Skip to main content

George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 9

Scope and Contents

The George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers (1785-1948; 31.1 cubic feet) documents the personal life, aviation career, and business activities of pilot Amelia Earhart. Types of materials include: advertisements, articles, artifacts, awards, blueprints, books, certificates, charts, commemorative coins, contracts, correspondence, data sheets, diagrams, ephemera, flight logs, licenses, maps, newspaper clippings, notebooks, notes, permits, photographs, poetry, postage stamps, press releases, scrapbooks, speeches, and writings.


  • 1785-1948
  • Other: Majority of material found within 1928-1937


Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by the donors has been transferred to Purdue University.

Biographical / Historical

Amelia Mary Earhart was born on July 24, 1897, in Atchison, Kansas, to parents Amy Otis Earhart and Edwin Stanton Earhart. Her sister, Muriel, was born two and a half years later. Due to Edwin’s occupation as a legal representative for various railroads, the family moved frequently during Amelia’s childhood, living at times in Kansas City, Des Moines, St. Paul, and Chicago. After attending six high schools in four years, Earhart graduated from Chicago's Hyde Park High School in June 1915.

Earhart entered Ogontz School near Philadelphia in 1916. The following year, after visiting her sister Muriel in Toronto over Christmas, she decided not to return to Ogontz School and graduate, but instead to remain and join the war effort in Toronto. In February 1918, Earhart left Ogontz School and moved to Toronto to become a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse at the Spadina Military Convalescent Hospital. While in Toronto, she began frequenting a local airfield, and soon became fascinated with flying. Following the Armistice in November 1918, she returned to the United States and entered Columbia University as a pre-medical student in the fall of 1919. Earhart soon realized that the practical aspects of medicine did not appeal to her, and left Columbia in 1920 to join her parents in Los Angeles, in an effort to help keep their marriage intact. In December 1920, she took her first ride in an airplane with pilot Frank Hawks. In January 1921, she began taking flying lessons from Anita (“Neta”) Snook. With help from her family, she took a job in a telephone company and bought her first airplane. In 1922, she set her first aviation record with an unofficial women’s altitude record of 14,000 feet under the auspices of the Aero Club of Southern California. The following March, Earhart appeared as one of the attractions at a local air rodeo and in May 1923 she acquired her airline pilot’s license. She was the first woman, and seventeenth pilot, to receive a National Aeronautic Association pilot’s license. She became engaged to Sam Chapman and worked in a photography studio. Despite Earhart’s efforts, her father's alcoholism, combined with her parents’ inability to manage money, eventually led to the divorce of Edwin and Amy Earhart in 1924.

Following her parents' divorce, Earhart sold her airplane and bought a Kissel roadster car she called the “Yellow Peril.” In June 1924, she drove cross-country with her mother from Los Angeles to Medford, Massachusetts, stopping along the way to visit several national parks (1924). She and her mother then moved in with Earhart’s sister Muriel, in Medford, Massachusetts. After undergoing a sinus operation to relieve her chronic sinus headaches, she returned to Columbia University for the winter of 1924-1925. In May 1925, Earhart returned to the Boston area and upon her sister’s urging, took classes at Harvard during the summer and received a teaching license. Earhart then spent several months teaching foreign students at the University of Massachusetts (Haugen, 2009). From June to October, she worked as a companion in a hospital for mental diseases, but found the work too confining and the pay insufficient. In 1926, Amelia joined the staff of Denison House, Boston’s oldest settlement house, as a social worker. At Denison House, Earhart worked with immigrants and their children, teaching them English and educating them on local customs. Earhart joined the Boston chapter of the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and in 1928 was elected vice president of the chapter. While working one day at Denison House, in April 1928, Earhart received a call from Hilton H. Railey asking if she would like to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air. Earhart accepted the proposal and accompanied pilot Wilmer Stultz and mechanic Louis “Slim” Gordon on their 1928 transatlantic flight on the Friendship plane. She soon gained international acclaim for being the first woman to make the transatlantic crossing by air, although she did not fly the plane herself. Following the Friendship flight, Amelia wrote her first book, 20 Hrs. 40 Mins. She broke her engagement with Sam Chapman, and took a job as Aviation Editor for Cosmopolitan magazine.

In 1929, Earhart competed in the Powder Puff Derby, the first national Women’s Air Derby race, finishing in third place. She was appointed Assistant to the General Traffic Manager at Transcontinental Air Transport with special responsibility for promoting aviation to women travelers. Amelia, along with Ruth Nichols and several other women pilots, founded the Ninety-Nines, the first women pilots’ organization. In 1930, Earhart set the women’s flying speed record of 181.18 mph and acquired her transport pilot’s license. She became the first woman to fly an autogiro in the United States and became vice president of Ludington Lines, a commercial airline. Her father, Edwin Earhart, died of cancer that same year. In February 1931, Amelia married publisher George Palmer Putnam in Noank, Connecticut. Earhart acquired an autogiro and set an altitude record for the autogiro in April. She completed a solo transcontinental flight across the United States in an autogiro in the summer of 1931 and that same year was elected the national vice president of the NAA (and the first woman officer of the NAA). Earhart was also elected the first president of the Ninety-Nines in 1931, and served in this position until 1933.

