Early Pioneers

These signatures all come from the same book. The book itself is in rough condition by the signature pages are outstanding.

We begin with a look at some of the early pioneers of flight. These signatures are from one of the earliest books on aviation history called "World in the Air." Inside the first volume are signature pages featuring some of the earliest pioneers in flight. Below is the signature of Glenn Curtiss, widely regarded as the father of Naval Aviation and the founder of the American Aircraft Industry. Among is many accomplishments, Curtiss carried the first passenger aboard a seaplane.

Before airplanes, the world traveled via airships. Dr. Hugo Eckener was commander of the famous Graf Zeppelin on most of its record setting flights, including the first airship flight to the Arctic and the first airship flight around the world, making him by far the most successful airship commander in history. Also signing was Claude Dornier. His early engineering work laid the cornerstone for the evolution of metal aircraft.

Louis BlĂ©riot was a French inventor and engineer. In 1909 he completed the first flight across a large body of water in a heavier-than-air craft when he crossed the English Channel. He also is credited as the first person to manufacture a working monoplane. Also signing was Henri Farman. His airplane became the first craft in the world, other than a Wright brothers’ machine, to remain in the air for more than a minute. Farman also won the Deutsche-Archdeacon Prize in 1908 for the first officially witnessed circular flight of 1 km (0.6 mile).

Signing for the U.K. was Arthur Whitton Brown. He served as navigator on the world's first successful transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1919.

Commercializing the Air

One of the earlier forms of commercial aviation involved transportation of the mail. This cover commemorates the first air mail flight by Earle Ovington.

Before crossing the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh was an early pioneer in Air Mail service. Here is a cover from the first flight opening service in the midwest. I like how Lindbergh included the word "Pilot" next to his name. Little did he know how complicated his life would become only a few years later.

Polar Explorer

Admiral Richard Byrd opened both the north and south poles to exploration via aviation. Below are examples of his signature on a check and a first-edition book.

Crossing the Pond

After his historic trans-atlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh penned this book entitled "We." First editions of the book contain a signature page. An example is included below.

Around the World

Like many pilots at the time, Wiley Post disliked the fact that the speed record for flying around the world was not held by a fixed-wing aircraft, but by the Graf Zepplin. On June 23, 1931, Post and his navigator, Harold Gatty left Long Island New York in the Winnie Mae with a flight plan that would take them around the world, making fourteen stops along the way. In 1933, Post repeated his flight around the world, this time using the auto-pilot and compass in place of his navigator and becoming the first to accomplish the feat alone.

Ivan and the Whirly Bird

Included here is a signed letter from the inventor of the helicopter.

The Need For Speed

This is a signed letter from the first woman to break the sound barrier. Then below is a signed book.

Jackie Cochrane was the first female to accomplish such a feat in 1953. She was also the first woman to land and take off from an aircraft carrier, the first woman to reach Mach 2, the first woman to pilot a bomber across the North Atlantic, the first woman enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame, the first pilot to make blind (instrument) landing, the only woman to ever be President of the Federation Aeronautique Internationall (1958-1961), the first woman to fly a fixed-wing, jet aircraft across the Atlantic, the first pilot to fly above 20,000 feet with an oxygen mask and the first woman to enter the Bendix Trans-continental Race. She still holds more distance and speed records than any pilot living or dead, male or female.

First In Space

This Kniga cover features the signature of the first man in space Yuri Gagarin. These covers are considered the only reliable sources of Gagarin autographs. Included in this collection are Kniga covers signed by all the early cosmonauts. Only the Gagarin is shown here.

Through the Eyes of "Life"

Included here are two signed covers from Life Magazine. They are from the personal collection of Dean Conger, the Life Photographer who captured these images. The pieces feature original signatures from the astronauts as well as signatures from the photographer.

First For Seconds

I've always appreciated little-known accomplishments. X-15 pilot Joe Walker was the first human to fly into space twice. This letter is from his time with NASA. Walker later died in a mid-air collision while flying in formation for a publicity photo.

A Solemn Moment

Included up front are full images that show the top of the front page and the bottom of the back page. The NASA administrator signed the front. A NASA staffer signed the back of the page. You also can see the memorial book contains images from Freeman's career.

In 1964, members of NASA Groups 1, 2 and 3 gathered to pay their respects to fallen astronaut Ted Freeman. He died in a plane accident just a year after being named to the astronaut corps. At the memorial, Freeman's fellow astronauts signed a commemorative book. The book included photographs of Freeman participating in NASA training. There was also an insription at the beginning of the book that read: "This is how we will remember Ted." Recently, Freeman's family made the book and other artifacts available to the public. Below is both front and back of the signature page.

In The Beginning

Before they were moonwalkers they were newly minted astronauts. These vintage glossy photos show the astronauts at a simpler time in their careers. The inscriptions are all to Joe Garino, NASA's Physical Condition Specialist. Many of the astronauts simply signed their first name - a sign perhaps of how close they were to Garino. Of the inscriptions, I am particularly intrigued by the one from John Young calling Garino "the world's greatest cumshaw artist." A "cumshaw" is apparently a present or gratuity, often a piece of needed equipment that appears when needed (while at the same time a similar item disappears from another unit). A "cumshaw artist" is generally prized within a unit for his ability to provide such items - and few questions are asked.

Included along with the glossies was this "Leave Authorization" request signed by none other than Alan Shepard. I like to imagine that Garino was requesting time off to work on yet another scheme. We'll never know.

First Floating Steps

I can't imagine what it must have been like for Alexei Leonov to open the hatch on the Voskhod 2 and take those first tentative steps into open space. Below is a Kniga cover featuring Leonov's signature along with crewmate Pavel Belyayev. This is part of the overal Kniga collection I have.

Later, Ed White became America's first spacewalker. Below is a vintage glossy from the mission.
Below is White's signature on a framed matte featuring a glossy photo from the mission. Crewmate Jim McDivitt signs as well. This piece features another large oversized mission glossy. The signatures are on the same matte. I just matted them separately so they display nicely.

Hail Apollo

This is an unconventional image of the Apollo 7 mission crew. It is signed to Hal Collins, a well-known NASA staffer. For reasons I can't understand, Don Eisele penned out Apollo 6 originally only to change it to "7" afterward.

This is a large vintage oversized piece. It actually is much nicer. The picture I took of this is just of poor quality.

Leaving The Cradle

Below is a vintage red number glossy featuring the crew of Apollo 8. Next to this glossy is another vintage glossy - this one featuring the mission logo and vintage signatures from the crew to a NASA staffer.

In 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 made history by being the first humans to leave earth's influence. Months later, the crew would reassemble to take in the launch of Apollo 11. Other historic figures were present including Charles Lindbergh. At the time, astronaut Charlie Duke took notice and seized the opportunity to gather the signatures of these four men on the back of his business card.

Duke also signed the front of his business card. Days later, he would make history himself exchanging first words with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin just after their historic lunar landing.

This is the only picture I've ever seen showing both Lindbergh and the Apollo 8 crew in one place. Also part of the group is President Johnson and his wife Lady Bird. The Apollo 7 crew also was part of the gathering. I don't own this picture. It was just taken from the Internet.

Near Earth Maneuvers

The crew of Apollo 9 is one of the few making themselves available for signing. McDivitt signs with his customary green marker.

Oh So Close

This vintage glossy was signed to well known NASA staffer Hal Collins. Fellow collector Noah Bradley was kind enough to work out a trade for this item. Noah also encouraged me years ago to display my collection via a blog. Noah - I finally got around to it!