One of my favorite pieces of memorabilia is this cover and insert sent by someone in the “Office of the President” at TWA (Jack Frye? Howard Hughes?) to Charles “Chuck” Beard at Braniff Airways in July1940.

Braniff, as you may know, was founded by Tom and Paul Braniff in 1930. Paul left the airline in 1935 to pursue other interests but Tom retained control of the carrier and hired Chuck Beard to run the airline’s day-to-day operations. Beard became President and CEO in 1954 following Tom Braniff’s tragic death on a duck hunting expedition in Louisiana.

All these years later, I can’t help wondering if this was a friendly little gesture on TWA’s part or a kick-em-in-the-ass kinda thing? I guess we’ll never know, will we?

Click on the images to enlarge…

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As you might expect, postcards and magazine display ads are the most common Stratoliner memorabilia available in the marketplace.

The image featured in this post was drawn by George Brown Petty IV the famous American pin-up artist. (Petty, an illustrator for Esquire, originated and popularized the magazine centerfold and “Petty Girl” reproductions often became “nose-art” on USAAF warplanes during WWII, including the Memphis Belle.)

The other postcards in my collection are displayed below and include one from Chicago’s “Stratoliner Cocktail Lounge” which, even though it used a DC-3 rather than a B-307 as an illustration, was undoubtedly named after the Boeing aircraft.

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Boeing designed the 307 during the mid-1930s and the logo created for the plane has a distinct art deco look to it. It is a variant of the basic corporate logo in use during that decade. (See: Boeing Site.)

Photos of the TWA and Pan Am Stratoliners operating prior to WWII show the Boeing/Stratoliner logo painted prominently on the vertical stabilizer of the empennage (tail assembly). The logo had two colors: Black and International Orange.

This image is courtesy of Mike Sievers, who was involved in the second restoration of the NASM aircraft. Here’s what Mike has to say:

I was the engineer on the second restoration team. Since Boeing flight test was operating the airplane when it went into the bay, Boeing was on the hook to repair it, so the company pulled all of the drawings from archives, rebuilt the tooling needed to repair it, and spent the next year rebuilding it in the same factory it was originally built.

If I can obtain clearance from Boeing HQ, I will publish some of the hundreds of photographs taken during the second rebuild…

Stay tuned!

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A few years ago I stumbled upon a group of introverts Golden Era enthusiasts who congregate in an online forum called The Fedora Lounge. Like other corners of the vast and mysterious Interwebz, this is a place where individuals with obscure interests and (sometimes) expert knowledge hang out and stroke each other ad nauseum graciously share their collective wisdom.

I went there initially to ask questions about the men, uniforms, and equipment of the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, but was soon sucked into captivated by other time-sinks subjects. Along the way I made some great friends and wasted a couple of years of my life learned more than I ever thought possible about vintage movies, clothing, hats, and dusty old junk accoutrements.

Through my fellow TFL slackers friends (thanks Rusty!), I discovered the Stratoliner, a silk-smooth 1940s fur-felt fedora with a thin ribbon. Further exploration led me to the art deco aeronautical masterpiece of the same name. Interest became obsession and thanks to the bankrupting influence marvels of eBay I have amassed a large collection of dusty old crap Stratoliner memorabilia from such storied American brands as TWA, Stetson, and Pan Am.

When I want to duck my other responsibilities, As time permits, I plan to foist upon you scan, photograph, and post my collection as a form of self-aggrandizement selflessly share my collection with those of you who also have a passion for this bygone era.  Enjoy the first item… The Stratoliner Certificate.

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This site celebrates the Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the world’s first commercial transport aircraft with a pressurized passenger cabin. The Stratoliner was the civilian version of Boeing’s famed B-17 heavy bomber, utilizing the wings, tail, rudder, landing gear, and engines from the production B-17C.

Only 11 Stratoliners were built by Boeing. The initial test aircraft was lost on March 18, 1939, while being demonstrated to KLM. Following additional testing and redesign, 10 Stratoliners were delivered to customers. First in line was Howard Hughes who hoped to use the 307 to break his own around-the-world record, but Germany invaded Poland before Hughes could make the flight. Of the remaining nine planes, four were delivered to Pan Am and five to TWA in March and April 1940.

The sole surviving Stratoliner was restored (twice) by Boeing and is part of the National Air and Space Museum’s permanent collection. It is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Dulles, Virginia.

Unless otherwise specified, all items displayed herein are owned by Fred H. Hutchison, one of the world’s leading collectors of Stratoliner memorabilia. (He’s still hoping to find a 307 in restorable condition somewhere in the jungles of Asia or South America.)

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