Birdie Viola Draper was born in 1916 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At age 20, Miss Draper began training as a parachutist with Stub Chrissinger, an instructor for Hincks Flying Service. Mr. Chrissinger was one of two licensed parachute riggers in Minnesota at the time. After her training, Miss Draper joined a stunt group of Thrill Day Performers. She became known as the "Queen of Daredevils", performing at thrill shows and fairs throughout the country. After joining the "Death Fighters" Birdie expanded her act to include automobile stunts. One particular stunt involved an 18 inch brick wall, an old car, 16 sticks of dynamite, and Ms. Draper at the wheel.
During the 1940s Draper traded in her stunt career for a position at Ryan Aeronautical Company as a licensed parachute rigger. She also became part of the newly organized parachute troop of the Women's Ambulance and Transport Corps of California (WATCC). Miss Draper married George Griffin, a local attorney, and retired from Ryan Aeronautical Company in 1945. She died 1 November 2005.
The Library and Archives houses the personal collection of Birdie Draper, donated in January 2006 by her daughters, Randee and Heidi. The collection is composed of newspaper clippings, jump log, parachute rigger log, thrill show posters, her "Death Fighters" uniform, and a WWII era WATCC jumpsuit. A portion of her collection is currently on display in the Museum's WWII Gallery.
The San Diego Air & Space Museum is a proud member of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, a collaboration of 26 arts, science, and cultural institutions in San Diego's Balboa Park. Learn more at www.bpcp.org.