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


Shortly after World War I, famed Russian aviator and combat pilot Alexander P. de Seversky found employment with the U.S. War Department. Assigned to General Billy Mitchell, Seversky helped further the doctrine of airpower’s ability to sink a battleship. In 1923, he founded Seversky Aero Corporation and created the beautiful, all-metal experimental SEV‑3. It dominated air racing in the late 1930s, achieving in 1937 an unheard-of average speed of 257 mph. One year later, Seversky’s board of directors met in secret and removed him as company president, an action brought about by his poor management and secret dealings with Japan. The company was renamed Republic Aviation Corporation, and the SEV-3 evolved into the superlative P-47 Thunderbolt. The pin is the most recent acquisition, and the most expen­sive: It cost $136.

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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