Pilot Edward Gardner's aviation face mask
Pilot Eddie Gardner wore this leather face mask while flying mail for the Post Office Department’s airmail service from August 1918 to April 1919. While flying for the Department, Gardner piloted at least three different types of aircraft, including the Curtiss JN-4H “Jenny,” the Standard JR-1, and the Curtiss R-4. Each of these biplanes had open cockpits that left pilots exposed to frigid weather conditions.
Gardner’s winter flying gear included this face mask, his leather flying suit, a leather vest, sheepskin boots, wool socks, high overshoes, and a leather helmet. The gear was essential on flights when the cockpit temperature reached near zero degrees Fahrenheit.
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 mask 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.