National Air Lines/United Air Lines mechanic roll-up tool set late 1920s metal, fabric, paper Collection of United Airlines Archives L2017.1502.036
In the pioneering early days, mechanics often flew in the right seat of the cockpit and could perform co-pilot duties if needed. A basic tool kit, usually in a canvas roll-up for lightweight portability, was always onboard. A good supply of extra spark plugs was packed for frequent refueling stops, when a quick tune up could ensure that all cylinders were firing.
United Air Lines Ford Tri-Motor passenger seat c. 1928 Attributed to Heywood-Wakefield Company, Gardner, Massachusetts plant fiber, wood, metal, cotton Collection of United Airlines Archives L2017.1502.024
In the late 1920s, airline passenger seats needed to be light, yet strong, durable, and sufficiently comfortable to sit in for long hours. This United Air Lines wicker seat was installed in a Ford Tri-Motor with a single seat on each side of the aisle. It has a metal tubing frame and was mounted to the cabin floor with fittings at the feet. Wicker attached to the frame forms the back, seat, and armrests. The strength, lightness, and flexibility of wicker, a woven plant fiber, made it a natural choice for early aviation, including the basketry for hot air balloons.
United Air Lines Douglas DC-3 DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport)breakfast service late 1930s photograph SFO Museum Gift of United Airlines Archives 1999.047.193 R2017.1501.625
United Air Lines Embossed and Mainliner pattern meal service set late 1930s–early 1940s ceramic, melamine plastic, metal, cotton SFO Museum Fork, knife: Gift of Edith Lauterbach Bread plate: Gift of Barbara Corff Desert cup, napkin, spoon, and salt and pepper shakers: Gift of Thomas G. Dragges Desert bowl and plate: Collection of United Airlines Archives 1999.061.096, 2000.079.001 2000.095.001, 2000.098.005, 2001.015.029, 2001.151.241, 2002.107.001, 2006.028.095, .096, 2017.040.001, L2017.1501.039–.041, .043 a b, .044–.048, .375, L2017.1502.016, .017,
United Air Lines introduced hot meal service on Douglas DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport) and DC-3 flights in the late 1930s. The DC-3 was one of the first airliners to be equipped with a galley. Meals on short, daytime flights were served with paper or plastic cups and plates to reduce weight. Lightweight plastic cups, saucers, and plates were produced by Hemco Plastics and Plastics, Inc., while paper cups were made of sturdy “Nestrite” by the Lily-Tulip Cup Company of New York. Ceramic wares were specifically designed to be light, yet sturdy, for inflight use. Plates were produced by the Shenango China Company of New Castle, Pennsylvania, while casserole dishes were manufactured by Hall China of East Liverpool, Ohio. Silver-plated flatware was offered with most types of meal service. One set featured the same “Embossed” art deco pattern incorporated on the airline’s blue plastic dishes.
Flight dispatch clock c. 1940 metal, plastic Collection of United Airlines Archives L2017.1502.035
A pioneer in avionics, United was the first transportation company to install a two-way, coast-to-coast teletype service. Set up in 1938, it linked stations all along the Main Line from New York to San Francisco. A radio relay system was also used to track airplane movement. As an airplane passed radio receivers located along each route segment, a signal was automatically transmitted to the ground station’s flight dispatch clock. The dispatcher would then move a pin with the corresponding flight number one position closer to the center of the clock board to plot the flight’s progress.
United Air Lines ticket jacket 1940s paper, ink SFO Museum Gift of Captain Jon Simmonds 2014.156.038 R2017.1501.592
Pilot uniform insignia, hat badge 1942–1957 metal, metallic thread, enamel, fabric Collection of United Airlines Archives L2017.1502.025.03
United Air Lines Douglas DC-6 Mainliner brochure, detail c. 1947 paper, ink SFO Museum Gift of Thomas G. Dragges 2015.165.901 R2017.1501.400.01
United Air Lines 100,000 Mile Club member plaque 1965 wood, metal SFO Museum Gift of John M. Burnard 2004.093.004 L2017.1501.188
United Air Lines introduced the company’s first passenger recognition program in 1939. The 100,000 Mile Club campaign was conducted by United’s public contact personnel and awarded personalized plaques, with stars indicating additional 100K miles flown, to the airline’s frequent fliers. Membership reached the thousands by the 1950s.
United Air Lines Douglas DC-8 model aircraft c. 1960
Douglas Aircraft Company
Gift of United Airlines Archives
1999.047.008 a b
L2017.1501.026 a b
In the early 1960s, United Air Lines brought new jet airliners into service providing unprecedented speed, comfort, and efficiency. With the Douglas DC-8 and the Boeing 720, coast-to-coast travel time was less than six hours. The interiors of the new jets were far more spacious and quiet than any of the propeller-driven airliners. With more interior space, greater attention was paid to inflight amenities such as elaborate, multi-course meal service, inflight movies, and individualized air conditioning controls.
United Air Lines Douglas DC-8 flight bag and miniature flight bag 1960s
Airline Textile Manufacturing Company, Des Moines, Iowa
vinyl, plastic, metal, cardboard
Gifts of Thomas G. Dragges
Foreseeing a great potential market by the mid-1950s, the Airline Textile Manufacturing Company of Des Moines, Iowa, (also known as Airtex) began to produce licensed, United-branded bags in large numbers. These bags were sold through mail-order catalogs, at airport stores, and handed out to customers at travel and tourist agencies. By the late 1950s, United featured service promotions on their bags along with the airline’s newly-introduced Douglas DC-8 Jet Mainliner. Miniature children’s versions of the flight bags filled with candy were also available at airport gift shops.
United Airlines flight attendants and passengers on a Boeing 747 c. 1975
Gift of United Airlines Archives