The China Clipper, Pan American Airways and Popular Culture

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About the Book

The Pan American clipper ships of the 1930s and 1940s were technological marvels of their time. The years before World War II found the United States faced with international challenges of an economic as well as a military nature. Aided by government regulations and contracts, the Pan Am clippers were, for a time, the only international craft to carry the U.S. flag. Commercially, they rivaled the comfort and popularity of passenger trains and luxurious cruise ships. Militarily, they were unmatched by anything the Germans, Russians, Italians or French could produce. The only long-range aircraft capable of carrying transoceanic payloads, clippers became instantly valuable with the onset of the war. Marketed as the ultimate in commercial—or military—airfare, these flying boats became as much an American icon as the Pan Am logo itself.
From the movie screen to the bookshelf, this volume examines the multitude of ways in which the values inherent in Pan American Airways’ clipper ships played out in popular culture. The book discusses the strategies Pan Am used to represent the clipper as a paragon of U.S. interests, values and beliefs. Mirroring the moods of the times, the clipper became a consistent American icon, being associated with the Statue of Liberty and the American eagle. The main focus of the work is the variety of ways in which this iconographic status manifested itself through toys, movies, pulp fiction, comic books and music. Clipper influence is also examined in other unlikely places such as the name of an available car color, car models, restaurant menus and lounge names. An appendix explains different models of the clipper flying boats.

About the Author(s)

Larry Weirather lives in Vancouver, Washington, and is a professor emeritus of popular culture at Clark College. He has published articles in The Journal of Popular Culture and The Popular Culture Review and served as editor for various literary magazines.

Bibliographic Details

Larry Weirather
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 351
Bibliographic Info: 81 photos (18 in color), appendix, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2820-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1168-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vi

Preface      1

1. Bedrock Beliefs: Pan American Airways Advertising      5

2. Clipper Heroes and Celebs      33

3. Hollywood: Clippers Go to the Movies      66

4. Clipper Music      85

5. Air-Age Education: Youth and Clipper      100

Between pages 132 and 133 are 8 color plates containing 18 illustrations

6. Clipper Toys, Games, Amusements      133

7. Detroit’s Clippers      149

8. China Clipper Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, and Lounges      158

9. The Clipper and Agriculture      166

10. The Comics: Of Dragon Ladies and Claws      194

11. Pulps and Trades: Murder and Romance Most Foul      206

12. Rituals: A Parade of Days and Expos      232

13. The Clipper as Military Icon      254

14. Clipper Aloha      275

Appendix: Photographs of Clipper Flying Boats      311

Bibliography      319

Index      323

Book Reviews & Awards

“an excellent job”—The Captain’s Log.