The Mail Bag...

One of the “cool” things about my job as a commercial photographer (and it’s definitely work, believe me…) is the sheer variety of subjects that come before my lens. Just last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Grant Wainscott, the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the newly created National Museum of Commercial Aviation, located just south of Atlanta. It’s mission is to preserve the rich history of commercial aviation, with a primary focus on Eastern and Delta Airlines.

As we discussed how to record/archive the more than 28,000 artifacts they’ve already had donated to the museum, he suddenly asked if I had my camera with me. I said “yes”, and he said “would you do me a favor?”. It turns out that he has several “flat files” that are used to store maps, pictures, posters, etc. and opening one drawer in particular, he pulled out (wearing archival gloves of course!) a rather non descript, rough cotton bag, with frayed edges. Having no idea what it was, or what the faded orange letters on the side of the bag meant, he went on to explain that it was one of the earliest known examples of a real honest-to-goodness airmail bag. One used in the early days, the days around the time that Charles Lindbergh first flew across the Atlantic in 1927, before there were paved runways, before there were reliable weather forecasts, before closed cockpits.

He had been trying to get it accurately dated for some time, but did not have a photo with enough resolution that would allow the folks at the Smithsonian to have a reasonable look at it. Well, we fixed that in short order, and he was delighted, as was I. He also mentioned that it is probably one of the most historically significant artifacts the museum has to date, and that the fellow who donated it had at one time used it for a pillow case. The hole just above the “N” is from a careless cigarette burn…

In any event, I believe the process to accurately date the bag is now underway. Oh, and the letters? The “BNF” is for Braniff Airways, and the “MSY” is the old airport designation for New Orleans.

Now you know...