An airplane is made for writers: Gertrude Stein’s First Flight, November 7, 1934

Layout planning photo of all items to be included in the ninth vintrine case on the east side of the Beinecke Library.

An airplane is made for writers: Gertrude Stein’s First Flight,  November 7, 1934 PDF; Curator’s Blog Post

American writer Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) had been living in France for three decades when she returned to her home country for the first time in 1934. As a result of the runaway success of her 1933 book, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, American readers were fascinated by Stein; a lecture tour was planned for her triumphant return.  With her life partner and muse, Alice B. Toklas, Stein sailed to New York City, where her friend Carl Van Vechten arranged for her to speak at museums and universities. When Stein’s lectures received robust press coverage, she became a literary sensation; new dates were added to her tour in Chicago and later in California. Hosts in Chicago offered to pay for Stein and Toklas to fly from New York—commercial air travel was novel in the 1930s and neither had flown before. Traveling with Van Vechten they boarded the flight carrying beaded lucky charms he’d given them to ease the journey. Since the cabin was noisy, Stein, Toklas, and Van Vechten exchanged notes to communicate about their experience in the air. Writing on airline letterhead, postcards, and in the margins of flight maps, the friends enthused about the flight crew and about their first views from the airplane windows. The text of the many talks on her tour were published in Stein’s Lectures in American in 1935. 

Photograph of Carl Van Vechten, Alice B. Toklas, members of the flight crew, and Gertrude Stein boarding airplane; Carl Van Vechten, photographs of Gertrude Stine and Alice B. Toklas with good luck charms; Gertrude Stein and Carl Van Vechten, notes made during flight, including postcard addressed to Stein’s cook “M. Trac”; Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers; Lectures in America, New York: Random House, 1935


En Route New York                                          M. Trac

To Chicago

Mlle Stein                                           

Mlle Toklas

Mr Van Vechten

You never knew anything like this


You do feel peaceful + secure ? (Carl Van Vechten)

It is so unbelievable that

I cannot believe it, I

real can’t, when Carl says

go then we go and when we go when

Carl says go it is alright.

An airplane is made for

writers as it is the only

way to communicate.

I’m collecting your

impressions. Write

some more you delightful

woojums! (Carl Van Vechten)

I am going to get

the pilot’s

        autograph (Gertrude Stein)


In a kind of a way

the light up here on 

the wing is the most

beautiful thing.


When you go 

through so many

miles of clouds 

to get to the 

earth the


wonder is how

does the sun 

ever do it 

at all.


Lectures in America

Za St34935Lb


Notes made on airplane trip in US 

Will include SCAN of fronts/ backs and transcription labels

YCAL MSS 76.140.3307


Photos boarding plane

YCAL MSS 76 Box 149 folder 3497 &

YCAL MSS 76 Box 159 Folder 4121

VE9.6 item image

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