Boys’ Books, Boys’ Dreams, and the Mystique of Flight

978-0-87565-330-3 Cloth
6 x 9 x 0 in
300 pp. 30 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 10/17/2006


  • Cloth $29.95 s
Boys’ aviation series books from 1910–1950 shaped at least two generations’ view of aircraft and American life. From the earliest days of aviation to those of spaceflight, they instilled a vision of flight both romantic and progressive. They described a future in which technology and humanity are complementary and offered flight as a way of bettering all mankind.

In this first comprehensive study of the more than forty boys’ aviation series, Erisman reveals the part played by the books and their writers in spurring the American nation’s fascination with flying. It is a noteworthy piece of social and literary history that sheds new light on how popular art can transform technological progress into cultural idealism and reform.

Some of the titles were written by journalists, others by military officers, and not a few by the pseudonymous ghosts of the Stratemeyer Syndicate (Tom Swift, Hardy Brothers, and Nancy Drew, among others), yet all shared the same goal. Populated with manly heroes in the Tom Swift and (later) Charles A. Lindbergh tradition and drawing upon the almost daily advances in aviation technology occurring in the first third of the twentieth century, the books communicated a steadfast vision of the liberating, exhilarating world that flying offered every boy. More than that, they conveyed as well a glimpse of the better world that would come as air-mindedness and aviation worked their uplifting influence on the larger community.

Published by Texas Christian University Press