The first aviation related article goes waaaaaaaaaay back to 1786, when Boston Magazine published this woodcut of the first balloon flight of the Montgolfier brothers
Now jump ahead 105 years to 1893, when the first American magazine devoted aviation appeared, an exceedingly rare periodical, Aeronautics, published in New York by M.N. Forney and cheifly devoted to the proceedings of The Conference on Aerial Navigation held during the World's Fair in Chicago.
It was followed shortly by Aeronautical Annual, published in Boston by James Means, that had a great influence upon such notables as Wilbur Wright.
My research has found at least 24 aviation magazines that appeared up to 1921. Here is the list first published in my 1996 book.
and here are some of my favorite early magazines from my collection:
The first issue of the weekly aviation magazine:
A fantastic 1911 futuristic cover, not to be outdone by the great futurist Hugo Gernsback a year later!
an early postal title and another concerned with the military uses of aviation:
Even more than the automobile, America was fascinated by airplanes. Aviation pioneers were yesterday's astronauts and they were so treated by the public. The Wright Brothers were the first celebrities of the twentieth century, though the report of their acheivement often met with skepticism in the leading scientific magazine of the day, Scientific American, due to a lack of eyewitness coverage. One of may favorite aviation magazines is this 1910 issue of Greater Dayton, devoted to honoring their most famous denizens. Wilbur Wright died shortly afterwards a victim of the typhoid fever epidemic of 1912. Orville lived until 1948 (the year this blogger was born!).
Charles Lindbergh's 1927 trans-atlantic flight re-fueled the American interest in the romance and adventure of aviation, bringing about dozens of new publications, many of them pulp magazines. Pulps were the cheap sensationalist reading of the day. It is interesting to note that there are no pulp magazines based on automobiles, but over a dozen devoted to flying. Here are a few rare "birds", including the first, Air Stories, not concidentally published shortly after the Lindbergh flight.
and one could not show rare aviation pulps without mentioning the rarest of all, Zeppelin Stories. My collection may be the only one to include both the first issue and the iconic "mother of all wacky pulps" the very rare and very valuable "Gorilla of the Gas Bags" issue.
America's most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell also used Lindbergh on a well known cover of the Saturday Evening Post but also on this rare Elks Magazine a year later (probably after being rejected by the Post in favor of the other image)
There is also another interesting Lindbergh magazine connection. His father published this right-wing journal of opinion in 1916! Unfortunately Charles Jr. may have picked up some of his Henry Fordish views about fascism as well.
What Lindbergh did for men, Amelia Earhart did for women. The cover of this very rare pulp magazine was obviously created to take advantage of her celebrity.
As ever, magazines continue to prove their importance, carrying the American reading public from the earliest ballooning flights right through to the space age.
Oops, I almost forgot this one! A very rare aviation magazine published by Douglas Aircraft in 1946, using some of their employees to promote their new products. One of those emplyees went on to achieve iconic status in another field. Do you recognize him/her?