Amelia Earhart Flies for Beech-Nut Gum

Earhart Will Make Series of Tests for Beech-NutHer lecture tour in 1935 wasn’t the only connection between Amelia Earhart and the Capital District, as evidenced by this May 29, 1931 edition of the Gloversville/Johnstown Morning Herald, which proclaimed “Miss Amelia Earhart Will Make Series of Tests for Beech-Nut Packing Company.” The sub-head said that the only woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean would be in Canajoharie on June 14.

“Miss Amelia Earhart, only woman to fly across the Atlantic, received delivery Tuesday of her new auto-gyro, the “Beech-Nut,” which she announced she would fly in a series of tests for the Beech-Nut Packing company. The plane was delivered to Miss Earhart at the Newark airport. It is one of about a dozen that has been manufactured in America and the only one owned by a woman. She is the only woman who has soloed an auto-gyro and recently established a ‘ceiling’ for this type of ship by making a climb of 18,500 feet. . . The ‘Beech-Nut’ is the first of two planes which will be flown under the auspices of the Beech-Nut Packing company. The second, which will be delivered within the next two weeks, will be piloted by Captain Frank T. Coffyn, one of the first six men to fly in 1910 for the Wright brothers.”

The auto-gyro was (and is) an odd hybrid craft that uses an unpowered rotor to develop lift, and an engine-powered propeller to develop thrust; it was invented to create an aircraft that could fly safely at low speeds (sez Wikipedia). The craft that Earhart flew was made by Pitcairn-Cierva of Willow Grove, PA.

It’s worth noting that in 1931, Earhart hadn’t actually piloted a plane across the Atlantic – her trans-Atlantic journey in 1928 had been as part of a three-person crew, and she acknowledged (and was bothered by) the fact that she wasn’t able to pilot the trip because it required instrument flying. Still, she was the first woman to cross the Atlantic, that much was true.

Amelia Earhart with husband G.P. Putnam and the Beech-Nut auto-gyro.

Amelia Earhart with husband G.P. Putnam and the Beech-Nut auto-gyro.

So why was Beech-Nut involved in this odd bit of pioneering aviation? Simple: Advertising for Beech-Nut gum. Earhart embarked on a transcontinental tour in the Pitcairn, from Newark to Oakland and back , sometimes making three or more stops a day. She would be the first flyer to cross the country by auto-gyro. At each one, she was greeted by press, and her picture was taken with the odd little craft, on which the name “Beech-Nut” was painted in large letters. Oddly, perhaps because of logistics, the Morning Herald’s prediction that she would be in Canajoharie on June 14 turned out to be wrong. She was in Tucson, AZ, Lordsberg, NM and El Paso, TX that day, a long way from the pot that washes itself. In fact, she didn’t come to New York state at all on this tour (all the stops are listed here).

However, Earhart’s attempt to be the first to cross the continent in an auto-gyro was beaten by a competing flyer, John Miller, by just a few days. (If you can’t get enough auto-gyro talk, the whole story is here.)



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