The Tie

D.B. Cooper’s Tie

DB Cooper’s Tie

All images are for informational purposes only and are not intended for commercial use.  I’ve attempted to cite all sources.

D.B. Cooper left his clip-on tie on the plane before he jumped, possibly as a calling card.  I personally believe this was done on purpose as a final “screw you” to “The Man.” The tie may have been his, or very possibly stolen from someone in management at his company.

In 2017 the FBI allowed a group of researchers called “The Citizen Sleuths” to analyze the tie.  Their analysis discovered many particles found in manufacturing environments, leading many to believe that D.B. Cooper was a manager or an engineer in a manufacturing facility.  Here is a summary from the Citizen Sleuth site.

Aluminum shavings found on the tie (from Citizen Sleuth’s website)

2 Shavings

I believe the evidence suggests that this tie could have been worn by a rail yard manager, freight agent/clerk, or one of their customers. Contrary to popular belief, it did not come from the pristine environment of an aircraft engineering facility.  The evidence is suggestive that D.B. Cooper could have worked in the industrial hub of the Northeast United States, and very possibly for a railroad. It is just one more piece of circumstantial evidence.

One of the main scientists on the team, Tom Kaye, recently gave a talk at the D.B. Cooper Conference in 2018.  He showed this picture of D.B. Cooper’s tie and compared it to a tie worn by a Boeing engineer for many years. He noted how clean the Boeing engineer’s tie was under the microscope, and how different it looked from D.B. Cooper’s tie.

D.B. Cooper’s tie

DB tie

Boeing engineer’s tie (the orange part on the right is the view from an electron microscope).

Boeing tie

The Citizen Sleuths team sent their results to a well known company called McCrone Labs for deeper investigation.  This is a summary of their results that I compiled from a number of Excel spreadsheet reports. Many, or all of these elements could be found at a railroad repair facility, or at a company serviced by that railroad, to include chemical or scrap metal recycling companies.  The Lehigh Valley Railroad serviced many of these types of companies in New Jersey in 1971.

McCrone Labs Report

McCcrone clip

Here are some notes of mine about some of the elements (from Wikipedia and other sources)

“Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, and sometimes other elements.  While iron alloyed with carbon is called carbon steel, alloy steel is steel to which other alloying elements have been intentionally added to modify the characteristics of steel. Common alloying elements include: manganese, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, boron, titanium, vanadium, tungsten, cobalt, and niobium.  Additional elements, most frequently considered undesirable, are also important in steel: phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, and traces of oxygen, nitrogen, and copper.”

“In metallurgy, stainless steel, is a steel alloy, with highest percentage contents of iron, chromium, and nickel, with a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass and a maximum of 1.2% carbon by mass.”

Yttrium is an element found in cathode ray tubes (CRT). These tubes are found in oscilloscopes. Oscilloscopes were common at rail yards and were used to test the multitude of electronic components on locomotives.

Rare earth elements have been found in the coal areas of Pennsylvania.

The Northeast has always been one of the biggest industrial hubs in the United States.

Note: One of the largest titanium producing companies in the United States in 1971 was Titanium Metals Corporation of West Caldwell, NJ which was less than 8 miles away from William Smith’s’ house.

Below is a list of industrial companies that were serviced by the Lehigh Valley Railroad in New Jersey around 1970.


These companies were located between Jersey City, NJ and Irvington, NJ (a total of about 13 miles).  The Lehigh Valley Railroad had thousands of miles of track that operated in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. This set of customers is from a very small section of their operations.  These are companies serviced by the Newark branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.  William J. Smith worked there.

Many of the companies serviced by the Lehigh Valley Railroad would have leased boxcars or hopper cars for the iron, metals, or ore. All of these train cars would at one point have stopped in the rail yards along this route, particularly at Oak Island, NJ and Jersey City, NJ. It was common for railyard employees to move freight from car to car, and to physically inspect the cars, inside and out. It would not be unusual for a railyard employee to be exposed to product from these companies. A yard supervisor would have likely inspected these cars on a regular basis. Also, a Freight Agent would represent the railroad when visiting these companies, often wearing a shirt and tie and getting in boxcars to inspect.


Along with these businesses operating on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the railroad itself would have been responsible for repairing locomotives at their repair shops that were located at the major railyards.

