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Margery Durant was born in Flint, Michigan on May 24, 1887, the daughter of Clara Pitt Durant and William C. Durant, founder of General Motors. She attended schools in Flint; in Tarrytown, New York; and at the Mt. Vernon Seminary, Washington, D.C., from 1903 to 1905. Durant settled in Flint, later moving to Detroit and New York City and maintaining residences on Long Island, in Palm Beach, Florida, and in New Zealand. With her husband, Robert W. Daniel, she restored Brandon, an 18th century plantation on the James River, Virginia, now a National Historic Landmark. In 1929, she wrote (with Fitzhugh Green, later her fourth husband) My Father, a biography of William C. Durant. Margery Durant died in Palm Beach on February 3, 1969, at the age of 82.

Though not a pilot, in 1930 Margery Durant conceived of a plan to popularize private air travel by touring Europe, the Middle East and Africa by air. With Charles A. LaJotte (1895-1973) serving as pilot and Everett M. Smith as mechanic and with her Lockheed Vega 5C (named Ariel) stowed on board, Durant sailed to Europe on board the SS Hamburg in April, 1931. Over a three month period, Durant traveled over 12,000 miles, visiting England, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Palestine and the Balkans. On her second tour, from December 1931 through May 1932, Durant visited England, France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda in a Sikorsky S-38 Amphibian, the Silver Wings.




Durant, Margery.


bulk 1931-1932


Alexander Sanger, Gift, 2011


0.69 Cubic feet ((5 boxes))


No restrictions on access.


Collection descriptions

Archival materials

Motion pictures (visual works)

Lantern slides


Scope and Contents

The collection includes 188 glass lantern slides that Durant shot during the tours; the slides were hand-colored by the photographer Edward Van Altena. There are thirteen reels of motion picture film, including "A Safari of Twenty Five Thousand Miles through Ten Countries in Silver Wings", a film on Durant's African flights. The collections includes four DVDs: a digitized copy of "A Safari of Twenty Five Thousand Miles ..."; "The Romance of Flight", a short film by Durant's husband Fitzhugh Green; digitized film footage of Paris; and scans of the lantern slides in jpeg format. Also included is a copy of the book "Margery Durant Goes to Africa 1931-2" by Alexander Sanger, Durant's grandson; a short biography of Durant by Mr. Sanger, and photocopied New York Times articles on the tours.


Motion pictures (visual works)

Lantern slides



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LaJotte, Charles.

Van Altena, Edward

Topics Lockheed Model 5 Vega
Air travel


Margery Durant Air Popularization Tour Collection, Accession 2011-0023, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Archival Repository

National Air and Space Museum Archives

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