The Heyday of Propeller Airliners(1941-1958)

"Fly Now!" Airline Poster Advertising

Even though airlines spent most of their marketing budgets on newspaper and magazine advertisements by the 1950s, posters still played a role in selling air travel.

Dramatic and colorful airline posters appeared in department and specialty store displays, on city airline ticket counters, and on the walls of travel agents' offices throughout the 1950s. Competing with train and ocean liner advertisements, airline posters in this era usually included at least a small iconic representation of the airplane servicing the route advertised.
As air travel became increasingly safe and air travelers increasingly savvy, however, advertisers began focusing less on passengers, timetables, airplanes, and flying itself, and more on airline destinations.

Scandanavia Poster
National Air and Space Museum Archives

Before World War II, Pan American did not have to boast that it was the "world's most experienced airline." But by the late 1940s, competition from TWA and other airlines affected the direction of Pan Am's advertising. In this 1951 poster, the airplane-Pan Am's newest "Clipper Ship," the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser-is almost incidental. Drawn to scale with some detail, the airplane nonetheless pales in comparison with the stunning Scandinavian fjord.

<em>Fly the Finest… </em>Poster,TWA
National Air and Space Museum Archives

The signature design style of the distinctive three-finned tail says it all-Trans World Airlines "owned" the Lockheed Constellation. Other airlines flew it, but TWA had commissioned the airplane and flew the largest Constellation fleet. Using these airplanes, TWA continually improved its transcontinental service. In 1953 the airline instituted its Ambassador Service, which offered nonstop flights from Los Angeles to New York.

Cuba Poster, Delta Air Lines
National Air and Space Museum Archives

In 1955, Cuba provided hefty subsidies to hotel, nightclub, and casino builders in hope of turning Havana into the "Las Vegas of the tropics." This 1957 poster's glowing orange background and whimsical portrayal of Cubans presents an attractive but romanticized picture of the island nation. A small Douglas DC-7 draws attention to Delta Air Lines, which acquired the Caribbean route in 1953 when it merged with Chicago & Southern Airlines.