Vintage Aviation Posters

 

 

Vintage Wings of Canada is proud to announce the acquisition of the Adolphe Cassandre Collection of vintage Second World War and Cold War propaganda, recruitment, and motion picture posters. After nearly a year of negotiations, the world-renowned collection was purchased in February of 2017. The collection, including 287 individual pieces (many that are the only known copies still in existence) is valued at nearly US$275,000. 

 

Recently, at Vintage Wings, we made some strategic decisions about our own aircraft collection in order to broaden its appeal and to attract a wider range of visitors of all ages and cultural backgrounds. We seek to engage people who may have only a passing interest in aircraft but who might be drawn to the historic and cultural worlds that surround these aircraft.

 

In the months ahead, Vintage Wings will seek to acquire more ancillary cultural artifacts that relate to the history that our aircraft played a major part in. This will enable us to express the depth and richness of this history without just focusing on aircraft. While we may all be “aerogeeks”, not everybody shares our passion. In order to be a more inclusive aviation enterprise, we need to spread our wings, so to speak, to embrace more than just airplanes. An aquarium is not just about fish, but the oceans in which these fish swim. In the same sense, we need to speak to the broader historical milieu in which airplanes were just a part.

 

At the turn of the millennium, a propaganda poster with the simple words “Keep Calm and Carry On” surfaced in Great Britain and became an overnight internet and commercial sensation. Its ability to express modern society’s psychological stresses and feelings of impending doom made this artifact of a bygone age something that today’s generation could relate to. With this in mind, we set out to find and acquire similar “objets de l’histoire” that could inspire a new generation.

 

In 2000, a single copy of the now-famous Keep Calm and Carry On “home publicity” poster was found in a box of used books at a bookstore in Northumberland, England. Of the 2,500,000 that were originally printed in 1939, it was thought to be the only copy in existence until a block of 15 more was found in 2012. The poster was one of a series of three that were meant to bolster national confidence during the expected air raids and possible invasion of England. While the other two less-memorable posters in the series were used, the Keep Calm posters were put into storage and then, following a decision to scrap them, were pulped and recycled to make new posters during the wartime paper shortage. The poster became one of the most successful memes of all time and the value of any original posters is extraordinarily high due to this popularity. While the Cassandre Collection of posters is almost entirely made up of unique and “last-remaining” posters, the true value will be determined in years to come. Images: Wikipedia

In order for Vintage Wings to acquire these prestigious and fascinating cultural artifacts, we will need to release certain aircraft for sale. While some “purists” will lament the loss of these aircraft, we know that the Cassandre acquisition will represent a new and positive stage in our development—one that includes everyone, even those who don’t care about what we do. Presently, the posters are in vault storage, but the Cassandre Foundation has sent us photographs of the entire collection, some of which we can share with you today. 

 

These prints range from classic government-issue propaganda posters to motion picture lobby cards to commercial product promotions from the period, each weaving a thread in the tapestry of what is the most tumultuous time in recent history. Here is a small selection of the 287 artifacts of the Cassandre Collection, which will be on display this summer in the hangar—once we sell off aircraft to make room.

 

The posters of the Cassandre Foundation Collection come from a period in Western culture when attitudes toward race, women and life in general were far different from the accepted values of today (at least those of Canada). They reveal many things about the time and are not necessarily representative of the values held by Vintage Wings of Canada, its staff and volunteers.

 

By Evad Yellamo

 

As the European war was winding down in March of 1945, the National Rifle Association was beginning to see that three years of training and combat had created a massive new demographic of young testosterone-fired, city-dwelling men with easy access to guns (much like it is today). While many soldiers, airmen and sailors were from small towns where hunting was the norm for young boys, the majority were from cities where opportunities to shoot guns were limited to armed robberies and such. Not wanting to squander this massive windfall for their membership plans, the NRA created, in cooperation with the Treasury Department, a series of posters (one for each service) designed to let these men know they didn’t have to give up “shooting stuff” when they returned to city life. This example is the only known remaining US Navy poster other than the single complete set now on display at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. The value to collectors of guns and gun paraphernalia puts this poster, in its excellent condition, at more than US$800. Photo: the author

