Preserving a Heritage of Courage

China Clipper_Post Stamp

The Inauguration of Trans-Pacific Air Mail Service album unbound for digital archiving and preservation.

“There can be no higher hope than that this heritage of courage, daring, initiative and enterprise will be conserved and intensified.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

These words, in a letter from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, were broadcast around the world on November 22, 1935 at the inauguration of Trans-Pacific air mail service from the United States to the Philippines.  The historic flight via Pan-American’s China Clipper was a milestone in aviation with lasting significance to the world.  As the first commercial flight route to link east to west, it blazed the trail for the development of Pacific routes for passenger flights —making the world a much smaller place.  Spanning 8,210 miles of the immense Pacific, it commanded months of survey flights, island development, the negotiation of landing rights, and the building of a new and large long-range aircraft capable of making the journey —Glen L. Martin Company’s M-130.

China Clipper_Loading Mail

A picture of progress. The final bag of mail being loaded from a horse-drawn coach onto the state-of-the-art Martin M-130 China Clipper.

We were so pleased to be a part of conserving this “heritage of courage” through the digital archiving and preservation of the album “Inauguration of Trans-Pacific Air Mail Service” and thought you might enjoy a peek at its contents with permission from our client.  The scrapbook album containing a full transcript of the ceremony, autographs of the heroic crew members, photographs, the exciting flight itinerary and more, had to first be unbound before each page and its cover could be digitized in accordance with FADGI Guidelines.


China Clipper_Crew

An autographed page of the album with photos of the heroic crew of the China Clipper.

The China Clipper was made up of a crackerjack crew of seven.  Captain Edwin Musick commanded the flight for Pan-Am along with veteran pilot and First Officer R.O.D. Sullivan.  Captain Musick, who served as Pan Am’s chief pilot, flew all proposed routes as well as test piloted new aircraft for the company —including the Martin M-130.   Navigation Officer for the China Clipper was Fred Noonan.  Though perhaps best remembered as the navigator who disappeared with Amelia Earhart on the last leg of her second around-the-world flight attempt, Noonan was an experienced maritime navigator and considered the leading aerial navigator of the day.

China Clipper_Log Record

The log of the China Clipper with photos of takeoff, landings and crew.  The log details each leg of the journey, which took less than a third of the time it took to reach the east by fast ship, as well as the mail transported.

The captures were done using a Hasselblad H4D digital camera back with macro lens. This was completed in RGB mode to produce a true record of the condition and color of the original objects.

We then delivered to our client a set of unaltered Master RGB TIFF 16-bit and Production TIFF RGB 8-bit image files at full resolution allowing unrestricted repurposing of the image files for any future use along with a PDF file assembled from the image files representing the album in its entirety.   In this case, we handled the preservation side of the project, partnering with The Better Image studio, who then received the album for further conservation treatment and rebinding.

China Clipper Poem

The China Clipper sails above the Pacific Ocean along with a moving poem of tribute to the vessel and hopes for its joining West and East in peace and friendship.

Just as the China Clipper spanned over 8,000 miles of ocean, digital archiving and preservation is a way to bridge the time and distance of history.  In addition to the services provided in preserving this important piece of aviation history, Chicago Albumen Works is also able to create full-size facsimiles of these types of albums. Further, we are able to select and crop individual photographs and produce surrogates at the original size or enlargements —all on archival media.  Please contact us for details on how we can help you preserve a piece of your important heritage.


About albumenworks

Founded in Chicago in 1976 by Doug Munson and Joel Snyder, CAW moved to the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts in 1982. The Chicago Albumen Works puts decades of experience to work for some of the finest collections from around the world. A combination of technical expertise and historical perspective, operating in a controlled, conservation environment, directs our solutions to the diverse challenges presented by photograph collections. At CAW, the synergy of technical understanding, a conservator’s approach, an artist’s eye and a historian’s perspective creates a unique, productive, and collegial environment.
This entry was posted in Archival Digitization, Book binding, Digital Imaging, Digital Printing, FADGI, Fine Art Reproduction, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Preserving a Heritage of Courage

  1. Erin Neiner says:

    Beautiful story. Impressive work.
    “From sea to shining sea.”

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