Display Status:

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

Collection Item Summary:

Mary Charles was an early female aviator who, along with Bobbi Trout, Louise Thaden, and others, was a member of the Women's Air Reserve (WAR), an emergency aid group to help in disasters where it was impossible to reach people in need of medical attention, except by plane. Headquartered in Long Beach, California, the group was established by Pancho Barnes in 1931 and included doctors, nurses, pilots, and parachutists who could go directly the scene of a disaster by air and provide help. The group was disbanded in 1941 due to financing problems and the beginning of World War II, which provided new opportunities for women in aviation.

Charles earned her pilot's license at Clover Field in Santa Monica, California in 1929 and flew in the 1931 Cleveland Air Races. Although she had engine problems during the women's race and finished last, she did win third in a dead stick landing contest. In 1934, along with Barnes and Trout, she participated in the first women's transcontinental formation flight from Los Angeles to Roosevelt Field, New York, but she did not complete the flight due to additional engine problems. Upon her husband's death before the war, Charles was left impoverished and withdrew from the aviation community.

These objects belonged to Mary Charles and were found in the Museum's collection.

Collection Item Long Description:

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Credit Line

Found in collection. Donor unknown at this time. Found on NASM premises.


  • Plastic
  • Paint
  • String


3-D (Compass): 10.6 × 10.6 × 0.2cm (4 3/16 × 4 3/16 × 1/16 in.)


c. 1920-1939

Physical Description

Square flat Pioneer Compass with string attached


INSTRUMENTS-Computers, General Purpose

Inventory Number