The China Clipper, Pan American Airways
and Popular Culture

By Larry Weirather

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ISBN 0-7864-2820-1
81 photographs (18 in color)
Appendix, bibliography, and index
351pp. Softcover 2007

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.