While Bessie Coleman never realized her dream of opening a flight school for African American pilots, her legacy as the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license has impacted and inspired flight students for decades.
“The Millionaires’ Unit” was a moniker given by the New York press to group of wealthy Yale students who formed a private air militia in 1916 to learn to fly in preparation for the United States entering World War I. Author and historian Marc Wortman wrote a book about them in 2006, and a college friend of mine, Ron King, saw his grandfather’s face on the book’s cover. The archival material seemed rich, and we decided to make a documentary.
While the National Air and Space Museum Archives collections feature many WWI materials, the Paul R. Stockton Scrapbook is available to view online in its entirety in slideshow mode. Stockton documented his experiences from training at Mineola, New York, and the Third Aviation Instruction Center, Issoudun, France, to life at the front in France, to the post-war occupation of Germany.
Throughout history, women have often received less credit for similar work as their male counterparts. This includes the inventions of the computer and the internet, both of which can be attributed to female innovators.
In order to shed further light on these women, we wanted to introduce to you just a few of those who were pivotal to the way we live today, but were “erased” from history books:
Christopher Nolan’s latest movie, Dunkirk, will premiere in theaters this upcoming Friday, July 21. And although you may know it stars actors such as Tom Hardy, Harry Styles, and Cillian Murphy, you may not know that the National Air and Space Museum houses examples of two of the main airplanes featured in the film. We have a Royal Air Force (RAF) Supermarine Spitfire and a Messerschmitt Bf 109 of the Luftwaffe, although the Museum’s aircraft are slightly younger than those that participated in Operation Dynamo.
A Cold War era treatment of an earlier conflict, Paths of Glory engages injustice within the ranks during World War I through the efforts of a regimental commander in the French army, played by Kirk Douglas, to stem callous treatment of line troops by the French high command. Built upon class divisions, the film depicts an entrenched establishment that cannot be challenged no matter how irrational or heartless the orders from above.
On May 21, 1937, record-setting pilot and celebrity Amelia Earhart set out to become the first woman to fly around the world. By July 2, she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, had flown more than 35,406 kilometers (22,000 miles). They intended to make three final but long over-water flights across the Pacific Ocean to complete the voyage: from New Guinea to Howland Island, Howland to Hawaii, and Hawaii to San Francisco, California. Instead, they disappeared en route to Howland Island.
You wouldn’t think flying and music go hand in hand, but they do. Luckily for all the music-loving aviators out there, Bella Landauer, a veteran collector whose son was a pilot, began searching for aeronautical-themed sheet music in the early 1920s. Landauer scoured shops, publishing houses, auctions, and other private collections for records and their respective covers, usually illustrated with biplanes or famous pilots like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart.
What do baseball, hockey, and football have in common? Hint: It’s more than just the roar of the crowd or competitive all-star athletes. Each sporting event has some connection to aviation and spaceflight—yes, spaceflight.
Our intrepid archivist, Elizabeth Borja, has been exploring this connection for years. Whether it’s the testing of spacesuits at a baseball game or the New York Yankees flying on a Douglas DC-4, Borja has uncovered surprising sports stories filed away in the Museum’s Archives. Here are our five, all-time-favorite stories in honor of today’s #MuseumWeek theme: sports (#sportsMW).
Although less well known than Wings, The Dawn Patrol, and Hell’s Angels, The Eagle and the Hawk was one of the best World War I dramas of the 1930s. Based on an original story by John Monk Saunders, who also wrote the original story for Wings, The Eagle and the Hawk focuses on the psychological aspects of wartime aerial combat. It explores the cumulative effects on pilots and crews who fought in the skies during World War I, rather than on the romanticized heroic exploits of fighter pilots.