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Anthony Fokker

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Anthony Fokker

Anthony Fokker was a Dutchman and the founder of the Fokker factories, he gained fame by flying the "Spin" aircraft in 1911 around the Sint-Bavo church of the city of Haarlem. In World War 1 the aircraft of the Fokker factories played an important role in the battle, especially the Dr.1 "Dreidecker" and the D.VII were notorious among the Allies. In the Interbellum the Fokker factories were on the front-edge of aviation developments, Anthony Fokker even moved to the U.S.A.. There he died in 1939.

Short Data

  • Name: Fokker, Anthony Herman Gerard
  • Place and date of Birth: Blitar, Kediri, Java 6-4-1890
  • Place and date of death: New York 23-12-1939.
  • Relations:
    • Family: Son of Herman Fokker and Johanna Hugona Wouterina Wilhelmina Diemont. Sister Katrina [1]
    • 1st marriage: 25-3-1919, with Sophie Marie Elisabeth von Morgen (divorce on 11-10-1923).
    • 2nd marriage: 1929, with Viola Austman.
    • Children: none


Anthony "the Flying Dutchman" Fokker was born in Kediri, East Java (then Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia), son of Herman Fokker, a Dutch coffee plantation owner. Four years later the family returned to the Netherlands and settled in Haarlem, on the street "Kleine Houtweg 41". Anthony was not studious but rather played with model trains and steam engines, and did not complete his high school education. He devised a leak-proof tire, which he thought would disrupt the world's rubber market. But there was already a French patent on the same concept [2].


In 1910, at age 20, Fokker was sent by his father to Germany to receive training as a mechanic. Yet his interest was in flying, prompting him to change schools. That same year Fokker built his first aircraft "de Spin" ("the Spider"), which was destroyed by his business partner who flew it into a tree. He gained his pilot license in his second "Spin" plane. In his own country, he became a celebrity by flying around the tower of the Sint-Bavokerk in Haarlem on August 31, 1911, with the third version of the "Spin". He also added to his fame by flying on the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina.

In 1912, Fokker moved to Johannisthal near Berlin where he founded his first own company, Fokker Aeroplanbau. In the following years he constructed a variety of airplanes. He relocated his factory to Schwerin where it was renamed Fokker Flugzeugwerke GmbH, and later shortened to Fokker Werke GmbH.

World War 1

At the onset of World War I, the German government took control of the factory. Fokker remained as director and designed many aircraft for the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkrafte), including the Fokker Dr.I, the triplane made famous in the hands of aces such as Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). He also designed the synchronization gear that allowed the machine gun to be fired through the propeller blades, resulting in a phase of German air-superiority known as the Fokker Scourge.

After the war Anthony Fokker moved by train, together with a load of spares, supplies and machinery, to the Netherlands. Here he founded the Fokker aircraft factory.

On March 25, 1919, Fokker married Sophie Marie Elisabeth von Morgen in Haarlem. This marriage lasted only four years. In 1922, he moved to the United States and later became an American citizen. Here he established the American branch of his company, the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation. In 1927, Fokker married Violet Austman in New York City. About this marriage not much is known.

He died in New York in 1939, just 49 years old. The cause of his death were complications from sinus surgery and pneumococcus meningitis. He was cremated in the United States and his ashes were brought back to the Netherlands for burial. [3]

Role of Anthony Fokker

Some publications sketch Anthony Fokker as a man of his age; an early pioneer in aviation. This is not always positive according to a review by Peter Lyth: "However, as an engineer with no formal training and a businessman with a capricious attitude towards his companies' development, he was not untypical of the first generation of air transport pioneers. As Dierikx shows in the case of Fokker, the shift in the aircraft industry in the 1930s 'from building a relatively small series of customized aircraft to mass-producing all-metal airplanes of standardized design' proved too difficult for many of them - particularly in Europe." [4]. Other sources point to Anthony Fokker's ability to gather the right people around him; in Germany the constructor Palm, followed by Martin Kreutzer, and after his accident Reinhold Platz [5].

References & Citations