While the Navy and Army Air Force in America were attracting young men with fancy uniforms, aircraft, fighting ships and the promise of seeing the world, the Army itself found recruitment slackening as the war ground on in Europe and the Pacific. They resorted to some pretty creative ideas to attract young men including the 1944 Yodel-ay-ee-ooo Campaign of the Tenth Mountain Division. The emergence of singing and yodelling stars like Gene Autry and Riley Puckett of “Sauerkraut” fame had created a sort of craze in America’s southwest, with young men impressing the gals with their yodelling prowess. Many were having difficulty mastering the singing style and were embarrassing themselves. The Tenth Mountain Division, which until just recently had been the 10th Light Division (Alpine), capitalized on this desire to improve yodelling skills. The unit needed more recruits as they ground their way north through the Apennines towards Austria and the Southern Alps. Spending much of their combat time in the high alpine regions, yodelling became second nature to these hardy men who fought under the motto “Climb to Glory”. With Gene Autry himself as their singing spokesman, the 10th promised improved yodelling chops to any who would join. The campaign was a huge success in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, where yodelling was huge, but mountains were not. Photo: the author

While the Irish Republic was neutral during the Second World War, a period referred to as “The Emergency”, Northern Irish companies like St. Donard Old Irish Whiskey of Castlewellen, County Down took full advantage of the war footing to sell their whiskey for its calming medicinal qualities. Popularity of Irish coffee has never waned since it was first introduced in 1941.  These posters were all over London in 1941–42, though few can be found today. Photo: the author

From liquid courage to courage in a pill form. Original German propaganda posters in good condition are rare—largely because much of Nazi influence and culture was scrubbed from existence after the total defeat of the Reich. There are few collectors who buy them though, as no one wants to be thought of as a Nazi sympathizer. That being said, there is a single German advertising poster in the Cassandre collection—for the “designer-drug” known as Pervitin (methamphetamine) which was created by German pharmaceutical scientists and liberally and continuously distributed to frontline soldiers and airmen as well as German High Command to keep them jacked up, stimulated and feeling good about their coming demise. This poster reminds Luftwaffe airmen to keep a full bottle of Pervitin with them at all times—as it “Makes Death Seem Better than Life”. It portrays a pilot clearly freaked out when he finds his Pervitin bottle empty. Known as “Pilot’s Salt”, Pervitin helped Luftwaffe night fighter pilots keep awake, but made them agitated and overly aggressive on the ground. Designed by famous German graphic designer Walter Heisenberg, this poster is thought to be one of a kind. Photo: the author

Propagandists in Great Britain were not above working with local businesses to deliver both a civic message and a commercial one at the same time. Posters like “Big Sale” are particularly rare in that it was used only before a particular date for a sale at Harrods and only in the immediate areas of Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Mayfair, Kensington and Westminster. Known as “Prodding the Posh”, these campaigns had little effect on whether high society was more careful about talking in public, but Harrods department store and others that used the campaign idea reported increased sales. Photo: the author

The now-infamous “No Vichy For Me” poster is a classic example of corporate greed disguised as patriotism. After the fall of France in 1940 and the division of the country into its occupied and so-called “free” zones, distaste for Marshal Philippe Pétain and the puppet French government ensconced in the town of Vichy was like acid in the mouths of true Free Frenchmen like Charles de Gaulle and members of the French résistance inside France. De Gaulle worked with propagandists to come up with a number of posters to discredit the Vichyists, and even the word Vichy itself. Some of the world’s most popular mineral water was from Vichy, and de Gaulle urged the French people and the people of England to refrain from drinking any of the brands from that region. It wasn’t until after the war that it was discovered that the campaign was paid for by Perrier, a British-owned competitor selling waters from Les Bouillens in Vergèze in the South of France (ironically… in Vichy). Photo: the author

After countless attempts to dissuade the general population that careless talk was being monitored by German spies who were mining tidbits of information that, when assembled, could paint a clear picture of a convoy’s departure, a regiment’s deployment, VD epidemics or a new type of radar. We are all familiar with the old classics like “Loose Lips Sink Ships”, but, by 1944, the British Army was pushing for tougher public awareness campaigns as the soft approach was just not working. The “What are you? Stupid” poster campaign was extremely controversial as one would imagine. They were not used in public places as were the more traditional posters, but appeared in 1944 in British, Canadian and American barracks, air bases, ships and encampments across England—reinforcing the call for secrecy about the buildup prior to the Normandy invasions. Very rare, and because of the harsh and somewhat humorous wording, very collectible. Photo: the author

