The Thomas Morse was the result of America’s effort to produce a fighter type for the Great War. Although it was never to be used for this purpose, it did have success as an advanced pursuit trainer for the Army, and the U.S. Navy used a seaplane variant that was fitted with twin floats. This model was designated the S-5.
This example is the last of the 100 S4B’s manufactured. The S4C model which had a shorter wingspan, smaller ailerons and elevators, and was factory equipped with the more reliable 80 hp LeRhone followed. All totaled 497 S4B and C models were produced by the Thomas-Morse Corporation in Ithaca, New York.
It is believed that this particular Thomas Morse was manufactured in 1917, and used by the Signal Corps for pilot training. Frank Sharpless of Wisconsin purchased the aircraft following the war, and in 1921 sold it to Roland Jack who stored the aircraft in his hayloft. In 1952, Dwight Woodward, a W.W.I aviation enthusiast heard news of the airplane and purchased it from Mr. Jack for $500.00. Mr. Woodward restored and flew it for United Press and Movietone News cameras at Truax Air Force Base in celebration of Armed Forces Day. It was also the subject of a Champion Spark Plug advertisement in 1957. When Mr. Woodward passed away in 1957, his wife loaned the aircraft to the United States Air Force Museum, where it remained from 1963 to 1973. It was then acquired from the Woodward estate by the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, where it flew for several years.