National Air and Space Museum Archives

Louise McPhetridge Thaden Collection, 1925-1949


Collection ID:
Thaden, Louise (McPhetridge), 1905-1979
Physical Description:
2.18 Cubic feet
2 records center boxes
2.08 Linear feet
This collection consists of photographs, news clippings, and correspondence documenting Thaden's aviation career.

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
The Louise McPhetridge Thaden Collection contains numerous newspaper and journal articles, personal letters and business correspondence, writings, photographs, and scrapbooks, all relating to her aviation career.
The National Air and Space Museum (NASM), Archives Division also holds additional materials about Louise Thaden. Biographical information can be found in the biographical fiche collection at the NASM Archives/Garber Facility. In the NASM Archives downtown facility, we recommend the Biographical Files which contain additional newspaper and journal articles, letters, memorabilia, and photographs. Please note that these files also contain microfiche.
For additional photographs please see the NASM videodisc files located at the NASM Archives Udvar-Hazy facility. The images can be seen on NASM videodisc 7B-6445 --6491 (Accession # 1989- 0132). Also check NASM videodisc 2B-46705 --46805. In most cases, there are original videodisc prints available in the NASM Archives facility downtown and copy negatives at the Smithsonian Institution, Office of Printing and Photographic Services (OPPS). Please consult a staff member for more details and about ordering procedures


This collection had little original arrangement, and accordingly, has been divided into six general series according to material types.
Series 1: GENERAL. This series contains mostly journal and newspaper articles, but also includes telegrams, letters, applications, invitations, examples of commercial endorsements, membership certificates, and original race information and itineraries. It is arranged in chronological order. Significant events are highlighted. In some cases, newspaper clippings with handwritten messages have been kept for their inherent value.
Series 2: WRITINGS. This series contains samples of her various writings. It is arranged in chronological order.
Series 3: PHOTOGRAPHS. This series contains photographs. The subject matter ranges from childhood activities to award ceremonies. It is divided by two large subject groupings: first—people (arranged by general categories), second—events (arranged by date). All paperwork directly related to a particular photograph has been kept with that photograph. Please note that Smithsonian Institution negative numbers are written on the back of each photograph when applicable. Sub-topics listed in the finding aid are meant to highlight particular topics in each folder and are not intended to indicate exclusive content. Please review each folder thoroughly.
Series 4: SCRAPBOOKS. This series contains seven scrapbooks of various sizes and content and two Civil Air Patrol award certificates. The inclusive dates are listed next to the individual scrapbook. The content of the scrapbooks date mostly from 1919-1940 and contain photographs, newspaper articles, membership certificates, licenses, contestant ribbons, invitations, business cards, and cartoons about Thaden. Handling notes are listed next to individual scrapbooks in the finding aid. Please follow these notes so that the physical integrity of the object can be preserved.
Series 5: THADEN AIRCRAFT CO. AND RELATED MATERIAL. This series contains information about Thaden Aircraft Company and Herbert von Thaden. Items in this series include: newspaper and journal article, resumes, letters, photographs, and information about the All-Metal aircraft created by Herbert Thaden. This series is the only portion of the collection with any obvious arrangement and was separated into its own series for this reason.
Series 6: MISCELLANEOUS. This series contains all of the materials that do not appear to fit easily into any of the above series. The items here include undated or general journal and newspaper articles, newspapers from University of Arkansas, maps, Who's Who application, musical score, souvenir stamps, travel souvenirs, and resumes.