From the very beginning of the war, industrial and military planners understood that, in order to put more men on the front lines, they would have to rely heavily on women for just about everything that happened behind those lines—from riveting in shipyards to administration to ferrying aircraft. Throughout the war, they pushed women to step up and do “men’s work” so that men could fight. Rightly so, women began to believe they were considered equal to men, even if their pay packets did not offer up proof for that assumption. Sadly, one thing America did not want was a generation of uppity women taking over men’s jobs… even for half the pay. The recruitment campaign that began in 1942 with a grease-smeared Rosie the Riveter rolling up her sleeves ended in disillusionment for hundreds of thousands of women when the “Make Dinner for Your fightin’ Man” campaign put them back in the kitchen, making open-faced beef sandwiches with canned peas for their “Fightin’ Man” come home to be the Workin’ Man he always was. Things were looking up for women’s equality during the war years, only to be set back to square one when the radioactive dust settled at Nagasaki. Women decried the campaign, with Eleanor Roosevelt putting an exclamation point on their anger when she famously said: “Don’t they realize it’s 1945?” Things don’t look that much better in 2017. Photo: the author

It’s all about the marketing. When Boeing first introduced the B-17 long-range heavy bomber in the late 1930s, it had no naming convention. While Lockheed always knew that their next aircraft would have a celestial moniker (Constellation, Lightning, Loadstar, Vega, etc.), Boeing had no such titular lineage. Knowing that the thousands of employees at Boeing’s Seattle plant had contributed so much to what was about to become the company’s greatest success (until the 707), management decided to leave it up to the assembly line to pick a great name for what previously had been known as the Model 299 or B-17. This turned out to be a mistake that they regretted for months, as the entries were somewhat short of inspirational. Employees, not used to be asked their opinions on anything, did not respond for fear of losing their jobs. Only twelve entries were received, and as it later turned out, they were all from the same guy. The selection included the Seventeener; the Bomb Machine; the Renton; the Sea-Tacker; the Bombastion, the Sky Whale, the Heavy Hitter, the Tondalayo (apparently the nickname he had for his wife) and the Load Dropper. Knowing they would have a morale problem if they cancelled the contest, they went with Load Dropper. Posters were printed up and plastered throughout the plant, but the reaction was less than favourable. When the posters began disappearing from assembly line locations and re-taped to the men’s washroom toilet stall doors, Boeing had had enough. The posters were removed, save for a few that went home with employees. Few remain today, and this example was acquired by the Cassandre Foundation in 1992 from an antique store in Walla Walla… still attached to an outhouse door. In the end, Boeing went with the words of a Seattle Times reporter by the name of Dick Williams who exclaimed at the B-17’s rollout: “Why, it’s a flying fortress!” And the rest, as they say, is history. Photo: the author

Today, it is not widely known that, when Oscar Hammerstein wrote the words to the now iconic “Sound of Music”, he was plagiarizing the message from the famous British “The Mills are Alive” Industrial propaganda poster which encouraged English women to seek employment and training for war work. At the time of the opening of the original Broadway play in 1959 however, some people remembered the posters from the war and whispered behind his back. The old propaganda poster would later inspire the iconic image we have all come to associate with Maria von Trapp and this classic musical tale. Photo: the author

The Second World War officially began on 1 September 1939, when Nazi armoured divisions and aircraft attacked across the Polish border. While the rest of the world thought about how they should and would act, Poland’s air force and army fought a near suicidal and courageous series of losing battles against the might of the world’s most militarized country. The contribution of Poles in the RAF and in particular during the Battle of Britain is legendary. The romantic, daring and tragic Poles were the darlings of London society for the early years of the war, but victory brought about a new reality—one that had to account for the Soviet-backed and communist-ridden “Provisional Government of National Unity” in Poland. Perhaps the gravest symbolic injustice handed down to the Poles was their exclusion from the miles-long postwar Victory Parade in London, which took place a year after the war ended. The parade included fighting men and women from all of Britain’s allies including such loyal stalwarts as Nepal, Brazil, Trans-Jordan and Mexico, yet the Poles were deliberately not invited. While 25 Polish pilots were invited by the RAF to march with them, the Soviets used these men as an excuse not to participate. Though the Poles were not in attendance in the numbers their wartime contribution warranted, Londoners and international parade spectators could not help but notice the hundreds of “First to Fight, First to be Forgotten” posters plastered along the parade route. Photo: the Author

When the largest wave of production propaganda posters first hit the factories and ship yards of America, it wasn’t long after the Great Depression when any American would have been grateful for any sort of employment. Industrial giants like Ford, Boeing, and Seattle–Tacoma Shipbuilding were hiring new workers, skilled or not, by the hundreds of thousands, but they weren’t about to listen to the complaints of workers about safety, equality or compensation. Posters like “Any Questions?” from the Labor–Management Coordinating Committee played on factory workers fears of unemployment, especially those of women who were just beginning to enter the work force en masse. The poster, with its smiling manager, was purposely ambivalent and malevolent. Photo: the author

