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Amelia Earhart at Purdue papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 450

Scope and Contents

The Amelia Earhart at Purdue papers document Amelia Earhart's arrival at Purdue University, her time there, and the efforts to memorialize Earhart after her disappearance. Types of materials include correspondence, ephemera, administrative reports, photographs, publicity materials, and speeches.


  • 1935 - 2000
  • Majority of material found within 1935 - 1937


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

This collection has been digitized for use. Use of originals is restricted for security and preservation purposes unless express permission by the University Archivist is given. A link to the digitized materials is included below.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by Purdue University.

Historical Information

On September 26 - 27, 1934, Purdue President Edward C. Elliott heard Amelia Earhart speak at a luncheon in New York on women's careers and he was so impressed with her talk that he asked if she would visit Purdue and give a lecture for the women students. Earhart spoke at a banquet at Purdue on October 17, 1934, and discussed "Activities for Women after College." After several talks with President Elliott, a contract was negotiated in 1935, stating that Amelia Earhart would be employed by Purdue as a visiting faculty member. From the autumn of 1935, until her disappearance in July 1937, Earhart served as Consultant in the Department for the Study of Careers for Women and Technical Advisor in the Department of Aeronautics for Purdue.

Earhart was attracted to Purdue because at the time it was the only university in the United States with its own fully equipped airport. She was also impressed that practical mechanical and engineering training was available without discouragement to the women students on campus. At Purdue, Amelia lectured, conducted conferences with Purdue faculty and students, and initiated studies on new career opportunities for women. Perhaps most importantly, she served as an example of a successful modern woman for the female students.

While working at Purdue, Amelia stayed in South Hall (now called Duhme Hall) on campus. South Hall students vied with each other to sit at Amelia's table during meals. Buttermilk became an overnight favorite beverage on campus because it was Amelia's choice.

Amelia's husband, GeorgePalmer Putnam, first planted the idea of a "flying laboratory" airplane for research into President Elliott's mind. In the autumn of 1935, at a dinner party at Elliott's home, Amelia outlined her dreams for women and aviation and spoke of her desire to conduct studies on how long-distance flying affected pilots. Before the evening was over, guest David Ross offered to donate $50,000 as a gift toward the cost of providing a machine suitable for the flying laboratory. Further donations totaling $30,000 in cash and equipment were received from J. K. Lilly, Vincent Bendix, and manufacturers Western Electric, Goodrich, and Goodyear. The $80,000 formed the basis of "The Amelia Earhart Fund for Aeronautical Research." The fund's primary objective was to enable the development of scientific and engineering data of vital importance to the aviation industry. The Earhart Fund financed Amelia's "flying laboratory," providing funds for a new Lockheed Electra airplane specially outfitted for long-distance flights. It was in this plane that Amelia disappeared during her world flight attempt in 1937.

In 1940, George Palmer Putnam donated Amelia Earhart's papers, photographs, medals, flight jacket, and other belongings to Purdue University. In 2002, Putnam's granddaughter, Sally Putnam Chapman, donated an additional group of Earhart personal papers to Purdue. These include personal letters, poems, and Amelia's famous pre-marital agreement. Purdue University Archives and Special Collections owns the largest, most comprehensive collection of materials in the world relating to Amelia Earhart.


1.09 Cubic Feet (Three letter-size full-width manuscript boxes)


The collection is organized into three series.
  1. Correspondence
  2. Miscellaneous papers
  3. Photographs

Related Materials

MSP 9, George Palmer Putnam collection of Amelia Earhart papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

MSP 188, Collection of Amelia Earhart related materials, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

UA 50, Edward C. Elliott papers, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

MSP 79, Zelda Gould collection of Amy Otis Earhart correspondence and photographs, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes. Photographic materials have been housed in archival polyester sleeves. Subsequent additions from various donors are incorporated into the collection in an ongoing basis.
Amelia Earhart at Purdue papers
Under Review
Emma C. Meyer and Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Fourth edition. Collection description first completed 2010. Revised 2010-11-03, 2015-03-31, and 2019-08-20.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 W. State Street
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States