Skip to main content

Kenneth Colthorpe Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS-299

Scope and Contents

The Kenneth Colthorpe Papers consist primarily of documents and artifacts from Colthorpe’s personal and professional life. Materials are arranged by series and further into subseries. Within boxes, materials are arranged alphabetically by folder where applicable.

Series 1: Correspondence, is divided into both general and World War II correspondence and contains both incoming and outgoing letters between Colthorpe and his family, including his wife, Corinne. Series 2: Champion Spark Plug, comprises the bulk of the collection and therefore has the largest number of subseries: Aviation Materials, Artifacts, Correspondence, Administrative Files, Oversize Materials, Technical Drawings, Photographs, and Promotional Materials. Specific items in this series include, but are not limited to, aircraft information; office memoranda; annual reports; and printed material. Series 3: Books, is a smaller series containing books about both military training and generation aviation. Several other items such as newsletters and intructor's logs can be found in this series as well. Series 4: Local History, is a small series comprised of materials from Toledo companies such as DeVilbiss and Libbery-Owens-Ford and include correspondence, printed material, and reports. Series 5: Maps, consists of maps of Asia (including the region known as the Hump) and the United States and largely date from World War II to the post-war era. Series 6: Artifacts, is divided into military and miscellaneous items ranging from flight instruments to military tags, patches, and badges. Series 7: Personal/Family offers insight into Colthorpe's perosnal life thorough such items as drawings, a diary, and materials from his years at DeVilbiss High School. Although many of the objects in this series are from Colthorpe's early years, others date from his wartime service and extend to well beyond the war.

This collection will be of use to many different researchers. There is a great deal of material on Colethorpe’s World War II service, including personal correspondence and administrative materials. Local historians will find material on the Toledo Chamber of Commerce and some local corporations. In addition, researchers interested in the history of aviation will find many items of note, particularly the artifacts and technical drawings.


  • 1915-2014

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials may be accessed by request at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections on the fifth floor of the William S. Carlson Library on the main campus of the University of Toledo. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

In most cases, the Canaday Center does not own the copyright and literary rights to items in its collections; it is the responsibility of the researcher to adhere to U.S. Copyright and Fair Use laws, including seeking permission from the copyright holder and payment of any royalty fees, in the reproduction and use of archival materials.

Providing copies or scans does not constitute a license to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.

Biographical / Historical

Kenneth “Kenny” Colthorpe was born in Toledo, Ohio on March 2, 1922. He developed an interest in flying from an early age, likely inspired by seeing a photograph of his father entering an airplane from a moving car. His first job, however, was that of paper boy; at the age of 4, he began helping his older brother sell copies of The Blade. He was so successful that the paper presented him with two trips to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933-34.

Colthorpe began cultivating his interest in flying as a student at DeVilbiss high School, where he joined the Civilian Air Reserve (a precursor to the Civil Air Patrol). He graduated from DeVilbiss in 1940 with a major in aviation and received a private flying license that same year. In 1942, he enrolled in another pilot training program through then-Toledo University, and would go on to receive aviation instruction through programs in Cleveland, at the University of Minnesota, and Randolph Field in Texas. After graduating from the Randolph Field program, Colthorpe was assigned as a civilian flight instructor in Lakeland, Florida, where he trained hundreds of pilots. In 1944, he married Corinne Powel, whom he credited as “the girl who had... made it possible for me to accept all of Uncle Sam’s ‘free’ training.”

1944 marked another turning point in Colthorpe’s life. That year, he was part of the ferrying division of the Air Transport Command in Memphis, serving in that role as a civilian. In August, however, the Army assigned him to active duty with the Air Transport Command. He served briefly in Romulus, Michigan and Wilmington, Delaware before traveling to Casablanca. This experience was enough to qualify Colthorpe for flying over the “Hump,” the nickname for the area of the Himalayan Mountains between Burma and China. In 13 months, Colthorpe flew over the Hump 144 times, delivering fuel to China. His service earned him two air medals, a Distinguished Flying Cross, and two battle stars, among other honors.

After the war, Colthorpe returned to the United States via New York City, where he was greeted by Quentin Roosevelt II, a grandson of former president Theodore Roosevelt and director of the China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC). Although he was determined to never again return to the Far East, Colthorpe returned to China in 1946 to train senior pilots for CNAC. For the next four years, he flew routes throughout China, as well as to Burma, India, Japan, the Philippines, and San Francisco. In his capacity as a CNAC Captain, Colthorpe flew several of the airline’s inaugural flights. His wife Corinne later joined him in China; their son, Chris, was born in Hong Kong.

Colthorpe remained in Hong Kong until 1950. When he returned to the United States, he became co-owner and operations manager of the former Metcalf Flying Service Corporation. In 1952, he began working for Champion Spark Plug. He remained with Champion for the next 30 years, retiring as Senior Captain and Director of Travel Services.

In addition to his military service and career at Champion, Colthorpe was also a member of several organizations, including the WW II HUMP Pilots Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Good Bears of the World, and Quiet Birdmen – Toledo Hangar. He died on April 13, 2015.


16 Linear Feet

14 Linear Feet (Includes all oversize and custom containers)

Language of Materials