What do you think of when someone mentions Amelia Earhart?
Is it “groundbreaking pilot”? “Mysterious disappearance?” “Flying around the world?”
How about “fashion designer”?
In June, 1928, she became the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic, one of only a handful of people to have done so. The accomplishment was diminished slightly in that she was the passenger on the three-person plane, not the pilot or co-pilot, but she’d made the trip and was proclaimed a heroine for it. (She later became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.)
Publisher George Putnam had released the immensely successful autobiography of George Lindbergh, and he seized on the interest in a woman pilot to promote her heavily. Putnam worked to get Earhart speaking events and published a popular book about her trip. A year or so into their efforts, he divorced his heiress wife. In 1931, after first rebuffing him, Earhart married him.
During the years since her flight, Putnam – a publicist as well as publisher – had made money by licensing Earhart’s name and image to everyone from Kodak cameras to Hudson cars.
In 1933, in an effort to raise money for future flights, Earhart came out with her own product… a fashion line, sold at stores like Macy’s and Strawbridge & Clothier. It was based on a combination of contemporary fashion and working aviation clothes, and was very well reviewed.
Unfortunately, in the middle of the Great Depression, fashion lines were not a strong seller. Moreover, the notion of a celebrity producing a fashion line instead of merely wearing it was a novelty, and not necessarily a welcome one.
The line closed in 1935. But it had earned her enough to keep her flying.
Question of the night: What is your favorite airplane/airport story?