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The Jet Age Art Blog

An occasional narrative, story, or fun discovery by Chris Bidlack involving the Jet Age or the Golden Era of commercial aviation.

THE DIGITIZED PAN AM RECORDS COLLECTION

Chris Bidlack

We received a tip and learned of the ultimate historical resource for Pan Am fans: It's Cleared to Land, the online digitized Pan Am corporate records collection (60 boxes of printed materials) in the University of Miami Libraries Special Collections. (See links in last paragraph.)

“Jet Clippers Are Here” brochure cover, 1958

“Jet Clippers Are Here” brochure cover, 1958

1963 Pan Am Annual Report Cover

1963 Pan Am Annual Report Cover

The University of Miami Libraries has segmented their collection into five searchable areas: Annual Reports, Brochures, Directories, Manuals, Timetables, and Periodicals. And the best part is that everything is downloadable for further study at impressively high resolutions. Each section could take several hours to explore for the most enthusiastic of Pan Am historians, so be warned.

Pan American 707 Jet Clippers brochure cover.

Pan American 707 Jet Clippers brochure cover.

The collection contains, in addition to many other printed artifacts, more than one hundred periodical titles (i.e., many hundreds of individual magazines), all originally found in the Pan Am storage boxes. As far as numbers of items, this collection far exceeds other online collections we’ve used (the wonderful online TWA Skyliner collection at the State Historical Society of Missouri comes to mind), and any serious researcher will have a field day exploring.

As explained on the website, “…The collection is comprised of fifteen hundred boxes of administrative, legal, financial, technical and promotional materials, as well as internal publications, photographs, audiovisual material and graphic material. A cataloging effort supported by a grant awarded in 2012 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has allowed these materials to be organized thematically. A subsequent NHPRC grant awarded in 2016 later enabled the library to digitize the Printed Materials Series from this vast collection and make it available online.

“…Thanks to [the second grant], the library has been able to digitize the Printed Materials Series. This series is comprised of 60 boxes of materials which contain brochures, directories, annual reports, timetables, and periodicals. The new digital collection is full-text searchable and publicly available.”

Pan Am “Clipper cover, December 1973.

Pan Am “Clipper cover, December 1973.

Search all of the University of Miami’s Pan Am records here. The annual reports themselves are here. …And while you're in a Pan Am mood, check out the JetAgeArt.com prints related to Pan Am, specifically Chris's JFK print, and his Jet Age Art Pan Am 727 and the Cold War print, telling the story of the airline’s Internal German Service during the Jet Age.

Detail, Sales clipper, Vol. 18, No. 10, October 1960, Page 5

Detail, Sales clipper, Vol. 18, No. 10, October 1960, Page 5

All images: The University of Miami Libraries Pan American World Airways Records Collection.

Some History on Jet Age-Era Airline Open Houses

Chris Bidlack

Pan Am 707 tours at LAX during Skyshield II, October, 1961.  (Photo via sonicbomb.com)

Pan Am 707 tours at LAX during Skyshield II, October, 1961. (Photo via sonicbomb.com)

Newsreel frame from Universal Newsreels, Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bSJyADeWk4)

Newsreel frame from Universal Newsreels, Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bSJyADeWk4)

"Operation Sky Shield" was a big deal in the early Jet Age. On three occasions, in 1960, 1961, and 1962, all civilian air traffic was grounded for hours at a time while the US and Canadian military tested North American Cold War air defenses with mock USSR airborne attacks carried out by US bombers.

The airlines were given about eight weeks warning before the first Sky Shield exercise, and several carriers took advantage of the groundings to hold open houses at major airports throughout the U.S.

These events were hugely popular, and allowed large numbers of the public to see and tour the new Jet Age aircraft for the first time.

Then there was United's JETARAMA. In 1959 and 1960 (and before the first Sky Shield exercise took place), United Air Lines introduced their "JETARAMA" traveling show, consisting of three large tents, public displays, and tours at airports across the country.


The JETARAMA events were separate from the Sky Shield open houses.

The JETARAMA events were separate from the Sky Shield open houses.

June, 1960 full-page newspaper ad, announcing United’s Willow Run JETARAMA open house.

June, 1960 full-page newspaper ad, announcing United’s Willow Run JETARAMA open house.

