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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Unidentified Artist
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1928
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Mustache
Nature & Environment\Plant\Flower\Rose
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat\Police
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Tie\Necktie
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
S/NPG.93.151
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Unidentified Artist
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1932
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat
Exterior
Nature & Environment\Plant\Flower
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Tie
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Scarf
Vehicle\Airplane
Equipment\Goggles
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Tie\Necktie
Clothing & Apparel\Coat\Jacket\Bomber Jacket
Clothing & Apparel\Coat\Jacket\Leather Jacket
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
S/NPG.93.150
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Edith A. Scott, 1877 - 20 May 1978
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Type:
Painting
Date:
1932
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Scarf
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
NPG.75.33
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Edith Emerson, 1888 - 1981
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Colored crayon and charcoal
Type:
Drawing
Date:
1932
Topic:
Exterior
Vehicle\Airplane
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
NPG.2002.70
Exhibition Label:
Amelia Earhart and Female Beauty
Earhart was known to have been sensitive about her appearance and the clothes she wore. Given the limited space and the awkward design of the planes of this period, she always wore pants when flying—which prompted comment from those who believed pants to be unladylike. For public appearances, though, she abandoned her leather jacket, flight pants, and boots and presented herself in a fashion consistent with traditional femininity. In this 1932 drawing by Philadelphia artist Edith Emerson, Earhart appears as an exemplar of conventional female beauty. Emerson was a noted portraitist and muralist who had been educated at several of America’s leading art schools. The only hint of Earhart’s piloting fame is the faint outline of an airplane in the top left-hand corner.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Artcraft Studio
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
c. 1935
Topic:
Exterior
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Glove\Gloves
Baggage & Luggage\Bag\Purse
Vehicle\Airplane
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Mrs. J.J. Haher
Object number:
S/NPG.79.73
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Hugo Gellert, 3 May 1892 - 6 Dec 1985
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Lithographic crayon on paper
Type:
Drawing
Date:
c. 1932
Topic:
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
NPG.94.130
Exhibition Label:
Prior to her 1932 solo transatlantic flight, Earhart had nearly completed the manuscript of her second book, The Fun of It. Before submitting it for publication, she wanted to add a final chapter about her latest venture. She made time to complete the chapter only four days after landing in Ireland on May 21, 1932, despite the many invitations and appointments in the days that followed. As she and George Putnam had hoped, the finished book went on sale within weeks of her return to the United States.
This drawing was made by Hugo Gellert, a popular New York illustrator. Inspired by Earhart’s The Fun of It, he created this winning portrait of the aviator not long after her historic 1932 flight. With her head cocked forward and hair streaming back, his image casts her as the epitome of a new, more modern woman.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Unidentified Artist
Agency:
Acme Newspictures, Inc.
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1936
Topic:
Interior
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Scarf
Vehicle\Airplane
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
NPG.93.149
Exhibition Label:
Earhart sits in the unfinished engine casing of the Lockheed Electra in this photograph. With its two engines and state-of-the-art communications equipment, the Electra was one of the most advanced aircrafts ever built. When she was not lecturing to public audiences, overseeing her new Los Angeles–based flying school, or teaching at Purdue, Earhart immersed herself in planning for an around-the-world flight. During this period, she also recruited two experienced navigators, Harry Manning and Fred Noonan, to accompany her. On March 17, 1937, they took off from Oakland, heading southwest to their first destination, Hawaii. This attempt at circumnavigating the globe was abandoned shortly thereafter when Earhart lost control of the plane during a take-off from Honolulu. The damaged Electra had to be shipped back to California for repairs, and the much-anticipated trip was suddenly in jeopardy.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Underwood & Underwood, active 1880 - c. 1950
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
Jul 20, 1928
Topic:
Interior
Music\Musical instrument\Piano
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat
Home Furnishings\Clock
Artwork\Plaque
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart
