Fly Now: The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection
Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that "sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can't walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these 'pictures of persuasion,' as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement."
Reaves' observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum's 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum's posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.
The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.
Bequest of Melvin Buchner.
Air Force. Framed red, white and blue illustrated print advertising the movie "Air Force." At center, "Air Force" in large white serif type. Below and at upper right, scenes from the film printed in black over a red background. Full Text: "Warner's Wonder Entertainment" in red sans-serif type with a white shield at top. At bottom in black, "A Howard A. Hawks Production-Produced by Hal B. Wallis, John Garfield, Gig Young, Harry Carey, George Tobias, Arthur Kennedy, James Brown, John Ridgely Original screen play by Dudley Nichols A Warner Bros. - First National Picture Copyright: Vitagraph Inc. "This advertising material is the property of Vitagraph, Inc. and is leased pursuant to an agreement which provides: "The exhibitor agrees that the advertising materials are leased for use only in conjunction with the exhibition at the theatre specified of the respective motion pictures identified in such materials and only for the purpose of properly advertising and exploiting said respective motion pictures at said theatre and the exhibitor agrees that he will not trade, sublease sell, give away or otherwise use or permit others to use such materials."