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Rex W. Maneval Papers

Munuscript Collection No. 128



The papers of Rex W. Maneval were donated to the K ansas State Historical Society by his wife in two groups: the first, included in museum artifacts and library materials, on December 29, 1979; and the second on January 29, 1980. The collection consists of one document box containing primarily correspondence and drawings of his inventions. There are no restrictions on access to these papers.


Rex W. Maneval was born in Centralia on April 30, 1890. He attended public schools there and later went to business school in Kansas City to learn the fundamentals of banking. At an early age he developed a keen interest in engineering, which became a lifelong obsession. His banking career took him to banks in Centralia and Topeka and to the First National Bank in Frankfort which he managed. In the early 1920s he established a chick-hatchery business which became so successful that he resigned his bank position in 1926. He used his engineering talents to invent mechanical devices to improve the efficiency of his hatchery. In the early 1940s he acquired a locker plant and ice-cream store.

In his spare time Maneval collected books on mechanical engineering and designed aircraft. He developed a helicopter in the same year that Igor Sikorsky developed a similar craft (1939), and Maneval began constructing his flying machine three years later. Lack of adequate testing facilities prevented him from correcting stability problems, although the craft flew successfully. Retiring from his hatchery firm in 1947, he sold the locker plant and ice-cream store six years later to devote all of his time to the helicopter and other projects. In 1957 he designed, built, and tested a vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) craft which later was destroyed by fire. After that setback he resumed work on the helicopter which he again tested successfully.

In the mid-1960s he turned his attention to a high-speed passenger train, and by 1967 he had designed a low-slung, streamlined train with innovative flanges, couplings, and brakes. He included in his plans the provision for substituting a jet-turbine engine as future technology increased the feasibility of a non-piston engine. Although he attempted to secure a patent and acceptance of his proposal by railroads and manufacturers, he was rejected by both the Patent Office and the rail industry. He then invented a jet-powered helicopter and completed drawings and a jet engine prior to his death in December, 1974.

Scope and Content

The papers of Rex Maneval consist primarily of correspondence relating to his streamlined passenger train, although other activities and inventions are included. Virtually no personal correspondence appears in the collection apart from letters sent and received relating to his inventions.

Although one item in his correspondence file deals with an unexplained automobile safety device, the rest of the file is concerned with his proposal for a high-speed, streamlined passenger train. The correspondence shows that he initially tried to interest the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway in his idea, but when they declined interest he sent a letter describing his project to the executive officers of most major railroads. Most of the rail lines replied that they did not have the interest of capital to invest in a new type of passenger train. His letters to the U.S. Department of Transportation and leading railroad equipment manufacturers similarly elicited little positive response. His application for a patent was returned because his drawings lacked detail and did not fulfill the technical requirements of the Patent Office. His Patent Office correspondence and documents are included in the correspondence series, as are letters to and from a patent-research firm.

Other papers relating to his passenger train include drawings, specifications, and clippings. Maneval made a side-view cross-section of the train which he included with his promotional materials. Other drawings are of propellers, flanges, and cars; none of the sketches are greatly detailed. He also created a specification sheet comparing a passenger car of his proposed “speedliner” to a standard Santa Fe passenger coach and a promotional sheet to be mailed to railroads and other interested parties. Included are clippings from magazine articles relating to passenger train service and experimental passenger trains.

Papers pertaining to his two helicopter projects include drawings made in 1959 of his refined 1939 craft and drawings of his jet-propelled helicopter proposal done in 1968. Neither set of drawings is by any means complete, although the plans drawn in 1959 give a more integrated scheme than those done nine years later. Both sets of drawings focus on specific components. The collection also includes an assortment of magazine and newspaper clippings on hovercraft, VTOL craft, and “flying saucers.”

The only significant amount of non-invention papers in the collection are those documents relating to his activities as a pilot: his pilot’s license and log books of four airplanes that he owned or used.

Other Maneval-related items in the Manuscript Department include a biography of Rex W. Maneval written by Carroll J. Jones and tracings of Maneval’s drawings done by Ms. Jones. Both of these items are in the Miscellaneous—C. Jones collection.

Photographs originally included in this collection have been transferred to the society’s Photograph Section. These consist of aerial photographs of Frankfort and vicinity and pictures of prizes won by the Maneval chick hatchery in various competitions. Other items donated by Mrs. Maneval, including the helicopter designed and built in the 1940’s, are in the society’s museum collections.

Bob Knecht
February, 1980

Contents List

First National Bank of Centralia, 1911 [letter of promotion]

Newspaper Clippings, 1912 & 1942 [change in jobs and death of his son Weldon]

Pilot’s License, 1929

Log Books, 1941-1955

Helicopter Clippings, 1955-1968

Helicopter Drawings, 1959-1968

Correspondence (Inventions), 1966-1969

Railroad Drawings, 1968 (Jet-powered Speedliner)

Railroad Speedliner – Statistics, 1968

“Train”, 1968 [packet of promotional materials and previous patents]

Railroad Clippings, 1968-1969