Biographical/Historical note

Biographical/Historical note
Louise McPhetridge Thaden (1905-1979) was one of the United States foremost female aviators during the late 1920s and 1930s. She received instruction in 1927, soloing and receiving her pilot's license in 1928. In December 1928, Thaden achieved a new altitude record of 20,260 ft. In March 1929, she made a new solo duration record, 22+ hours. A month later she set a new speed record of 156 mph. Thaden was the only woman to hold all three records simultaneously. In August 1929, Thaden won the First Women's National Air Derby, commonly called the Powder Puff Derby. Three years later (August 1932), she, along with Francis Marsalis, set the new refueling duration record of 196 hours. In July 1936, Thaden set the new light plane speed record at 109.58 mph. In the same year, she also won the National Air Race, and was awarded the Bendix Transcontinental Air Race Trophy, becoming the first woman ever to receive this trophy. She set an East-West speed record in 1936, and an inter-city distance speed record and another 109.56 mph speed record in 1937.
Ms. Thaden also distinguished herself in her efforts to promote aviation safety through campaigns to mark airports more effectively. She actively sought ways to promote women in aviation through her work with the U.S. Department of Defense, Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) 1959-1961 and in her work with the Civil Air Patrol, 1949-1979. She also co-founded the Ninety-Nines, and organization of women pilots. She received numerous awards and honors throughout her life including: Harmon Trophy, Famous Aviators Wall—Mission Inn (Riverside, CA), Arkansas Aviators Hall of Fame, First Flight Society Hall of Fame, Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame, International Aerospace Hall of Fame of the San Diego Aerospace Museum, National Aviation Hall of Fame, Women in Aviation International Pioneer Hall of Fame, and Civil Air Patrol Distinguished Service Award and Meritorious Service Award. She was also an active writer who published an autobiography entitled High, Wide and Frightened and several journal and newspaper articles. In 1928, she married Herbert von Thaden, an aeronautical engineer and designer of several all-metal aircraft. They had two children, William and Patricia, who donated the materials found in the collection.
Born, Iris Louise McPhetridge, Bentonville Arkansas: Roy Fry and EdnaHobbs McPhetridge
University of Arkansas
Married to Herbert von Thaden
Children: William and Patricia
November 1979-11-09
J.H. Turner Coal & Building Materials Company, Wichita Kansas: Sales
D.C. Warren Company, Oakland, CA (Airplane Distributor):Sales & manager
Pittsburgh Aviation Industries: Public Relations
Penn School of Aeronautics: Director, Women's Division
US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Air Commerce: Developed & organized (with Phoebe Omlie) National Air Marking Program,
Initiated program
Beech Aircraft Corporation: Factory Representative
Porterfield Aircraft Company: Factory Representative
Thaden Engineering Company: Purchasing Agent & Office Manager
Research & Development, Reinforced plastics, Roanoke, Virginia,
Thaden Molding Corporation: Vice President, Director, High Point North Carolina,
Thaden Engineering Company: Partner
Sole Owner, High Point, North Carolina,
Aviation Records and Races
Altitude, First official altitude record for women in the US; 20,260 feet, Hisso180 hp Travel Air
1929-03-16 - 1929-03-17
Solo Duration; 22 hrs 3 minutes 28 seconds, Hisso 180 hp Travel Air
Speed 156 mph, Wright J-5 Travel Air
Only woman ever to hold all 3 records simultaneously (Altitude, Solo Duration, & Speed)
1929-08-18 - 1929-08-18
Winner, first National Woman's Air-Derby; 20:02:02, average speed 135.97 mph, Wright J-5 Travel Air; Santa Monica, CA to Cleveland, OH
1932-08-14 - 1932-08-22
Refueling Duration, (with Francis Marsalis); 196 hrs, Wright J-6 220 hpCurtiss Thrush, "The Flying Boudoir"
Light Plane Speed; 109.58 mph (100 km), 90 hp Porterfield
Winner, Bendix Transcontinental Air Race; First woman to win Bendix, Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing CI7R; New York to Los Angeles, 14 hrs 55 minutes
East-West Speed; New York to Los Angeles; 165.346 mph, Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing CI7R
Inter-City Distance Speed; Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing; Detroit to Akron, 40 minutes 43 seconds
100 km Speed; 197.9 mph, Wright 420 hp Beech Staggerwing D17
Aviation History
