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Top 5 Artifacts of 2017

WASP Collection  P2017.06.01, .04 Gift of the family of Mary Helen Crane Chapman Foster

At the Lone Star Flight Museum we pride ourselves on the care we afford historic collections that preserve Texas’ aviation heritage. The collections and archives of the museum contain a rich array of artifacts from across the field of aviation. Items in the Museum’s holdings range from early 20th century aviation documentation and World War I yearbooks to letters from Wiley Post and flight suits from the Vietnam War. While previously known for our robust World War II collection, we aim to expand our horizons and tell more aviation stories that have influenced Texas’ history and heritage.


As Director of Collections, I get to examine each item as it comes into the collection and work with the Collection Committee to make sure it meets the Museum’s mission and determine the best way to preserve an artifact or document. While each acquisition to the Museum tells a unique story, there are certain pieces that I keep revisiting. Sometimes it is what the artifact represents, sometimes it is because it makes me smile and other times it is the quest to better understand the story of someone who isn’t with us anymore. Below, in no particular order, are five items that we added to the collection in 2017 that come to my mind when some says, “show me something interesting” and represent the ways we are growing our collection at the Lone Star Flight Museum.

Burke Collection

P2017.17 Gift of Carol and David Rensink

Burke Collection P2017.17 Gift of Carol and David Rensink

What I love about it: This collection is a bit of a head scratcher for the moment. The Andrew Jackson “A.J” Burke Archive was found in a Houston attic and Mr. Burke is not related to owner of the home. What we know: he flew Lodestars for Lockheed; he flew for the Royal Air Force Ferry Command before the U.S. entered World War II; famed airmail pilot Jack Knight sent him photos and an autographed letter. Clearly, there is an interesting story contained in the life of Mr. Burke but only further research will reveal more of his story.

Rutherford Certificate

P2017.16.01 Gift of the family of Troy “Lee” Rutherford

What I love about it: This document helps us interpret the story of the men and women who aided our country on the home front during World War II. Troy L. Rutherford was presented with this award for service and excellent attendance; performing an important role on the B-24 production line for the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation. Texas, and the Dallas- Ft. Worth area in particular, was an aviation-manufacturing hub during the war. This one document helps us tell that production story, a very important piece of Texas aviation history.

Oldfield Photograph 

P2017.05.09  Gift of the family of Robert Oldfield

Oldfield picture P2017.05.09  Gift of the family of Robert Oldfield

What I love about it: How fun is this picture? Well maybe not for the guys training and living out in Matagorda Bay on the Texas coast where this picture was taken. Robert Oldfield served in the U.S. Army from 1929 through World War II and he captioned this photograph of himself “Matagorda Rattler.” Yes, training for military aviator duty was, and is, a serious job but even a cadet in training mode can’t pass up a moment of levity. Photos like this one illustrate the humanity behind the uniform.

Robertson Cotter Pins

P2017.01.40-70 Gift of the family of William C. Robertson

What I love about it: If the last item shows a moment of humor during military service than the cotter pins in the Robertson Collection are a total 180. S/Sgt. William C. Robertson was a B-17 tail gunner with the 388th Bomb Group out of England. For each mission he flew he saved a cotter pin from a dropped bomb and recorded information about that flight- date, distance, target, flak and important notes. Robertson’s missions took place from December 1944 through May 1945. By this point in the war, German fighters were no longer a major threat to American planes but antiaircraft fire, known as flak, was just as dangerous. S/Sgt. Robertson had to complete 30 sorties before he was cleared to go home. Seeing 30 pins is a stark visual of how many times he had to go up and return safely to complete his tour of duty.


WASP Collection

P2017.06.01, .04 Gift of the family of Mary Helen Crane Chapman Foster

WASP Collection  P2017.06.01, .04 Gift of the family of Mary Helen Crane Chapman Foster

What I love about it: Every single WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) trained out of Texas, first in Houston then Avenger Field in Sweetwater. This uniform jacket and flight helmet belonged to Mary Helen Crane Chapman Foster, a native Texan who had achieved her first solo flight before the U.S. entered World War II. Only 1,074 women were accepted into the WASP program but they piloted every type of aircraft that the Army flew. Their story played an indelible part in Texas history and women’s place in the aviation field.

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