Little Gems of Aviation History

A collector finds a company’s identity in its service pins.

Each pin is a miniature work of art, bearing the brand logo and rich with symbolism in engraved detail. (Scott Libis)
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We would not have believed that so much history could be stuffed into so small a package, but Scott Libis convinced us that aerospace history is reflected in his collection of company pins, awarded to employees to celebrate years of service. Libis, a historian who worked in the aerospace industry for 30 years (on projects he’s not allowed to name), was awarded a few pins of his own, but these beauties from an earlier age he purchased on eBay. The periodical section of his junior high school library was his favorite haunt; that’s where he read copies of Aviation Week and Space Technology and “fell in love with the company logos.”

“Each pin is a miniature work of art, bearing the brand logo and rich with symbolism in engraved detail,” he says. “Wings and globes abound. Art Deco was a huge influence in nearly every pin design from the very early years of flight and continuing up until the end of World War II. What better way to convey a message of aerodynamics than with the use of streamlining, which was a popular Art Deco style.” Libis’ collection represents the vitality of the young U.S. aircraft industry and, through symbols of companies that no longer exist, chronicles its historic consolidation. He briefly tells each company’s story. —The editors


For its attempt to circumnavigate Earth by air, the U.S. Army Air Service selected a modified version of the Douglas DT-2 torpedo bomber. Known as Douglas World Cruisers, the airplanes embarked on their global odyssey in April 1924 and completed it that September. “First Around the World” became the company motto, symbolized on the pin (opposite) by three aircraft circling a globe.

Company founder Donald W. Douglas would build on this success by developing an airplane aimed solely at the commercial transportation market. The DC-3 gave his company a virtual lock on that market for the next three decades. Douglas ruled commercial and military aircraft sales with their innovative propeller-driven transports up until the late 1950s, when Boeing entered the scene with the pioneering, jet-powered 707.

About Scott Libis

Scott Libis specializes in writing about the early Jet Age and flight testing. He is the author of Skystreak, Skyrocket, and Stiletto: Douglas High-Speed X-Planes. An amateur photographer, Libis lives in Moorpark, California.

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