushed me in ways I wasn’t confident,” he said.

Before that, however, in 1997, while enrolled at Northern Arizona University, Hall dropped out to care for his father, Donald Hall Jr., who was gravely ill. He took care of his father until he recovered.

After his dad recovered sufficiently, Hall went back to school. It was during that time in 1999, he discovered a locked steamer trunk in his garage. It belonged to his father.

“My father didn’t remember what was in it,” he said.

When he opened the trunk, Hall found artifacts from his grandfather’s life that eventually turned into a Discovery Channel documentary in September 2001. Photographs taken by Donald Hall Sr. during the planning, building, and flights of the Spirit of St. Louis lay there among newspaper clippings and other memorabilia from the historical event in May 1927.

Hall called his grandfather an aviation engineer and plane maker. His discovery of the trunk’s contents made him realize a story had to be told. He had never met his grandfather, yet he felt history had passed him off as a footnote.

“That’s why I wrote the book,” Hall said.

The book is “Spirit and Creator,” subtitled, “The Mysterious Man behind Lindbergh’s Flight to Paris.”

Hall Sr. was not a flamboyant person. Rather, a quiet, studious man, an engineer working for Ryan Airlines in San Diego. A call from Charles Lindbergh changed his life.

The rest is history, but not the entire story was told until Nova Hall put his grandfather’s collection together, and now it melds with his own artistic talent. With a 15-minute video documentary of his grandfather’s life and work on the Spirit of St. Louis transatlantic flight, there are other pieces that warrant critique and admiration.

Nova Hall is an accomplished artist who has taken news clippings and dashes of color and black and white to create an exhibit that pays homage to his grandfather, and in his own way, bring his grandfather out of the footnotes of history into the spotlight.

It is a breathtaking display of history revived, one man’s talents forged with historical documents and photographs that tell the complete story of one of America’s greatest achievements.

“Flying Over Time” is the exhibit. Hall’s book is available at the show, which runs through March 19 at the West Valley Art Museum in Peoria City Hall Gallery, 8401 W. Monroe St. The book can also be ordered through the non-profit.