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

Ruth Law (1891-1970) bought her first aircraft, a Wright Model B, from Orville Wright in 1912. She enrolled in the Burgess Flying School in June 1912, made her first flight on July 5, and soloed on August 12. She was the third American woman to earn her pilot's license. Among Law's accomplishments are the first woman to "loop the loop", the first person to fly a plane at night, and a one-time holder of the Chicago -- New York aerial speed record in 1916. In 1917, Law offered her services to the United States in World War I. She was the first woman authorized to wear a military uniform, but she was denied permission to fly in combat. Instead, she raised money for the Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives with exhibition flights. After World War I, Law was active in the Ruth Law Flying Circus, a three-plane troupe that traveled to state and county fairs. She toured Asia in 1919 and had the honor of carrying the first official air mail to the Philippine Islands. Her husband, Charles Oliver, persuaded her to retire from flying to "home and hearth" in 1922.



Processing Information

Arranged, described, and encoded by Amanda Buel, 2019. Revised and digital assets attached by Elizabeth C. Borja, 2020.


Law, Ruth


bulk 1916-1919



Ruth Law Estate?, gift?, unknown, NASM.XXXX.0387, unknown


1.67 Cubic feet (1 flatbox; 1 slim legal document case)


Ruth Law was the third American woman to earn her pilot's license. The Ruth Law Collection chronicles her aviation career with most materials dating from 1916 to 1919. The largest part of the collection is a scrapbook, with additional loose materials, containing the following types of items: photographs; newspaper clippings; correspondence; magazine articles; programs; and ribbons.


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Collection descriptions

Archival materials






Arrangement note

The Ruth Law Collection is arranged as follows: Series 1 Ruth Law Scrapbook Series 2 Auxiliary Photographs

Scope and Contents

This collection chronicles Ruth Law's life in 1916-1918, covering mostly her aviation career but also touching upon other aspects of her life. The scrapbook contains the following types of material: photographs; newspaper clippings; correspondence; magazine articles; programs; and ribbons, including a first-place ribbon won by her dog at a dog show. Additional groups of loose photographs were integrated with the collection in 1998. The photographs contain images of Ruth Law in all stages of her life, both in aerial and studio views, as well as images of her contemporaries in aviation, various World War I era aircraft, and circa-1919 photographs of her brother, Frederich Rodman Law.








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Ruth Law Flying Circus

Law, Frederich Rodman, 1885-1919

Law, Ruth

Topics Aeronautics
Aeronautics -- Exhibitions
Women in aeronautics
Aeronautics -- Records
World War, 1914-1918


Ruth Law Collection, Acc. NASM.XXXX.0387, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Archival Repository

National Air and Space Museum Archives

Finding Aid Online Finding Aid