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S. Sidney Pike Skywriting Corporation of America  Search this
Pike, S. Sidney  Search this
5.5 Linear feet (4 flat boxes, 1 document box, 1 slim document box)
9 Film reels (5 16mm films - runtime 41:59 4 35mm films - runtime 27:04)
4 Cubic feet (6 boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Film reels
Photographic prints
Motion pictures (visual works)
bulk 1930-1940
Skywriting, defined as the process of writing a name or message with smoke from an aircraft against a blue sky, began in England after World War I, the brainchild of Major John C. Savage, Royal Air Force (RAF). His first successful demonstration was at the Derby at Epsom Downs, in May 1922, when Captain Cyril Turner wrote "Daily Mail" above the track. In October of that year, Turner travelled to the United States and wrote "Hello U.S.A." above New York City. Allan J. Cameron, along with Leroy Van Patten established the Skywriting Corporation of America at Curtiss Field, an American branch of Savage's original company. They acquired the patents for mixing the writing gas in the United States and as a result controlled the market for years. In 1923, using the Skywriting Corporation, the American Tobacco Company launched the first skywriting advertising campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes. Pepsi-Cola Corporation became one of the longest-running contractors of skywriting; in the late 1930s and mid 1940s, it contracted or owned a total of 14 aircraft. In 1940 alone, Pepsi contracted for 2,225 writings over 48 states, Mexico, Canada, South America and Cuba.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of 4 cubic feet of archival material related to the Skywriting Corporation of America. The material includes three scrapbooks of photographs and news clippings, two small manuals on skywriting, correspondence, and photographs and negatives of pilots and aircraft, as well as skywriting and sky-typing examples. The researcher should note that the collection also contains five 16mm and four 35mm films totaling a 1:09:03 runtime. These films are not included in the container list but a NASM Archives staff person can assist you regarding access.
Arranged by the archivist into series by subject. Series 1: Documents Series 2: Images Series 3: Scrapbooks Series 4: Oversize Materials Arranged in chronological order within series. Additional folder description by the archivist appears below folder titles in italics.
Biographical / Historical:
S. Sidney Pike (d. 1968) was born in Bennington, Vermont, and attended Vermont Military College. In 1928, Pike joined the Skywriting Corporation of America and became the corporation's president in 1935. During the early part of his tenure with the company, Pike was a pilot but soon trained a crew of pilots to do the flying. He introduced Sky-Typing, in which five to seven planes, with their smoke-producing mechanisms controlled from a "mother" plane formed different parts of the message. During World War II, Pike was a Major in the 415th Bombardment Squadron, Army Air Forces. He was member of the Quiet Birdmen, a secretive club in the United States for male aviators founded in 1921 by World War I pilots.
Nancy M. Podurgiel, gift, 2011
No restrictions governing access.
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
advertising  Search this
Skywriting  Search this
Aeronautics  Search this
Photographic prints
Motion pictures (visual works)
S. Sidney Pike Skywriting Corporation of America Collection, Acc. 2012-0001, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
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S. Sidney Pike Skywriting Corporation of America Collection
Archival Repository:
National Air and Space Museum Archives