Neighbors: More about the crash that killed ND's first licensed female pilot

Clay County native and aviation pioneer Florence Klingensmith. Special to The Forum.
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A few months ago, The Forum’s Danielle Teigen wrote about Florence (Gunderson) Klingensmith , the young woman who was North Dakota’s first licensed female pilot. Among her many accomplishments was winning several air races.

Tragically, she was killed when her plane crashed during a race in Chicago in 1933.

Now Fred Quam, Fargo, sends along information about that fatal accident.

According to a story he found on the web, here is what happened:

“Late in the afternoon of Sept. 4 (1933), one day after her 29th birthday,” the article says, “Florence was flying a beautiful race, in fourth place ahead of four male fliers, averaging over 200 mph through the first eight laps.


“Then, just as she was passing the grandstands, a bit of red fabric fluttered down from the fuselage. The stresses of the race were apparently too much for the overpowered light craft.

“Florence immediately veered off the course and flew steady and level straight south to a plowed field a couple of miles away. Then the crowd gasped as the plane flipped over and nosed into the earth from 350 feet up.

“Florence died instantly.

“Apparently she had attempted to bail out. Her parachute was found tangled in the wreckage.”

To this, Fred adds, “There have been stories that for her to win more races, a larger engine was installed on her aircraft. However, they failed to realize that the airframe should also have been made stronger and heavier. Then when she raced with the new engine, the plane fell apart, causing the accident and her death.

“I don’t know how true this story is, but it may have been,” Fred says.

As Danielle reported in her story, Florence is buried at Oak Mound Cemetery, about 10 miles north of Moorhead. “I am familiar with that cemetery,” Fred writes, “as my grandparents and several other relatives are also buried there.”

He says a 4-H club erected a beautiful monument in honor of Florence there.


She was survived by her former husband, Charles Klingensmith; they had divorced after one and a half year of marriage.

From Mike “Dino” Peterson, Las Vegas, comes a note saying a story Neighbors carried about Florence some time ago was accurate, but it omitted the fact that she lived and worked in Fargo for a time.

Dino also found a Wikipedia page about her, perhaps the same one Fred found. It is at

School connection

It’s common for someone reading this column to have connections with people mentioned in it.

Such was the case for Lola (Murray) Patnoude, Breckenridge, Minn., when she saw a column about the Elgaen family of Penn, N.D., in the early 1900s.

“I went to the same country school near Penn as Joe and Norma Elgaen’s children did,” Lola writes.

She says the oldest Elgaen children were Selmer, John and Delores.

Lola lived in North Dakota the first 32 years of her life.


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107, fax it to 701-241-5487 or email

Bob Lind
Bob Lind, Neighbors columnist. The Forum

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