DescriptionAmelia Earhart, First Woman to Fly Across the Atlantic: Her Historic Original Flight Plan and Related Documents. After Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927, a wealthy American woman living in London named Mary Guest expressed an interest in being the first woman to make the trip. After deciding it was too dangerous to undertake herself, she instead opted to sponsor the project, suggesting that they find "another girl with the right image." In April, 1928, Amelia Earhart got the call.
She interviewed with the project coordinators (who included publisher George P. Putnam, her future husband), and was asked to join with famed pilot Wilmer Stultz and co-pilot/mechanic Louis Gordon on the historic flight. Although Earhart was nominally to be a passenger, she piloted the plane for part of the journey noting in the log book, "If anyone finds that wreck, know that the non-success was caused by my getting lost in a storm for an hour." The team left Trepassey Harbor, Newfoundland in a Fokker F7 on June 17, 1928, and arrived in Burry Point, Wales, United Kingdom, approximately 21 hours later. When they returned to the States they received a ticker tape parade in New York and a reception by President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.
Earhart went on to become one of the celebrated aviators of the day - male or female - until her tragic disappearance in 1937 while trying to circumnavigate the globe by plane. She was best known as the first woman to fly the Atlantic, and was dubbed "Lady Lindy" by the press because of a physical resemblance to Lindbergh.
Offered in this auction is the historic flight's actual original flight plan, consigned directly by the surviving nephew of Wilmer Stultz. It is a most impressive piece for display, measuring 40" x 18.5" (framed). On a color-tinted map of the North Atlantic, pilot Stultz carefully marked off the intended flight plan, tracing the journey from its original starting point at Boston, through Newfoundland, and ultimately ending on the Wales Coast. Meticulously written by Stultz in red are the exact longitude and latitude references for dozens of islands, cities, etc, which could serve as landmarks during the flight, or if they veered off course.
Also included is the original contract under which Stultz agreed to make the flight. Under this agreement, Stultz would receive a salary of $250 while preparing for the flight, plus a bonus in the princely amount of $20,000 upon successful completion (this "carrot" being a clear indicator of the risks involved). Previously Stultz had worked for another woman who aspired to be the first to fly across the Atlantic, wealthy Maine resident Frances Wilson Grayson. Grayson had purchased a Sikorsky plane, and Stultz attempted three takeoffs with her as his passenger. All had to be aborted due to the mechanical problems. Having lost faith in the airplane, Stultz resigned. She made a subsequent attempt with another pilot, and was lost over the Atlantic!
Wilmer Stultz came by his credentials honestly. A pioneer test pilot, he also trained other pilots, and gained national publicity when Commander Richard Byrd approached him to pilot his planned flight over the South Pole. Stultz had already piloted the test flights for the Fokker plane which Byrd earlier used to fly over the North Pole. But Stultz declined the South Pole assignment, owing to the time commitment involved.
Interestingly, the plane Byrd used in Antarctica was subsequently sold to Stultz's new Trans-Atlantic patron, Amy Phipps Guest (daughter of Pittsburgh Steel baron, Henry Phipps). This was the very plane, re-named the "Friendship", in which Stultz and Amelia Earhart flew the Atlantic later in 1928. It was also Byrd who recommended Stultz to her as the pilot for that adventure.
Knowing all the risks of flying under these conditions, Stultz turned to his friend Commander Byrd, apparently writing him and asking that he hold the $20,000 promised fee as an independent third party, apparently not trusting that his wife would receive the money if something befell him before he was able to return to America to claim it. Byrd's actual letter to Stultz, agreeing to perform this favor, also accompanies this lot.
Even though Earhart garnered the most glamorous publicity, it was actually Stultz who was the pilot of record. As word of the flight spread, hundreds of people filled the streets in his hometown of Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, and homes and stores were decorated with flags and bunting. Stultz's home was illuminated by a large electric sign which stretched from the house to the street, reading "Home or Europe, He's Ours." When the citizens of Burry Point, Wales dedicated a monument in 1930, it was to honor the historic flight of Wilmer Stultz. Earhart later graciously remarked, "Bill (Wilmer Stultz) did all the flying - had to. I was just baggage, like a sack of potatoes." Following this adventure, Stultz became the personal pilot of John Hay Whitney. Tragically, he was killed in a test flight of Whitney's Waco Speedwing biplane over Roosevelt Field, Long Island, on July 1, 1929.
The term "museum piece" is often abused, particularly by exuberant auctioneers. However, this present lot surely deserves that appellation. It is not only of tremendous historical importance, but possesses tremendous display appeal; sure to excite the imagination of visitors to any institutional display!
Adding addition display appeal are two more items: an original 10" x 8" photograph of Wilmer Stultz and Amelia Earhart aboard the President Roosevelt, and Stultz's personal pilot's license. The license pictures a great, youthful photo of Wilmer and is signed by none other than Orville Wright, who was Chairman of the issuing authority - the National Aeronautic Association of the United States of America. Five items in all.
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