Earhart’s biographer Susan Butler quotes one of them, Captain Hilton Railey, who had helped to launch her career.
She was, he wrote, “caught up in the hero racket.”Earhart, however, was a heroic figure to millions of her contemporaries, and she still counts as one. Guest, née Amy Phipps, a steel heiress and sportswoman who was underwriting the expedition.
He brokered her lecture tours, book contracts, columns, product endorsements, and media exposure, and he was so proprietary that a rival of Earhart’s described him as her Svengali. “Amelia Earhart: Image and Icon,” a handsomely designed album of their teamwork as self-promoters—portraits, press clippings, ads, and illustrations—was published two years ago, with notes and commentary by the editors, Kristen Lubben and Erin Barnett, and essays by Butler and Susan Ware.
Ware regards Earhart’s pose of Lindberghian diffidence with critical amusement.
After twenty-five years of research, the Longs concluded that “a tragic sequence of events”—human error, faulty equipment, miscommunication—“doomed her flight from the beginning,” and that Earhart and Noonan were forced to ditch in shark-infested waters close to Howland, where the plane sank or broke up.
There is, however, an alternative scenario—a chapter from Robinson Crusoe.
Earhart had already tried to circle the globe once in 1937, flying westward from Oakland, but she had crashed taking off in Honolulu.
Determined to try again, she coaxed additional funds from her sponsors, and “more or less mortgaged the future,” she wrote.
As Guest later put it to her daughter, “It just wouldn’t do.”)Wilmer (Bill) Stultz, the pilot of the Friendship, who had defected from the Boll party, and Louis (Slim) Gordon, the mechanic, had done the actual flying, and Earhart tried to remind a besotted press and ecstatic crowds hailing her as “Lady Lindy” that she had really been just “a sack of potatoes.” In 1932, however, she legitimatized the title by flying the Atlantic on her own, becoming the first woman and the second person, five years after Charles Lindbergh, to do so.
(Congress awarded her honorary Major Wings that she wore with her pearls.) In 1935, she was the first pilot to solo across the Pacific—from Honolulu to Oakland—and to solo non-stop from Los Angeles to Mexico.