Skip to main content

Archives at The Museum of Flight

Commercial Airlines Collection

Identifier: 2018-00-00-23
The Commercial Airlines Collection is an artificial collection comprised of textual, visual, and audiovisual materials related to commercial airlines from around the world, 1910s-2020s. Although international airlines are represented, American-based airlines are far more heavily represented, including a significant number of small regional, and often defunct, airlines. Materials come from various sources.

The bulk of the collection is textual materials, including brochures, booklets, and fliers; menus; route maps; stationery, air mail labels, and postcards; tickets, boarding passes, and luggage tags; and timetables and schedules. There are also folders of assorted printed ephemera, including but not limited to, business cards, calendars, children's activity materials, souvenir flight reports and matchbook covers.

The collection also includes visual materials, including photographs, slides, negatives, and photographic postcards as well as posters and lithographs. Major topics depicted include aircraft in airline livery; flight attendants, pilots, and to a far lesser extent, ground crew and airline executives; and advertisements, such as billboards; buildings, and office space. Most of the photographs are publicity shots and are black-and-white, although some are in color. Some photographs includes stamps and or captions to provide context. Sizes vary, although most are 8 x 10 inches.

Of particular note are illustrations by Fred Takasumi for Delta Airlines and a lithographic reproduction of the painting "Frontier Rose" by artist R.C. Gorman, for Frontier Airlines. There is one audio item: a 33 RPM sound recording of a speech by Bob Crandall, Senior Vice President of Marketing for American Airlines.

While most of the collection is dedicated to airlines, some materials relate to professional agencies that may have provided support or services, such as fuel, to the commercial airline industry and worked with multiple airlines. Companies include, but are not limited to, the Air Transportation Association of America, the Australia National Airlines Commission, the Railway Express Agency, Texaco, and the United States Postal Service. Types of material include, but are not limited to, brochures, posters, and route maps.


  • 1910s-2020s

Language of Materials

Most of the materials are in English; some of the material is in other languages including Chinese, French, German, and Spanish. When non-English language materials are present, it is noted on the individual folder.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research but has not been fully processed. Some materials may need additional processing before researcher use. Please contact us for details.

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.


5 Cubic Feet


The Commercial Airlines Collection is an artificial collection comprised of textual, visual, and audiovisual materials of commercial airlines from around the world, 1910s-2020s.

Note on Arrangement

The materials are sorted alphabetically by airline, then arranged alphabetically by subject. Not all airlines have all subjects. In general, the subjects are:

  • Advertisements
  • Aircraft -- photographs and postcards
  • Brochures
  • Decals and stickers
  • Employees and Facilities - photographs
  • Flight attendants -- photographs
  • Flight attendants -- recruitment brochures
  • Menus
  • Pilots -- photographs
  • Pilots -- recruitment brochures
  • Posters and lithographs
  • Printed ephemera
  • Route maps
  • Stationery and postcards
  • Tickets, boarding passes, and luggage tags
  • Timetables and flight schedules

Note that postcards appears in two locations: Aircraft and Stationery. Photographic postcards that feature an aircraft in airline livery remain in the Aircraft section, while postcards that may feature any other topic have been grouped within Stationery.


This collection is expected to grow.

Related Materials at The Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight also holds personal collections from flight attendants and pilots as well as a Trade Literature collection with materials such as annual reports, brochures, and product specification sheets from aircraft manufacturers as well as airlines.

Processing Information

Processing work done prior to 2024 by archives staff included some sleeving of photographs and fragile materials. In 2024, the Reference Archivist began a review to bring the collection up to current best practices and to bring various artificial collections together. As needed, materials were separated from the archival component and sent to the library, objects storage, or the trade literature collections. Excessive duplicates were removed. Sleeving or interleaving of photographs and fragile materials was fully completed. Materials were placed in acid-free folders and arranged in alphabetical order by airline.
Guide to the Commercial Airlines Collection
Completed - Level 2
Jenn Parent
2024 May
Description rules
Language of description
Edition statement
1st edition

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
Contact us with a research request