Object number:
NPG.2011.77.2
Exhibition Label:
Amelia Earhart at Hyde Park High School in Chicago
After the Friendship flight, Earhart was flooded with invitations to speak to different groups. Because she had lived outside of Chicago for several years, many invitations came from that area. In mid-July she traveled to Chicago, where she was greeted by the mayor and a huge crowd of admirers. Among the highlights of her visit was a trip to the high school from which she had graduated in 1915. This photograph shows her with students at Hyde Park High School. During this same time, Earhart had also teamed with publicist George Putnam to write an account of her transatlantic trip, 20 Hrs., 40 Min. Drafted in a mere six weeks, this book and Earhart’s subsequent national lecture tour made her the public face not only for women in aviation but also for the changing role of women in American society.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Underwood & Underwood, active 1880 - c. 1950
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1930
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat\Cap
Nature & Environment\Plant\Tree
Vehicle\Airplane
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart
Object number:
NPG.2011.77.3
Exhibition Label:
Amelia Earhart in an autogiro
Much experimentation in aeronautical design was occurring at this time. Earhart showed great interest in such work and became involved in testing several new planes. In this photograph she poses in an autogiro, an airplane with a conventional fuselage and four large rotor blades mounted above it. Although it was slow and awkward to handle, the plane had the advantage of being able to take off and land in a relatively short distance. Many admired the autogiro, including Thomas Edison, and Earhart became friends with its American manufacturer, Harold Pitcairn. In 1931 Earhart set an altitude record in the autogiro and later became the first person to pilot it across the country and back. That said, the plane was only slightly faster than a car on the open road; furthermore, it was more accident-prone that other airplanes. Earhart liked the autogiro but ultimately found it impractical for the long-distance flying that she enjoyed.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Underwood & Underwood, active 1880 - c. 1950
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Unidentified Man
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1932
Topic:
Architecture\Column
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart
Object number:
NPG.2011.77.5
Exhibition Label:
Amelia Earhart crosses the Atlantic flying solo
On May 21, 1932—exactly five years to the day after Charles Lindbergh’s historic transatlantic flight—Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. This photograph shows her shaking hands with Dan McCallon, the Irish farmer who was the only eyewitness to her landing. Throughout her flying career, Earhart demonstrated an interest in breaking aviation records. She had long felt that the publicity she received after the 1928 flight outweighed her actual achievement, and she saw this solo flight as the opportunity to prove her flying ability and her mettle. Setting out from Newfoundland in a Lockheed Vega, she encountered strong winds and icy conditions. Her goal was to match Lindbergh’s feat and land in Paris, but after a fifteen-hour flight beset with mechanical problems, she decided to touch down when she encountered terra firma, landing safely in northwestern Ireland. Upon greeting her, McCallon asked, "Have you flown far?" Earhart answered, "From America."
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Unidentified Artist
Agency:
Acme Newspictures, Inc.
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1932
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat
Exterior
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Tie
Clothing & Apparel\Jewelry\Bracelet
Nature & Environment\Plant\Flower\Rose
Vehicle\Automobile
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat\Police
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
NPG.93.148
Exhibition Label:
This photograph shows Earhart’s arrival in New York City on June 20, 1932. Thousands waited to see her. Mayor James Walker greeted her with a large bouquet of red roses and rode with her up Broadway amid confetti and tickertape to City Hall. There, after several speeches, she was presented with a gold medal. Ever modest in public, she described the reception as "overwhelming. It’s much too much for my exploit." Asked by reporters about the significance of her flight, she explained, "I hope you understand that my flight added nothing to aviation. It was just a personal gesture on my part. . . . Of course, if it means something to women in aviation, that’s fine." In the months that followed, Earhart continued to be honored: Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross and President Herbert Hoover honored her with the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Underwood & Underwood, active 1880 - c. 1950
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
Jan 4, 1933
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Jewelry\Ring
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Eyeglasses
Interior\Office
Clothing & Apparel\Jewelry\Watch
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Mustache
Clothing & Apparel\Jewelry\Bracelet
Home Furnishings\Furniture\Seating\Couch
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Tie\Necktie
