The Ruth Darrow Flying Stories   

The Ruth Darrow Flying Stories
by Mildred A. Wirt

"I hope I meet with your approval, Miss Darrow," the Commodore laughed.

"Oh, yes, indeed.  The air service is your passport."

"Your father tells me you are interested in flying."

"That's a mild word for it, Commodore," Colonel Darrow interposed dryly.  "I sometimes wonder if I am the father of an airplane or a daughter."

                                                —page 8, Ruth Darrow in Yucatan

The Ruth Darrow Flying Stories series was originally published by Barse in 1930 to 1931 in hardcover with dust jacket.  The four titles were reprinted by Grosset and Dunlap in 1932 with the same cover art.  Both the Barse and the Grosset and Dunlap editions are very scarce and difficult to acquire.
Titles in the Ruth Darrow Series:

  1. Ruth Darrow in the Air Derby, 1930
  2. Ruth Darrow in the Fire Patrol, 1930
  3. Ruth Darrow in Yucatan, 1931
  4. Ruth Darrow in the Coast Guard, 1931

Series Origin

Ruth Elder, Aviatrix
The Ruth Darrow Flying Stories series was published at a time when people were becoming very interested in aviation.  The name for the series was based on that of Ruth Elder, who in 1927 became the first woman to attempt to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.  Ruth Elder's attempt was not successful, but since she was the first woman to attempt the feat, she earned her place in aviation history.  The illustration of Ruth Darrow on the dust jackets resembles Ruth Elder.
This short series was also published at the same time as the earliest Nancy Drew books and has a number of uncanny similarities to the Nancy Drew series.  Mildred Wirt Benson had a habit of slipping in references to Nancy Drew in some of her books.  Taken individually, the similarities between Nancy Drew and Ruth Darrow may not mean much, but when looked at as a group, the similarities appear to be more than coincidental.  The following passage from Ruth Darrow in the Fire Patrol could just as easily describe the Drew household:
Her mother had died a number of years before, and since then she had largely taken over the supervision of the household.  During the frequent absences of her father she was left with Hannah, an elderly housekeeper who had been with the Darrows for many years and was regarded almost as a member of the family.
Both the Darrow and Drew households have a housekeeper named Hannah, and additionally, Ruth's father is Colonel Darrow, and Nancy's father is Carson Drew, two names that sound similar.  Both Colonel Darrow and Carson Drew are well-known men.  Finally, Ruth has one friend, Jean Harrington, who is not as brave and talented as Ruth, and in the first four Nancy Drew books, Nancy Drew has one friend, Helen Corning, who is not as brave and talented as Nancy.
The Dust Jackets

All four dust jackets for the Ruth Darrow series feature the same illustration.

1. Ruth Darrow in the Air Derby

2. Ruth Darrow in the Fire Patrol

3. Ruth Darrow in Yucatan

4. Ruth Darrow in the Coast Guard
  #1 Ruth Darrow in the Air Derby                                   1930
            or Recovering the Silver Trophy
Ruth Darrow shares her father's interest in planes, and her dream is to become a pilot.  Ruth and her friend, Jean Harrington, take flying lessons from handsome Sandy Marland.  Both girls obtain their transport pilot licenses after finishing the required 200 hours of solo flight.  Colonel Darrow surprises Ruth with a new monoplane, The Silver Moth on her birthday.

Colonel Darrow plans an air derby for women, in hopes of interesting women in aviation.  Colonel Darrow offers his valuable silver trophy as the grand prize in the air derby.  Ruth wants to keep the trophy in the family, and so plans to enter and win the air derby in order to achieve that purpose.  After Colonel Darrow has the trophy taken to a silversmith for adjustments, it disappears!  Colonel Darrow is heartsick and will suffer much embarrassment if the trophy is not recovered.

