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Book Review: Fly Now!

Fly Now! coverConsumer note: although
Fly Now!: The Poster Collection of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is published by National Geographic, it doesn’t contain a single nature photograph (the closest might be a ’70s poster showing a flock of flamingos). What it does have are dozens of gorgeous American and European poster designs from the glory years of air travel in the early- to mid-20th century.

The concept behind this book is simple: posters are presented chronologically alongside a brief history of where the aviation industry was at the time the poster was made. Early chapters on ballooning don’t quite jibe with the rest of the book (which primarily focuses on passenger-based air travel), but otherwise it’s a smooth ride. Joanne Gernstein London’s accompanying text is dry but very informative, giving historical context and commenting directly on the posters on display. It’s a relief that the words don’t exist on a separate plane, so to speak, from the corresponding posters.

As you might guess from the Deco-style cover, the bulk of the artwork dates from the years between World Wars I and II — a great period for both air travel and poster design. Interesting to note how the marketing on these posters changed throughout the years: early posters stressed the safety of air travel to a still uncertain public, the post-WWII era boasted about the technological advances in aircraft design, while in more recent years the destination (rather than how to get there) served as the main point. Relatively recent airline industry deregulations may have made traveling by plane a more mundane experience, but this book serves as a neatly designed reminder of a more exciting and romantic time.

Fly Now! is currently available from National Geographic Books. Order at

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