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart
Object number:
NPG.2011.77.6
Exhibition Label:
Aviation notables lobby in Washington
In the same year that Earhart married, she became vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, an organization devoted to the advancement of flight in America. In this job she performed many duties, including lobbying Congress to provide greater resources for the burgeoning aviation industry. This photograph shows Earhart with other leading figures in Washington to champion the development of a small airplane that might be marketed to the wider public. Eugene Vidal—an All-American football star at West Point and the father of author Gore Vidal—played a lead role in this initiative and became close friends with Earhart. Standing third from left, the charismatic Vidal believed that this new plane might be no more expensive than an automobile. A prototype of the so-called "flivver" plane crashed during testing and ultimately never went into production.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Underwood & Underwood, active 1880 - c. 1950
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1937
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Scarf
Vehicle\Airplane
Clothing & Apparel\Coat\Jacket\Bomber Jacket
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart
Object number:
NPG.2011.77.8
Exhibition Label:
A late photograph of Amelia Earhart
To locate tiny Howland Island, Earhart and Fred Noonan expected to communicate with the Itasca, a United States Coast Guard cutter that President Roosevelt agreed to locate near the island for assistance. Although the cutter received messages, at first faint but then clearer and stronger, communication ultimately failed. Upon learning that the pair had not arrived, Roosevelt ordered a massive sea and air search that went on for more than two weeks. When that search was terminated, George Putnam underwrote his own search that lasted until October. Newspapers around the globe covered the search on a nearly daily basis. Yet as time elapsed, hope for their safe recovery faded. In 1939, a probate court in Los Angeles declared Earhart legally dead. Neither the plane nor the bodies of the two pilots have ever been recovered.
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Alexandrina Robertson Harris, born Aberdeen, Scotland 1886-died New York City 1978
Sitter:
Amelia Earhart
Medium:
watercolor on ivory
Dimensions:
4 1/4 x 3 1/2 in. (10.8 x 8.9 cm) rectangle
Type:
Painting-Miniature
Date:
ca. 1935
Topic:
Occupation\transportation\pilot
Portrait female\bust
Credit Line:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Alexandrina Bruce
Object number:
1967.8.1
Description:
Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) is known as much for her mysterious disappearance during an attempt to fly around the world as for her pioneering accomplishments. Born in Atchison, Kansas, Earhart bought her first plane in 1921. In 1929 she organized an all-women’s air race from Los Angeles to Cleveland, which Will Rogers dubbed the “Powder Puff Derby,” and with a group of women pilots was a founder and first president of the Ninety-Nines, the first professional women pilots’ organization. In 1932 she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, five years to the day after Lindbergh had been the first man to do so. Three years later she flew a solo transpacific flight from Hawaii to California, for which President Roosevelt remarked, "You have scored again . . . (and) shown even the ‘doubting Thomases’ that aviation is a science which cannot be limited to men only." In 1937 she and navigator Fred Noonan embarked on a planned flight around the world; but on July 2, Earhart’s plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, and neither she nor her plane was ever found.
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On View:
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 16B, Drawer 31
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor
Data Source:
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Peter A. Juley, 1862 - 1937
Other attribution:
Paul P. Juley
Studio:
Peter A. Juley and Son, active 1896 - 1975
Sitter:
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
c. 1932
Topic:
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Edith A. Scott
Object number:
NPG.75.82
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Earhart, Amelia; Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Earhart Aircraft (NR16020). [photograph]

Photographer:
Unknown
Subject:
Earhart, Amelia, 1897-1937
Type:
Photographs
Records
Date:
6/2/1937
Topic:
Women air pilots
Aeronautics
Aircraft
Airplanes
Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Earhart Aircraft (NR16020)
Local number:
NASM-2009-31378
Summary:
View of Amelia Earhart climbing out of the cockpit of her Lockheed 10E Electra (r/n NR-16020) at Caripito Airport, Caripito, Venezuela, on arrival from San Juan, Puerto Rico, June 2, 1937
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Amelia Earhart signed cover

Scott Catalogue USA C7
Recipient:
Amelia Earhart, American, 1898 - 1937
Medium:
paper; ink ( ); adhesive
Dimensions:
Height x Width: 4 x 8 in. (10.16 x 20.32 cm)
Type:
Covers & Associated Letters
Place:
United States of America
Date:
July 9, 1928
Object number:
0.279483.1.6.1
Description:
Boston Commemorative airmail cover signed by Amelia Earhart, Lou Gordon and W.L. Stultz. Addressed to Amelia Earhart, Boston, MA. US stamp affixed, Scott C7. From Album 1 of the collection.
