One of the Chanute Collection’s strengths is its impressive photograph collection covering the base’s history. These thousands of photographs were gathered by base historians as well as donated by hundreds of former base personnel. One contributor was Dan Pearl. Pearl was seemingly present at all the major Chanute events during the 1970s and 1980s.  After the base closed, a large number of his photographs were put on display in the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum and the Champaign County Historical Archives preserves these photographs today.


Dan Pearl boxing, 1943

Pearl was born in 1925 and started his Air Force career in 1943 when he turned 18. In his early years, Pearl was a successful Air Force boxer, competing for multiple titles. At the age of 19, he held the lightweight and welterweight championship titles at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. In July 1944, he competed for the middleweight title at the base, hoping to hold three championship belts simultaneously, but lost in a split decision.

After basic training, Pearl served all over the world. He was stationed in bases throughout Europe and Asia, as well as California, Texas, Arizona, New Jersey, and Illinois. At Chanute, he was a first sergeant and retired from active duty in 1977 as a senior master sergeant. His military awards included the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Portrait of Dan Pearl posing with his camera

After retirement, Pearl dedicated his time to his passion for photography. He served as a civilian photographer with Chanute’s Visual Services Division, as well as with a government contractor. His photography earned various awards, ribbons, commendations, and specialty badges.

Pearl died in 1994, shortly after the opening of the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum. For his hard work, dedication, and impressive collection of photographs he took for the base, the museum honored Pearl with his own exhibit, displaying his various awards and photographs.

Unfortunately, his photographs are not identified, so we are unsure which belong to him in our collections, but we know he is responsible for many of them and thankful for the great work of Chanute’s “man with a camera."

- Thomas Kuipers
  Archives Intern