Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IT DIDN’T take long for marketers to realize that aeroplanes could move the goods, in the advertising sense. Quite distinct from poster art of early aviation meets, another genre quickly evolved using aviation to promote everything from political campaigns to auto parts to ladies furs. Here’s a sample of these from Looping the Loop: Posters of Flight, by Henry Serrano Villard and Willis M. Allen Jr., Kales Press, 2000.


Georges Besançon, Ingénieur Aéronaute, France, legislative election, 1898, artist unknown.

Georges Besançon was a well-known balloonist living in Paris-Montmartre. He was also running in the French Legislative Elections of 1898. We can imagine his campaign manager saying, “Georges, it’s un naturel: Picture your balloon, complete with les Tricolores, and a foxy sketch of Marianne, our national patriotic BBF. You’re a shoo-in!”

There are records of Besançon the aeronaut and the journalist, but, alas, not the legislator.


Champagne Edouard Besserat, France, 1911, artist unknown.

Besserat began producing champagne in 1843 and its products became known as gourmet choices. What better advertising in the early 1900s than to link with wealthy high flyers? The 1911 Champagne Edouard Besserat poster shows an intrepid pilot, possibly Roland Garros later to earn fame in World War I aerial combat, as he enjoys a picnic quaff with well-heeled friends. Champagne Besserat de Bellefon still produces high-end bubbly.


The New Bosch Magneto, Germany 1911, by Lucian Bernhard or Julius Klinger; Fischer Magneto, Germany, 1912, by Kirchbach.

Robert Bosch invented an automotive magneto ignition in 1902. The company advertised its product by picturing Belgian racer Camille Jenatzy looking devilishly capable. In 1899, Jenatzy, known as the Red Devil, became the first automobilist to break 100 km/h, 62 mph. Fischer, another magneto manufacturer, stressed its product’s reliability on land, sea and in the air.


Panama and The Canal from an Aeroplane in Six Parts, U.S.A., feature film, c. 1912, artist unknown.

Construction of the Panama Canal, taking from 1881 to its official opening in 1914, was hot news in 1912 when M.B. Dudley and Geo. F. Cosby presented their six-part saga (“The Feature Film Sensation of the Century”). The film detailed exploits of Robert Fowler and his hydro-aeroplane flying across Panama from the Pacific to Atlantic (in a sense, the first nonstop transcontinental journey, albeit selecting the narrowest portion of said continent).

Filming the flight was no mean achievement. What’s more, it caused an uproar in the U.S. Congress and President Woodrow Wilson forbade any further unauthorized flights over the canal and its defenses.

Earlier, in 1911, Fowler had competed in a transcontinental flight challenge set by William Randolph Hearst’s Los Angeles Examiner newspaper. Like Cal Rodgers, Fowler was heroic in his attempt, but failed to meet the contest’s time limit. Later, though, Fowler was the first to cross the U.S. from west to east, Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. These flights (and mishaps) took from October 19, 1911 to February 8, 1912.


Qualitätspelze, Austria-Hungary, c. 1914, artist unknown.

Furs (German: Pelze) kept early motorists warm in open automobiles and also displayed their love of luxury. Flying, like smart motor cars and furs, was a prerogative of the rich, a perfect match for an advertising message.


Flieger Ball, Germany, 1928, by Rudolf Lagar.

During the 1928 holiday season, Munich’s Hotel Wagner had an Aviator’s Ball linking the romanticism of flight with the high life. Already well established, the hotel is listed in my 1910 Baedeker’s Southern Germany. In 1934 and 1935, Adolf Hitler spoke at luncheons of SS officers at the Wagner. On a less ominous note, but still suggesting Cabaret decadence, German comedian Karl Valentin offered his Panopticon wax-figure theater-in-the-round at the hotel in 1934.


Les Lunettes, France, c. 1930, by Georges Hamel.

Georges Hamel, also known as Geo Ham, was one of the most prolific and talented poster designers of the era. His auto racing and aviation posters are highly prized today. The goggles, les lunettes, first appeared in an auto racing poster, but they served double-duty when Hamel designed this one for Parisian optician E.B. Meyrowitz.

Meyrowitz, founded in 1875, is still in business at 5, Rue de Castiglione, a high-fashion location in Paris. I note the firm offers the round-rim frames I like. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: