Nfld. & Labrador

Meet Margaret Carter, the Newfoundlander who hobnobbed with transatlantic pilots

Margaret Carter has a special place in history, she and her family have their fingerprints on the first ever transatlantic flight.

She packed a lunch for the first flight crew to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean

Margaret Carter befriended the many pilots who were trying to be the first to make it across the Atlantic Ocean by flight. (The ICH Blog/ichblog.ca)

She was born in St. John's in 1895. Her grandfather was Prime Minister of Newfoundland, Sir Frederick Carter. She has a special place in history — one historians and folklorists are keen to better understand.

Margaret Carter and her family have their fingerprints on the first ever transatlantic flight, shortly after the First World War. 

It was Carter who packed the lunch for John Alcock and Arthur Brown for their non-stop flight from St. John's to Ireland in June 1919. The Carter family stored airplane parts in their barns for the ambitious flight crew, according to the Intangible Cultural Heritage, Folklore, and Oral History blog written by folklorist Terra Barrett of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Barrett and the Manager of Admiralty House Museum in Mount Pearl, Sarah Wade, are both interested in finding out more about Carter and the connection between transatlantic travel and Mount Pearl. 

"We're trying to shape out who she is as a person. We're trying to get in contact with any family members, family friends, people that knew her or knew the family," Wade told CBC Radio's On The Go.

Postage stamps

Barrett said they're not sure how Carter came to know pilots Alcock and Brown, but she believes the Carter family's interest in postage stamps may have been the icebreaker. 

Carter kept photos of the pilots she had met while they were staying in St. John's and Mount Pearl. (The ICH Blog/ichblog.ca)

"They were going to have the first transatlantic air mail," Barrett said. 

"So the stamps that were stamped here in Newfoundland were then flown across the Atlantic, and they ended up in the U.K. and then one of those was sent back to Margaret's family. Her great-nephew actually has that in Montreal."  

Admiralty House connection

Several pilots passed through Newfoundland, thanks to its relative proximity to Europe. All wanted to be the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

At the same time, British naval reservists were stationed at Admiralty House to decode German naval transmissions and receive signals from ships in distress.

"With their wireless technology, Admiralty House HM Wireless Station had communicated with Alcock and Brown on their Vickers Vimy while they were taking off for what would be the successful first transatlantic voyage," Wade said.

Carter's collection included candid photographs of John Alcock and Arthur Brown and the aircraft that carried them across the Atlantic Ocean to Ireland, the Vickers Vimy. (The ICH Blog/ichblog.ca)

Some of Carter's photographs will be on display as an exhibit at the Annex, located next door to the Admiralty House Museum in Mount Pearl.

Also included in the display: the handkerchief in which Carter wrapped food for Alcock and Brown. The pair signed it and sent it back to Newfoundland upon their arrival in Ireland. 

While many of the particulars are established, Wade and Barrett want to know more about the woman behind the story.

"I'm hoping, my dream is to have one of her fur coats on display," Wade said. 

"This is a large part of history for Newfoundland."

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