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Auction Name: 2021 May 21 - 22 Space Exploration Signature Auction

Lot Number: 50320

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Richard Gordon's Personal Bendix Trophy for Winning the 1961 Race in an F4H-1 Phantom II Plane with a Record Cross Country Time of Two Hours and 47 Minutes, Setting a Speed Record of 869.74 MPH. There were four major trophy races that came out of the 1920s-1930s, the Golden Age of Air Racing. The first was the Schneider (1913-1931), then the Pulitzer (1920-1949), the Thompson (1929-1961), and the Bendix (1931-1962). The Bendix began when the Henderson Brothers convinced industrialist Vincent Bendix of the Bendix Corporation to sponsor a transcontinental, point-to-point race with prize money of $15,000. The main purpose behind the event was to interest engineers in building faster, more reliable, and enduring aircraft, which in turn, would directly affect the future of commercial aviation. During the 1930s, the Bendix competitors flew from Burbank, California, to Cleveland, except for two years when the contest began in New York and ended in Los Angeles.

Some of the Bendix's standouts included Jimmy Doolittle, who won the inaugural event; Roscoe Turner, who captured the trophy in 1933; Doug Davis who piloted a Wedell-Williams aircraft to victory in 1934; and significantly, several women. In 1935, Amelia Earhart entered and placed fifth. In 1936, Louise Thaden and her copilot Blanche Noyes won, defeating some of the world's best male pilots. Laura Ingalls finished second. Two years later, Jackie Cochran, arguably the greatest female aviator, won the contest. All in all, female and civilian pilots excelled in the Bendix.

This trophy is simply gorgeous, a beautiful example of 1930s Art Deco design. There is an engraved plate on the base reading:

2 HRS. 47 MINS. 17.75 SEC
AVE. SPEED 869.739 MPH

There is one of these trophies in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian. One winning bidder will be able to add this one to their own collection. We are not aware of another of these authentic awarded trophies having been sold at auction. Who can predict when any other will be available, much less one from a twice-flown NASA astronaut and later, Executive Vice President of the NFL's New Orleans Saints.

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