Are You an Air Racing Fan?

Posted on Mon, September 12, 2016

This week the 53rd  National Championship Air Races will be taking place just outside Reno, Nevada. Besides the racers and teams that have made the event the world’s fastest motorsport, fans and spectators are an important part of the culture of air racing and we’ve been researching their place in that exciting history. If you’re a Reno air racing fan, we’re asking you to donate your most-loved t-shirt, jacket, hat, or buttons related to the races to our collection.  

Formation of airplanes fly past American flag. Spectators can seen at bottom.

Air racing in the United States has always had a strong patriotic element. Here, U.S. Army Air Corps Curtiss P-36 Hawks fly in formation as part of the festivities for the 1939 National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. Image: Hans Groenhoff Photographic Collection, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM HGD-149-04)

Spectators in a grandstand look to their left. Many wear sunglasses.

Spectators in the grandstands at the 1949 National Air Races at Cleveland, Ohio. Image: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 9A02511)

The Museum has always collected artifacts from speed fans. We have artifacts from the 1920s, 1930s, and post-World War II eras of air racing. 

Two metal miniature propellers against an orange-red backdrop.

These two tiny Reed propellers were souvenirs from the 1925 National Air Races held at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. The full-size versions propelled American air racers in the 1920s, including the Pulitzer Trophy- and Schneider Cup-winning Curtiss R3C-2 racer. You can see all three artifacts in the Barron Hilton Pioneers of Flight exhibition. Image: Eric Long, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 2014-04389)

Small sticker in red and blue. Shaped like a triangle and includes the text 1936 National Air Races Los Angles Sept. 4, 5, 6, and 7.

A fan of the 1936 National Air Races held in Los Angeles never had a chance to place this gummed advertising label, held by the Museum’s Archives Department, inside the windshield of their automobile. Image: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM 9A02084)

What we do not have is fan-owned and worn items related to the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada, which is being held this week. We’re looking for t-shirts, jackets, hats, or buttons related to the races, like winning teams competing in the various classes (Unlimited, Jet, Sport, T-6, Biplane, and Formula One), or from dedicated groups like Section 3 that represent the last five decades of racing in Reno. Ideally, we would like two to three examples of each in used but excellent condition dating from 1964 to 2016.

If you’re interested in adding your most treasured objects from the National Championship Air Races to the historical record at the National Air and Space Museum, we invite you to fill out our object donation form. We’re asking that air racing fans submit our form by October 31, 2016  to be considered for inclusion in the national collection. We’re excited about sharing your story with the world.

Even if you don’t have an object you would like us to consider, we’d love to hear about your favorite memories of attending an air race in the comments.