Display Status This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Louise McPhetridge Thaden (1905-1979) was one of the United States foremost female aviators during the late 1920s and 1930s. She received instruction in 1927, soloing and receiving her pilot's license in 1928. In December 1928, Thaden achieved a new altitude record of 20,260 ft. In March 1929, she made a new solo duration record, 22+ hours. A month later she set a new speed record of 156 mph. Thaden was the only woman to hold all three records simultaneously. In August 1929, Thaden won the First Women's National Air Derby, commonly called the Powder Puff Derby. Three years later (August 1932), she, along with Francis Marsalis, set the new refueling duration record of 196 hours. In July 1936, Thaden set the new light plane speed record at 109.58 mph. In the same year, she also won the National Air Race, and was awarded the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race Trophy, becoming the first woman ever to receive this trophy. She set an East-West speed record in 1936, and an inter-city distance speed record and another 109.56 mph speed record in 1937. Ms. Thaden also distinguished herself in her efforts to promote aviation safety through campaigns to mark airports more effectively. She actively sought ways to promote women in aviation through her work with the U.S. Department of Defense, Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) 1959-1961 and in her work with the Civil Air Patrol, 1949-1979. She also co-founded the Ninety-Nines, and organization of women pilots. She received numerous awards and honors throughout her life including: Harmon Trophy, Famous Aviators Wall—Mission Inn (Riverside, CA), Arkansas Aviators Hall of Fame, First Flight Society Hall of Fame, Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame, International Aerospace Hall of Fame of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, National Aviation Hall of Fame, Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, and Civil Air Patrol Distinguished Service Award and Meritorious Service Award. She was also an active writer who published an autobiography entitled High, Wide and Frightened and several journal and newspaper articles. In 1928, she married Herbert von Thaden, an aeronautical engineer and designer of several all-metal aircraft. They had two children, William and Patricia, who donated the materials found in the collection. Personal 1905-11-10 -- Born, Iris Louise McPhetridge, Bentonville Arkansas: Roy Fry and EdnaHobbs McPhetridge 1921-1926 -- University of Arkansas 1928-07-21 -- Married to Herbert von Thaden undated -- Children: William and Patricia November 1979-11-09 -- Death Professional 1926-1927 -- J.H. Turner Coal & Building Materials Company, Wichita Kansas: Sales 1928-1929 -- D.C. Warren Company, Oakland, CA (Airplane Distributor):Sales & manager 1930-1931 -- Pittsburgh Aviation Industries: Public Relations 1930-1931 -- Penn School of Aeronautics: Director, Women's Division 1934 -- US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Air Commerce: Developed & organized (with Phoebe Omlie) National Air Marking Program, 1935-1936 -- Initiated program 1937-1940 -- Beech Aircraft Corporation: Factory Representative 1941 -- Porterfield Aircraft Company: Factory Representative 1943-1948 -- Thaden Engineering Company: Purchasing Agent & Office Manager 1953-1954 -- Research & Development, Reinforced plastics, Roanoke, Virginia, 1955-1961 -- Thaden Molding Corporation: Vice President, Director, High Point North Carolina, 1961-1969 -- Thaden Engineering Company: Partner 1969-1979 -- Sole Owner, High Point, North Carolina, Aviation Records and Races 1928-12-07 -- Altitude, First official altitude record for women in the US; 20,260 feet, Hisso180 hp Travel Air 1929-03-16 - 1929-03-17 -- Solo Duration; 22 hrs 3 minutes 28 seconds, Hisso 180 hp Travel Air 1929-04-18 -- Speed 156 mph, Wright J-5 Travel Air undated -- Only woman ever to hold all 3 records simultaneously (Altitude, Solo Duration, & Speed) 1929-08-18 - 1929-08-18 -- Winner, first National Woman's Air-Derby; 20:02:02, average speed 135.97 mph, Wright