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Archives at The Museum of Flight

Steve A. Stimpson Photograph Album

Identifier: 1986-03-25
The Steve A. Stimpson Photograph Album documents an early segment of United Airlines (UAL) history during the 1920s-1930s, mostly related to the promotion and marketing of UAL's stewardesses and in-flight service. The collection is comprised of an unbound photograph album with one hundred and fifty-two (152) black-and-white photographs glued to the pages, two images per sheet (front and back). Though unbound, the front and back leather covers are also included and both include a plate that denotes the album as being the personal property of S. A. Stimpson, UAL, Burbank, Calif.

The photographs feature a large number of publicity and promotional shots of UAL's stewardesses offering various in-flight services, such as meals, blankets, and basic medical aid. Other shots show the women modeling aviator gear and the UAL official stewardess uniforms. There is one original color drawing of a concept uniform. Photographs also feature pilots and people in various flight-related activities, such as embarking/disembarking the airplane, sitting in the cabin, standing next to the aircraft and signing up for flights at the travel bureau. None of the photographs include visible captions or identification of individuals, though it is possible there are captions on the reverse of images which are not accessible due to the photos being glued to the pages.

Various aircraft, including the Boeing Monomail plane and the Boeing Model 80A, are depicted in flight and on the ground, with passengers, and being loaded with mail, including one with a hand-off from the pony express service. Various subsidiaries feature in the images, including Pacific Air Transport, Varney Air Lines, Boeing System/Boeing Air Transport, and most prominently, United Airlines. Some images show storefronts with flight gear and accessories, and air mail and passenger route maps. A few images depict scenic aerial views of unidentified mountains. Some photographs include numbers on the front of the image. Duplication occurs.


  • circa 1920s-1930s


Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. For more information contact us.

Conditions Governing Use

The Museum of Flight (TMOF) Archives is the owner of the physical materials in the archives and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from TMOF archives before any publication use. TMOF does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.


0.63 Cubic Feet ( 1 flat box )


Steve A. Stimpson was a manager for Boeing Air Transport in the 1920s-1930s. The collection contains one hundred and fifty-two (152) black-and-white photographs in an unbound photograph album documenting early United Airlines history.

Historical Note: United Air Lines (1920s-1930s)

In 1926, Varney Air Lines, an air mail service founded by Walter Varney, flew its first contract air mail service. In 1927 William Boeing founded Boeing Air Transport (BAT), to run a transcontinental air mail route. Just 2 years later, Boeing merged with Pratt & Whitney to form United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC), which then quickly acquired Pacific Air Transport, Varney Air Lines, National Air Transport, and Stout Air Services. Through these acquisitions, UAL offered coast-to-coast mail and passenger services by 1930.

Also in 1930, BAT pioneered the stewardess profession by hiring Ellen Church, a pilot and registered nurse. Steve A. Stimpson, the manager of the San Francisco office of Boeing Air Transport, would not hire her as a pilot, but convinced his superiors to try Church's idea of hiring 'flight nurses'. BAT hired Church as head stewardess, and she recruited seven others for a three-month trial period. The experiment proved highly successful and other airlines quickly followed suit.

On March 28, 1931, UATC formed United Air Lines, Inc. as a holding company for its airline subsidiaries. In 1934, the passage of the Air Mail Act (which barred common ownership of airplane manufacturers and airlines) caused the dissolution of UATC. UATC's former airline interests were folded into a single airline, United Air Lines.

Sources and Further Reading:

Garrey, William and David Fisher. The Age of Flight: A History of America's Pioneering Airline. Greensboro, NC: Pace Communications, Inc., 2002.

Berryman, Marvin E. "A History of United Airlines." United Airlines Historical Foundation, accessed February 6, 2018,
Biographical Note: Steve A. Stimpson Steve A. Stimpson worked as Traffic Manager for Boeing Air Transport (BAT), a predecessor of United Airlines (UAL) . He is credited as being one of the pioneers of the stewardess profession in 1930. No further biographical information is known.

Sources and Further Reading:

United Airlines Historical Foundation:


No further accruals are expected.


Guide to The Steve A. Stimpson Photograph Album
Completed - Level 3
J. Parent
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
1st Edition

Revision Statements

  • November 2018: Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace.

Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
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