Amelia Earhart and Electra buzz Manhattan

This unique black-and-white drawing appeared in the February 1999 edition of the Amelia Earhart Society Newsletters, and raises more questions than it answers.  First of all, I find no reference to the idea that Earhart ever flew her Electra down Fifth Avenue at such an absurd, dangerously low altitude, or any other altitude, for that matter.

Next, AES founder, president and newsletters editor Bill Prymak gives us no hint where he found this drawing, or who the artist was.  It appeared at some date after Feb. 11, 1937, when Amelia announced her intention to complete a world flight at New York City, Barclay Hotel, and before her near-disastrous March 20, 1937 aborted takeoff at the Navy’s Luke Field on Hawaii’s Ford Island, based on the inset paragraph, which is small and very hard to read.  Its author, one Mrs. Gladys Boulanger, is also something of a mystery,  Here’s what she wrote:

That publicity hound bastard George Putnam. the husband, put Amelia up to buzzing around Fifth Avenue at the noon hour as promotion for her upcoming round-the-world flight.  Amelia was no natural flier, you know.  Did it all on willpower and guts.  Anyhow, she plowed down Fifth Avenue one day in early fall, just after we put the ermine stoles on the new mannequins with the marcelled hair.  Flew that big Lockheed like a matron aiming a Packard through a garage door.  Just south of 42nd Street, she dropped a wing.  Damn near decapitated Fortitude, one of the lions at the New York Public Library!

— Gladys Boulanger (Mrs.)
Better Turbans, Saks on Fifth

Mrs. Boulanger, who clearly doesn’t like George P. Putnam, seems to provide a hint about her occupation when she follows her name with “Better Turbans, Saks on Fifth,” apparently a reference to the famed department store and a specialty section therein, which even now sells a wide array of turbans and where she may have worked  Other than this, the provenance of this artwork is a mystery to me, as is Mrs. Boulanger.

Bill Prymak likely wrote the interrogatory underneath the sketch, “Didn’t George Push Her Flying a Lil’ Bit??”  We don’t know this for sure, but Bill was known to sometimes follow emphatic questions with two question marks, and of course he was the editor. 

If anyone can shed further light on this most unusual and interesting artistic flashback, please let us know. 

4 responses

  1. Mike, what a fascinating piece of mystery. It reads as if it it truly happened, but it was never reported elsewhere and is so far afield and fantastic that it is impossible to imagine its veracity. I just cannot imagine AE pulling such a dangerous stunt, even at the behest of her husband. If that had really happened, surely it would be reported everywhere. It reads like something a department store clerk would dream up on her lunch hour as publicity for her department, albeit probably posted under a pseudonym. Amazing. I think someone was having a bit of fun, trying to see how outlandish she could be and still get published. Today’s social media would follow it with SMH…Shaking My Head. It is interesting, however.

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  2. Greetings to All:

    If AE had actually committed such a reckless, irresponsible stunt for real, the Bureau of Air Commerce (forerunner to today’s FAA) would have yanked her “ticket” in a New York minute and everyone would have had a cow! There would have been no round-the-world flight. Where did this originally come from, “The New Yorker?”

    All best,

    William

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  3. Greetings to All:

    Shortly after commenting this morning I went to “The New Yorker” magazine online and did a search for “Amelia Earhart flies down Fifth Avenue” with no results. However, I’d bet money that “The New Yorker” is exactly where this originated. Typical of that publication’s idea of sophisticated, high brow humor. Pretty daring and edgy to call GP a “bastard” in print in 1937 — especially when Clark Gable’s, “Frankly, I don’t give a damn” comment in Gone With the Wind raised so many eyebrows just two years later. Mild, even polite by today’s standards (or lack thereof).

    All best,

    William

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  4. If true, it does sound like a very dangerous manuver in an Electra. Be surprised if it really happened. It would have gotten a lot of attention in NYC if people were out to see it.

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