National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division
Betty Skelton Collection
Accession No. 2002-0002
National Air and Space Museum
© Smithsonian Institution, 2008
Betty Skelton Frankman, noted aviatrix, automobile test driver, race car driver and business woman, was born in 1926 in Pensacola, Florida. Her interest in aviation was kindled at a young age while watching Navy stunt pilots practice. Soon, she and her parents began taking flying lessons and Betty soloed for the first time at age 12, four years before the legal age. As soon as she was legally able, age 16, Betty got her pilot's license. At age 19 she joined the Civil Air Patrol while also working as a flight instructor at her father's aviation school. She began a professional career as an aerobatic pilot in 1946 flying a 1929 Great Lakes 2T1A biplane. In 1948, while flying that aircraft, Betty won her first International Aerobatic Championship for Women. She would repeat this achievement in 1949 and 1950 while flying a Pitts-Special S-1C that she nicknamed "Little Stinker". By 1951 Betty realized that she had gone as far as a woman could go in aviation and retired.
Through a chance meeting with Bill France, the founder of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), Betty began a second career as a test and race car driver. She set multiple land speed records and two transcontinental speed records. Her work with Dodge and Chevrolet led her to her next career as an advertising executive for Campbell-Ewald Advertising Agency, the firm that handled Chevrolet advertising.
In 1959, Betty was given the opportunity to train with the original Mercury 7 astronauts. She completed the same physical and physiological tests as the astronauts, but knew a woman was not destined to be the first American in space. The experience resulted in only a cover story in LOOK magazine (Vol. 24 No. 3 Feb. 2, 1960). In 1965, Betty married Donald Frankman and, eventually, the two moved to Florida and started a real estate business.
Betty holds more combined aviation and automotive records then any other person. Her aviation achievements include: a world speed record for piston engine aircraft (unofficial), two light plane altitude records, and three international aerobatic championships. Her achievements in the automotive field include a women's closed course speed record (144.02 mph), a speed record for 200-249 cubic inch piston displacement (105.8 mph), a 24-hour stock car endurance record, a transcontinental record New York to Los Angeles (56 hrs 58 mins.), four land speed records, a South American transcontinental auto speed record, and multiple Bonneville Speed and Endurance Records.
She has also been inducted into many halls of fame including, the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame, the NASCAR International Motorsports Hall of Fame, the Corvette Hall of Fame, the Tampa Sports Hall of Fame and the Florida Women's Hall of Fame. In 1985, Betty and Don donated her Pitts Special "Little Stinker" to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum (NASM). It currently hangs at the entrance to NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Virginia
|Scope and Content Note|
In 2002 Betty Skelton donated a collection of materials outlining her career as an aviatrix and race car driver to NASM. The donated material consists primarily of news clippings, pamphlets, magazines, photographs and scrapbooks covering the span of Ms. Skelton's career thus far. The collection has been divided into three series. The first series contains information on her personal life, including birth and wedding announcements and family photos. The second, pertaining to her professional life, spans a broad range of materials covering the various careers pursued by Ms. Skelton. The third series consists of oversized items such as scrapbooks and large format magazines. Each series is further divided by format (i.e. news clippings, brochures, and photographs) and then chronologically.
|Timeline of Betty Skelton|
Timeline of Betty Skelton
The following timeline covers key events in Skelton's life, as well as in the aerospace and automotive industries. Events involving Skelton are shown in normal type while those of the latter are shown in italics.
SERIES I: Personal
SERIES II: Professional
SERIES III: Oversized Materials
|Series I: Personal|
This series contains personal information on Betty Skelton. This information spans the entire course of her personal life to date (1925-2004). The material in this series is primarily news clippings and photographs. The information in this series is organized by format (i.e. news clippings or photographs) which are then arranged chronologically.
|1||1||News clippings - Early Life - 1925-1994||2||Photographs - Family - 1920's-1999||3||Photographs - Portraits - 1930's - 1940's||4||Photographs - Early Life - 1940-1969||5||Photographs - Wedding - 1965|
|Series II: Professional|
This series contains information on Betty Skelton's various careers and professional endeavors. Material consists of newspaper and magazine clippings, event brochures, flyers, complete issues of magazines, press releases, correspondence and photographs. The information in this series is organized by format (i.e. news clippings, magazines, and photographs) which are then arranged chronologically.
