Amelia Earhart Memorabilia: 7 Historic Items
July 24 marks Amelia Earhart day in the U.S, commemorating the birthday of the pioneering female pilot who dissappeared in 1937, whilst attempting fly around the world with her navigator Fred Noonan. The fate of the pair remains a mystery to this day, but Earhart's countless flying records, including the first solo trans-Atlantic flight by a woman, means she is remembered as one of the heroes of aviation history. Here are 7 pieces of historic memorabilia from her remarkable life and career.
This series of letters was written by Earhart during the 1920, as she pursued her dream to become a pilot. In 1920, having left her medical studies at Columbia University, Earhart attended an air show in Long Beach with her father and paid $10 for a 10 minute flight. The experience changed her life, and she became determined to make a career as an aviator. Describing her family's attitude to her drastic change in career, she writes to a friend in part:
"[I] fear the name of Amelia Earhart will be taboo...However flying is great and is worth I believe the blow to respectablitiy sustained. I contemplate falling still lower within the next few weeks..."
"...the family decided the flying game too dangerous [due to] several unfortunate affairs near at home...so I was compelled to earn enough capital to finish paying for my plane...because I didn't see the flying game was too dangerous."
By 1922, having taken lessons from pioneering female aviator Neta Snook, Earhart purchased her first plane – a second-hand yellow Kinner Airster biplane which she nicknamed 'The Canary'. This collection of revealing letters sold at Christie's in 1999 for $13,800.
Flight plan for the 1928 trans-Atlantic flight
Earhart was forced to take several jobs throughout the 1920s as she struggled to pursue aviation, working as a teacher and then a social worker whilst logging countless hours in the sky in her spare time. Having been elected Vice-President of the American Aeronautical Society's Boston chapter, and written a series of articles about women in aviation, she was chosen to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928.
Earhart was approached to join the crew of the 'Friendship' when the original female passenger, London socialite Amy Phipps Guest, pulled out due to safety concerns. She decided instead to finance the flight and, along with project co-ordinator Hilton H. Railey, chose Earhart to take her place.
She was asked to accompany pilot Wilmer Stultz and mechanic Louis Gordon on a flight from Boston to Wales, although she did none of the flying herself on this journey. "Stultz did all the flying—had to," she later wrote. "I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes. Maybe someday I'll try it alone."
The journey brought her fame across the US, and resulted in a book, a lecture tour and dozens of product endorsements. It also laid the foundations for her to undertake her celebrated solo flight just a few years later. This original flight plan for Earhart's first trans-Atlantic journey was drawn up in painstaking detail by pilot Wilmer Stultz, who earned his $20,000 bonus by successfully completing the flight. It sold at Heritage Auctions in 2006 for $23,900.
Following her celebrated flight across the Atlantic in 1928, Earhart wrote a book detailing her journey, along with her passion for flying and her desire to further the cause of female aviators.
Entitled '20 Hrs. 40 Min. Our Flight in the Friendship', the book was initially published in a special 'Author's Autograph Edition' of 150 signed and numbered copies. Each of these copies also contained a miniature silk American flag, carried by Earhart on the historic trans-Atlantic journey.
This rare signed copy of the book, still retaining its original Earhart-flown flag, sold at heritage Auctions in 2014 for $6,875.
Flight log book
Having returned to a ticker tape parade in the US, Earhart's new-found fame enabled her to leave her job and focus on flying (along with being a national celebrity). In August 1928 she became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back, and became in competitive air racing, placing third in the 1929 Women's Air Derby.
She also kept a log book of her non-competitive hours in flight, as she aimed for her goal of 1,200 hours – a figure which would become the standard aeronautical experience required for professional airline pilots. This original hand-written log book documents Earhart's flight activity from 19 March 1929 until 5 March 1932, a period in which she gained the experience and confidence to undertake her solo trans-Atlantic flight just two months later in May 2932. It sold at Sotheby's in 2007 for $58,000.
1932 Trans-Atlantic flight goggles
In May 1932, having already crossed it once as a passenger, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Setting off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland on May 20, she landed almost 15 hours later at Culmore, Northern Ireland where she was immediately approached by a local farmhand. "Have you flown far?" he asked. "From America," replied Earhart.
She quickly became one of the world's most famous women, and was presented with numerous awards following her return to the US, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society.
The goggles spent several years on loan to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where they were exhibited next to the Lockheed Vega 5B in which Earhart made her historic flight. Described as "the single most important flight worn aviation artifact to ever be offered at public auction," they were then sold during a Profiles in History auction in 2009 for $141,600.
Jacket from her fashion range
In 1933, following her groundbreaking Trans-Atlantic journey, Earhart launched a new venture to help her fund future flights: a fashion label. Having previously made her own clothes, and designed a practical flying suit for female aviators, she now helped create a range of 25 functional outfits for "active living".
The range was carried by thirty department stores across the US, but despite a flurry of publicity created by Earhart's husband, publicist George Putnam, it failed to sell and soon disappeared. Just a handful of the original garments remain to this day, with most on display in museums. This jacket and scarf, made from white perforated kidskin and bearing the "Designed by Amelia Earhart" label, sold at Augusta Auctions in 2014 for $5,500.
Last flight documents
A handful of signed documents and receipts is all that remains of Earhart's final journey. On June 1, 1937, following an aborted first attempt in which her plane was damaged, she set off from Miami in her twin-engine Lockheed Vega alongside navigator Fred Noonan (pictured together, above) in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Flying East to West, the pair made a series of stops in South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, before arriving in Lae, New Guinea, on June 29, 1937.
The documents include receipts for octane aviation gasoline purchased in San Juan and Bangkok, along with another receipt from the Vacuum Oil Pty. Ltd. "advance a/c Lae Expenses". The island of Lae was the jumping-off point for the most dangerous section of the flight, which would see the pair fly 2,570 miles, mostly over water, to Howland Island.
On July 1 Earhart and Noonan took off from Lae, and sent two short radio messages the following day. It was the last anyone ever heard from them, and their exact fate remains a mystery to this day. This collection of documents from the first part of Earhart's fateful last journey sold at Christie's in 1993 for $13,800.
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