George, Tom, Abe, Teddy, Bill, and Herbie—the "
Racing Presidents" for the hometown Washington Nationals baseball team—feature large-headed versions of past Commanders-in-Chief. Can you imagine what these presidents could accomplish as the "Flying Presidents"? The National Air and Space Museum Archives' collections feature documents and images of the United States presidents, as they relate to aviation and space flight, from George Washington to George H.W. Bush.
In 1784, Dr. John Foulke thought it must be nice to have Washington on his side, so he invited the General to a lecture on ballooning in Philadelphia. In a
letter held by the Archives, Washington sent his regrets. Washington’s response reads: “Genl. Washington presents his compliments to Doctr. Foulke — thanks him for his polite card and ticket — and would with great pleasure attend his Lecture on Pneumatics, but the business which brought him to the city does not leave him at Liberty, as the Members of the Cincinnati are anxious to bring it to a close Monday Morning.” Later, as President, Washington not only viewed but also assisted with the first American ascent of the famous French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard on January 9, 1793 in Philadelphia.
Letter written July 25, 1861 by President Abraham Lincoln to Lt. General Winfield Scott, commander of Union forces, regarding a proposal to use
Thaddeus S. C. Lowe's balloons for observation of enemy positions during the Civil War.
Text reads: “Will Lieut Gen. Scott please see Professor Lowe once more about his balloon? [signed] A. Lincoln. Jul. 25, 1861.”
Teddy Roosevelt was the first American president to fly.
On October 11, 1910, former president Roosevelt was at Kinloch Field, St. Louis, Missouri, campaigning for the state’s Republican party. Pilot
Arch Hoxsey asked him to fly in his Wright (Co) Type AB. At first Roosevelt refused, but eventually accepted the flight, during which Hoxsey put the aircraft into three steep dives.
Former president Roosevelt during his 1910 flight.
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft attended the July 1909 trials of what would be known as the
Wright Military Flyer at Ft. Myer, Virginia. He was accompanied in his car by Senator Jonathan Bourne Jr. (R-OR) and military aide Archie Butt (who would later die on the Titanic).
William Howard Taft
President William Howard Taft (center) also met with Wilbur (left of center) and Orville Wright (right of center) at the White House. Their sister Katharine Wright is to the right of Wilbur.
President Woodrow Wilson (left) presided over the opening ceremonies for the
first regularly scheduled air mail service. On May 15, 1918, he met with Major Reuben Fleet (right), who had organized and assembled the pilots and aircrafts for this service.
President Calvin Coolidge welcomed the crew members of the
Douglas World Cruiser first flight around the world upon their arrival in Washington on September 9, 1924. The crew successfully circumnavigated the globe in 175 days. Left to right: Lt. Leslie Arnold; Lt. Lowell Smith; President Calvin Coolidge; Secretary of War John Wingate Weeks; Lt. John Harding; Lt. Odgen and Lt. Leigh Wade posed standing in front of the Douglas World Cruiser DWC-2 Chicago.
at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, and Chicago is on display Arnold’s diary and scrapbook are in the Museum's Archives collections.
On April 22, 1931, President Herbert Hoover presented the 1930
Collier Trophy to Harold Pitcairn and associates for the development and application of the autogiro while standing on the lawn of the White House. Though not visible in the photograph, President Herbert Hoover, his wife, and grandchildren then witnessed the Pitcairn PCA-2 Autogiro taking off from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to fly. In this image, Roosevelt (left in the top right corner) speaks to reporters outside of an American Airways
Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Dwight D. Eisenhower shown with scale model of
Jupiter C Missile nose cone during speech given from the White House, November 7, 1957.
John F. Kennedy
Presidential party departs Sikorsky (S-61V) VH-3A (HSS-2Z) Sea King helicopter at Cape Canaveral Skid Strip, November 16, 1963. Left to right: NASA Associate Administrator Dr. Robert Channing Seamans, Jr.; President John Fitzgerald Kennedy; Sen. George Smathers (D-FL).
Lyndon B. Johnson
President Lyndon B. Johnson in a discussion with Air Force Colonel
Daniel "Chappie” James. In 1975, James became the first African American to achieve the rank of four-star general.
Richard M. Nixon
Apollo 11 flight crew members Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., inside the
Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), being greeted through the window by President Richard M. Nixon; July 24, 1969.
Gerald R. Ford
President Gerald R. Ford and the Museum's Director Michael Collins attend the ribbon cutting ceremony for the
opening of the National Air and Space Museum building in Washington, DC, on July 1, 1976.
George H. W. Bush
In 1941, George H. W. Bush became the youngest aviator in the U.S. Navy at the time. He is pictured in the cockpit of his General Motors (Eastern)
TBM Avenger during World War II.