Every time the Archive staff opens a new collection, it is a new adventure.
We never know what treasures we are going to find.
Betsy Ross Corps
In the formative years of aviation, there were a plethora of pioneering individuals, and groups, that colored the aviation community. One such pioneering organization to characterize women in early aviation was the Betsy Ross Air Corps, founded by Opal Logan van Zandt-Giberson Kunz a pioneer of woman aviation. The Betsy Ross Air Corps, named after the iconic American Revolutionary, Betsy Ross.
An organization of woman aviators, and students of flight, the mission of the Corps was to augment the budding Army Air Corps (Forefather of the United States Air Force) in disaster relief and emergency services around the United States. Formed in 1931, the Corps consisted of 76 members, and was headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, after a vote, in October of 1933, it was decided to move the headquarters to Washington D.C. Where they continued to operate in a support function, preceding the WASP organization.
The Poster, here at the museum, was commissioned as a means of recruiting women pilots for the Betsy Ross Air Corps. A dashing plane zipping into action, bringing “Mercy from the Skies”, enveloped by a cloudy sky. Surely a striking scene to entice onlookers into considering the Betsy Ross Air Corps.
Poster from the Sandy and Barry Perlman Collection
Mary “Ziggy” Hunter, was an accomplished pilot, journalist, and Aviation Instructor. Ziggy was among the first of 25 woman aviators to earn a commercial flight license under the US Federal Aviation requirements. The first woman Texan to be to be certified as a flight instructor under the civil aeronautical requirements at the time. During the war, she had the unique perspective of instructing pilots from both the Army Air Corps, and Naval Aviation schools throughout Texas.
Apart from aviation, Ziggy had been involved in writing for the Austin Tribune, based out of Austin, Texas. From 1938-1941 she had written articles in a column called “The Prop’s Roar”.
In 1944, Ziggy had transferred to Avenger Field, in Sweetwater Texas. Where she was tasked with instructing WASP trainees in PT-17 Stearmen planes, as well as advanced instrument instruction. Accumulating 500 hours of flight time in BT-13’s and AT-6’s. Encompassing her entire flying career, Ziggy had taught approximately 500 students of aviation in her time.
Her collection, along with many others, characterizes our museums archive with zeal of flight, and a better understanding of the kind of characters that shaped the WASP program.
Photos from the Mary "Ziggy" Hunter Collection
“Oxygen Not Included”
Aviation, be it military or civilian, is inherently a dangerous job. Susceptible to many perils, pilots must be prepared to not only brave the frigid skies but be prepared to bail out should in-flight emergencies get out of hand.
As airplanes reached greater speeds and heights, oxygen became more of a luxury as aircrews continued to operate in higher elevations. Should cabin pressure be lost, aircrews had to have readily available oxygen tanks to mitigate the need to breath, at very high elevations. The Army Air Corps, and the Succeeding US Air Force, had issued out emergency oxygen tanks for aircrews, labeled as Bailout Breathing Oxygen. As part of their usual flying kit, this emergency item was to be kept on the pilots person to be quickly utilized should bailing out of the airplane occur.
This artifact of US Military History was made available to us by Jim Zeller.
Oxygen Tank from the Jim Zeller Collection