Federation Aeronautique Internationale Aviators Certificate No. 6850 after approximately 5 hrs 15 minutes solo time, signed by Orville Wright
Transport pilot License number 1943; 4th woman to earn this rating
  • Organizations
  • Delta Delta Delta (Delta Iota Chapter)
  • Ninety-Nines (International Organization of Women Pilots):
    • Founding & Charter Member
    • 1929-1930: First de facto President
    • 1930-1936: National Secretary
    • 1934-1936: Vice President
    • 1960-1961: Amelia Earhart Scholarship Committee
  • 1937-1938: National Aeronautic Association; National Secretary
  • Veteran Air Pilots
  • 1945-1952: American Red Cross Motor Corps
  • OX5 Pioneers Club of America
  • Silver Wings
  • Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA)
  • 1959-1961: US Department of Defense, Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS)
  • 1960-1961: Executive Committee
  • 1960-1961: Information Sub-committee Chairman
  • Civil Air Patrol 1949-1970
    • Lieutenant Colonel
    • Command Pilot
    • Search & Rescue Mission Pilot
    • Cadet Squadron Commander
    • Director of Cadets, Virginia Wing
    • Director of Cadets Squadron, Cadets Middle East Region
    • Coordinator for Women, Middle East Region
    • National Commanders Cadet Committee
    • 1959-1963: National Commanders Training Committee Chairman
    • National Scholarships Committee
    • 1970: Retired Status
  • League of American Pen Women, Honorary Member (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Business & Professional Women, 381st (Vincinnes, IN)
  • Strategic Missile Wing, United States Air Force (Wichita, KS)
  • Honors and Awards
  • 1936: Harmon Trophy (Aviatrix) Federation Aeronautique Internationale, Champion Aviatrix of the United States
  • 1932: Baltimore Sunday News Outstanding Female Trophy
  • Famous Aviators Wall, Mission Inn, Riverside, CA
  • Civil Air Patrol: Distinguished Service Award; Exceptional Service Award; Meritorious ServiceAward with Cluster
  • OX5 Club of America, Broadwick Award --Outstanding Aviatrix
  • Citation: The Society of Experimental Test Pilots
  • Airport: Louise M. Thaden Field, Bentonville, AR
  • 1974: The Louise M. Thaden Office & Library, Staggerwing Museum, Tullahoma, TN
  • OX5 Pioneer Aviators Hall of Fame
  • 1973: OX5 Silver Wings Achievement Award
  • 1980: Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame
  • 1988: First Flight Society Aviation Hall of Fame, Kitty Hawk, NC
  • 1989: Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame
  • 1989: Recreation flight, 1929 First Women's Air Derby, 60th Anniversary, Susan Dusenbury, pilot
  • 1991-04-05: Flying helmet taken aboard Atlantis Space Shuttle by Mission Specialist Linda Goodwin, Ph.D., NASA Flight #STS-37
  • 1996-08: Staggerwing Beech Commemorative Tour honoring Louise Thaden, winner of 1936 Bendix Transcontinental Air Race; 60th Anniversary
  • 1997-07: Award of Achievement, The Ninety-Nines, Inc.
  • 1999-04: The International Aerospace Hall of Fame of the San Diego Aerospace Museum
  • 1999-07: National Aviation Hall of Fame, Dayton OH
  • 2003-03: Women in Aviation, International --named as one of the "100 Women Who Made a Difference" in the history of aviation, 14th annual conference
  • Louise Thaden Woman of the Year Award --Annual presentation by Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce at the NW AR Business Women's Conference, began 2000
  • 2000-03: Women in Aviation, International Pioneer Hall of Fame


Karen Whitehair
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
William Thaden, gift, 1983, XXXX-0006, NASM
Processing Information
Finding aid prepared by Karen Whitehair, 1994.

Using the Collection

Preferred Citation
Louise McPhetridge Thaden Collection, Acc. XXXX-0006, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Conditions Governing Access note
No restrictions on access


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Publications Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Periodicals Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women in aeronautics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Maps Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Correspondence Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Aeronautics Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Civil Air Patrol Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ninety-Nines (Organization) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
National Women's Air Derby (1929) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bendix Trophy Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151