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Additional Online Media:

Amelia Earhart

Artist:
Underwood & Underwood, active 1880 - c. 1950
Sitter:
Honorable Amy Phipps Guest
Louis E. Gordon, 1901 - 1964
Amelia Mary Earhart, 24 Jul 1897 - c. 2 Jul 1937
Wilmer A. Stultz, 1900 - 1929
Lucia Marion Foster Welch, ? - 1940
Medium:
Gelatin silver print
Type:
Photograph
Date:
1928
Topic:
Clothing & Apparel\Jewelry\Necklace
Clothing & Apparel\Dress Accessory\Headgear\Hat
Nature & Environment\Plant\Flower\Rose
Clothing & Apparel\Accouterment\Feather
Vehicle\Boat\Rowboat
Equipment\Goggles
Exterior\Port
Amelia Mary Earhart: Science and Technology\Aviator
Wilmer A. Stultz: Science and Technology\Aviator
Wilmer A. Stultz: Military and Intelligence\Air Force\Officer\Pilot
Louis E. Gordon: Science and Technology\Aviator
Lucia Marion Foster Welch: Politics and Government\Public Official\Mayor
Portrait
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of George R. Rinhart, in memory of Joan Rinhart
Object number:
NPG.2011.77.1
Exhibition Label:
The arrival of the Friendship in England
By 1928 Earhart was living in Boston, where she worked at a settlement house for immigrants. She continued to fly on weekends and also served as a sales representative for Kinner aircraft. That April she received a telephone call that would change her life forever. Amy Guest (1873–1959), a wealthy American who lived in England, had recently bought a trimotor plane that she named the Friendship and wished to underwrite a transatlantic flight. Charles Lindbergh had completed the first solo flight across the Atlantic a year earlier, and Guest wanted to see a woman make headlines for a similar feat. Guest was going to make the trip herself until her family objected because of the risk. Instead, she offered the opportunity to Earhart. This photograph was taken in Southampton, England, after the successful completion of that flight. It features (left to right) Guest, the three transatlantic flyers—mechanic Lewis Gordon (1901–1964), Earhart, and pilot Wilmer Stultz (1900–1929)—and the local mayor.
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Earhart, Amelia. [photograph]

Photographer:
Unknown
Subject:
Earhart, Amelia, 1897-1937
Type:
Photographs
Date:
Jun-32
Topic:
Aeronautics
Women air pilots
Local number:
NASM-9A08505
Summary:
"A. E., ell'arriva alla stazione di Milano, proveniente da Parigi nel giugno 1932." [Amelia Eahart arrives at the Milan station, coming from Paris in June 1932.] View of Amelia Earhart looking from the window of a railroad car as she arrives at Milan; taken during her visit to Italy following her successful solo transatlantic flight the previous month
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Goggles, Flying, Amelia Earhart

Owner:
Amelia Earhart
Manufacturer:
Protector
Materials:
Steel, glass, and elastic
Dimensions:
3-D: 19.1 x 2.5 x 5.1cm (7 1/2 x 1 x 2 in.)
Type:
PERSONAL EQUIPMENT-Helmets & Headwear
Country of Origin:
United States of America
Date:
ca. 1920-1930s
Credit Line:
Gift of Richard Evans
Inventory Number:
A19580054000
Rights:
Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum
Physical Description:
Metal frame with leather padding and adjustable elastic band.
Summary:
Amelia Earhart wore these flight goggles as she competed in the 1929 Women's National Air Derby, one of the first air races for women. She did not wear them for very long, however: the goggles were taken from her airplane during a stop at San Bernardino, California shortly after the race began in Santa Monica. They were later found with the lenses missing. Accompanying the goggles were a program from the Women's Air Derby and a note addressed to Earhart verifying her as the goggles' original owner. In 1957 the goggles, race program, and note were all donated to the Smithsonian.
