1918 Curtiss (Jenny) JN-4H

Keystone of American Aviation

The first U.S. Air Mail service was started in 1918. The aircraft chosen for flying from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia and New York City, was the Curtiss JN-4H. The color scheme is still debated today. Was it entirely yellow with blue, white and red insignias under the lower wings and red, white and blue vertical bars on the tail? Or, was it the U.S. Navy paint scheme, a grey fuselage and yellow wings with the same insignias and tail markings? This plane had a Hispano-Suiza 150 or 180 horsepower engine as indicated by the "H" in the designator. These aircraft were often referred to as Hisso powered or Hisso Jennies. Earlier versions of the JN-4 series came equipped with Curtiss made OX-5 engines producing 90 horsepower. Of the JN series the JN-4 was the first to be affectionately called Jenny, a phonetic blending of the JN. 

There were many variations of the JN-4 which began in 1915. The most produced version was the JN-4D of which the U.S. military bought thousands. Also listed in military wartime archives are JN-4C's and JN-4H's. Their primary uses were as trainers for WW1 pilots. The average cost was $5000. After the war, most of the surviving Jennies, as well as new ones still crated, were sold to civilians for between $200 and $500. Since the JN-4H didn't come out until 1918, it means the majority of surplus Jennies had ninety horsepower OX-5 engines. Top speed with this engine was seventy-three mph.. The JN-4H with its 150 horsepower Hisso was rated to fly at a top speed of ninety-three mph.. Charles Lindbergh's first plane was a JN-4D. In the book, "We," Lindbergh details his early flying years. It is excellent reading for those who want to know what real life flying was like after the, "Great War." As a side note, at least one JN-4D's was fitted with a 180 horsepower Gnome rotary engine. (see article on rotary engines). Nothing gives reason to believe that Curtiss had anything to do with this experimentation.

One obvious difference throughout the JN-4 series is presence of both upper and lower wing ailerons. The first appearance of this modification was in the JN-4C and JN-4CAN (Canadian manufactured) series. These also had pointed  trailing wing tips. The power plant was still the OX-5. JN-4D and subsequent series returned to the upper wing aileron design with the regular rounded lower wing tips (see image above). Then in 1918 the four ailerons reappeared in the JN-6H series along with a wider lower wing. The advantage of this was better handling and greater lift. What makes determining the series of a Jenny more complicated, are the owner made modifications. One modification made popular by, "Barnstormers," was the installing of another set of modified upper wings in place of the lower wings. So, now a JN-4D, the most common Jenny, could have the enhanced flying characteristics of JN-4C and JN-6H versions. In my research through Jenny photo archives, I have not come across any photos of Barnstormers with this modification. If any of my visitors have Jenny photos they care to send please contact me at tazbat@ancientalley.com

The Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome's Jenny was purchased by Cole Palen from C. W. Adams, Jr. of Florida for $200.00.  Originally, the plane was advertised as a New Standard without wings. Cole bought it sight unseen. When it arrived, low and behold, it was a Jenny. Since it came with Hisso engine mounts (there was no engine) it was considered a JN-4H.  Later, Cole found a pair of upper wings in someone's barn. He modified one set to be fitted as lower wings, thus giving his Jenny upper and lower ailerons. It was flown in the weekend air shows for many years and then another revitalization was begun in 1997.

The following images and pages are a chronicling of the three year Jenny restoration project at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. 

Rhinebeck Aerodrome's
Jenny Restoration Images

Click on the images to visit each section

Jenny fuselage reconstructionFuselage bare bones refurbishing - December 1999

Rebuilt engine returns from rebuilder - December 1999


Engine installed in fuselage - Spring 2000

New Under CarriageNew Undercarriage - Spring 2000

Fuselage Awaiting Wings - Spring 2000

Back In The Hangar Again - March 2001

In The Air Again - June 2001

Come back again.  There will be more pictures from the 2001 airshow season!


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Most recent update 03.03.2004