Pilot Edward Gardner’s aviation helmet
Pilot Eddie Gardner wore this leather helmet while flying mail for the Post Office Department’s airmail service from August 1918 to April 1919. The airplanes Gardner flew for the service had open cockpits that exposed him to frigid weather conditions. Airmail pilots were responsible for providing their own gear until the mid 1920s. Gardner’s winter flying gear included this helmet, a leather face mask, his leather flying suit, a leather vest, sheepskin boots, wool socks, and high overshoes. Gardner marked his initials on the helmet, E.V.G., ensuring that other pilots would not be tempted to borrow it when they were going up in cold weather.
Gardner left the airmail service in April 1919 and became a promoter for Nebraska Aviation. He died on May 6, 1921, after crashing while flying stunts in Holdrege, Nebraska.
This helmet and other gear worn and used by Eddie Gardner were eventually presented to Benjamin Lipsner, who had befriended Gardner during the time they worked together.
National Archives and Reference Administration, record group 28
Bruns, James H. Turk Bird: The High-Flying Life and Times of Eddie Gardner, Washington, DC: National Postal Museum, 1998.