‘Tis the season for holiday cards. While many cards feature photos of families and pets dressed in festive (maybe even matching) outfits, aviators will often celebrate their airplanes. The many collections in the National Air and Space Museum Archives are filled with enough cards to last well beyond the 12 days of Christmas. Here are a sample of some of my favorites:
A Corporate Christmas
Hattie Myers Junkin lived her life surrounded by aviators. Her first husband, George "Buck" Weaver, founded the Advance Aircraft Company (later known as Waco Aircraft Company) with Clayton Bruckner and Elwood "Sam" Junkin. After Weaver’s death, she married Junkin and when he died, she married glider pilot Ralph Stanton Barnaby. In 1931, she became a pilot herself, one of the first women to earn a glider class C license. One holiday season in the 1930s, she received a Christmas card from aircraft designer Giuseppe “GM” Bellanca and his wife. The card featured Santa Claus flying a bright red Bellanca Skyrocket CH-400 over a peaceful snow covered town.
A Historic Christmas
In May 1939, Dale White and Chauncey Spencer completed a historic “Goodwill Flight” from Chicago to Washington, DC, to make the case for African American participation in civilian and military flight training. That Christmas, they celebrated their flight and the holiday season with a card that depicted the pilots as flying helmet-wearing birds sitting on a tree branch. The inside featured a map of their flight and their airplane flying into the great unknown of 1940. A poem read:
Just a coupla “birds” hopping around...
Spending lots of time down on the ground
But since the wind is shifting - and the gay season is here,
We chirp... “A Merry Christmas - and A Happy New Year”
An Old-Fashioned Christmas
By the 1930s, aviation technology had come a long way from the early days of the Wright Flyer and Curtiss Pusher. Harry Hublitz counted barnstormer and commercial pilot among the accomplishments on his resumé. For one of his Christmas cards in the early 1930s, he posed with a replica of a 1910 Curtiss Beachy pusher aircraft. His card referenced the “age” of the aircraft by noting: “This may be Old Fashioned But I Wish You a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Hublitz died in a plane crash in 1935, flying a more modern Curtiss Condor for the Chamberlin Flying Services. His co-pilot, Ruth Nichols (the only woman to hold simultaneously the women's world speed, altitude, and distance records for heavy landplanes), survived but was seriously injured.