Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Queen of the Air

Regaled as the “Queen of the Air” Amelia Earhart is remembered for her flying career, but that adventurous, risk taking spirit is what caused her to be one of the first women to leverage her national celebrity power into a personal, broad-ranging business. Earhart’s first dream was to become a doctor. In 1917, while in Toronto she received training from the Red Cross and worked at the Spadina Military Hospital . During the Spanish Flu outbreak, she contracted pneumonia and maxillary sinusitis and was hospitalized, this was a recurrent problem and she wore a bandage on her cheek to cover a small drainage tube off on on for the rest of her life. Not deterred from her dream of medicine, Earhart moved from Toronto to New York to attend Columbia University, (1919-20, then again in 1925), where she explored the campus utility tunnels and enjoyed climbing to the top of the library dome, perching herself outside for the best view of the city. Responding to requests from her parents for help, she left Columbia and moved to California in 1920. There she discovered flying. The next year purchased her first plane, a Kinnear Airster, which she named “the Canary”. Through bad investments in a friends’ gypsum mine she lost her inheritance from her grandmother and was forced to do a variety of odd jobs including driving a gravel truck, working as stenographer, telephone operator, and a photographer in order to continue flying. Her celebrity began in 1928, when she completed her first transatlantic flight as a passenger aboard the Friendship with co-pilots Wilmer "Bill" Stultz and Louis "Slim" Gordon. After this she published her first book and criss crosses the country doing lectures. It was then that she got her first product endorsements, most were aircraft related and included Mobil Oil, Pratt and Whitney aircraft, Hornet engines, Longlines timepieces, Horlick malted milk tables and Beech-Nut gum. Ads for Lucky Strike cigarettes proclaiming that Earhart smoked to relieve stress through that first flight, “For a slender figure, reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet. “It’s toasted”. No Throat Irritation-No Cough.”; conflicted with her non-smoking, squeaky clean image and lead her to donate the proceeds to Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s second Antarctic expedition. Due to limited income, the expense of flying and the lack of comfortable clothes, Earhart made much of her own clothing. Tall and slender, she cut a stylish figure and set the model that women did not have to fit the roles that were assigned to them and she embraced this role. To encourage women to fly more, Earhart began the “Hat of the Month” program for Niney-Niners, a group of women pilots, the women who flew into the most airports each month received a Stetson hat designed by Earhart. She also designed her own jumpsuit and flying suit that were comfortable for women to wear. In 1933, encouraged by designer Elsa Schiaparelli, Earhart began making clothes in her suite at the Seymour Hotel in NYC for her clothing line and was eventually sold nationwide in department stores such as Macy’s. Earhart’s designs featured 25 outfits, dresses, skirt, pants outerwear, which were sold as “separates”, instead of one-size –fits all dresses. Blouses with longer shirttails, loose slacks with pockets and zippers which were made of washable fabrics such as parachute silk and textiles from airplane wings. Propeller shaped buttons and tags with Earhart ’signature in black writing in the contrail of a tiny plane were marks of the line. Priced at between $25 and $55 per item for readymade, Earhart also sold patterns through Woman’s Home Companion magazine. The line was short lived and discontinued a year or two after it began, but in 1934 the Fashion Designers of America named Amelia Earhart one of the ten best-dressed women in America. Timeline One of marketed as Modernaire Earhart Luggage) also bore her unmistakable stamp. 1925 social worker at Denison house, Boston 1927--Sales repr for Kinner aircraft in Boston; wrote newspaper columns promoting flying 1928 Publishes 20Hrs, 40min. Lecture tours; endorses luggage(Modernaire Earhart luggage), Lucky Strike cigarettes, women's clothing and sportswear (Amelia Earhart fashions, fashions 1934-35; luggage seems to have had a longer life) 1928-1930 Aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine 1929--Represents Transcontinental Air Transport (later becomes TWA) ; 99ers founded, AE founding member 1931--invests regional shuttle service between NY and DC--Ludington Airlines 1931 Earhart became the first woman vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, which authorized official records and races. 1932--Publishes For the Fun of It VP National Airways--(become Northeast Airlines) 1935 Earhart and Mantz created Earhart Mantz Flying School; on staff at Perdue

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