William Bryan Robertson Postcard and Photograph Collection

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At A Glance

View Digital Content on SOVA
  • Creator

    Robertson, William Bryan, 1893-1943
  • Dates

  • Physical Description

    0.07 Cubic feet (130 postcards and photographs)
  • Collection ID


  • Content Description

    The collection consists of 130 items: 32 photographic prints and 98 postcards. The postcards are largely unaddressed; however, some were sent to Robertson's wife and others include labels and descriptions of the site depicted. One apparently unsent postcard bears the address of Evangeline Lodge Land Lindbergh, mother of Charles Lindbergh.
  • Biographical / Historical

    Major William Bryan Robertson was born in 1893 and joined the Aviation Section of the U.S. Signal Corps (then part of the Army and a predecessor of the U.S. Air Force) in 1917. By 1918, he was commissioned to serve as second lieutenant in World War I, but the war ended before he deployed. Soon after the war, Robertson started an aviation business in St. Louis with his brother: they provided entertainment, transport, and education on aeronautics to the public. In 1926, after almost a decade of government airmail service, the Postmaster General began contracting private companies to deliver airmail—the second of which was the Robertson Aircraft Corporation. They were tasked with delivering mail from St. Louis to Chicago. The first pilot they hired for this journey was Charles Lindbergh, who would later be known for his flight across the Atlantic, which Robertson helped fund.

    In early 1929, Robertson was called to China to organize and develop the air mail services. He planned routes from Nanjing to Beijing, Shanghai to Wuhan (formerly known as Hankou), and Wuhan to Guangzhou (then Canton). As president of Aviation Exploration Incorporated, Robertson signed a contract with China Airways for operation of the routes he charted; the airway was later merged into China National Aviation Corporation. He did the same in Turkey, flying from Istanbul to survey potential routes across the country in early 1932. The first public air transportation in Turkey occurred in 1933 in Ankara. Another airport was founded in Adana, a city Robertson surveyed, also in 1933.

    In November 1929, the town of Anglum, Missouri, close to the St. Louis flying field (now the site of St. Louis Lambert International Airport), was renamed Robertson in his honor. The town was later absorbed by the city of Hazelwood. Robertson was killed in a crash of a demonstration glider in 1943, on his home flying field in St. Louis.
  • Creator

    Robertson, William Bryan, 1893-1943
  • Place

    Shanghai (China)
    Guangzhou (China)
    Kyoto (Japan)
    Konya (Turkey)
    Algiers (Algeria)
    Paris (France)
    Yangtze River (China)
    Mount Hiei (Japan)
  • Topic

    Cable cars
    Statue of Buddha
    Mount Fuji
    Buddhist temples
    Mosques -- Turkey
    Japanese women
  • Provenance

    Gift of Valerie Bernat, 2019.
  • See more items in

    William Bryan Robertson Postcard and Photograph Collection
  • Container

    Box 1
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
  • Citation

    William Bryan Robertson Postcard and Photograph Collection, FSA.A2019.02. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Valerie Bernat.
  • Arrangement

    The William Bryan Robertson Collection is organized into two series based on medium: Series I: Photographic Prints and Series II: Postcards.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013