List of companies serviced by the Lehigh Valley Railroad near Newark, NJ (by type):


Special Steels
Faitoute Iron & Steel
Shiabo Iron & Steel
Delwanna Iron & Metal
Zamilsky Scrap Metal
Hudson Iron & Metals
Schacht Steel
Schiavone Bonomo-scrap iron processor and dealer
Prolerized Schiabo Neu Co-scrap metal recycling
Bierman Everett-foundry for casting metal

Miscellaneous Industrial

Westinghouse (CRT manufacturer)
Bristol Myers
Owens-Illinois Co

Chemicals & Other Miscellaneous Companies

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical
Diamond Chemical
Hatfield Wire-wire manufacturing
MacWhyte Co- Wire rope and specialty cable, aircraft control cables, (military and private)
ICI –manufactures and distributes chemical products (synthetic resins, non-vulcanizable elastomers, polymers, pulp, decorative paints, and coatings)

Below are specific descriptions of business operations for a few of these companies. 

Englehard Industries– Englehard became the world’s largest refiner and fabricator of platinum metals, gold, and silver, a producer of silver and silver alloys in mill forms, operator of the world’s largest precious metals smelter. They also developed liquid gold for decorative applications.

Celanese Coatings– Celanese offers high performance products used in industrial coatings. Celanese’s emulsion polymers business produces high performance emulsions used in industrial and water-based coatings, wood stains and varnishes, furniture coatings as well as metal, plastic, and fire retardant coatings. Celanese’s engineered materials business uses advanced polymer technology to produce specially formulated solutions with excellent thermal performance and corrosion resistance used in coatings for metal and pipe liners.

US Gypsum -Gypsum is chemically known as “calcium sulfate dihydrate,” gypsum contains calcium, sulfur bound to oxygen, and water.

Eagle Picher– The company conducted a lead processing operation on the premises in which lead was smelted, pulverized, and processed into lead oxides for use in lead-based paints. NOTE: “Most bismuth is produced as a byproduct of other metal-extraction processes including the smelting of lead, and also of tungsten and copper.”

Here is a quote from a railroad freight agent in New Jersey around 1970: “So, at the time we had to wear a white shirt and tie and dress pants. I went out and bought a brand new shirt for the occasion. My first day was over whelming trying to learn all of the customers and their locations. Luckily for me there was a clerk at this location who had been working there for some time and he took me around showing me where the customers were.”

Below are pictures from “The Daily Operations of a Modern Railroad”:

Click Here for the full video.

About 13 minutes into the video is a section on locomotive repair operations. This is a New York Central video 1975-1976. The New York Central and the Lehigh Valley were competitors, serviced similar areas, and both would end up absorbed into Conrail in 1976.

Lathe: note the metal shavings

4 Lathe

Drill press

5 Press

M2 Brake Valve being serviced: These valves had titanium parts.

6 Brake valve

Welding or cutting: Note the falling sparks

7 Welding

Grinding: this would have created sparks and metal shavings/dust

8 Grinding

Diesel engine repair

9 Diesel repair

Below are two pictures from the book “Lehigh Valley Railroad: New York Division” 

This entry reads: “We received a tour of the Sayre shops in July 1967. They are in the oil sample lab and technician R.E. Springer is leading the tour.  The oil sample test is very important to the railroad.  Any metal shavings or chemical imbalances in the lube oil will show up before catastrophic failure to the prime mover.”   Note the black tie.  The key points here are that ties were worn on the railroad, and that metal shavings were not uncommon in the oil.  I don’t believe D.B. Cooper was a lab technician.

LVRR tie
LVRR Sayre

Metals in a in an open railroad gondola.

LVRR gondola

General Notes From Citizen Sleuths Website

“Titanium metal was rare and exotic narrowing the field of possible D.B. Cooper suspects. The titanium particles on the tie was the most dramatic finding in this research. Most other metals would have to be written off as contamination or too common to be of any use. The additional finding that the titanium was not alloyed, allowed further restrictions on where Cooper could have acquired these unusual flecks. Cooper worked at or had access to a plant that used titanium and this fact alone reduces the number of potential suspects from millions down to hundreds.”

“A tie would have been worn by managers or engineers in metalworking plants. The spiral aluminum chips are only made using metalworking machinery. Since they were found on a tie, that suggests he was either an engineer or manager who went out on the shop floor. Only managers and engineers wore ties in metalworking plants at that time.”

“Chemical plants used pure titanium and other corrosion resistant metals. Pure titanium and 5000 series aluminum found on the tie have high anti-corrosive properties. In 1971 the most common place these two metals were found together would be chemical plants or the metal fabrication facility that built the components for the plant. Secondarily would be the companies who recovered scrap metal from these types of factories. This research shows that any new search for D.B. Cooper should begin in these areas.”

 A final interesting piece is a newspaper article referring to Titanium Metals Corporation, the largest titanium manufacturer in the world at the time.  This company was actually headquartered in New Jersey, just a few miles from where William Smith lived.

Titanium Metals Article
Titanium Metals moves to West Caldwell

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