Woodrow Wilson Skirvin

Woodrow Wilson Skirvin (September 19, 1916 – February 7, 1961[1] ) was an American inventor, industrialist, aviator and a prominent Indiana businessmen in the mid-20th century. His contribution to US aircraft engineering lead to the United States' setting of multiple world air speed records.

Early years

W.W. Skirvin was the youngest of ten children (six boys, four girls). They all lived together on tobacco farms in Kentucky and Indiana. At a young age Skirvin learned to work the fields.

As a child in the 1920s Skirvin curiosity got the best of him including a dynamite explosion and a near deafening joy-ride. He once stripped a buggy to the wheels and raced it down a steep incline. It picked up so much speed that he lost control, and as he rolled down the hill a stick, poking up from the ground struck him in his ear.[2]

At age 13, Skirvin and his brother hopped a freight train on a "hobo jaunt" heading down south. They slept in hobo camps and picked up food where they could find it.

Woody's Billiard Parlor

Skirvin cleaned windows, drove cabs, and even pushed a vegetable cart door to door before making his first real estate purchase in the late 1930s. It was Woody's Billiard Parlor on E. Michigan Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. The building had a pool room which he operated, and apartments upstairs.

In World War II there were many jobs with good wages in the war plants. Skirvin and wife Leona moved to Detroit, Michigan where he worked at a tool and die shop.

Skirvin Tool & Engineering

Two engine-lathes and two bench drill-presses in a two-car garage: such was the start of the Skirvin Tool & Engineering Company in 1944. The first project was an aircraft job. Due to its success, more orders came in and the little garage was not large enough. So a series of "forced" moves led to the building of a completely new 25,000 sq. ft. plant in Fountain Square area Indianapolis.[3] In 1947, aircraft parts engineered by Skirvin & Co. were used on the United States Air Force Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star & the Navy D-558 Douglas Skystreak. These airplanes set new world air speed records.[4] Among other inventions, In 1953, Skirvin produced the Cycle-Scoot, designed and manufactured in Indianapolis, IN USA. Skirvin's throttle and brake design was unique in the scooter industry. The rider pushed down with the toe to go, pushed down with the heel to stop. Indy 500, three-time winner, Wilbur Shaw officially tested and proved the scooter on the 500 track in 1954 before the race.[5] The Indianapolis Cycle-Scoot was widely distributed in the US.

Later years

Skirvin & Sons bought and operated other real estate including the Indiana Parking Garages, Indianapolis downtown parking lots & housing.


  1. ^ "Findagrave". Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  2. ^ Skirvin, L. "Memories of Woodrow Wilson Skirvin" Paperback Book P.1,2
  3. ^ (1951) Skirvin Manual P.2
  4. ^ Newill, E.B. (1951) Allison Div. GM Letter
  5. ^ (1954) Indianapolis Star Daily Newspaper