How Amelia Earhart Financed Her Expeditions

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Amelia Earhart is best known for her flying endeavors, but many people don’t know about the fascinating and creative ways she funded her expeditions.

Cosmopolitan Editor, Lecturer

In 1928, Earhart became aviation editor for Cosmopolitan magazine. Her first article was published in November of that year. In her articles, she answered readers’ questions about aviation and promoted “the idea that aviation represented the pinnacle of modernity and progress that could bridge distances and bring cultures together.”1

In addition to her work for Cosmopolitan, Amelia sold best-selling books about her aviation experiences.

November 1928 issue of Cosmopolitan features Amelia Earhart's debut article.
November 1928 issue of Cosmopolitan features Amelia Earhart’s debut article. Source: ICN.org

Also in 1928, Amelia’s publicist George Palmer Putnam (who later became her husband), organized a series of lecture tours to raise money.2

Despite the grueling schedule of around thirty venues a month, Amelia enjoyed public speaking; her personality and enthusiasm captivated audiences. The topics of her lectures consisted of stories from her enterprises and insight into the art of aviation.

Philatelic Flights

To continue financing Amelia’s flights, Putnam devised a plan for Amelia to capitalize on a stamp-collecting craze that heightened in the 1930s.3 In 1932, Amelia carried 50 signed and postmarked letters on her first transatlantic flight. Following touchdown, Putnam sold the letters to collectors.

Across her multiple flights, Amelia transported thousands of letters, 5000 of which were sold at Gimbels department store for $5 each. Amelia’s plane carried $25,000 worth of philatelic cargo when she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared in the South Pacific in 1937.

Very special delivery: Amelia Earhart carried this letter on her flight from L.A. to Mexico City on April 19, 1935, and then took it back to Newark, New Jersey, on a nonstop flight on May 8-9, 1935. The letter is addressed to her husband and adorned with U.S. and Mexican stamps. Note the famous flier’s signature in the upper-left corner. (National Postage Museum)
“Very special delivery: Amelia Earhart carried this letter on her flight from L.A. to Mexico City on April 19, 1935, and then took it back to Newark, New Jersey, on a nonstop flight on May 8-9, 1935. The letter is addressed to her husband and adorned with U.S. and Mexican stamps. Note the famous flier’s signature in the upper-left corner.” (National Postage Museum). Source: saturdayeveningpost.com

Amelia’s Other Runway

2023 marks the 90th anniversary of the release of Amelia’s fashion line—Amelia Earhart Fashions—in 1933.4 Unlike the namesakes of many contemporary celebrity fashion lines, Earhart was very involved in the ideation and creation of her clothing. She intended to design women’s practical clothes for ‘active living.’

Earhart, putting finishing touches on a sleeve.
Earhart, putting finishing touches on a sleeve.
 Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

Although this ploy was not her most lucrative, Amelia popularized trends that continue today. Her fashion line also brought the concept of women’s “separates” into vogue. Seperates allowed women to wear different tops and bottoms.

“Earhart believed strongly in her aesthetic, which aimed to combine her love of fashion with her love of aviation. An article in the the New York World Telegram, dated December 29th, 1933, quotes Earhart as saying, ‘I have always believed that clothes are terribly important in every woman’s life… And I also believe that there is much of beauty in aviation — color and line that is exclusive to the air, which I have attempted to express in sports clothes.'”

Jen Morson. Source: racked.com

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By Joshua Knopf

Joshua Knopf is a Production Expeditor at Pacmin Studios. In addition to mixing and matching colors for silkscreen printed decals, Josh writes creative content for our newsletters.

References

  1. Cosmopolitan. https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/hearsts-international-combined-with-cosmopolitan-0
  2. Lovell, Mary. The Sound of Wings – The Life of Amelia Earhart. St. Martin’s Press, 1989. 137-138.
  3. The Postage Stamps That Flew Amelia Earhart Across the World. https://www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org/encounters/the-postage-stamps-that-flew-amelia-earhart-across-the-world
  4. Amelia Earhart’s Other Runway: The Aviator’s Forgotten Fashion Line, Thadeus Morgan. https://www.history.com/news/amelia-earharts-other-runway-the-aviators-forgotten-fashion-line

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