The Wright brothers’ invention of the airplane truly changed the world.
Imagining what this new world would be like began as soon as the first airplanes took to the air in the early 1900s.  

With the growing public fascination with all things flight related, the airplane soon became part of culture. Airplanes and flight themes began to appear on jewelry, games, in cartoons and illustrations, in art and literature, and more. Yet another sign that the aerial age had begun. Take a look at some of these aviation-inspired items below.

Aviation in Games

Gilbert Erector Set

This Gilbert Erector Set featured Wright and Blériot airplanes as project that could be built.

Front cover of the manual for the 1913 Mysto Manufacturing Company "The Erector" set produced by A. C. Gilbert, New Haven, Connecticut. It reads: "The Erector: Structural Steel & Electro Mechanical Builder; Educational, Instructive, and Amusing." 

Illustration from the manual for the 1913 Mysto Manufacturing Company "The Erector" set featuring a Wright-type biplane. The set was produced by A. C. Gilbert, New Haven, Connecticut.

More Games from the First Half of the 1900s

Board Game, Lindbergh, King Collection Object Board Game, Lindbergh, King Collection Object Puzzle Game, Lindbergh, King Collection Object Card Game, "The Airmail Game" Object

Aviation in Fashion and Decor

This ca.1910 pillbox depicts an Antoinette monoplane. 

View the Antoinette Monoplane Pillbox record

This pillbox features a Blériot monoplane on its lid.

View the Bleriot Monoplane Pillbox record

Pin, Lapel, Bleriot XI Object Pin, Lapel, Voisin Biplane Object Charm, Bleriot Monoplane Object Charm, Antoinette Monoplane Object

Aviation in Satire

L'Assiette au Buerre

L'Assiette au Beurre (The Plate with Butter) was a weekly magazine of social satire published from 1901 to 1914. Each issue was devoted entirely to one subject.

Les Aéroplanes, 1908

In 1908, L'Assiette au Buerre published an issue on airplanes was illustrated by noted Spanish artist Juan Gris, one of the leading exponents of Cubist painting, and Jules Grandjouan, a pioneer political illustrator.

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“For the sake of France’s honor, it is well worth 5,000 more. It’s not Germany that would be bargaining, Mister Minister!...” 

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“Must we keep right or left?... Above or under?...” 

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“The customs officer can scream all he wants....I get rid of customs!” 

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“By order of the mayor, aerial traffic is prohibited from 5 p.m. and records do not count!” 

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The drivers: “In aeroplane, neither dust, nor flat tire!...Here’s what will bring the price of automobiles down!” 

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First Panel: "New rotating mirrors, propellers attract and kill birds! The next St. Hubert Club protest against this competition is being announced for the distinguished 'rifles'."

Second Panel: “Just as it is forbidden to take water from the sea, it will be prohibited to take oxygen from the air.” 

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The Military Aeroplane

“What concerns me is not how I’m going to kill the enemy, but how I’m going to manage not to kill myself.” 

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The Military Aeroplane

The gunners: “Gonna have to shoot straight up...but it could very well fall back on our nose.” 

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Nicolas: “The sky too, now!...Wall the sky!” 

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Georges Clemenceau (french politician): “Still, with that thing, there are no more countries....” 

Aristide Briand (french politician): “Great!...That way we can go back to our old ideas.” 

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The seller: “Note that it is cheaper than an automobile, and faster....” 

The buyer: "For the heirs.” 

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“Stop!... If you were a bird, you could fly...but you are a man, you must get permission from competent authorities.” 

From the French magazines Le Rire and Le Sourire

This cartoon pokes fun at the “hazards” of the new aviation enthusiasm.  

Aéro-Modes Pour 1910

(Extrait du Catalogue d' "Antoinette Soeurs")

A Satirical drawing by Verjez from an unknown French periodical (possiblyLe Sourire) depicting women modeling "Aero-Fashions for 1910" from the "Antoinette Sisters" catalogue. The woman with a biplane-shaped hat at right says "Your monoplane is ravishing, my dear!," and the woman at left wearing a monoplane-inspired hat replies, "Yes, but the biplane is more becoming." The first woman replies, "And for stability, there's nothing like a Wright!" 

Le Départ d'un Transatlantique en 1960

A humorous drawing reprinted as "Le Départ d'un Transatlantique en 1960" ["Transatlantic Departure in 1960"] in French periodical Le Sourire (Paris, France). The cartoon originally appeared in Life magazine on January 6, 1910, with the caption "Bon Voyage." The cartoon illustration depicts an ocean-liner-sized airship docked at a rooftop departure platform labeled "United Air Line: London and Paris."

Aviation in Music

Enthusiasm for flight was also expressed musically. The romance of flying and the appeal of the dashing, daring aviator were natural themes for popular song. Like other artists, musical composers found the aerial age rich inspiration for their creativity. In addition to the entertaining tunes, the sheet music of the period was visually striking.

Listen to music inspired by early aviation

Aviation in Art

Airplanes and the Avant-Garde

The airplane appeared just as Cubism and the modern art movement emerged. The forward-looking nature of human flight was fertile subject matter for these abstract expressionist pioneers. Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Kazimir Malevich, Giacomo Balla, and Robert Delaunay produced works inspired by and featuring the airplane. The Italian Futurists were especially influential in motivating these avant-garde artists to explore aviation.

Eiffel Tower and Gardens, Champ de Mars (La Tour Eiffel et Jardin du Champ de Mars)

Robert Delaunay, Oil on canvas, 1922

70 1/8 x 67 1/8 in. (178.1 x 170.4 cm)

The Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest, 1981

Before the invention of the airplane only birds or people in balloons would have had this view. The airplane changed the perspective of artists and how we viewed the world—as is seen here in Robert Delaunay's 1922 painting Eiffel Tower and the Gardens, Champs de Mars

Malevich and Delaunay in particular were taken with aviation. For them, flight was a metaphor for the transformation of consciousness, a liberation from the constraints of normal existence, and a redefinition of time and space. They had a passion for the new 20th-century technologies and were fascinated with the notion of escape from the earth. 

Other Styles of Artistic Expression 

The avant-garde were not the only artists who pursued aviation themes. The airplane appeared in poster art, landscapes, caricature, photography, and representational works as well.  

A lithograph by Robert Dick entitled Les Primiers Champions Aviateurs which features caricatures of early fliers.

View Les Premiers Champions Aviateurs Lithograph


A lithograph by French artist Marguerite Montaut entitled Garros Gagne le Grand Prix de l'aero club, 1912 which translates to: Garros Wins the Aero Club Grand Prix, 1912.

View Garros Gagne le Grand Prix Lithograph

More Airplane Inspired Art from the Early 1900s

Lithograph on paper, Century Object The Deutsch Prize Object French WWI Aircraft Object Wright au Camp d'Auvours, 1908 Object