Paul R. Braniff was born in 1897 during the height of the industrial revolution. Paul was in his teens when the Edwardian era was in full swing. Daimler-Benz had invented the motor car, The Wright brothers invented the aeroplane using bicycle parts, White Star built the superliners, "R.M.S. Olympic" and built the ill-fated "R.M.S. Titanic," Electricity was becoming commonplace, and life became a "brave new-world." This atmosphere would set the stage for the airline industry.

The airline that would become Braniff started with this aviation pioneer, Paul Revere Braniff.



Paul signed on to the "Army Air Corps" in 1915 as an aircraft mechanic serving first with the 636 Aero Squadron, and then, in 1917, the 50th Aero Squadron at Camp Kelly in San Antonio, Texas. (Later to be named Kelly AFB).

In 1918, Paul joined the Allies in France during WWI serving the 16th Aero Sqdn, and then the 2nd Aero Sqdn as a "gunnery instructor."

In 1919, he learned to fly when he was assigned to "Flight Observer Training." His instructor was Lt. Richard "Dick" Pears (who Paul later hired in the 1930s to fly Ford "Tri-Motors" for Braniff Airways).

In 1923, Paul obtained his Pilot's License from Orville Wright (One of the inventors of the first airplane). By 1924, he was "barnstorming" and taking on the occasional passenger in a war surplus Curtis "Jenny" two-seat Bi-plane. Paul gained fame in 1927 when he flew in the "National Air Tour" (an annual cavalcade of new aircraft making a tour of the country under the sponsorship of "Edsel Ford.") The Newspapers in Oklahoma covered the event first-hand which gave Paul Braniff excellent publicity.

When he had finished the tour, he convinced his brother, Tom, and four other investors into buying a "Stinson Detroiter" Cabin Plane for the sum of $11,000 (This was about the cost of a three-bedroom house in 1928). Thus, was incorporated the "Paul R. Braniff, Inc., Airline...Oklahoma City to Tulsa" (and vice versa).

"He was the chief cook and bottle washer," John P. Braniff, Sr. said of his father, who co-founded Braniff Airways. "He sold tickets, took up the tickets, loaded the baggage, got passengers on planes and flew them where they needed to go."

"As months would go by, Tom (Braniff) would say 'No more money.' So Paul would have to go out and raise money." - Marie Braniff

John Paul Braniff often hopped on those planes for day-trips with his mom, Marie Braniff, to visit family 116 miles away in Tulsa while his father, Paul Revere Braniff, would fly back and forth between the state's largest cities.

Pop-Up picture of Braniff's first Logo

First Paul R. Braniff Logo.
The "Eagle" was probably borrowed for American's logo when Braniff Airlines merged with AVCO in 1930.

Paul R. Braniff, Inc. started services from OKC with three round-trip flights daily, Monday thru Friday in 1928. History records that Paul Braniff was the first and only pilot on the payroll. Maurice Marrs was the backup pilot. However, their is still some debate about this fact.

The first flight roared out of Oklahoma City on June 20, 1928. However, some witnesses claim that the "first flight" took place in May of 1928.

It is reported that on the first flight, "moonshiners" in Arcadia, Oklahoma shot at the Stinson Detroiter thinking it was the U.S. Government searching for "prohibition breakers." In 1928, Paul obtained a second aircraft...a Ryan B-1 Monoplane. This aircraft had a similarity to "The Spirit of St. Louis."

To supplement Passenger and Mail Revenue, Braniff Airlines also delivered "The Daily Oklahoman" Newspaper to farmers along the air route. Paul would simply fly low and throw the paper out of the airplane. Braniff was the only airline to have its own "paper route."

Paul also built the first commercial airline hangar in OKC in 1928. It was located at Wiley Post Airport.

The "Braniff Building" on 3rd and Robinson in Oklahoma City became the airline's headquarters. The building had been built by Tom Braniff in 1923 for Braniff Insurance, Inc. When the airline moved in, Tom, however, still used most of the building for his Insurance Company. The Building also became the HQ's of Braniff Airways, Inc. in 1930 until 1945, when ALL operations were moved to Dallas. The Braniff Building is still in OKC, but the name has been "sandblasted" off the front. It is currently owned by Kerr-McGee Oil Co. The "324 Bldg." as it is now known, was remodeled in the late 60's adding all windows on the first two floors. During the unfortunate Oklahoma City bombing of The Murrow Federal Building in 1995, all the glass was blown out. (The Bldg. is 3-4 blocks away from the former Federal Bldg.) The glass has been replaced, and it is currently vacant or being used for storage.

Paul occasionally liked to "show-off" in the early Braniff years. Often on his return flight from Tulsa, He would "buzz" his house to let his wife know he was home for dinner. (Remember, there were no FAA, CAB, NTSB or Air Traffic Control systems in the late 1920's).

Paul was also known for taking Braniff on national competitions. He flew in the National Transcontinental Race from New York to Los Angeles in 1928. He flew a special "Travelair" open-cockpit Bi-plane which was officialy known as Braniff Ship 8, and was used for taxi work to a large extent.


