Pan American World Airways Collection


Objects relating to the technological and corporate development of Pan American World Airways as well as the passenger experience including navigational tools, employee uniforms, in-flight safety tools and passenger items, logo merchandise, and corporate commemorative awards.

Collection dates:  1927-1995

Extent:  400 square feet (500+ items)

Accession number:  1995.037

Inventory author:  Karyn H. Anderson, 2010.

Acquisition Information

The collection objects, which formed part of the Pan American World Airways corporate archives, were donated to HistoryMiami by the Pan Am Historical Foundation in 1995.  It was the hope of the foundation President, Edward S. Trippe, that HistoryMiami's stewardship over the objects might spur further artifact donations from members of the Pan Am community.

Related Materials

The corporate archives for Pan Am is located in the Special Collections, Richter Library, University of Miami. Learn more about the Pan Am Archives

Additional materials relating to Pan Am and aviation are located in the HistoryMiami Archives & Research Center.

Historical Note

Pan American World Airways, first known as Pan American Airways, began as a small seaplane carrier, backed by influential stakeholders, that quickly built momentum with a Postal Service contract for airmail delivery from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba in 1927.  Pushed by founder and longtime C.E.O. Juan Trippe’s relentless drive to expand the geographical and technological boundaries of aviation at that time, Pan American developed into a global corporate empire, with passenger routes across six continents, a chain of hotels, a prominent skyscraper in Manhattan, helicopter and business jet services, and involvement in space travel research and missile testing with the U.S. Government.

Through a strategy of careful negotiation with heads of state, the acquisition of small airlines already in operation, and the establishment of joint ventures, Trippe was able to expand passenger and cargo routes throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America as early as 1930.  With Charles Lindbergh as a technical consultant, Pan American achieved the first Transpacific air route in 1935 from San Francisco to Manila, The Philippines, via Hawaii, Midway Island, Wake Island, and Guam.  Subsequent innovations included the introduction of economy class travel, the adoption of jet aircraft, eventually partnering with Boeing to develop with first jumbo jet 747 and the long-haul 747SP, and the introduction of computerized reservation system.

Prohibited from establishing domestic routes by the Civil Aeronautics Board until the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978, Pan American nonetheless faced competition from other American carriers on international routes as early as the 1940s.  Declining passenger growth beginning in the 1960s, unstable leadership following Trippe’s retirement in 1968, rising fuel costs following the oil shocks of the 1970s, a poorly coordinated merger with National Airlines in 1980, and the 1988 terrorist bombing of Flight 103 all contributed to the eventual financial collapse of the company.  Beginning and ending its trailblazing journey in South Florida, Pan American World Airways ceased operations with its final flight landing at Miami International Airport on December 4, 1991.

Collection Scope

The objects, numbering over 500 items, are divided into several content categories.

Note on dating:  Whenever possible, dates for objects have been narrowed based on technological or historical indicators or else the usage of corporate mottos.  Otherwise, broader date ranges have been applied in correspondence with corporate logo style changes.

Ticket holder from Pan AmPassenger Items, 1944-1991 (23 objects)

This collection category consists of documents and tags used by passengers, with one luggage tag from the 1940s-50s and the remaining items from after ca. 1970.   Several items, primarily from the 1970s, reflect membership in the Clipper Club, entailing fee-based access to private, upscale airport lounges.

Pan Am stewardess hatEmployee Items, 1928-1991 (121 objects)

This collection category encompasses an extensive array of employee uniform items, including full flight attendant ensembles from various decades and lapel pins worn by pilots, cabin and ground crew, from the 1930s through 1990s, denoting position and status.  Also included are employee documents for discounted travel as well as buttons related to labor disputes.

Pan Am sleeping maskIn-flight Items, 1939-1991 (153 objects)

This collection category consists of items used by flight attendants or offered to passengers.  Food service items, demonstrating the level of luxury offered to First-class passengers, include stemware from the 1950s and 1960s, featuring the “President” pattern and coats of arms from various countries, and “waive” pattern china and silverware, in use from 1986 to 1991.  This grouping also includes a full in-flight safety demonstration pack from the 1980s and amenity kit items offered to passengers, including mid-century “President” items for First-class passengers and cosmetic packs offered to economy and First-class passengers in later decades.

Reverse of The Daniel Guggenheim Medal, presented to Juan Trippe in 1941 for great acheivement in aeronauticsCommemorative Items, 1927-1991 (80 objects)

This category features a number of items marking Pan American’s innovative feats in airline history, including envelopes commemorating the establishment of airmail routes around the world, items celebrating the initial China Clipper voyage, which established the first Transpacific airline route, as well as the first order for the Boeing 747SP, which allowed long-haul non-stop flights.  Other objects note the inaugural flights for new destinations, corporate changes, and numerous items to commemorate the company’s 50th anniversary in 1977, including a gift pack offered to passenger s of the commemorative round-the-world “Flight 50,” which crossed both poles.  Also included are many plaques, medallions, or other items personally awarded to Juan T. Trippe, the founder and long-time CEO of the company.

Ashtray from Panagra commemorating its 30th anniversarySubsidiaries and Associations, 1930-1978 (58 objects)

As part of his strategy to expand routes across the globe, Trippe chose to acquire small airlines or else negotiate joint ventures, particularly in Latin America.  This collection category demonstrates the reworking of the Pan American logo for use in pins worn by employees of these subsidiaries, including  Panair do Brasil (1930-1965), Avianca in Colombia (1940-1944) (previously known as SCADTA), Cubana de Aviacion (1932-1944), and Compania Mexicana de Aviacion (1930-1944).  Also featured are a 1936 flight schedule and navigational tools for Brazil as well as a few in-flight items for Panagra flights to South America, the result of a joint venture between Pan American Airways and Grace Shipping.

Reverse of a Pan Am employee badgeTranspacific Route, 1934-1995 (13 objects)

Although a small collection category, this grouping represents one of Pan American’s biggest contributions to aviation history—the establishment of Transpacific air travel.  Included is a commemorative key to the City of Manila, marking the China Clipper’s arrival in 1935, a camera reported to have been used to prepare runway installations on Midway and Wake Islands and a key and menu from the hotels built by Pan American on these islands for passenger stops. 

World War II, 1941-1945 (14 objects)

Under the Lend-Lease Act, Pan American contributed to the building of airports as well as the supply and transportation needs of the United Kingdom in Africa at the beginning of World War II through a subsidiary that came to be known as P.A.A. Ferries, Inc.  This collection grouping includes employee pins from this era as well as a few U.S. military pins and patches related to the relinquishment of their property and material to the Air Transport Command (ATC) in 1942.

Navigation computerNavigational Tools, 1933-1991 (29 objects)

Primarily dating from the 1930s through 1960s, these artifacts illustrate the range of mechanical analog computers used by crew, including star charts for celestial navigation at night and dead reckoning calculators for determining position in bad weather.

Golf ball with the Pan Am logoMerchandise/Memorabilia, 1939-1991 (59 objects)

This category groups tote bags from various decades and various non-flight items marked with the Pan American logo, primarily from the 1950s and later, including playing cards, lighters, t-shirts, caps, and office items.