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April2007
HOME Fascinating Rhythm Let Your Fingers Do the Walking Take a Look, It's in a Book Thomas Jefferson Was a Poet, and We Didn't Even Know It Da Plane! Da Plane! Everybody Plays the Fool...Sometime on April 1 Before It Was A Movie . . . It Was A Media Sensation
Da Plane! Da Plane!

Skywriting or skytyping is usually a staple at any air show, wowing crowds with feats of aerial dexterity and often proposing marriage or reminding the audience to drink soda. Developed by British aviator John C. Savage in 1922, the techniques are created by vaporizing fluid, such as paraffin oil, in the plane’s exhaust system to form letters in the sky. These letters can be as tall as two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other.

Skywriting. ca. 1920–1950 Print shows a well-dressed young woman, wearing hat, white gloves and pearls, holding up a glass of Coca-Cola, seated at a table on which is a vase of roses, the “Drink Coca-Cola” sign and a paper giving the location of the “Home Office [of the] Coca-Cola Co.” as well as branch locations. 1890

In 1923, the American Tobacco Company launched the first and very successful skywriting advertising campaign for Lucky Strike cigarettes. The Pepsi-Cola Corporation followed suit, becoming one of the longest-running contractors of skywriting.

This mystery explained is just one of many as part of the Science, Technology and Business Division presentation of "Everyday Mysteries." Other conundrums explained include the origins of the TV dinner and the causes of gray hair.

The Library has thousands of films, manuscripts, photographs, drawings and other multimedia materials about business and technology available online. Go to the American Memory Collection home page to browse by such subjects as advertising and environment.

There you can find the “Fifty Years of Coca-Cola Television Advertisements: Highlights from the Motion Picture Archives at the Library of Congress” collection, Included are outtakes from the 1971 “hilltop” commercial, featuring a group of people singing the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” song, as well as the very first polar bear commercial that launched the “Always” campaign in 1993.


A. Skywriting. ca. 1920–1950. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-H823-2262-001-x (b&w film nitrate neg.).
Publication may be restricted. For information see "Horydczak Collection"; Call No.: LC-H823- 2262-001-x <P&P>[P&P]

B. Drink Coca-Cola 5 cents. SUMMARY: Print shows a well-dressed young woman, wearing hat, white gloves and pearls, holding up a glass of Coca-Cola, seated at a table on which is a vase of roses, the “Drink Coca-Cola” sign and a paper giving the location of the “Home Office [of the] Coca-Cola Co.” as well as branch locations. 1890. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction Nos.: LC-USZC4-12222 (color film copy transparency), LC-USZ62-39705 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: PGA - Coca-Cola--Drink Coca-Cola (B size) [P&P]