Long Description:
Amelia Earhart is probably the most famous female pilot in aviation history, an accolade due both to her aviation career and to her mysterious disappearance. On May 20-21, 1932, Earhart became the first woman, and the second person after Charles Lindbergh, to fly nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Flying a red Lockheed Vega 5B, she left Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and landed about 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The feat made Earhart an instant worldwide sensation and proved she was a courageous and able pilot. Then, on August 24-25, she made the first solo, nonstop flight by a woman across the United States, from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, establishing a women's record of 19 hours and 5 minutes and setting a women's distance record of 2,447 miles.
Born in Atchison, Kansas, on July 24, 1897, Amelia Earhart displayed an independent style from childhood, including keeping a scrapbook on accomplished women, taking an auto repair course, and attending college (but never graduating). She attended her first flying exhibition in 1918 while serving as a Red Cross nurse's aide in Toronto, Canada. She took her first flight in California in December 1920, with veteran flyer Frank Hawks, and declared, "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly." Her first instructor was Anita "Neta" Snook who gave her lessons in a Curtiss Jenny. To pay for flight lessons, Earhart worked as a telephone company clerk and photographer. Earhart soloed in 1921, bought her first airplane, a Kinner Airster, in 1922 and wasted no time in setting a women's altitude record of 14,000 feet. In 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to receive an official Fédération Aéronautique Internationale pilot license.
Earhart moved to east to be near her sister and mother, and, after a second year at Columbia University in New York City, began working in Boston at the Denison Settlement House as a social worker with immigrant families. In the spring of 1928, she was flying at Dennison Airport, and had joined the local National Aeronautic Association, when she was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger.
Amy Phipps Guest owned the Fokker F.VII Friendship and wanted to make the flight but when her family objected, she asked aviator Richard Byrd and publisher/publicist George Putnam to find "the right sort of girl" for the trip. On June 17, 1928, Earhart and pilots Wilmer Stultz and Lou Gordon departed Trepassey, Newfoundland and, though promised time at the controls of the tri-motor, she was never given the opportunity to fly the aircraft during the 20-hour 40-minute flight to Burry Point, Wales. She did get in the pilot's seat for a time on the final hop to Southampton, England.
The dramatic 1928 flight brought her international attention and the opportunity to earn a living in aviation. Putnam became her manager and she began lecturing and writing on aviation around the country. In August of 1929, she placed third in the All-Women's Air Derby, behind Louise Thaden and Gladys O'Donnell, which was the first transcontinental air race for women (from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio) and a race she helped organize. This race, closely followed by the press and by the public who flocked to the stops along the way, proved that women could fly in rugged and competitive conditions.
A few months after the Derby, a group of women pilots decided to form an organization for social, recruitment, and business purposes. Ninety-nine women, out of 285 licensed U.S. female pilots, became charter members, inspiring the organization's name, The Ninety-Nines (99s); Earhart became their first president. Female pilots were keenly aware of the lack of social and economic independence for all women and were determined to help one another.
In 1930, after only 15 minutes of instruction, Earhart became the first woman to fly an autogiro, made by Pitcairn and featuring rotating blades to increase lift and allow short takeoffs and landings. Earhart set the first autogiro altitude record and made two autogiro cross-country tours, which were marked by three public "crack-ups," as she called them. Though Earhart was the most famous woman pilot, she was not the most skilled.
Determined to prove herself, Earhart decided to fly the Atlantic Ocean again, but this time alone. She thought a transatlantic flight would bring her respect, something other women sought, too - Ruth Nichols made an attempt in 1931, crashing in Canada, but she was planning another attempt when Earhart succeeded. During her 2,026-mile nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1932, Earhart fought fatigue, a leaky fuel tank, and a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine cowling. Ice formed on the Vega's wings and caused an unstoppable 3,000-foot descent to just above the waves. Realizing she was on a course far north of France, she landed in a farmer's field in Culmore, near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Acclaimed in London, Paris, and Rome, she returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York City and honors in Washington, D.C. By July and August she was back in the Vega for her transcontinental flight.