Ruth Darrow in the Air Derby
The girls sprang from the cockpit and ran to help the man who came staggering toward them.
Ruth suspects Geoffry Hornswell, a man with a grudge against Colonel Darrow, of stealing the trophy.  Matters worsen when Ruth's plane is damaged and may not be able to fly in the air derby.  Sandy races against the clock to repair the plane while Ruth plans how to recover the trophy.  Against all odds, both Sandy and Ruth achieve their goals, and the air derby is destined to be successful after all.
  #2 Ruth Darrow in the Fire Patrol                                 1930
            or Capturing the Redwood Thieves
Ruth and Jean are elated when Colonel Darrow invites them to join him and Sandy Marland in Lumberton for a few weeks.  Colonel Darrow is investigating the theft of valuable Redwood timber.  Sandy is flying a plane for the Fire Eagles, a team of rangers who search for forest fires.  After a dangerous trip across the California desert, the girls arrive in Lumberton.

Colonel Darrow is supposed to be working undercover, but shortly after Ruth and Jean arrive, someone learns his true purpose and reveals his secret to everyone.  Colonel Darrow asks Ruth and Jean to be on the watch for clues since no one would suspect them of helping Colonel Darrow.  Ruth and Jean are also soon asked to help the Fire Eagles patrol the forest and are held in high regard after they spot a fire before anybody else.

Ruth Darrow in the Fire Patrol
Ruth wondered whether the parachute would open in time to save her.
Events take a horrifying turn after Sandy Marland is accused of being in league with the timber thieves by another member of the patrol.  Ruth and Jean work with Colonel Darrow and Sandy to prove Sandy's innocence.  The shrewdness of the timber thieves is matched only by Sandy's determination to clear his name, and with the help of Ruth and Jean, Sandy is ultimately victorious.
  #3 Ruth Darrow in Yucatan                                           1931
Commodore Williams, a naval officer and member of the Archaeological Society, requests that Colonel Darrow lead an expedition to Yucatan, Mexico in order to gather information about the ancient Mayan civilization.  Colonel Darrow accepts the assignment and agrees to take Ruth, Jean, and Sandy along with him.

After Ruth learns that much of the work is to be done using seaplanes, Ruth and Jean take lessons at a nearby flight school and in time become experts at handling seaplanes.  On one of their practice landings, a man in a boat cuts across their path, and it is only Ruth's quick thinking that avoids a crash.  Weeks later, Colonel Darrow's expedition arrives in Mexico.  Ruth and Jean are dismayed when they meet Colonel Darrow's archaeologist, who is the unpleasant man with whom they had nearly collided!

Ruth Darrow in Yucatan
"We're miles from camp!  What a place to be stranded!"
Darrel Vandervort does everything in his power to make the expedition a failure, even though he himself stands to gain if the expedition is successful.  Why does Vandervort behave so strangely?  After Colonel Darrow fails to return from an excursion with a group of natives, it is up to Ruth, Jean, and Sandy to discover Vandervort's secret and find Colonel Darrow before time runs out.
  #4 Ruth Darrow in the Coast Guard                              1931
Sandy Marland has taken a job with the Coast Guard in Orville Beach.  Coincidentally, Jean's parents plan a vacation in Orville Beach, and Ruth and Jean fly in the Silver Moth to join them.  Soon after Ruth and Jean arrive, Ruth rescues a young girl from certain death, and the girl's father gives Ruth a brand-new seaplane equipped with a radio.

Ruth and Jean devote much time to learning how to use the radio.  They also explore the coast in the seaplane and take an avid interest in the actions of the Coast Guard.  Sandy confides that the Coast Guard is working to crack open a ring of smugglers who smuggle in illegal immigrants.

Ruth and Jean also discover a mystery at a nearby lighthouse.  The keeper refuses visitors and appears to be keeping his niece a prisoner at the lighthouse.  Pete Walters threatens Ruth and Jean when they ask to explore the lighthouse.

Ruth Darrow in the Coast Guard
It seemed to Ruth and Jean that they would be forced to plunge in to aid her.
Could Pete Walters be involved in some type of illegal activity?  Ruth and Jean soon learn the truth, and it is only Ruth's skill with the radio that saves Ruth and Jean from a grim fate.
Back to Mildred Wirt Benson's Stories and Novels for Children
Back to Main Page