BNF Maintenance men with Braniff's new "Travelair" in OKC
Picture from 1948 "B-Liner"

In the Fall of 1928, a six-seater "Travelair" enclosed cabin plane was added to Braniff's fleet.

In Braniff Airlines' short but glorious heyday, they were flying 1,000 passengers per month from Tulsa to OKC and OKC to Tulsa. The Price was: $12.50 - one way, $20.00 - round trip.

By the end of 1928, Braniff had carried 3,000 passengers.

Braniff inagurated services to Dallas and Fort Worth in April 1929.

Braniff's first female employee was Violet (Bobby) Burton. Rumor has it that she walked in to Paul's office asking for a job. Paul said, "What makes you think you can do this job?" Her reply, "What makes YOU think I can't?" Thus, she was hired on the spot. Bobby told Paul she could do everything but "sweep out the office." "You can do that," she quipped back to Paul. She kept the financial books, learned aviation weather, ran the office, and even helped oil and gas the planes. She even helped run Braniff's Flying School. (see picture) She was re-hired by Paul in 1930 when he formed Braniff Airways. Bobby later became Tom's right-hand "man" at Braniff.

Pop-Up picture of Braniff AIRLINES first and RARE bag label

First Braniff Airlines, Inc.
Picture taken of one of the only remaining first bag labels.

Universal Aviation of St Louis, Mo. merged with Braniff Airlines in 1929. Paul stayed on as Executive Vice President of the newly formed Braniff Airlines, Inc.

The Flight schedule in 1929 was: Northbound: Fort Worth - Dallas - Dennison - Wewoka. From Wewoka, there was a flight to Oklahoma City and one to Tulsa. The Southbound route was the same (just reversed).

Aviation Holdings (AVCO) bought Universal towards the end of 1929. Paul stayed on for the transition and then resigned to help a friend in Mexico with his airline. AVCO added Braniff to Texas Air Transport and Southern Air Transport (later to merge and be named American Airways, Inc.) based at Meacham Field in Fort Worth and run by C.R. Smith. "Mr. C.R." would inherit the Braniff Airlines name.

AVCO's first logo

The American Airways "Beacon" and "Eagle" logos are Trademarks owned by AMR - American Airlines, Inc.

Continue to 1930 - Braniff Airways, Inc.

Paul Revere Braniff
Braniff's FIRST president and CEO

Photo (C) 1929 Ted E. Marquis
2001 Marquis family
and John Paul Braniff, Sr.
Oklahoma City, OK
1928 Stinson Detroiter airplane from Paul R. Braniff, Inc.
The man in the pilot's seat is Paul Braniff,
and the young boy in the co-pilot's seat
is his son John Paul Braniff, Sr..
Photo via Pat Zahrt 1978 50th Aniv. B-Liner
1928 Stinson Detroiter Full Cab advert.
Used in Oklahoma City
Paul Braniff Letterhead
Stinson Detroiter advert card
Telling people that Braniff has carried 3,000 passengers.
On display at AA's C.R. Smith Museum
Photo by Brooke D. Watts
The second plane in the Braniff fleet.
Picture taken in Texas February 1929 Photo courtesy of Bob Hudspeth
One of the first commercial hangers in Oklahoma City.
This was built at Oklahoma's Municipal Airport at SW 29th and May.
It was actually Braniff's second hanger.
Photo courtesy of G. Cearley, Jr.
Bobby Burton with a Travel-Air 2000
Photo courtesy of G. Cearley, Jr.
Paul R. Braniff in his pilot's uniform for Braniff Airlines.
Paul wore this uniform at "The National Air Races" in 1928
(C) "The Braniff Pages" and John Paul Braniff, Sr.
Paul R. Braniff's Ship No. 8
Picture from 1948 "20th Anniv. B-Liner"
1929 Ticket from Braniff Airlines printed in Oklahoma City.
(C) 2001 Brooke Watts via Alan Reff
1929 Timetable and schedule
(C) 2014 Braniff Pages
Braniff Airlines 1929 Letterhead
Texas Air Transport's Logo, and Southern Air Transport's logo.
Both logos property of AMR/American Airlines, Inc.
American's true first logo
(Notice the "Eagle" closely resembles the logo of Paul R. Braniff, Inc. which American aquired along with Universal in 1930)

The American Airways "Beacon" and "Eagle" logos are Trademarks owned by AMR - American Airlines, Inc.
The photos on this page are provided by: Pat Zahrt, George W. Cearley, Jr., John Keller, John Paul Braniff, Sr., The Daily "Oklahoman," The Oklahoma City Library, The Dallas Historical Society, UTD, The "Clipped B's", Mo McMahanon, John McFarlane, Wanda Brown, Alice Dykeman, Diane Muse, C.R. Smith, Chuck Beard, Marv and Carol Degrute, American Airlines/AMR Corp., The Braniff Family and Watts Communications' Private Braniff Collection.