1) Pan American Airways baggage label, c. 1937; 2) French airplane brochure, c. 1910; 3) Coloring book, 1930; 4) Airline brochure, 1941; 5) Pan Am foreign currency converter, 1957; 6) Program from the 1910 Belmont Park air meet; 7) Entrance badge, Wright Military Flyer trials, 1909; 8) 1945 comic; 9) West Coast Air Transport timetable, c. 1928; 10) Menu from a 1927 dinner in Charles Lindbergh’s honor; 11) Coloring book, early 1960s; 12) Aircraft recognition dial, 1942. (NASM-9A06418)

The History of Aviation in Posters, Brochures, Badges and Ticket Stubs

Instead of ending up in the trash, aviation ephemera from the last 100 years turn out to be treasure.

Air & Space Magazine
AIR & SPACE MAGAZINE | May 21, 2020, 11 a.m.

Slipped between the pages of diaries and journals, glued into scrapbooks, and stuffed into envelopes, we’ve found things that were never meant to last. Most people hang on to bits of paper that they didn’t mean to save forever: a ticket stub from a concert, a greeting card, a tour brochure.

Within the 20,000 cubic feet of archival materials at the National Air and Space Museum Archives are personal and professional papers, corporate and organizational records, 20,000 motion pictures, two million technical drawings, and three million photographic images. But the Archives is also home to ephemera—banquet menus, airline baggage labels, company brochures—that tell another kind of aviation and spaceflight history. These items bring the past alive in a more intimate way than do the more formal reports and records.

In one of our air racing collections, for example, I found a bright red slip of paper advertising a “Pilot’s Delight Sundae” as a promotion for the 1930 National Air Races: For 25 cents, you could get crushed strawberry and pineapple, a chocolate cookie, and two flavors of ice cream. I was immediately transported to a lunch counter in Chicago on a hot summer afternoon, enjoying a treat while thinking about the thrill of heading out to the airfield to see the action. Now all I need to find is a ticket, a program, and a time machine, and I’m ready to go…

yellow brochure cover with a black plane, goat on a mountain, and the words Avions Hanriot
The whimsical cover of this late 1920s brochure from French aircraft manufacturer Hanriot features an illustration by Benjamin Rabier of a Hanriot HD 1 biplane soaring over impossibly pointy peaks as a member of the local mountain goat population watches in admiration. Although the Archives only has this one example, this must have been a stock cover design for Hanriot—the contents of the brochure advertise the Hanriot Type H.46 Styx, a high-wing single­engine monoplane designed for liaison work. (NASM (7A26564))
1913 membership card aero club of Nebraska
This blank membership card for the Aero Club of Nebraska, left, features illustrations of a Baldwin airship and a Wright A biplane. The 1913 edition of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft lists dozens of American aviation clubs but also notes, “Many of these clubs are nothing but a name.” Since this is card number 346, it’s nice to think that there were at least 345 card-carrying Nebraskan aviation enthusiasts in the state by the end of 1913. (NASM (2B07084))
illustrated ad for airplane lights with rich yellow and blue-purple colors
”Fliers of the Night”: A lovely piece of art from the Archives collections is this 1929 airfield lighting catalogue, left, from the Crouse-Hinds company, whose illustrations make floodlights seem impossibly glamorous. (NASM (9A07421))
RAF men in a WWII cut-out book
Two handsome Royal Air Force men—a Pilot Officer and an Aircraftsman—star in this World War II cut-out book. Each is provided with flight clothing, uniform, and an overcoat as well as an assortment of badges of rank so you can issue your paper guardians promotions for a job well done. Also included are parts for a paper Supermarine Spitfire. (NASM (9A05135-9A05136))
Laura Bromwell and her aviator's certificate
American pilot Laura Bromwell gazes out at the world with a confident, knowing look in the photograph she chose to use on her Fédération Aéronautique Internationale “Aviator’s Certificate” issued in 1919. She had learned to fly earlier in the year by joining the New York Aerial Police Reserve, becoming the first aerial policewoman in the world. You can see Laura Bromwell’s original license on display in the general aviation exhibition at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. (NASM-9A00701)
Airplane Story Color Book
Zoom! The best part of this “Airplane Story” coloring book, issued by Diltz-Barrett in 1943, has got to be the amazing ship on the cover. Is it an airliner, or a spaceship, or what? Drawings to color inside include historic and civil aircraft models, a large group of World War II military aircraft, and stylized versions of a helicopter, flying wing, and rocket ship. (NASM-9A08253)
image of plane against a blue side with red type reading 'concours as chocolat aviona'
This trading card album (circa 1933), offered by the French candy company Chocolat Stanislas was an unexpected find in the Archives. Designed to hold a series of 50 cards celebrating long distance fliers (both successful and not) from 1919 to 1932, our copy sadly came with neither cards nor chocolate still intact—but it’s still fabulous. (NASM-9A06599)
souvenir booklet whose cover looks like a Wright biplane
A small souvenir booklet was issued in conjunction with the 1910 Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles, held in Brussels, Belgium. The covers of the booklet are made in the shape of a Wright Type A biplane in flight; inside is a pleated strip of 12 ground-level views of the Exposition buildings and other Brussels sights. (NASM-9A00720)
About the Author: Melissa A.N. Keiser is the Image Archivist for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. She started working at the Museum in 1985, and is co-author of the book The Legacy of Flight: Images from the Archives of he Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Read more articles from Melissa A.N. Keiser

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