Only 10 covers were flown on X-15 test pilot William "Pete" Knight's record setting test flight at Mach 6.7 or 4,534 mph, October 3, 1967, over Edwards Air Force Base, California. William J. Numeroff, New York graphic artist and designer, made the large oversized covers that have become possibly the most exciting and sought after flown X-15 covers for space cover collectors. This is a story about 2 of the 10 flown Numeroff X-15 covers that recently were discovered in New York. The cover shown above is number 4 mailed to New York space cover collector Harry Gordon and is in the author's collection. Steve Durst, SU 4379
Space Cover #192: William Numeroff X-15 Flown Cover
A long-time friend, fellow space cover collector, and expert in collecting X-15 rocket plane covers had excitedly informed me that he had found the "ne plus ultra" cover of flown X-15 space covers. My friend's find was extraordinary, for X-15 cover collectors, indeed, "there was none better!" He showed me what looked like a space cover, but it looked more like a small painting executed on artist's poster board and was rather large in size for a cover. At 11 by 5 inches, it certainly did not look much like a space cover. It looked more like an oversized painted card and hardly looked like a proper space cover at all.
The design of the cover, though, was unique and interesting by itself. The artist's design pictured a carefully painted and silhouetted X-15 rocket plane streaking to the end of its test flight in the dark skies over Edwards, California, canceled October 3, 1967, and signed William J. "Pete" Knight, Major, USAF. Hmm, that definitely explained my friend's excitement concerning the cover, but upon closer look, I could also see additional writing in the lower left corner of the card. Clearly written, these comments were, "Flown on the X-15A-2, 4,534 mph," along with a broad signature of test pilot William Pete Knight. This flight at Mach 6.7 was also an aircraft world speed record which still stands today. Pete Knight's astronaut wings flight would be made two weeks later on October 17, 1967, on another X-15 test flight. Things were coming together, now, and in small letters in the right corner of the cover, were the small printed black letters, wjn. What was this; what did it mean? Were these small black initials those of William Joffe Numeroff, space artist and New York City professional artist?
I checked my "Ellington-Zwisler Rocket Mail Catalog," and found that X-15 test pilot Major Pete Knight had flown several space covers on two X-15 rocket plane flights. Knight had carried two covers on his test flight of November 18, 1966 (EZ U.S. 97), and had flown covers again on his test flight of October 3, 1967 (EZ U.S. 102), the flight for which Numeroff had designed this X-15 cover. William Numeroff further had inscribed a list of 10 names on the reverse side of this second cover. The list of names identified the individuals to whom he had given the test flight covers from Knight's record setting flight. He writes, "Ten were carried, signed, and authenticated: 1) Major Knight 2) Colonel Walt Flint 3) Mrs. E. Goddard 4) Harry Gordon 5) Edmond Browne 6) W. J. Numeroff 7) Laura Numeroff 8) Douglas (J. N.) Richter 9) Troop 141 BSA (Edwards AFB) 10) Knight family."
Earlier this year, one of the families to whom Numeroff had given the covers contacted me to see if I were interested in acquiring the family's flown cover. After a brief exchange of information and an exchange of scans for the front and back of the cover, I purchased the X-15 flown cover as a remarkable find, figuring that it would be a very difficult cover for me to find or to even obtain in the future. This cover is number 4, the cover mailed to space cover collector and New York City space cover dealer Harry Gordon. And while I had never seen one of these Pete Knight flown Numeroff X-15 covers before until my friend showed me the incredible find he had made, somehow, I also had found one of the 10 William Numeroff covers flown on this record setting X-15 test flight. Miracles can happen.