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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • SYPHILIS ... SIX OUT OF TEN CURED, 1941

Ford Tri-Motor: 1964

Ford Tri-Motor: 1964

American Airlines refurbished this airplane and barnstormed the US (including this small Connecticut airfield) in 1964-1965 before donating it to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, where it hangs today. My father, an AA public relations manager, traveled with it much of the time. By his account, American's most senior pilots had maneuvered and politicked intensely for the privilege of stepping down from their 707s and 727s to this slow- and low-flying "Tin Goose." I even got to fly co-pilot for a few minutes myself; control response was so stately and deliberate that no harm was done.

I was told but cannot verify that FDR's flight to the 1932 Democratic convention in Chicago -- a first for a candidate at the time -- had been on this plane. View full size.

My first plane ride...

It was on this Ford Tri-Motor that my brothers and I took our first plane ride. That summer, the plane stopped on Martha's Vineyard, MA and short rides were offered. We flew about 20 minutes over the island and landed safely at M.V. Airport. My oldest brother went in another group but by himself and none of our family. Apparently the plane was suddenly in need of a "part" or something and the flight was extended over to Nantucket. It was a few hours later when the plane returned.
I remember how very loud it was inside...just a tube with maybe 12 seats, made of corrugated metal. What a racket. My father, sitting beside me was making motions on how to swallow repeatedly to clear our ears as they were "popping" with the sudden change of altitude. It was too loud in there to talk. It was a very cool ride. We saw that same plane at the Air and Space museum years later...and I had flown in it!

A great old relic

I also had a chance to ride in a Tri-Motor, albeit an updated one called "The Bushmaster." It was at the Santa Monica, California airport, when the opportunity came up to fly in it. The pilot was very generous and allowed me to fly the right seat for several minutes. This must have been in the late 1980s. Only 2 were built, and one crashed in a very visible YouTube video in 2004. As a former pilot, when I saw that the cause of the crash was failure to remove control locks, I was amazed. That is so basic.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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