|1||6||News clippings, Meeting notes - General - 1942-1979||7||News clippings, Meeting notes - General - 1980-1999||8||News clippings, Programs, Correspondence - Acting - 1943-1953||9||News clippings - Family, Friends, Colleagues and Celebrities - 1943-1998||10||News clippings, Event brochures, Pamphlets, Correspondence - Air Shows - 1946-1969||11||News clippings, Advertisements - Publicity/Advertising - 1947-1977||12||News clippings - "Little Stinker" - 1947-2001|
|2||1||News clippings, Correspondence - Betty Skelton Day - 1948||2||News clippings, Event brochure - National Air Races - 1948-1949||3||News clippings - Blue Angels - 1948-1950||4||News clippings, Record books - Records - 1948-1966||5||News clippings - Cypress Gardens - 1949-1964||6||News clippings - Writer/Radio Host - 1949-1977||7||News clippings, Event brochures - Indy Car - 1953-1956||8||News clippings, Event brochures - Fashion - 1954-1960||10||News clippings, Event brochures, Advertisements - NASCAR - 1954-1986||11||News clippings, Calendar - Women - 1954-2002||12||News clippings - Safety - 1955-1957||13||News clippings - Auto shows - 1955-1961||14||News clippings, Advertisements - Cross Country Run - 1956-1957||15||News clippings - Business - 1956-1974||16||News clippings, Event brochures - Economy Run - 1957-1961||17||News clippings, Event brochures, Advertisements, Maps - South America - 1958-1966|
|3||1||News clippings - Space - Mercury Space Program -1960-1998||2||News clippings, Event brochures, Maps, Correspondence - Baja Run - 1962-1963||3||News clippings, Programs - Appearances - 1963-2004||4||News clippings, Correspondence, Pamphlets - Honors and Awards - 1965-2001||5||News clippings, Pamphlet, Correspondence - Smithsonian Institution - 1985-1998||6||Correspondence - 1944-2005||7||Magazines - Model Airplane News, (August 1950)||8||Magazines - Boat Sport, Vol.4 No.2 (June 1955)||9||Magazines - Speed, (1957) (article removed)||10||Magazines - U.S. News & World Report, L.25 (June 19,1961)||11||Magazines - US Auto Club Yearbook, (1965)||12||Magazines - Sport Aviation, Vol.21 No.6 (June 1973)||13||Magazines - Road and Track, Vol.44 No.6 (Feb 1993)||14||Magazines - Corvette Quarterly, Vol.6 No.2 (Summer 1993)||15||Magazines - Sport Aerobatics, Vol.24 No.5 (May 1995) & Vol.26 No.3 (March 1997)||16||Magazines - Woman Pilot, Vol.6 No.5 (Sept/Oct 1998)||17||Press Releases - Fact Sheets - 1947-1951|
|4||1||Photographs - 1929 Great Lakes 2T1A - 1946-1948||2||Photographs - Air Shows - 1946-1982||3||Photographs - Planes - 1946-1989||4||Photographs - Civil Air Patrol - 1947||5||Photographs - P-51 - 1947-1961||6||Photographs - Celebrities - 1947-1965||7||Photographs - Friends and Colleagues - 1947-1974||8||Photographs - Piper Cub - 1948-1951||9||Photographs - Blue Angels - 1948-1950||10||Photographs - "Little Stinker" - 1948-1969||11||Photographs - Head Shots - 1948-1994||12||Photographs - T34 to Wichita - 1949-1950 (Title given by Betty Skelton)||13||Photographs - Tinker - 1949-1954|
|5||1||Photographs - Cypress Gardens - 1949-1980's||2||Photographs - Bartow Air Base - 1951||3||Photographs - Smithsonian Institution - 1951-2003||4||Photographs - Dodge Records - 1954-1959||5||Photographs - Bonneville - 1954-1965||6||Photographs - Chevrolet - 1954-1987||7||Photographs - Safety - 1955-1957||8||Photographs - Daytona Beach - 1956-1986||9||Photographs - Andes Run - 1958|
|6||1||Photographs - Honors and Awards - 1958 - 1991||2||Photographs - Space - Mercury Space Program - 1959||3||Photographs - Space - Mercury Space Program - Color - 1959||4||Photographs - Baja Run - 1962-1963|
|7||1||Negatives - Family, Friends, Colleagues and Celebrities - 1928-1960's||2||Negatives - Aviation - 1940's - 1960's||3||Negatives - Publicity/Advertising - 1947-1977||4||Negatives - Cypress Gardens - 1949-1964||5||Negatives - Automotive - 1950's - 1960's||6||Negatives - Space - Mercury Space Program - 1959|
|Series III: Oversized boxes|
|8||1||Oversized Photographs - 1940's-1960's||2||Oversized Advertisements - 1948-1961||3||Oversized Articles - 1950-1998||4||Oversized Articles - Space - Mercury Space Program - 1959-1960||5||Oversized Certificates - 1963|
|9||Scrapbook - Aviation and Early Life (fragile, scrapbook is unbound)||Scrapbook - Aviation|
|10||Scrapbook - Aviation|
|11||Scrapbook - Automotive (fragile, scrapbook is unbound)|