Arthur Welsh (1881-1912)
America’s First Jewish Aviator
Born in Russia, Laibel Wellcher immigrated with his family to Philadelphia and moved to Washington as a teen. His mother ran a grocery store in their home at 900 G Street, SW. When he enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1901, Wellcher changed his name to Arthur Welsh. His marriage to Anna Harmel in 1907 was the first wedding in Adas Israel’s new synagogue at 6th and I Streets, NW.
After watching Orville Wright’s flight demonstrations at Fort Myer, Virginia, in 1909, Welsh joined the Wright brothers’ first training class. A skilled pilot, Welsh trained many of America’s first aviators.
In 1912, Welsh was killed in a crash at the College Park airfield during a test flight on a new military plane. He was buried in the Adas Israel cemetery in southeast Washington.
Welsh taught me all he knew. Or rather, he taught me all he could teach. He knew much more.”
General Henry H. Arnold, 1949
All present were in tears including Mr. Orville Wright and his sister who were doing all they could to console the mother and wife of the deceased.
Yiddish newspaper Forward, June 1912