With the 75th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance this month, my discovery of these cigarette cards detailing famous airwomen seemed positively apropos. Dating from sometime between 1923 and 1939 and part of an large collection of cigarette cards maintained by the New York Public Library. I was impressed to see the inclusion of these high-flying ladies in this set of 50, as the majority of the women included in the other sets were chosen because of how beautiful they were — “beauties of the world,” “beauties of the stage,” etc. — not because they were the first to fly a plane across the Atlantic, like badass Beryl Markham, above.
Pictured with their favorite planes, these ladies are the perfect mascots for my summer wanderlust — I also included images of the flip side of the cards, complete with their exploits and fancy titles. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
“The best things of mankind are as useless as Amelia Earhart’s adventure. Such persons…prove that man is no mere creature of his habits, no mere automaton, no mere cog in the collective machine but that in the dust of which he is made there is also fire, lighted now and then by great winds from the sky.” –Walter Lippmann
“Please know that I am aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be a challenge to others.” –Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart (July 24, 1897 – disappeared in 1937) is arguably the most famous aviatrix in history. The first woman to cross the Atlantic solo, and only the second person to do it successfully, the notoriety from Earhart’s many feats in the air were trumped only by the mystery surrounding the loss of her plane while she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. (You can read the article about her disappearance that ran in the July 19, 1937 issue of LIFE Magazine here, it also has a great photo-log of the trip. It’s been my goal to find this issue to add to my collection, but no such luck yet.)
I have long been an admirer of Earhart’s adventuresome spirit, tenacity and courage — and also her wardrobe. Her staples: a perfect pleated trouser, a crisp dress shirt, a pretty scarf, a well-worn bomber jacket and hardworking boots. Her signature elements: a bit of tousled hair, a scrubbed-clean face, a devil-may-care attitude, and an endearingly scrunched-up Mona Lisa smile.
“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” –Amelia Earhart
Smithsonian curator Dorothy Cochrane and aircraft restorer Karl Heinzel discuss early aviation, aeronautical technology and Earhart’s Lockheed Vega, the plane she crossed the Atlantic in, which is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.