J-5 Travel Air; Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland, OH 1932-08-14 - 1932-08-22 -- Refueling Duration, (with Francis Marsalis); 196 hrs, Wright J-6 220 hpCurtiss Thrush, "The Flying Boudoir" 1936-07-12 -- Light Plane Speed; 109.58 mph (100 km), 90 hp Porterfield 1936-09-04 -- Winner, Bendix Transcontinental Air Race; First woman to win Bendix, Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing CI7R; New York to Los Angeles, 14 hrs 55 minutes 1936-09-04 -- East-West Speed; New York to Los Angeles; 165.346 mph, Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing CI7R 1937-01-21 -- Inter-City Distance Speed; Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing; Detroit to Akron, 40 minutes 43 seconds 1937-05-29 -- 100 km Speed; 197.9 mph, Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing D17 Aviation History 1927 -- Instruction 1928-02-08 -- Solo 1928-02-28 -- Federation Aeronautique Internationale Aviators Certificate No. 6850 after approximately 5 hrs 15 minutes solo time, signed by Orville Wright 1929 -- Transport pilot License number 1943; 4th woman to earn this rating Organizations Delta Delta Delta (Delta Iota Chapter) Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Women Pilots): -- Founding & Charter Member 1929-1930: First de facto President 1930-1936: National Secretary 1934-1936: Vice President 1960-1961: Amelia Earhart Scholarship Committee 1937-1938: National Aeronautic Association; National Secretary Veteran Air Pilots 1945-1952: American Red Cross Motor Corps OX5 Pioneers Club of America Silver Wings Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA) 1959-1961: US Department of Defense, Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) 1960-1961: Executive Committee 1960-1961: Information Sub-committee Chairman Civil Air Patrol 1949-1970 Lieutenant Colonel Command Pilot Search & Rescue Mission Pilot Cadet Squadron Commander Director of Cadets, Virginia Wing Director of Cadets Squadron, Cadets Middle East Region Coordinator for Women, Middle East Region National Commanders Cadet Committee 1959-1963: National Commanders Training Committee Chairman National Scholarships Committee 1970: Retired Status League of American Pen Women, Honorary Member (Pittsburgh, PA) Business & Professional Women, 381st (Vincinnes, IN) Strategic Missile Wing, United States Air Force (Wichita, KS) Honors and Awards 1936: Harmon Trophy (Aviatrix) Federation Aeronautique Internationale, Champion Aviatrix of the United States 1932: Baltimore Sunday News Outstanding Female Trophy Famous Aviators Wall, Mission Inn, Riverside, CA Civil Air Patrol: Distinguished Service Award; Exceptional Service Award; Meritorious ServiceAward with Cluster OX5 Club of America, Broadwick Award --Outstanding Aviatrix Citation: The Society of Experimental Test Pilots Airport: Louise M. Thaden Field, Bentonville, AR 1974: The Louise M. Thaden Office & Library, Staggerwing Museum, Tullahoma, TN OX5 Pioneer Aviators Hall of Fame 1973: OX5 Silver Wings Achievement Award 1980: Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame 1988: First Flight Society Aviation Hall of Fame, Kitty Hawk, NC 1989: Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame 1989: Recreation flight, 1929 First Women's Air Derby, 60th Anniversary, Susan Dusenbury, pilot 1991-04-05: Flying helmet taken aboard Atlantis Space Shuttle by Mission Specialist Linda Goodwin, Ph.D., NASA Flight #STS-37 1996-08: Staggerwing Beech Commemorative Tour honoring Louise Thaden, winner of 1936 Bendix Transcontinental Air Race; 60th Anniversary 1997-07: Award of Achievement, The Ninety-Nines, Inc. 1999-04: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame of the San Diego Aerospace Museum 1999-07: National Aviation Hall of Fame, Dayton OH 2003-03: Women in Aviation, International --named as one of the "100 Women Who Made a Difference" in the history of aviation, 14th annual conference Louise Thaden Woman of the Year Award --Annual presentation by Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce at the NW AR Business Women's Conference, began 2000 2000-03: Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame



Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by Karen Whitehair, 1994.


Thaden, Louise (McPhetridge), 1905-1979




William Thaden, gift, 1983, XXXX-0006, NASM


2.08 Linear feet


This collection consists of photographs, news clippings, and correspondence documenting Thaden's aviation career.


No restrictions on access


Collection descriptions

Archival materials







Arrangement note

This collection had little original arrangement, and accordingly, has been divided into six general series according to material types. Series 1: GENERAL. This series contains mostly journal and newspaper articles, but also includes telegrams, letters, applications, invitations, examples of commercial endorsements, membership certificates, and original race information and itineraries. It is arranged in chronological order. Significant events are highlighted. In some cases, newspaper clippings with handwritten messages have been kept for their inherent value. Series 2: WRITINGS. This series contains samples of her various writings. It is arranged in chronological order. Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS. This series contains photographs. The subject matter ranges from childhood activities to award ceremonies. It is divided by two large subject groupings: first—people (arranged by general categories), second—events (arranged by date). All paperwork directly related to a particular photograph has been kept with that photograph. Please note that Smithsonian Institution negative numbers are written on the back of each photograph when applicable. Sub-topics listed in the finding aid are meant to highlight particular topics in each folder and are not intended to indicate exclusive content. Please review each folder thoroughly. Series 4: SCRAPBOOKS. This series contains seven scrapbooks of various sizes and content and two Civil Air Patrol award certificates. The inclusive dates are listed next to the individual scrapbook. The content of the scrapbooks date mostly from 1919-1940 and contain photographs, newspaper articles, membership certificates, licenses, contestant ribbons, invitations, business cards, and cartoons about Thaden. Handling notes are listed next to individual scrapbooks in the finding aid. Please follow these notes so that the physical integrity of the object can be preserved. Series 5: THADEN AIRCRAFT CO. AND RELATED MATERIAL. This series contains information about Thaden Aircraft Company and Herbert von Thaden. Items in this series include: newspaper and journal article, resumes, letters, photographs, and information about the All-Metal aircraft created by Herbert Thaden. This series is the only portion of the collection with any obvious arrangement and was separated into its own series for this reason. Series 6: MISCELLANEOUS. This series contains all of the materials that do not appear to fit easily into any of the above series. The items here include undated or general journal and newspaper articles, newspapers from University of Arkansas, maps, Who's Who application, musical score, souvenir stamps, travel souvenirs, and resumes.

Scope and Contents

The Louise McPhetridge Thaden Collection contains numerous newspaper and journal articles, personal letters and business correspondence, writings, photographs, and scrapbooks, all relating to her aviation career. The National Air and Space Museum (NASM), Archives Division also holds additional materials about Louise Thaden. Biographical information can be found in the biographical fiche collection at the NASM Archives/Garber Facility. In the NASM Archives downtown facility, we recommend the Biographical Files which contain additional newspaper and journal articles, letters, memorabilia, and photographs. Please note that these files also contain microfiche. For additional photographs please see the NASM videodisc files located at the NASM Archives Udvar-Hazy facility. The images can be seen on NASM videodisc 7B-6445 --6491 (Accession # 1989- 0132). Also check NASM videodisc 2B-46705 --46805. In most cases, there are original videodisc prints available in the NASM Archives facility downtown and copy negatives at the Smithsonian Institution, Office of Printing and Photographic Services (OPPS). Please consult a staff member for more details and about ordering procedures









Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.


Bendix Trophy

National Women's Air Derby (1929)

Ninety-Nines (Organization)

United States. Civil Air Patrol

Topics Periodicals
Women in aeronautics


Louise McPhetridge Thaden Collection, Acc. XXXX-0006, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Archival Repository

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Finding Aid Online Finding Aid