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Artifact Friday: Hand-cranked Hoist

Drake Field was acquired by the city of Fayetteville in 1929 thanks to a professor at the University of Arkansas, Dr. Noah Drake, who donated $3,500 (a stunning $64,283.13 in 2024) to purchase the land. With another $20,000 from the city, construction of an airport began in 1936. Among the buildings being constructed was the White Hangar. The project began in 1941 led by Assistant City Engineer, Henry George, with the help of the War Department and the 305th College Training Detachment to fund the construction. The White Hangar’s construction, being in the early days of America’s entry into World War II, was hindered by a lack of materials,

equipment, and manpower.

While lumber and metal was being sourced locally from old barns, scrap cars, and other recycled materials a man came forth with a vital tool for the task at hand. This large hand-cranked hoist, utilized by Elmer Power, was vital to the construction of the White Hangar. This hoist was able to put in half the work needed to raise the large trusses that hold up the roof of the White Hangar and now even suspends a number of our aircraft today. The trusses had to be raised high above the ground to protect the lumber from insects and wood rot. With only eight men working on the construction at a time, raising the large wooden structures was impossible by hand.

The hoist, itself, is an ingenious device.  The operator of the hoist can turn an arm that rotates a set of gears. This process converts the operator’s own strength into a much greater force over a

shorter distance. This mechanical process allows for an average person to lift weights well beyond their normal limits. That is how an eight-man team was able to lift the eleven trusses you can see in the White Hangar today and in 2009, the family of Elmer Power kindly donated this hand-crank hoist to the Arkansas Air and Military Museum.


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