Two British brothers, William T. Thomas and Oliver W. Thomas, founded Thomas Brothers as a flight school in upstate New York in 1910. They began building aeroplanes of their own design in 1913. In 1917, they merged with Frank L. Morse’s company to form Thomas-Morse, which continued to build airplanes until it was merged into Consolidated in 1929. During this span they produced several successful fighter and observation designs for the U.S. Army, usually made in production runs of 100 to 200.
Almost all Thomas-Morse types are extinct. The one type that still survives, and for which the company is best known, is the S-4/TM-4 fighter-trainer which first flew in June 1917 and was comparable in performance to World War I fighters of about 1 year previous. Slightly more than 100 of them were built, and they were used as advanced trainers for Army fighter pilots. Many saw civilian use as sport and stunt aircraft after the war. About eight S-4s still exist in various museums in the United States.
The only surviving B-model S-4 is with the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. This aircraft was still actively flown in the 1970s and remains in good shape today.
S-4C, Yanks Air Museum
The Yanks Air Museum S-4C has a number of postwar film credits and is said by the museum to have appeared in “Hell’s Angels”, “Lafayette Escadrille” and “Dawn Patrol.”