In honor of National Aviation Day, Smithsonian Libraries (SIL) turns to a piece of history found in the Ramsey Room. Established by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, National Aviation Day is celebrated every year on August 19th, which is also the birthday of Orville Wright.
Located within the stacks of the Ramsey Room is a book which, by itself, is a noteworthy contribution to the history and study of aviation. Published in 1943, Fred C. Kelly’s The Wright Brothers serves as the official biography of the legendary duo. However the copy housed within the rare books room of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) Library is unique in that it featuring over 1,000 signatures from legends, pioneers, and other contributors to the field of aviation, thus making it one of the jewels of the NASM Library.
Donated by George A. Page, the (signed) book is a testament to a 30-year endeavor to capture the names of aviators and individuals who contributed to the field. An aviator himself, Page was an employee of Curtiss-Wright for 34 years—ultimately attaining the titles of Chief Engineer and Director of Engineering. It was through his professional contacts that Page managed to send a copy of Kelly’s biography to Orville Wright for his autograph. In the ensuing decades, Page would add approximately 1,000 signatures from other aviators. Included among the others who signed Page’s book are historic figures like Charles Lindbergh, Richard E. Byrd, Donald Douglas, Igor Sikorsky, James H. Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, Jacqueline Cochran, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.