The story of the J-3 began in the late 192Os with C. Gilbert and
Gordon Taylor, partners in the very small Taylor Brothers Aircraft Company of
Rochester, New York. Onetime barnstormers, the brothers had designed and were
attempting to market a two-seat monoplane called the Chummy, when Gordon Taylor
was killed in a crash.
Gilbert Taylor, who believed there would be a growing market for
light planes, moved in 1929 to Bradford, Pennsylvania, where community leaders
were anxious to promote new local industries. The Bradford Board of Commerce
provided $5O,OOO to capitalize the new Taylor company, which built five Chummys
before the Great Depression put a halt to construction.
One of the stockholders was an oilman named William T. Piper.
Being interested in aviation and believing that the Chummy was too expensive and
inefficient, Piper offered to sponsor the development of a small plane to sell
for half the Chummy's $3,985. The resulting aircraft designated the E-2, was
completed in late 193O and fitted with a two-cylinder Brownbach "Tiger Kitten"
Testing had revealed the Tiger Kitten, which was rated at 2O hp,
had too little power for the E-2. At full throttle, the small plane was able
only to indulge in "grass cutting," rising a few feet into the air before
settling back to earth. The Tiger Kitten engine had suggested the name Cub for
the airplane, however, denoting the E-2 as the earliest true ancestor of the
With no suitable power plant, the Taylor company was forced to
declare bankruptcy in 1931. Piper bought up the assets keeping C. G. Taylor on
as chief engineer. Later that year, Continental Motors Corporation came out with
the 37-hp A-4O and the Taylor E-2 Cub was placed on the market. Twenty-two were
sold that year, with sales growing tenfold by 1935.
The following year, the plane was completely redesigned.
Redesignated the Taylor J-2, it featured a greatly improved Continental engine.
Also in 1936, C. G. Taylor left to establish the Taylorcraft Aviation Company in
When the plant at Bradford burned down in 1937, Piper moved his
manufacturing equipment and more than two hundred employees to an abandoned silk
mill in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. The company resumed production under the name
Piper Aircraft Corporation and completed 687 aircraft before the end of the year
ln 1938 Piper introduced the improved J-3 Cub. Powered by
40-hp Continental, Lycoming or Franklin engines, the J-3 sold for $1,3OO. Engine
horsepower was soon raised to fifty and reached sixty-five by 194O. Piper also
standardized a color scheme; just as Henry Fords Model T's were all black so
Wiliiam Piper's Cubs were all bright yellow with black trim.
Immediately before the entry of the United States into World War
II. Sales of the Cub were spurred by the organization of the Civilian Pilot
Training (CPT) Program. ln 194O, 3,016 Cubs were built and at the wartime peak a
new J-3 emerged from the factory every twenty minutes. Seventy-five percent of
all pilots in the CPT Program were trained on Cubs, many going on to more
advanced training in the military.
Cubs were also flown during the war as observation, liaison, and
ambulance planes. Known variously as the L-4, O-59 and NE-1, these planes
rendered valuable service and were nicknamed "Grasshoppers."
The L-4A liaison aircraft, originally designated the O-59, was
the military version of the famous Piper J3 "Cub." The Army ordered the first
O-59s in 1941 for tests in conjunction with its growing interest in the use of
light aircraft for liaison and observation duties in direct support of ground
forces. Between 1941 and 1945, the Army procured almost 6,000 Piper Aircraft.
During WW II, "Grasshoppers" performed a wide variety of
functions throughout the world such as for artillery fire direction, pilot
training, glider pilot instruction, courier service and front-line liaison.