Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Librarian and the Prince of Navigators

This cover (envelope) was sent to Miss Alma Jonson at the Library of Hawaii on January 28, 1935 by Harold Gatty (1903-1957), the aviation navigator who was called "the prince of navigators" by Charles Lindbergh. In 1931, Gatty was the navigator for Wiley Post on their record breaking flight around the world. Although he was Australian, Gatty worked for a time for the U.S. Army Air Corps. This cover was mailed from Rockwell Field, Coronado, California where the U.S. Army Air Corps was located. Alma Jonson who was a librarian at the Library of Hawaii did research for Gatty over a period of years. Some of the research was conducted by Jonson as an employee of the Library of Hawaii and some was done for pay outside of her work. Although this particular cover did not have an enclosure, I came across a letter from Gatty to Jonson offered for sale on the Internet. That letter was dated January 27, 1935 and may have been sent in the envelope that I have. The letter reads in part: "The information you sent definitely proved U. S. occupation of 21 years, which will go a long way to establishing U.S. jurisdiction. It is very important that nothing get out about these islands at this time. The Navy and State Department state that occupation at the present time will make the establishment more certain so we are making a move to send an expedition down there to establish occupancy. I am very interested in the information regarding the other islands which you sent me and I appreciate it very much. I would like to get copies of any information pertaining to Midway, Wake, Johnston, Palmyra, Fanning, Jarvis, Howland and Baker...". One can surmise from this letter that the U.S. Army Air Corps is interested in establishing air bases on islands in the Pacific. Did the research performed by Jonson for Gatty have an impact on World War II in the Pacific? I have two other covers sent from Gatty to Jonson at the Library of Hawaii and I have a letter sent by Jonson to Gatty in 1938. From that letter it is clear that Jonson is performing research for Gatty which is not part of her job at the State Library of Hawaii. In the letter Jonson refers to the purchase of covers for Gatty which indicates that Gatty may have been a collector of philatelic covers. This post was also the Library Cover Story for January for the Library History Buff website.

No comments: