Steve Jobs wasn't the first to successfully consider human emotions when marketing a new technology. From the beginning of the aeroplane, art played an important role in capturing the collective imagination. Through colorful artistic prints, first in Art Nouveau and later Art Deco we can follow the history of early aviation as it was introduced to the general public, first in Europe and then in the United States. Perhaps no one has a better historic aviation poster collection than Willis "Bill" Allen of Allen Airways Flying Museum, located on Gillespie Field in El Cajon, San Diego County, California.
Looping the Loop
If you love these art periods as I do, you will love Bill Allen and Henry Serrano Villard's Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight (2000), which they wrote and edited. The beautiful coffee table book was published for the Smithsonian Institution Air and Space Museum's exhibit of the same name. Villard, a former American foreign service officer and ambassador, was also an author with an avid interest in early aviation as his narratives in Looping the Loop show. He passed away prior to the book's publication.
An earlier blog at Yours in a Hurry featured a poster from the first air show at Reims in 1909. You may have seen Bill on Antiques Roadshow with Nicho Lowery when they were filming some of the posters. Nicho pointed out the significance of the Nice 1910 poster (below right) which was the first time the public could see what a pilot sees from the air. The artist included the airplane and pilot as perspective from a significant height viewing the coastline. The roses give a romantic effect.
Some writers are blessed with old journals and boxes of letters to guide their story. For Yours in a Hurry I had only a few, but they gave me insight to two main characters.
Locating a Character in a Point in Time
How did I know that Addison traveled a lot? According to the census he was an iron worker boarding in St. Louis in early 1910. In August, he sends a postcard from Washington D.C. (below and left) and notes to his sister in Ohio that he's glad he'd gone to the family reunion the week before. I'll never know if he attended the major U.S. air meets that year, but some of his residence and travel locations make it plausible. Such is the stuff of historical fiction.
I'm looking at a postcard from Japan that Purl sent to a sister in 1911. Geisha girls in beautiful kimonos stand among cherry trees in blossom. Quite a lot for a farm kid from Ohio to assimilate. The message on the back says he hopes to be home for the August reunion. There's a photo to prove that he made it.
Purl lost his inheritance as soon as he got it, and joining the army cavalry to help his hero Teddy Roosevelt extend the country's global reach seemed a good idea. I found more about Purl's activities through government records and a first person account of his unit in William Llewellyn Adams's book Exploits and Adventures of a Soldier Ashore and Afloat  , available on line.
Insight Into a Character
Helpful to understanding Addison is a letter that surfaced shortly after his death providing insight to his character. The neighbor who received it gave it to the local newspaper. Addison gives his thoughts on the successful first flight in his new aeroplane, and anticipates flights the next day. According to the post office mark, he mailed it on the way to the airfield on his last day.
If you don't have a family genealogist, get in touch with older family members now. You never know what someone has in a closet, or what stories they can share. Thanks to Letta, Robert, Pauline and Richard Hartle, some no longer with us, I have the postcards, newspapers, and other materials to help guide my story.
Learn more about Addison and Purl in former blogs at www.ann-otto.com/blog
Next time: Artwork defines and era: posters and early aviation meets