An army on the move in the terrible winter conditions found in the Ardennes Forest in 1945 was an army beset by hemorrhoidal piles and the odd sergeant’s boot to the arse. The US Army, following their plan to put medical specialists in the field where they were needed, began recruiting doctors and medical students of all sorts for front line duty. The 32nd Urological Regiment of the US First Army (the Big Red One) fielded a full company of Combat Proctologists, trained in combat arms and digital examination—not all of whom were actual doctors. The company commander, Captain Mort Keester of Des Moines, Iowa once famously said: “Combat proctology is not for the faint of heart. Some guys would rather take on a machine gun nest than do what we do” This poster is valued at US$1,550 as it is the only known copy of a very limited run poster used only in stateside hospitals and medical schools. Very rare. Photo: the author

In the 1960s and 70s, there was Dean Martin as Matt Helm, the charming, slightly boozy and always wisecracking playboy secret agent. The Matt Helm series was not a new concept, but rather a spy takeoff of the earlier Pepe LaDouche series of films—Stick Man, Through the Detentes, Yippee-Ki-Air Force, SAC-time and Cockpit Cowpoke. LaDouche made a name for himself as the enigmatic, always smiling, slightly drunk test pilot known as Whitey Cockshutt who left behind the smoking wrecks of girls’ hearts from Edwards to Pawtuxet River. His aerial hijinks and flashing smile always got Cockshutt in trouble with the “brass and the ass” as he was fond of saying, but his farm boy aphorisms and Moose Javian drawl always seemed to redeem him. Cockpit Cowpoke is one of the funnier of the series, where he meets his nemesis, Sally Cardinal, the trick-riding, six-gun shooting beauty queen played by Cerise Palomino. Born Elvin Gunbutz in Saskatchewan, Canada, LaDouche is legendary for his Cockshutt persona, but in real life he was much the same as his character—rowdy, randy, and rambunctious. He died in 2010 at age 79 of a sildenafil-induced myocardial infarction. The poster is the only one in the Cassandre collection that is autographed—by no less than LaDouche himself. Photo: the author

A close-up of Pepe LaDouche’s signature on the Cockpit Cowpoke poster. LaDouche rarely gave out autographs due to a condition known as rodeo dystonia. The signature more than doubles the value of the poster. Photo: the author

In the 1950s, Hollywood motion pictures of the Second World War were all of the heroic, Audie Murphy variety, playing on America’s and the Western world’s image of themselves as winners, saints and heroes. By 1961, when 666 Zombie Squadron had its premier in New York, war films were taking on a darker personality, due in large part to America’s obsession with and utter fear of the impending nuclear apocalypse. Atomic mutant, horror and post-apocalyptic themes crept their way into films in every category. 666 Zombie Squadron was about a Staffel of undead Nazi pilots who are freed from their graves near an abandoned Luftwaffe base in Belgium after an Allied engineering unit, lengthening the runway, plowed their graves to make room. The partially decomposed and now angry undead Nazi pilots head to the airfield’s boneyard, climb into seemingly un-flyable wrecks of Bf 109s and Fw 190s and take to the skies. The unstoppable force of zombie pilots, known as Luftflotte Z, apparently needs no fuel (and in some hilarious cases, no propellers) and the aircraft stay aloft throughout the movie until the final dramatic confrontation between the last two zombies, known as Hauptmann Zeejäger (played by Erwin Luger) and his wingman Leutnant Rath (Hans Kanonen) and the American Mustang pilot Lieutenant Norman Reedus. It isn’t until three quarters of the way through the film that American pilots realize that no amount of damage sustained by the German aircraft will bring them down; that they need to shoot the pilots in the head to stop them. The film is a joke by today’s zombie film standards, but despite corny makeup, lamentable use of cheesy aircraft models and the fact that it was in black and white, the film was a box office hit. This poster is one of the most desirable for collectors of zombie, horror and aviation memorabilia. Photo: the author

During the Second World War, popular acts like the comedic duo of Abbott and Costello were grinding out new feature films every month. The quality was dubious and the production values low, but with the co-operation of the United States Navy, Task Farce Jokinawa made these two comedians the darlings of the South Pacific. Once the film was premiered in late March 1945 in San Diego on the hangar deck of USS Bon Homme Richard, the “Bonnie Dick” sailed for the South Pacific war with Abbott and Costello aboard. The ship stopped at Pearl Harbor, Kwajalein in the Marshalls, Truk in the Carolines, and Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands, with viewings of Task Force Jokinawa on board and live stand-up with Abbott and Costello performing their legendary “Who’s on first” routine for troops and a company of real hula dancers who had joined the ship at Pearl. Posters for the movie were handed out to anyone who wanted them, making these fairly rare since few made it home stateside and the film was never shown in American theatres. While it was a box office flop, it was a huge boost for the morale of lonely sailors, marines and soldiers in the South Pacific. Photo: the author

