Eddie Gardner, who began flying the mail in 1918, had been nicknamed "Turkey Bird" by fellow pilots who thought his wobbly takeoffs resembled a turkey trying to fly. Somewhat insulted, Gardner insisted on shortening the name to "Turk Bird," which he considered more acceptable. He had already logged over 1,400 hours of flight time and was working as a senior flight instructor for the Army when Gardner was asked to join the newly-formed Air Mail Service.
Before taking to the air, Eddie Gardner spent several years working as a chauffeur and mechanic in Chicago, Illinois. He had a love of auto racing, and in 1910 he purchased a sporty National Motor Vehicle Company racing car from Benjamin Lipsner (who, as the first superintendent of the Air Mail Service, was the person who hired Gardner as an airmail pilot).
Having survived his years in the airmail service, Eddie Gardner died on May 6, 1921 while stunt flying at a county fair.
Learn more about Gardner's amazing September 1918 roundtrip pathfinding flight between New York City and Chicago. Visit The 1918 Race To Chicago on the museum's website.