Thousands of visitors toured United's new DC-8 jets at several JETARAMA events. (Yes, it's confusing. UAL later used the JETARAMA name at their pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and used the term "Jetarama Theater" as the name of their in-flight movie branding later in the 1960s).

In my neck of the woods, UAL held open houses at Willow Run, and many people in Southeast Michigan still remember the excitement of getting to have a look up-close and even inside the carrier’s gleaming new jets.*

But the excitement of the Jet Age soon faded, and like train stations and bus stations in earlier eras, the sheen and thrill of the Jet Age and JETARAMAs soon became a distant memory, if remembered at all.

— Chris Bidlack

*If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to watch Bruce Haviland's enthralling presentation, "The Airlines at Willow Run," in which he shares his memories and his wonderful collection of 1950s and 1960s-era photographs of airliner operations at Willow Run Airport, including United’s YIP open houses.

FLIGHT INSURANCE KIOSKS AND THE JET AGE

Chris Bidlack

Travel Insurance Kiosks at Detroit’s Willow Run Airport, 1954. Part of the “Old News” collection at the Ann Arbor District Library. ( https://aadl.org/N186_0087_007 )

Travel Insurance Kiosks at Detroit’s Willow Run Airport, 1954. Part of the “Old News” collection at the Ann Arbor District Library. ( https://aadl.org/N186_0087_007 )

While researching the fight insurance angle for my TGA (“Airport” movie) Ticket Package assembly, I discovered a rich, although brief history of airport flight insurance sales. It all started with the “Great Lakes Fidelity” Airline Trip Insurance Receipt I had to design, as a major component of the overall ticket package, as fans of the “Airport” movie or novel know.

Flight insurance vending machines and booths were a very common sight at airports throughout the 1950s and 1960s, with the larger US insurance companies raking in semi-big bucks.

My design of a fictional “Great Lakes Fidelity” Airline Trip Insurance Receipt.

My design of a fictional “Great Lakes Fidelity” Airline Trip Insurance Receipt.

Although not dwelled-upon in the 1970 movie, in the novel Airport, Arthur Hailey's character, Capt. Vernon Demerest, is a staunch opponent of flight insurance availability at airports. As Haley wrote, Capt. Demerest thought that…

"…airport insurance vending...was a ridiculous, archaic hangover from flying's early days. The very presence of insurance booths and machines, their prominence in airport concourses, were insults to commercial aviation, which had a finer safety record, in relation to miles traveled, than any other form of transportation.

An intact airport flight insurance vending machine in the collection of the Smithsonian's    "America By Air" online exhibit   .

An intact airport flight insurance vending machine in the collection of the Smithsonian's "America By Air" online exhibit.

"...Demerest had prepared his case thoroughly. Using charts and graphs, he demonstrated that well known in-flight disasters caused by bombings and other acts of violence averaged one and one half per year. Motives varied, but a consistent, prevalent cause was financial gain from flight insurance... He named classic incidents: Canadian Pacific Airlines, 1949 and 1965; Western Airlines, 1967; National Airlines, 1960 and a suspected sabotage in 1959; two Mexican airlines, 1952 and 1953; Venezuelan Airlines, 1960; Continental Airlines, 1962; Pacific Air Lines, 1964; United Air Lines, 1950, 1955, and a suspected sabotage in 1965."

And Hailey wrote this about his story's mad bomber:

"D.O. Guerrero had had this plan in mind for several months while his fortunes were worsening. During that time he studied carefully the histories of air disasters where airliners were destroyed by individuals seeking to profit from flight insurance. The number of instances was surprisingly large."

In the real world, airline pilots in the late 1950s and early 1960s were vocally opposed to flight insurance machines and kiosks at airports. After a real-life bomber killed 44 people on a United Air Lines DC-6B over Longmont, Colorado in 1955, the State of Colorado banned airport insurance vending machines. But other than that one legislative action, there would be no further outlawing of flight insurance kiosks or machines at airports in the United States.

Over the years and in the end, the airport flight insurance kiosks and machines mostly just faded away, as travelers grew accustomed to air safety, and insurance from other sources reduced the need (and sales) of flight insurance at airports. What was once a common sight throughout most American airport terminals would today seem odd and out of place.

— Chris Bidlack