October 19, 2012

Howard Hughes Flight Archive on the block at Leslie Hindman

An important collection of Howard Hughes artifacts will be sold at auction November 7 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, documenting Hughes’ record-setting Around-the-World flight. The collection was compiled by Hughes’ flight operations manager, Al Lodwick, who was responsible for mapping the route, making contact with government officials and airport managers to ensure that Hughes would be allowed to land, and arranging for refueling and repairs as necessary. Following a renewed interest in the early aviation exploits of the notoriously eccentric millionaire, the unprecedented archive is expected to achieve well over $15,000 at auction.

Stops were made in Paris, Moscow, Takutsk (Siberia) and Fairbanks, before the return to an homecoming parade in New York. A number of important official documents are included in the collection that were carried by Hughes in-flight, including US Department of Commerce authorizations for foreign flight, permits from the Irish Free State to carry weapons, certificates of insurance, customs clearances, and two letters signed by Howard Hughes, written in Russian, to be presented as letters of credit to Russian officials.
The flight coupled as an extensive marketing campaign for the New York World’s Fair and the progress of aviation science in the US, and Al Lodwick documented all of the spirited receptions in numerous black and white photographs. Among these is a photograph of Hughes and his flight crew bearing the signatures of all. Also included are a number of unaddressed covers, including four signed by Howard Hughes and one signed by Hughes and his whole crew. Lodwick was also presented with a sparkplug from the flight, which will also be offered for sale and, being one of the only artifacts from the plane itself, is expected to greatly exceed its $1-2,000 presale estimate. 

The most important item in the collection was labeled by the media as Hughes’ “Little Black Book,” a bible of factual data and speech materials carried by the aviator throughout his flight. The small binder, compiled for Hughes’ personal use, includes everything one might need on an Around-the-World flight: a series of questions and statements in English and Russian, should the plane be forced to land, including “Please give us food,” “Where can we find an air pump,” or “I am Howard Hughes, an American, and these are members of my crew”; numerous facts about the American aviation industry and the technology behind Hughes’ Lockheed, to impress his colleagues abroad; detailed facts about France, Germany, Poland, USSR and the other countries they would be visiting or flying over; preparations made for landing in Paris, Winnepeg, Edmonton and Fairbanks; numerous pages of airplane radio communication instructions; and prepared welcome speeches for each of his stops. In keeping with the marketing purpose of the expedition, each speech included an invitation on behalf of Grover A. Whalen, to the upcoming New York World’s Fair of 1939. 

The items will be available for public viewing Saturday, November 3, to Tuesday, November 6, with the sale taking place on-site at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers Wednesday, November 7 at 10am CST. Please view the fully illustrated catalogue online at www.lesliehindman.com

For three decades, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers has been an industry leader combining recognition as one of the Nation’s leading fine art auctioneers with a global reach of buyers. Founded in 1982, sold to Sotheby’s in 1997 and reopened in 2003, Leslie Hindman has remained a constant force behind high profile auctions of everything from contemporary paintings and fine jewelry to French furniture and rare books and manuscripts and always maintains a practice of achieving the highest prices while maintaining the highest levels of integrity and customer service.