On January 11-12, 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, this time in a Lockheed 5C Vega. Although some called it a publicity stunt for Earhart and Hawaiian sugar plantation promoters, it was a dangerous 2,408-mile flight that had already claimed several lives. Of that flight she remarked: "I wanted the flight just to contribute. I could only hope one more passage across that part of the Pacific would mark a little more clearly the pathway over which an air service of the future will inevitably ply." Later that year, Earhart made record flights from Los Angeles to Mexico City and from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey. She also placed fifth in the 1935 Bendix Race. Earhart was a two-time Harmon Trophy winner and was also the recipient of the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross.
Earhart became the first woman vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, which authorized official records and races. She persuaded the organization to establish separate female records because women did not have the money or planes - and thus the experience - to fairly compete against men for "world" titles. Earhart served as a partner in the Transcontinental Air Transport and Ludington Airlines and lobbied Congress for aviation legislation. She promoted the safety and efficiency of air travel to women, on the premise that they would influence men. She tirelessly lectured across the country on the subjects of aviation and women's issues and wrote for Cosmopolitan and various magazines. She wrote about her flights and career in 20 Hours and 40 Minutes, The Fun of It, and Last Flight, which was published after her disappearance.
Earhart married George Putnam in 1931 - hesitantly - on the condition that they would separate in a year if unhappy. Though some called it a marriage of convenience, they remained together.
Earhart designed a line of "functional" women's clothing, including dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats, initially using her own sewing machine, dress form, and seamstress. Though "tousle-haired" and rather thin, she photographed well and modeled her own designs for promotional spreads.
Earhart also designed a line of lightweight, canvas-covered plywood luggage sold by Orenstein Trunk of Newark, New Jersey. Earhart luggage was sold into the 1990s and featured an Amelia Earhart luggage key, prompting some people to believe they possessed her "personal" aircraft or suitcase key.
In 1935, Earhart became a visiting professor at Purdue University at the invitation of Purdue president Edward Elliott, an advocate of higher education for women, especially in engineering and science. Earhart, a former premedical student, served as a counselor for women and a lecturer in aeronautics. Elliott was also interested in supporting Earhart's flying career and convinced Purdue benefactors to purchase a twin-engine Lockheed 10-E Electra for her. Many companies contributed their latest aviation technology to her Flying Laboratory.
Earhart decided to make a world flight and she planned a route as close to the equator as possible, which meant flying several long overwater legs to islands in the Pacific Ocean. On March 20, 1937, Earhart crashed on takeoff at Luke Field, Honolulu, Hawaii, ending her westbound world flight that had begun at Oakland, California. The Electra was returned to Lockheed Aircraft Company in Burbank, California, for extensive repairs. On June 1, 1937, Earhart began an eastbound around-the-world flight from Oakland, via Miami, Florida, in the Electra with Fred Noonan as her navigator. They reached Lae, New Guinea on June 29, having flown 22,000 miles with 7,000 more to go to Oakland. They then departed Lae on July 2 for the 2,556-mile flight to their next refueling stop, Howland Island, a two-mile long and less-than-a-mile wide dot in the Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, Earhart and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca, anchored off shore of Howland, could not complete any direct two-way radio communication and neither Earhart nor Noonan were competent at Morse Code. However, the Itasca did receive several strong voice transmissions from Earhart as she approached the area, the last at 8:43 am stating: "We are on the line of position 156-137. Will repeat message. We will repeat this message on 6210 kilocycles. Wait. Listening on 6210 kilocycles. We are running north and south." Earhart and Noonan never found Howland and they were declared lost at sea on July 19, 1937 following a massive sea and air search.
Earhart's disappearance spawned countless theories involving radio problems, poor communication, navigation or pilot skills, other landing sites, spy missions and imprisonment, and even living quietly in New Jersey or on a rubber plantation in the Philippines. The most reasonable explanation, based on the known facts of her flight, is that they were unable to locate Howland Island, ran out of fuel, and ditched into the Pacific Ocean.
Earhart's disappearance remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, and it often overshadows her true legacies as a courageous and dedicated aviator and as an enduring inspiration to women.
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National Air and Space Museum Collection
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