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S. Sidney Pike Skywriting Corporation of America Collection 1920s-1940s


Collection Item Summary:

This collection consists of 4 cubic feet of archival material relating to the Skywriting Corporation of America and Mr. S. Sidney Pike's role with the corporation. The material includes nine films, three scrapbooks including photographs and news clippings, two small manuals on skywriting, correspondence, and photographs and negatives of pilots, aircraft, and skywriting and sky-typing examples.

Collection Item Long Description:


  • Aeronautics
  • Advertising
  • Skywriting

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum Archives


No restrictions on access


  • Pike, S. Sidney
  • Skywriting Corporation of America

Physical description

3.45 cubic feet (7 boxes)


  • 1920
  • 1920-1949
  • 1920s-1940s


  • Skywriting, defined as the process of writing a name or message with smoke from an aircraft against a blue sky, began in England after World War I, the brainchild of Major John C. Savage, RAF. His first successful demonstration was at the Derby at Epsom Downs, in May 1922, when Captain Cyril Turner wrote "Daily Mail" above the track. Turner then came to the United States in October 1922 and wrote "Hello U.S.A." above New York City. Allan J. Cameron, along with Leroy Van Patten established the Skywriting Corporation of America at Curtiss Field, an American branch of Savage's original company. They acquired the patents for mixing the writing gas in the United States, and, although it was nothing more than light oil fed through the exhaust system, they controlled the market for years. In 1923, using the Skywriting Corporation, the American Tobacco Company launched the first and very successful skywriting advertising campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes. Pepsi-Cola Corporation became one of the longest-running contractors of skywriting; in the late 1930s to mid 1940s, it contracted or owned a total of 14 aircraft. In 1940 alone, it contracted for 2,225 writings over 48 states, Mexico, Canada, South America, and Cuba.
  • S. Sidney Pike (d. 1968) was born in Bennington, Vermont, and he attended Vermont Military College. In 1928, Pike joined the Skywriting Corporation of America and he became the corporation's president in 1935. During the early part of his tenure with the company, Pike was a pilot but he soon trained a crew of pilots to do the flying. Pike introduced Sky-Typing, in which five to seven planes, with their smoke-producing mechanisms controlled from a "mother" plane, formed different parts of the message. During World War II, Pike was a Major in the 415th Bombardment Squadron, Army Air Forces. He was member of the Quiet Birdmen.

Cite as

S. Sidney Pike Skywriting Corporation of America Collection, Accession 2012-0001, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution


  • Photographic prints
  • Collection descriptions
  • Articles
  • Scrapbooks
  • Motion pictures (visual works)
  • Manuals

Local number


Finding Aids

Online Finding Aid