Pilot Edward Gardner's aviation goggles
Pilot Eddie Gardner wore these airmail goggles while flying mail for the Post Office Department’s airmail service from August 1918 until April 1919. The small metal and mesh goggles can be folded up to be easily carried in a coat or jacket pocket. 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. The Department required its pilots to fly in almost every type of weather in order to keep the mail moving on time. The airplanes’ compasses were often unreliable, so pilots often made their way navigating by visual clues on the ground—following railroad tracks, rivers, and other landmarks to find their way. Goggles such as these helped the pilots see the ground more clearly.
After he left the airmail service, Gardner promoted airplanes for the Nebraska Aircraft of Lincoln, Nebraska. In early May 1921 Eddie was flying his airplane in the aerobatics competition during the Holdrege, Nebraska, aviation tournament. During the conclusion of the performance, Gardner’s plane went into a tailspin from which it did not recover, and the airplane crashed to the ground. Gardner was pulled out seriously injured, but still alive. He was carried to a hospital, where he died on May 6, 1921.
These goggles 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.