Following the release and extreme popularity of the now-classic drama God is my Co-Pilot, starring Dennis Morgan of Captains of the Clouds fame, Hollywood’s “Comic Genius of Plagiarism” Stan Goldbond confected the lightweight Gord is my Copilot which opened to lukewarm reviews, except for the child star, “Little Gordie Walker”, who played the part of protagonist pilot Gordon Simmons as a child. The story is about Gord, as well-meaning Forrest Gump of the Golden Age of Flying, played with some suavity by the enigmatic Wally Athlone and revolves around several not very well woven story lines about childhood dreams, espionage, Nazi arrogance and beautiful women. Simmons stumbles from one ridiculous and impossible scenario to the next, but always flies his way out of danger and always with a beautiful dame on his arm. His hot tandem scenes with the luscious Cyd Carmelle had to be cut from the original edit in order to satisfy the censors. A poster of great interest to collectors of the obscure films of the 1940s. Photo: the author

The movie-going public has always been captivated by films of derring-do and commando raids deep into the heart of enemy territory such as The Dam Busters, Guns of Navarone and 30 Seconds Over Tokyo. Combine that sort of story line with the classic “what if” scenario and you get 30 Seconds over Toronto, a plagiaristic war film about Canadians siding with the Axis Powers after a fascist takeover of Parliament by German-Canadian Ernst Zündel and his “Hard Hats”. Jimmy Doolittle (played almost comically by Pratt Whitney) is recalled from the 8th Air Force in England to reprise his Tokyo Raid, after Canadian Fairey Battles attack the American training carriers USS Wolverine and Sable in Lake Michigan, just six miles off the coast of Chicago. In order to put the “dirty Canucks” in their place straight away, Doolittle gathers his remaining “Raiders” from across the Army Air Force, and begins training them for another attack. While the film is hardly believable, the scenes with Doolittle and his men studying maps to learn where this “Canada” is are hilarious, and the sight of 500 lb bombs falling on Toronto City Hall is strangely gratifying. The film was a big hit in Canada, where people were just happy to see the country mentioned in a Hollywood production. Photo: the author

Growing up in Ottawa, I recall the Triple Bill restricted movies on Saturday afternoons at the Rialto Theatre—a weekly event I was far too young to enjoy other than the lurid lobby cards and one-sheets. Titillating titles abounded—House of a Hundred Girls, Penal Queen, Cycle Nymphs of Reno, Captured by Amazons and Wife for a Night. When a rare copy of a “one-sheet” lobby poster for The Crap Dusters, Unchocked came up for sale in Nevada, the Cassandre Foundation bid successfully for it on line in 2005. While The Crap Dusters, Unchocked was a, well… crap feature film, it has become somewhat of a cult classic, combining lurid sexual innuendo, Stag magazine-style storyline and dramatic flying/dusting sequences. Filmed in Texas in 1954 with Second World War forward air controllers doing all the low-level work, the film was banned in every state except Nevada. The National Agricultural Aviation Association spearheaded the campaign to get it removed from theatres, not because of the white slavery storyline and titillating sexuality in the film (tame by today’s standards), but because the flying in the film made crop-dusting seem connected with criminality and evil. There wasn’t an aerial application pilot in America who didn’t love it though. It was shown in theatres in Canada, billed as a sort of documentary on the dangers of tobacco and heavy petting. It did appear at the Rialto in Ottawa along with The 1,000 Panty Raid and Geisha Girl Riots. There are no known copies of the film in existence, and few copies of the lobby posters. Photo: the author

Released in 1950, following the worldwide acclaim for the gritty 8th Air Force drama Twelve O’Clock High, Samuel Beerstein’s Twelve O’Clock High School follows the senior year of three high school students—Slacker, Bonehead and Gooch— who are trying to get laid before joining the air force in the Second World War, telling girls that they are probably going to die, and that it would perhaps give them hope if the girls would put out… maybe even save their lives and if they did come home, they would marry them, honest. All the flying is done as flash-forwards as the boys, now sporting Errol Flynn mustaches, fly through heavy flak in their B-17s named Miss Manookie, Iza Vailable and Sheeza Goer. The flying sequences are much more satisfying than the love scenes, and the final act at the Class of 44’s 20-year reunion is rather poignant. Photo: the author

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