In May 1932, Amelia became the first woman (and second person) to fly solo across the Atlantic. With this flight, Amelia became the first person to cross the Atlantic twice by air nonstop, setting a record for the fastest Atlantic crossing and the longest distance flown by a woman. Amelia was awarded the Army Air Corps Distinguished Flying Cross by U.S. Congress, Honorary Membership in the British Guild of Airpilots and Navigators, and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society, which was presented to her by President Herbert Hoover. In July, she set the women’s record for the fastest non-stop transcontinental flight, flying from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey. She wrote her second book, The Fun of It, and began lecturing all over the country, often speaking in two different cities on the same day. She was awarded the Harmon Trophy as America’s Outstanding Airwoman, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor by the French government, and received honorary membership in the National Aeronautic Association.

In 1933 Earhart participated in the National Air Races. The following year, in 1934, Amelia launched a fashion house to manufacture and market clothing designed by her. Her first shop opened in Macy’s in New York. It was initially a success, but by the end of the year the venture was shut down. In November 1934, the Earhart/Putnam home in Rye, New York, caught fire and many of Earhart’s earliest papers burned, including poems written during childhood, letters, and stories she had been working on (Lovell, 1989). In 1935, Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the American mainland, landing in Oakland, California. With this flight, Amelia became the first person to fly solo across the Pacific Ocean and the first person who had flown solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. That same year, she became the first person to fly solo from Los Angeles to Mexico City, by official invitation of the Mexican government.

In the fall of 1935, Earhart joined the faculty of Purdue University, serving as a counselor in the study of careers for women and an adviser in aeronautics. In July 1936, she acquired a new Lockheed Electra airplane she called her “Flying Laboratory.” It was purchased with funds from the Purdue Research Foundation. With her new airplane, Earhart began seriously planning a world flight at the equator.

In March 1937, Amelia made her first attempt to circumnavigate the globe at the equator, flying westward from Oakland to Hawaii. Unfortunately, her plans were later thwarted when she attempted a takeoff from Luke Field and ground looped her plane. The plane was badly damaged and had to be sent to California for repairs. On June 1, Earhart began her second world flight attempt, this time taking off from Miami with navigator Fred Noonan, and reversing her course from west to east. After completing 22,000 miles of the flight, Amelia and Fred Noonan departed from Lae, New Guinea en route to tiny Howland Island. They experienced radio and weather difficulties and eventually lost radio contact with the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca on July 2, 1937. Despite a massive search authorized by the U.S. government, no trace of Earhart, Noonan, or their plane was ever found. On July 18, the government abandoned its search, although George Putnam continued to finance his own search until October 1937. In 1939, Amelia Earhart was declared legally dead in Superior Court in Los Angeles. The whereabouts of Earhart and Noonan remains a mystery, and is the subject of much speculation to this day.


Lovell, M. (1989). The sound of wings : The life of Amelia Earhart (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.

Haugen, B. (2007). Amelia Earhart: Legendary aviator. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books.

Material found among Earhart’s papers.


31.1 Cubic Feet

1.00 flat_file_drawer

Language of Materials



The papers are organized into seven series: Series 1. Flying Career, 1927-1938 (2.5 cubic feet). The Flying Career series documents Earhart’s major flights and flying activities and is divided into the following subseries: Contracts and Licenses, 1927-1935; Friendship Flight, 1928; National Women’s Air Derby, 1929; Women’s World Speed Record, 1930; The Autogiro, 1931; Solo Atlantic Flight, 1932; Transcontinental Speed Record, 1932; Ligue Internationale Aviatrix Trophy, 1933; Hawaii Flight, 1935; Mexico Flight, 1935; Admission of Women Pilots in ALPA [Air Line Pilots Association], 1935; World Flight Attempt One, 1937; World Flight Attempt Two, 1937; Disappearance and Search, 1937-1938. Types of material include licenses, contracts, correspondence, advertisements, maps, awards, certificates, printed material, permits, flight logs, passport, authorizations, charts, press releases, newspaper clippings, information on AE’s airplanes and flights, receipts, works of art on paper, philatelic materials, ephemera, notes, information on pilot Ruth Nichols, reports, flight information, charts, data sheets, resolutions, ephemera, diagrams, blueprints, and documentation relating to the disappearance and search for Amelia Earhart. All correspondence has been arranged chronologically by subseries. Letters sent to and from George Palmer Putnam have been retained with Earhart’s flight correspondence, as he often wrote on her behalf as her manager.

Series 2. Personal and Family Life, 1917-1937 (2.0 cubic feet). The personal and family life series documents the private life of Amelia Earhart and is divided into five subseries: Writings by Amelia Earhart; Family Documents and Correspondence; Correspondence, General; Ephemera and Miscellaneous; and Press, General.

Series 3. Business Activities, 1928-1937 (0.5 cubic feet). The business activities series documents Amelia Earhart’s work as Aviation Editor for Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vice President of the National Aeronautic Association, Vice President of The Ludington Line, designer of clothing for women, and position as Consultant in the Department of Careers for Women at Purdue University. Types of materials include correspondence, business letterhead, flight schedules and brochures, paycheck, ephemera, speeches, printed material, and notes.

