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Collection of Amelia Earhart related materials

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 188

Scope and Contents

The Collection of Amelia Earhart related materials consists of items collected by the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections over the years as a supplement to the George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers. There are numerous articles about Earhart, including information about her relationship with Purdue University and activities held in her honor. The collection also contains firsthand accounts of encounters with Earhart written by those who knew her while she was employed by Purdue or at other times during her career. Other material includes reports by TIGHAR: The International Group for the Historic Aircraft Recovery - The Earhart Project, compiled by Richard E. Gillespie, Executive Director. This information includes some findings on their search for the remains of Earhart, Fred Noonan and/or her Lockheed Electra.

Also among the material is genealogy information on the Earhart family. The Earhart genealogy was compiled by Charles Farrell Ehrhart and Linda Kaye Kirkpatrick. Contained in the binder is information on the "Ehrhard – Erhard – Ehrhardt – Earhart – Ehrhart Families, from Germany to America, Descendants of Hanss Michael Ehrhard/Ehrhardt." The audio visual material includes VHS tapes featuring Earhart; several produced by Purdue University Relations, as indicated on the tapes; "Amelia Earhart Program,"  "Dorothy Stratton Remembers Amelia Earhart," and "Amelia Earhart Collection Dedication Ceremony." Also included are cassettes from the 1982 Amelia Earhart Symposium, photographs of Earhart and other aviatrices (some signed) and Amelia Earhart negatives used in the 1997 publication, "Amelia Earhart World Flight 1937."

The collection is rounded out by various artifacts including, a piece of Amelia Earhart brand luggage and the accompanying brochure, several Earhart collectible dolls, and various first day cover stamps, including a binder containing a first day cover from Earhart's 1928 "Friendship Flight," signed by Earhart, Wilmer Stultz (co-pilot) and Lou Gordon (mechanic). Also included is various memorabilia, including programs from Purdue events, and a series of "Amelia Earhart: The Purdue Years," postcards, Purdue Research Foundation. The oversized material includes front-page newspaper articles from the late 1920s to early 1930s that feature Earhart and other aviatrices of that era. There are also some advertisements that feature Earhart.

Types of materials include: advertisements, artifacts, cassettes, clippings, correspondence, first day covers, genealogy, manuscripts, memorabilia, negatives, newsletters, papers, photographs, plaques, reports, and VHS tapes.


  • 1928 - 2010
  • Majority of material found within 1928 - 1990


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of this material are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

Amelia Mary Earhart (AE) 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, Amelia graduated from Chicago's Hyde Park High School in June 1915.

Amelia entered Ogontz School near Philadelphia in 1916. The following year, after visiting her sister Muriel in Toronto over Christmas, Amelia decided not to return to Ogontz School and graduate, but instead to remain and join the war effort in Toronto. In February 1918, Amelia 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. Amelia 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, Amelia 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 Amelia’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, Amelia 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 Amelia’s sister Muriel, in Medford, Massachusetts. After undergoing a sinus operation to relieve her chronic sinus headaches, Amelia returned to Columbia University for the winter of 1924-1925. In May 1925, Amelia returned to the Boston area and for a few weeks taught English to foreign students at a Harvard University summer extension program. 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, Amelia 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, Amelia received a call from Hilton H. Railey asking if she would like to be the first woman to cross the Atlantic by air. Amelia 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, Amelia 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, Amelia 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. Amelia 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). Amelia 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, Amelia 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 1935, Amelia 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, Amelia 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, Amelia 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, Amelia 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, Amelia 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.


5.694 Cubic Feet (Seven letter-size full-width manuscript boxes, one legal-size full-width manuscript box, one cubic foot box, and two flat boxes)


The collection is organized into six series. Most items are in chronological order within each series.
  1. Newsletters and Clippings
  2. Books, Publications, Manuscripts, and Correspondence
  3. Earhart Genealogy
  4. Audio Visual
  6. Artifacts

Physical Access Information

Some of the photocopies are older and have faded with time.

Technical Access Information

Audio cassettes and VHS tapes must be migrated to digital format before use. Contact Purdue University Archives and Special Collections if interested in using this material.

Acquisition Information

The sources and dates of acquisition of most of the material are unknown. Two photographs were donated by Dulcie A. Devitt on January 4, 2012, and one DVD was donated by Anne Fliotsos, December 1, 2013. One photo of George Palmer Putnam was purchased by Purdue Archives and Special Collections in 2013. Professor Dennis Short donated a sheet of stamps, date of donation is unknown. A plaque and corresponding clipping donated at an unknown date by an unknown donor. Two programs for the dedication of an Amelia Earhart Statue at Purdue University were donated in 2018 by an unknown donor. A Life magazine from 1937 was donated by Robert Gray in 2003. The National Geographic article, "My Flight from Hawaii," was donated by Sally Childs-Helton in 2014. Amelia Earhart Spring Fling pin was transferred by Pat D. Russell from Human Resources Services to Purdue Archives and Special Collections at an unknown date.

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in polyester sleeves, acid-free folders, and acid-free boxes. Most items are in chronological order within each series. All newsprint has been photocopied and, in most cases, original newspaper clippings have been discarded. Some of the photocopies were made many years ago and have faded with time. 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 photographs, newspapers, and other printed material in Series 1 have been separated and grouped into a flat box for preservation purposes. When originally processed, Box 10 was its own series. Further processing advisement recommended placement in Series 1. Addition 02, article, “My Flight from Hawaii,” Amelia Earhart Statue dedication program, and Amelia Earhart Spring Fling pin were added to the collection in November 2023.



Collection of Amelia Earhart related materials
Under Review
Mary A. Sego and Sara Pettinger
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 2017-01-12.

Revision Statements

  • 2019-08-14: Collection description updated to new standards by Mary A. Sego.
  • 2023-11-10: Addition 02, "My Flight from Hawaii" by Amelia Earhart, Amelia Earhart Statue dedication program, and Amelia Earhart Spring Fling pin added to the collection 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