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Author Topic: Dating the Photos  (Read 3878 times)

Ric Gillespie

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Dating the Photos
« on: February 27, 2018, 01:25:51 PM »

As I work along on completing Chapter Four "Teething Troubles" of the Electra book, I'm discovering (again) how the many photos of AE and and the Electra help to fill in the many gaps in the written historical record. However, to be useful, a photo must be reliably dated.  The easiest pictures to date are the ones that have the date on the photo. TIGHAR member Larry Inman, in assembling his exhaustive Remember Amelia collection, buys original press photos that often have the date and description on a sticker glued to the reverse of the photo. Larry, bless his heart, shares these treasures with TIGHAR. Most photos, however, are not self-documented.  The Purdue e-archive  has dozens of photos of the Electra but only rarely is the specific date mentioned in the description. Most photos are simply labeled "circa" some year.
So how do we date un-documented photos?  One way is to find a newspaper article that includes the photo.  The photo of the Electra marked X16020 with a big parachute billowing out behind is a good example. That photo was included in an Oakland Tribune article describing a visit Earhart made to San Francisco on August 3, 1936. Another way is to match a photo with changes to the airplane that are described in original correspondence or official documents. 
But sometimes the only way to date a photo is by the way Amelia is dressed. The photo of the Electra's interior below is an example.  On the face it, it appears to be a photo of the airplane during its construction before the fuselage tanks were installed - and, in fact, that's the way I described it in Chapter Three - but I was wrong.
The photo does not appear in any known newspaper article, but the same Oakland Tribune article mentioned above includes a photo of Amelia wearing the same jacket and scarf.

The photo of the cabin was taken in San Fransisco on August 3, 1936. After the airplane was delivered to Earhart on July 24, a problem was discovered in the long-range fuel system and the fuselage tanks were removed while changes were made. The trip to San Fransisco occurred during the time when the plane had only the three gas tanks in each wing.  Knowing when the photo was taken is important because it shows us the changes that were being made to the cabin - changes we can't see in later photos after the tanks were re-installed.
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