Series 4. Photographs, 1897-1937 (2.0 cubic feet). The photographs series includes photographic prints of Amelia Earhart, George Palmer Putnam, and others; Earhart’s various airplanes such as the Friendship, Kinner Airster, Lockheed Vega, and Lockheed Electra; Earhart’s flight in the Autogiro; and scenery from various locations all over the world that Earhart visited during her flights. The series documents Earhart’s childhood and family, her major flights, and her aviation/business activities. Included in the series is an interesting set of photographs taken by Earhart while on her second world flight attempt in 1937. These photographs were mailed by Earhart to her husband prior to her disappearance. The series has been subdivided into eleven subseries: Major Flights, Aviation Related, Earhart with Her Modernaire Luggage Line, Personal Life and Family, Portraits and Miscellaneous Photographs of Earhart, Publicity Shots of Earhart, Earhart with George Palmer Putnam, Earhart with Other People, Sketches of Earhart, Publicity Photographs of Her Modernaire Luggage Line, and Other People and Objects. Please see the description of each prior to respective series listing of photographs.

Series 5. Scrapbooks, 1918-1939 (4.0 cubic feet). The scrapbooks series includes twenty scrapbooks compiled by Amelia Earhart and George Palmer Putnam. The scrapbooks consist of journal articles, newspaper clippings, and ephemera relating to Earhart, her flights, and other activities such as her promotion of aviation and women, her trips, endorsements, position at Purdue University, clothing and luggage lines, and her disappearance. The original numbering of the scrapbooks has been left intact, and they are arranged accordingly.

Series 6. Artifacts, circa 1785; 1926-1935 (9.5 cubic feet). The artifacts series consists of two subseries: Medals, Awards, Coins and Other Commemorative Artifacts, and Personal Belongings. Types of materials include medals, awards, coins, and other honorary memorabilia received by Amelia Earhart for her various aviation accomplishments and personal belongings such as her flying togs, goggles, smelling salts, compact, soap figurines, and a miniature model of her Lockheed Vega airplane. Series 7. Oversized Materials, 1915-1993 (1930s predominate) (10.6 cubic feet). The Oversized Materials series consists of items that were separated from the other series due to their unusually large size. For preservation reasons, these materials are being stored flat in map cases or flat boxes. The materials include maps, charts, diagrams, blueprints, weather reports, newspapers, stereotype mats (front page newspaper plates), magazine articles, miscellaneous printed material, and works of art on paper (including original sketches and cartoons), diplomas, awards, honors, certificates, invitations, authorizations, oversized photographs, and ephemera. Materials relate to AE’s major flights, her business career (including fashion design), and her personal life. Many of the items document the numerous awards and honors Earhart received for her flying achievements and the flight records she established.

Physical Access Information

Access to original materials is restricted for security and preservation purposes unless express permission by the University Archivist is given.

Source of Acquisition

George Palmer Putnam and Sally Putnam Chapman

Method of Acquisition

Gifts from George Palmer Putnam (Amelia Earhart's husband), 1940; and Sally Putnam Chapman (George Putnam's granddaughter), 2002. Additions to MSP 9 in 2023 include Needlecraft the Magazine of Home Art, May 1930 and an annotated speech from Women's Aviation Program for WRNY radio station and have unknown provenance.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of materials are available for research use. See our digital collections database, e-Archives: George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers.

Related Materials

MSF 450, Amelia Earhart at Purdue papers

MSP 79, Zelda Gould collection of Amy Otis Earhart correspondence

MSP 188, Collection of Amelia Earhart Related Materials

MSP 195, Amelia Earhart Press photographs

MSP 209, Wilmer and Mildred Stultz papers

MSP 204, Richard (Dick) G. Strippel Research and Writings on Amelia Earhart

20160901.1, Frederick J. Noonan and Mary Beatrice Noonan papers

20160901, Albert Paul Mantz papers

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained. All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes. All newsprint has been photocopied and, in most cases, original newspaper clippings have been discarded. Some clippings containing images of people or color graphics, or front pages of newspapers, have been preserved for display purposes, with photocopies made available for research. Oversized maps, blueprints, diagrams, certificates, and other printed material; photographs; and artifacts have been separated and grouped into individual series for preservation purposes. Two additions to MSP 9 were added to the collection in 2023 and include Needlecraft the Magazine of Home Art, May 1930 and an annotated speech from Women's Aviation Program for WRNY radio station.
George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers
In Progress
Processed by: Sammie Morris, 2004; Revised by: Mary A. Sego, 2017; Sara Pettinger, 2023.
07/07/2004; Revised 05/05/2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. Collection description first completed in 2004.

Revision Statements

  • 2017-05-05: In May 2017 Mary Sego revised the finding aid and created a more detailed listing of items in order to aid researchers in knowing what is contained within the papers.
  • 2023-11-07: Needlecraft the Magazine of Home Art, May 1930 and Amelia Earhart annotated speech from Women's Aviation Program for WRNY radio station added to the collection and collection description updated by Sara Pettinger.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States