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Passenger aboard an American airliner enroute from Washington to Los Angeles. Photo by John Collier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33786

Taking to the Skies

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The holiday travel season is fast approaching, and some of us look toward our upcoming air travel with a sense of dread – or even resignation – as we prepare for cramped conditions, long lines, delays, cancellations and more unforeseen challenges. Photos of transcontinental travel I came across in the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection (FSA/OWI) took me back to a much slower time – literally. Flying from New York to California in the 1940s could take triple the time it takes today, and include multiple stops. The 1950s are largely considered to be the golden age of air travel, with pressurized cabins, as well as quieter, faster and more comfortable travel overall, but these photos of the cabins of airplanes in 1941 make it appear that the flight was fairly comfortable and included many amenities, even if it’s hard to know how it felt for travelers.

Take a closer look at these photos taken by FSA photographer John Collier, Jr. of people traveling by plane in December of 1941. Regardless of changes that would make the experience better in the next decade, these travelers were then enjoying the fastest possible way to cross the country – and seem to be enjoying plenty of legroom!

Passengers aboard an American airliner. Photo by John Collier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33775
Stewardess aboard American airliner, making up an “upper” bunk. San Francisco, California. Photo by John Colllier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33721
Aboard United airliner enroute from San Francisco to New York. Photo by John Collier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33797
Passenger taking pictures with a dollar camera from the window of an American airliner. Photo by John Collier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33774
Passenger aboard an American airliner enroute from Washington to Los Angeles. Photo by John Collier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33788
Stewardess serving dinner aboard an American airliner enroute from Washington to Los Angeles. Photo by John Collier, Jr., 1941 Dec. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/fsa.8c33799

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  1. I miss the days when there was a hook for your fedora above every seat.

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