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July 2017

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U.S. Census Bureau History: Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart

Aviator Amelia Earhart was born on July 24, 1897. She disappeared in the South Pacific
Ocean on July 2, 1937, while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.

Photo courtesy of the state of Hawaii.

July 2017 marks two significant anniversaries in the life of aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. The Atchison, KS, native was born on July 24, 1897, and she disappeared in the South Pacific Ocean 39 years later, on July 2, 1937.

Amelia Earhart began learning to fly in January 1921, just days after her first flight as a passenger with air racer Frank Hawkes at an airfield in Long Beach, CA. She earned her U.S. flying license in December 1921. Within months, Earhart was making a name for herself on the competitive flying circuit, setting a women's altitude record (14,000 feet) in October 1922. On May 15, 1923, she became the 16th woman to receive an international pilot's license.

Earhart became the first woman to fly (as a passenger) across the Atlantic Ocean in June 1928. The flight, ensuing book deal, and media attention helped make Earhart a celebrity in the United States. She used her notoriety to promote aviation and raise money to break flying records and compete in air races. In 1932, 5 years after Charles Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, landing in Culmore, Ireland.

Earhart would achieve several other aviation firsts culminating in what she planned would be the longest circumnavigation of the globe ever attempted—a 29,000 mile flight along the Earth's equator. On May 21, 1937, Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan departed from Oakland, CA, and following stops in Burbank, CA, Tucson, AZ, and New Orleans, LA, arrived in Miami, FL. After publicly announcing her plans in the city, Earhart and Noonan departed from Miami Municipal Airport on June 1. Following frequent stops in South America, Africa, India, and South East Asia, the pair arrived at Lae, Papua New Guinea on June 29, 1937.

On July 2, 1937, Earhart, Noonan, and their Lockheed Electra 10E took off from Lae Airfield en-route to Howland Island—part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands. Positioned at Howland Island, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca attempted to guide Earhart to a landing on the coral island without success. Earhart and Noonan disappeared somewhere in the South Atlantic Ocean. The fate of the aviators and their aircraft remains one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of the 20th Century.

You can learn more about the life of Amelia Earhart and her adventures using data and records collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies. For example:

  • Exactly 5 years after Charles Lindbergh's historic 1927 transatlantic flight, Amelia Earhart became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. For her flight between Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, and Culmore, Northern Ireland, the U.S. Congress awarded Earhart the Distinguished Flying Cross. President Herbert Hoover awarded her the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society. Three months later, in August 1932, Earhart became the first woman to fly nonstop across the United States, departing from Los Angeles, CA, and landing in Newark, NJ, 19 hours and 5 minutes later.
  • In January 1935, Amelia Earhart made the first successful transoceanic solo flight between Honolulu, HI, and the continental United States, landing in Oakland, CA. In April of that year, she was the first solo pilot to fly from Los Angeles, CA, to Mexico City. The next month, she completed the first nonstop solo flight from Mexico City to Newark, NJ.
  • Amelia Earhart chose a modified Lockheed Electra 10E for her 1937 around-the-world flight. The airplane was one of 15 Electa 10E models built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation at its Burbank, CA, factory. Pratt and Whitney manufactured the Electra's 600 horsepower R-1340 Wasp rotary engines at its East Hartford, CT, factory. Today, examples of the Electra 10E are in storage at the National Air and Space Museum's Suitland, MD, storage facility and in Atchison, KS, at the Amelia Earhart Foundation Link to a non-federal Web site.
  • Amelia Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared between Lae, Papua New Guinea and a planned landing at Howland Island—an uninhabited coral island lying half way between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. Howland Island is an unincorporated and unorganized U.S. territory. For statistical purposes, the island is part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands. Other islands within this group include: Baker Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Islands, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. In 2000, the census counted 316 scientists and military personnel living on Johnston Atoll and Wake Island.
  • Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan departed the continental United States on June 1, 1937, from Miami Municipal Airport. The airport originally bore the name of aviation pioneer and motorcycle racing champion, Glenn Curtiss. In 1937, Miami renamed it "Amelia Earhart Field." Today, the site is home to a package sorting facility and the Hialeah Police Department.
  • Following in Amelia Earhart's footsteps, U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Jeannie Marie Leavitt, of St. Louis, MO, became the nation's first female fighter pilot in 1993, and logged more than 300 combat hours over Afghanistan and Iraq. In June 2014, she became the first woman to command a U.S. Air Force fighter wing—the 4th Fighter Wing stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, southeast of Goldsboro, NC. Other notable female military aviators include the U.S. Marine Corps first female aviator, Sarah Deal, of Bowling Green, OH; Kara Spears Hultgreen, of Greenwich, CT, who became the U.S. Navy's first carrier-based combat fighter pilot; the U.S. Army's first female helicopter pilot and Wichita, KS, native Sally Murphy; and the Coast Guard's first helicopter pilot, Colleen Cain of Burlington, IA.
  • The 2012 Economic Census found that California led the nation in the number of aircraft manufacturing (NAICS 336411) establishments with a total of 39. It was followed by Texas (30), Florida (23), and Washington (21). Washington employed between 50,000 and 99,000 aviation manufacturing employees. Texas and Florida employed 24,197 and 21,829, respectively.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported there were 119,200 people working as airline and commercial pilots in 2014. The median salary for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $127,820 in May 2016.

Korean War 

Amelia Earhart disappeared on July 2, 1937, while en-route to Howland Island. Howland Island is an uninhabited coral island lying approximately
half way between Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. For statistical purposes, it is part of the United States Minor Outlying Islands.

The U.S. Howland Island National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1974, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway locomotive
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Atchison, KS

Amelia Earhart's birthplace Link to a non-federal Web site of Atchison, KS, was the original eastern terminus of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway linking Atchison and Topeka, KS, with Santa Fe, NM.

One year after the railway's founding, the 1860 Census reported Atchison's population to be 2,616. Its population peaked at 16,429 in 1910. In 2015, the Census Bureau estimated that 10,712 people called Atchison, KS, home.

Bessie Coleman
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Did You Know?

On June 15, 1921, Bessie Coleman became the first American of any race or gender to receive a license from the Federation Aeronitique Internationale in France— nearly 2 years before Amelia Earhart earned her international pilot's license.

One year after Coleman's 1926 death, there were 1,572 certified pilots (of both sexes) in the United States. By 2010, the Institute for Woman of Aviation Worldwide Link to a non-federal Web site estimated that there were 27,451 women holding "other than student" pilot certificates in the United States.

This Month in Census History

On July 13, 1887, John Daily murdered former census superintendent Joseph C.G. Kennedy on a Washington, DC sidewalk.

A jury found Daily to be insane on January 12, 1888, and committed him to St. Elizabeth Hospital for the Insane. Daily died from an apparent suicide in his cell on December 13, 1889.

Visit https://www.census.gov/history every month for the latest Census History Home Page!

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 08, 2021